Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lilian & Esmeralda

Above, we see the late Princess Lilian of Belgium, second wife of King Leopold III; below, her youngest daughter, Princess Marie-Esmeralda. Mother and daughter were certainly very alike in appearance! In character, too, according to Esmeralda. In Léopold III, homme libre, Jean Cleeremans quotes her as saying: "My mother and I have the same character; both of us are stubborn and lively." Both forceful, determined personalities, the two princesses had a relationship characterized by tension and conflict as well as love and tenderness. Fortunately, the love prevailed; their disputes always ended in reconciliation. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Lilian and her elder daughter, Princess Marie-Christine, who became tragically estranged from her mother and the rest of her family.

Princess Esmeralda has admirably defended the memory of her much-maligned parents. In 2002, following her mother's death, she granted an interview to La Libre Belgique, entitled "Ma mère telle qu'on l'a peu connue" ("My mother as few knew her.") It is a fascinating description of Princess Lilian, a very great lady despite certain faults of character. It is also a touching filial tribute. Esmeralda praised her mother's many charitable initiatives, especially her establishment of the Princess Lilian Cardiological Foundation, which has saved the lives of thousands. Here is an excerpt:
A l'occasion de son décès et toute sa vie durant, beaucoup de choses ont été écrites sur elle qui l'ont réduite au rang d'épouse de mon père. Ce qu'elle était effectivement puisqu'elle considérait qu'il était la passion de sa vie. Ma mère était une passionnée de manière générale, mais elle a fait énormément de choses dans la discretion. Une foule de gens en témoignent maintenant. Mon frère et moi ne cessons de découvrir qu'elle a aidé beaucoup de monde. Elle n'en parlait jamais. Il y avait en elle un besoin de générosité et de vouloir bien faire parfois mal perçu. Elle a été violemment critiquée, souvent par des gens qui ne l'avaient jamais rencontrée. Il arrivait que ce soit si excessif qu'elle préférait en rire plutôt de s'en montrer blessée. Seules les attaques contre mon père la mettaient très en colère. Fière et obstinée, elle était pourtant reservée. Elle savait l'issue de la maladie qui l'a emportée. Jamais elle ne s'est plainte, n'a manifesté la moindre peur ou faiblesse. 

On the occasion of her death, and throughout her life, many things were written about her which reduced her simply to my father's wife. That is, in fact, what she was, as she considered him the passion of her life. My mother was a passionate woman in general, but she did a tremendous amount discreetly. Many people are testifying to it now. My brother and I are constantly discovering that she aided many people. She never spoke of it. There was, in her, a need to be generous, to do good, which was sometimes taken ill. She was violently criticized, often by people who had never met her. Sometimes it became so extreme that she preferred to laugh about it rather than to appear wounded. It was only the attacks on my father that enraged her. Proud and obstinate, she was, nonetheless, reserved. She foresaw the outcome of the illness that carried her off. Yet she never complained, never exhibited the slightest fear or weakness. 
May she rest in peace. 

No comments: