Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Death of Queen Louise-Marie

On October 11, 1850, the first Queen of the Belgians, Louise-Marie of Orléans, died in Ostende. She was only 38 years old. Famous for her piety, tenderness, generosity, and charity, she was deeply mourned by her family and people. Although he did not share her Catholic faith, and had not, unfortunately, been a particularly faithful husband, King Leopold I sincerely mourned his consort and paid her this touching tribute: "Her death was saintly, like her life."

I came across this fervent eulogy of the Queen, dating from 1850, and wanted to share the moving account of her last hours:
...(L)a faiblesse de la Reine était devenue extrême: la fièvre l'exténuait avec une persistance désespérante, bien que sans sécousses violentes. Dans la journée du 10 Octobre, elle eut une longue défaillance, dans laquelle, dit-elle en se ranimant, elle avait cru mourir. Quelques paroles tombées de la bouche d'une de ses intimes amies, lui apprirent alors toute la gravité de sa situation. La Reine l'avait ignorée jusqu'alors: elle ne doutait pas qu'elle touchait déjà au terme de sa vie. Dieu, en la rappelant à lui, voulait lui épargner les angoisses de la mort...

Quelques inattendues que fussent pour elle, les paroles que Mad. d'Hulst venait de prononcer, loin d'altérer un seul instant l'admirable sérénité de son âme, elles ne contribuèrent qu'à élever avec une nouvelle ferveur, sa pensée vers le ciel. Elle exprima...le désir de s'unir une nouvelle fois, avec Dieu dans la sainte Eucharistie; de le recevoir, une dernière fois, dans son coeur - ce coeur si pur où Dieu n'avait jamais cessé de régner. Ce fut à 2 heures après-midi qu'en présence de sa famille en pleurs, elle reçut des mains du vénérable abbé Guelle, le pain mystérieux des esprits célèstes...

Le reste du jour n'amena aucun changement dans l'état de la malade: toujours le même abattement, toujours le même calme d'esprit, la même resignation à la volonté divine.

Instruite de l'affliction dont tous les Belges étaient pénétrés, la Reine voulut qu'on leur exprimât sa gratitude...et elle ajouta: "Si je dois mourir, que la nation conserve au roi toute son affection, car il en est bien digne: elle ne connaîtra jamais tout ce que le roi a fait pour la rendre heureuse et prospère: qu'elle rapporte son mon époux et sur mes enfants la part de sympathie qu'elle m'a vouée."

La nuit du 10 au 11 fut pour la famille un siècle d'indicibles angoisses: plus de doute, cette nuit devait clore la belle mission de la Reine sur la terre. Pour nous, le moment d'un deuil national, pour elle, celui d'une félicité sans fin approchait rapidement.

Les premiers lueurs de la journée du 11, vinrent enfin se mêler à la clarté funèbre des cierges bénis qui brûlaient dans son appartement. La Reine sentait que son heure était venue. Ranimant ses forces, elle consola ceux que sa mort prématurée faisait fondre en larmes; bénit ses enfants agénouillés au pied de son lit, les conjura de s'aimer comme elle les avait toujours aimés...exprima le désir d'être inhumée dans l'église de Laeken, où tant de fois elle avait uni ses prières à celles des fidèles qu'édifiait son pieux receuillement; pressa une dernière fois la main du roi; y deposa un dernier baiser; le conjura d'accorder une sollicitude paternelle aux pauvres dont elle avait été le refuge...

Et le morne silence qui planait depuis plusieurs jours sur la ville et le plage d'Ostende, fut tout-a-coup interrompu par le cri: la Reine est morte!

***
...The Queen's weakness had become extreme; her fever was desperate and exhausting, although without violent chills. On the 10th of October, she had a long crisis, during which, she said, as she recovered, she had thought she was dying. A few words from the lips of one of her intimate friends, acquainted her with the full gravity of her situation. The Queen had not, until now, realized it; she did not suspect she was already nearing the end of her life. God, in calling her to Himself, wished to spare her the anguish of death...

However unexpected, the words spoken by Mme. d'Hulst, far from altering, even for a moment, the admirable serenity of her soul, only contributed to raising her thoughts, with fresh fervor, to heaven. She expressed...the desire to be united, once more, with God in the Holy Eucharist, to receive Him, one last time, in her heart, that pure heart where God had never ceased to reign. It was at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, in the presence of her tearful family, that she received, at the hands of the venerable abbot Guelle, the mysterious Bread of the celestial spirits...

The rest of the day brought no change in the state of the patient: always the same exhaustion, always the same calmness of mind, the same resignation to the divine will.

When she was informed of the grief afflicting all the Belgians, the Queen desired that her gratitude be expressed to them... and she added: "If I die, the nation must preserve all its affection for the King, for he is well worthy of it; they will never know everything he has done to make them happy and prosperous. They must transfer, to my husband and my children, the share of sympathy they have expressed to me."

The night of the 10th to the 11th was, for her family, an age of unspeakable sufferings - no more doubt, this night must end the Queen's beautiful mission on earth. For us, a period of national mourning, for her, one of happiness without end, was rapidly approaching.

The first rays of dawn of the 11th mingled, at last, with the funereal brightness of the blessed candles burning in her apartment. The Queen felt that her hour had come. Summoning up her forces, she consoled those dissolving in tears at her premature death; she blessed her children, kneeling at the foot of her bed; charged them to love each other as she had always loved them...expressed the desire to be buried in the church of Laeken, where she had so often united her prayers with those of the faithful, who were edified by her devout meditation; pressed, for the last time, the King's hand, and gave it a last kiss; charged him to accord a paternal solicitude to the poor whose refuge she had been...

And the gloomy silence that had hung for several days over the town and beach of Ostende, was suddenly interrupted by the cry: the Queen is dead!
May she rest in peace. I am sure that the prayers of this lovely Queen, both in this life and in the next, have greatly aided Belgium and its royal family.

7 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

This was certainly a selfless Queen- even at the end she was concerned about the people caring for the King and the children...

Matterhorn said...

She was a wonderful person.

It is a pity her husband was not faithful to her, but he never had the same love for her that he had for his first wife, Charlotte. I know affairs were common among royalty, but I still think it's very sad. Louise-Marie really suffered from this, especially as her own parents had been known for their domestic virtues. But whenever she reproached (albeit gently) Leopold, he couldn't understand, he thought of these things as normal.

But at least he appreciated her good character, and I think her piety was transmitted to later generations, even if Leopold himself never converted to Catholicism ( which must also have been very hard for Louise-Marie).

Another thing that made life difficult for her was her painful shyness; public appearances were an ordeal for her and Leopold apparently had to force her to attend. She was very sensitive and easily brought to tears. She also felt constricted and uncomfortable at the Belgian court.

But all these sufferings make her goodness and fortitude all the more remarkable.

MadMonarchist said...

All those consorts who came after her certainly had a lot to live up to. The relationship between the King and Queen reminds me of that of Charles II of Britain and his long-suffering wife. He was certainly not a faithful husband yet he admired and respected his wife and at the end of his life seemed in awe of her all the more for putting up with his failings.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, and it may be that some of Leopold's grief at Louise-Marie's death was regret for the sufferings he had caused her.

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