Sunday, March 8, 2009

Le Roi Albert Alpiniste


A lovely book by René Mallieux on the mountaineering life of King Albert I. Published in 1956. 

L'auteur reste fidèle à la promesse de son titre en deux cents pages d'une belle présentation, il dit l'essentiel, avec une sobriété d'expression qui respecte la grande mémoire de son personnage. De nombreuses photographies, pour la plupart tirées des albums privés du Roi, des reproductions de lettres autographes, une documentation précise puisée aux meilleures sources, donnent à l'ouvrage un ton émouvant d'intimité et de vérité. Le lecteur y trouvera la liste de très beaux exploits sportifs, et aussi des précisions qui ne manqueront pas de le frapper: celle, par exemple, du temps consacré par le Roi à la montagne et à l'entraînement: près d'un mois et demi sur douze dans les cinq dernières années.

The author remains faithful to the promise of his title in a beautiful presentation of 200 pages. He says what is essential, with a sobriety of expression which respects the great memory of the person in question. Numerous photographs, taken, for the most part, from the King's private albums, reproductions of handwritten letters, a precise documentation drawn from the best sources, all give the work a moving tone of intimacy and authenticity. The reader will find, here, a list of splendid athletic achievements, and, in addition, details which will not fail to strike him; for instance, the time devoted by the King to mountaineering and training - nearly a month and a half out of every twelve -during his last five years. 
My favorite part of the book was the story of the King's discussion with the famous Italian alpinist, Tita Piaz, a fierce republican, during a climb in the Dolomites. Since, at the moment, I do not, unfortunately, have a copy of Mallieux's book on hand, I will quote Marie-José's account of the same incident. 
... Tita déclare au roi: "Je suis républicain et je le dis franchement." Albert répond: "C'est votre droit." Piaz stupéfait: "Comment, vous êtes roi et vous trouvez que c'est mon droit d'être républicain?" "Oui, parce que chacun a le droit de penser politiquement comme il lui semble le mieux," affirme mon père. Piaz ne s'estimait pas satisfait de cette explication et se lança dans d'acerbes critiques auxquelles le roi, souriant, répondit non sans humour: "Si vous permettez, monsieur Piaz, je connais cette question probablement mieux que vous, étant donné mon métier." Et la conversation se poursuivit amicalement.

... Tita declared to the King: "I am a republican, and I say it frankly." Albert answered: "That is your right." Piaz was amazed: "What, you are a King and you think it is my right to be a republican?" "Yes, because everyone has the right to think, in political matters, as seems best to him," my father asserted. But Piaz, dissatisfied with this answer, launched into bitter critiques to which the King, smiling, replied, not without humor: "If you will forgive me, Mr. Piaz, I probably know this question better than you do, given my profession." And the conversation continued amicably.

1 comment:

Matterhorn said...

I wanted to add this to the post, but started having problems with Blogger. So here:

Despite his republican sentiments, Piaz became a devoted friend and climbing companion of the King. After Albert's death, he made a special journey to the tragic cliffs of Marche-les-Dames. He also dedicated his memoirs to the King, and included a whole chapter on his death.