An obituary of the first Queen of the Belgians, published in 1850 in The Gentleman's Magazine, paints a fascinating and moving portrait of this remarkable woman. Whatever one thinks of her father's actions towards the elder branch of the Bourbon family, she is to be admired...
Oct. 10. At Ostend, aged 38, Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians.
Louise Marie Thérèse Charlotte Isabelle, Princess of Orléans, was the... daughter of the late King Louis-Philippe and Queen Marie Amélie, and was born at Palermo on the 3d of April, 1812. It is well known how deeply the education of his children engaged the attention of the late King of the French. His family has ever been a model of union, good morals, and domestic virtues. Personally simple in his tastes, order and economy were combined with a magnificence becoming his rank and wealth. Under the able and discreet management which marked the early and subsequent education of his family, those virtues and benevolent tendencies which in after-life constituted the principal charm of her highly useful career exhibited themselves in the youthful days of the Princess of Orléans, and procured for her the love and esteem of all who came within her influence.
On the 11th of August, 1832, the Princess of Orleans was wedded to Leopold, King of the Belgians. The nuptials were celebrated at Compeigne. From the moment she became Queen Consort the august lady commenced that uninterrupted career of boundless charity and benevolence which, for the last eighteen years, has made her the idol of the Belgian people. The quantity of work performed in the Queen of the Belgians' own family, and by others under her superintendence, in the shape of clothing for the poor in inclement weather, was enormous ; and, in the ever-recurring lotteries on behalf of the poor, scarcely an exhibition took place in which the Queen did not contribute articles of clothing, screens, chair-covers, and little nic-nacs in Berlin wool, &c. But it was not only for her charities that the deceased Queen was revered by the people. She was destined to play a not unimportant, although a very unostentatious, part in Belgian politics. The King being a Protestant and herself a Catholic, she constituted herself a sort of link between the Catholic party and the throne. When the Catholic party evinced a disposition to exceed the limits enjoined by a just toleration, the Queen stepped in as a mediatrix ; and when, on the other hand, the liberal party showed a tendency to apply too tight a rein to the Church, the same good offices were never refused.
Louis-Philippe had the highest opinion of her intelligence, and used always to speak of her as "my Louise." In June 1832, when a terrible insurrection was raging in Paris, it was considered necessary for the King, who was at Neuilly, to go to the Tuileries ; but the Queen and royal family, alarmed for his safety, objected to his going alone. There was, however, no male member of his family to accompany him, his two sons, the Ducs d'Orléans and d'Aumale, being already at the Tuileries. At last the King, irritated at the opposition made to him, said, " Well, then, Louise shall accompany me;" and the young princess joyfully set forth. At Laaken, after her marriage, the Queen led a simple life, and employed a good deal of her time in active occupation...The King generally passed his evenings in the private apartments of the Queen, and she frequently read to him. The last two works she read to his Majesty were Lamartine's " Histoire des Girondins," and Thiers' " Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire." Their Majesties exchanged observations on different passages, and sometimes had a discussion. What the Queen said was always remarkable for justice, depth, and à propos. English was the language which the royal couple employed in their conversations : indeed, all their intimate communications were carried on exclusively in that language. Although her Majesty did not meddle in politics, she studied all political questions, even the most difficult. She caused the ex-tutor of one of her brothers to keep her constantly informed of the intellectual movement of Paris, and made him send her, immediately on their appearance, every publication of any importance. She assiduously read the newspapers, even those of the advanced opposition, both of Belgium and France. In every visit she made to Paris she received the well-known M. Michelet, who had been her professor of history : yet at the time she did so he had become noted for his violent opposition to the Government of Louis-Philippe, and for his extreme democratic opinions.
The Queen was a great letter-writer. Every day from that on which she quitted her family on her marriage, up to her fatal illness, she wrote to the Queen, her mother, and every day her mother wrote to her. Her Majesty composed her letters all at once; those of her royal parent were commenced in the morning and kept open till post-hour, her Majesty noting anything that occurred—sending, in fact, a sort of journal. After the Revolution of February, when for eight days it was not known what had become of the ex-King of the French and his Queen, the Queen of the Belgians suffered the most poignant anxiety, and this emotion had a most lamentable effect on the disease which had long been undermining her health. The death of her brother the Duke of Orleans, and of her sister the Princess Marie, had previously been terrible blows to her. She most tenderly loved both, and kept up a daily correspondence with the latter. On the death of the princess, the Queen, her mother, caused a notice of her to be printed for the family (only twelve copies were struck off) ; and this notice was made up chiefly from the letters of the two royal sisters. These letters are described as profoundly affecting, and the manner in which she spoke of the death of Madame Mallet, their governess is, in particular, indescribably touching. After the death of the princess, the Queen, in addition to the duily letter to her mother, wrote every day to some other member of her family. She also at the same time kept up a constant correspondence with Her Majesty Queen Victoria, the Duchess of Kent, and the Princess of Prussia. When absent from the King, her husband, for however short a period, she wrote to him almost every day—twice a day, even when both were in Belgium—and the King replied to every one of her letters.
The Queen has left behind her three children, Leopold, Duke of Brabant, and heir to the Crown, born April 9, 1835; Philippe, Count of Flanders, born March 24, 1837; and the Princess Marie Charlotte, born June 7, 1840. Her first born, Prince Louis-Philippe, died in early infancy.
The remains of this illustrious and amiable personage were on Thursday, the 17th Oct. interred in the cathedral church of Laaken. The Cardinal Archbishop of Malines and tbe clergy received the King at the entrance to the church. The King entered first, with Queen Amelie leaning on his arm. The King's sons, the Duc de Brabant and the Comte de Flandre, accompanied by the Princess Clementine, followed, and then came the Duc de Nemours, the Prince de Joinville, the Duc d'Aumale, and the Prince Augustus of Saxe Coburg Gotha. The Royal party was accompanied by the Duc de Cazes.