I have often mentioned the piety of Albert I, King of the Belgians. There is a remarkable account of Albert's meeting with the famous preacher of devotion and reparation to the Sacred Heart, Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, during the priest's visit to Belgium in 1922. This is how Father Mateo described his audience with the King in Brussels:
At the door of his office, H.M. King Albert, smiling, said as he offered me his hand:
"What joy you bring me, Reverend Father, by coming all the way to me. Thank you for this visit."
And, without giving me the time to utter a word:
"I know you have something good to say to me; sit down here in this armchair."
And as he said this, he himself placed the chair opposite his own, near his desk.
"Sire," I said, "Your Majesty is reversing the roles, and overwhelms me by thanking me for having been so bold as to come. It is I who, from the depths of my heart, thank Your Majesty for the undeserved honor of this meeting."
"Oh!" replied the King. "I know that, for some time now, you have been preaching in Belgium, and that people have been crowding to hear your sermons...I have learned that you often lead the crowds, who come to hear you, in prayer for the King. You did it recently, here, at St. Gudule, and I am very grateful to you. And now, tell me a bit about your mission and what you are preaching everywhere."
Father Mateo began by offering the King a medal of the Sacred Heart, which Albert accepted and admired. Then the priest asked:
"And if it is not indiscreet, may I ask Your Majesty to pray with me for Belgium and the royal family?"
"Oh! Very willingly," replied the King, "Begin, Father, I will unite myself to you with all my heart."
The priest then blessed the medal, which had been placed on the King's desk, and knelt, before the image, on the ground. The King knelt at his side and joined his hands in prayer. The priest explained:
"Sire, I will recite a prayer to the Heart of Jesus the King, and I ask, very respectfully, that Your Majesty repeat it with great faith."
Father Mateo then began:
"Heart of Jesus, You are the Lord of lords and the King of kings, I adore You..."
The King, his head bowed, repeated after the priest. In deep meditation, they prayed for about ten minutes:
"Heart of Jesus, Belgium belongs to You, save it!"
"Heart of Jesus, the royal family belongs to You, bless it!"
"Mercy, oh King of kings, for the rulers who outrage You!"
"Mercy, oh King of nations, for the peoples who deny You!"
After the prayer was finished, Albert took the priest's hands and told him:
"Thank you, thank you, I shall never forget the emotion of this hour."
Father Mateo assumed he would now be taking his leave of the King. But Albert was not ready to let him go:
"Sit down, Reverend Father, for you have not yet said what you had to say to me...Speak."
The King was determined to hear a little sermon. So Father Mateo offered him some pious thoughts. Albert listened intently.
When, after three quarters of an hour, the priest rose to take his leave, the King said:
"I will let you go, Father, but you must promise me two things: come back to see me when you return to Belgium, and pray for me, for my family, and for Belgium."
Even at the door, the King was still insisting:
"Pray for me, and come back."
(Recorded in Albert 1er, insolite, 1984, a dossier compiled by Jo and Hervé Gerard, pp. 244-245; original French here)
I think that this account illustrates admirably, not only Albert's deep piety, but also his courtesy, warmth, simplicity, and kindness. It is easy to see why he was so loved, both in Belgium and abroad.
May his soul rest in peace.