LadyLeana discusses the multifaceted, widowed consort of King Baudouin I. How Baudouin and Fabiola met and fell in love remains something of a mystery. Did Cardinal Suenens really play the mystical role he claimed in bringing the couple together? To quote:
In his book, Suenens talks about his role as a clerical matchmaker. Baudouin, according, to the cardinal, had informed him that he was really desperate to get married, and asked for his help. The cardinal introduced the King to Sister Veronica O’Brien in March 1960, who, on their first meeting, addressed him as Mister King. After a long conversation and after receiving a nocturnal vision of the Virgin Mary, Sister Veronica left for Madrid, where she met the papal nuncio Monsignor Antoniutti. He, in his turn, sent the Sister to the principal of a girls' school, who then referred her to Fabiola de Mora y Aragon. On their first meeting, Sister Veronica saw a picture in Fabiola’s apartment, of which she had dreamt the night before. The devout Sister saw this as an omen, and tried to persuade the young noblewoman to accept the King’s hand. But Fabiola kindly explained that she had her roots in Spain, and was not interested in a marriage with the Belgian King. Sister Veronica didn’t give in. In a letter to the King, she described Fabiola as “good looking and striking.” And even though Fabiola refused the offer at first, she agreed to meet the King after an intervention by the papal nuncio. They met in Sister Veronica’s apartment in Brussels, and here the cardinal suddenly becomes very discreet when describing the blind date he had helped arrange: “It is inappropriate to describe how roses burst and bloom.”
According to this story, the couple met a second time in Lourdes, France, at the beginning of July 1960. They both stayed in the same hotel, but in separate rooms. They spent their time talking, praying, and walking along the streets of the little town. Three days after their arrival, they were driving to Tarbes, when Fabiola suddenly asked Baudouin to park the car along the side of the road. They prayed together, three Hail Mary’s, after which Fabiola turned to the King and said “Now it’s yes, and I will not look back anymore.” An acceptance without proposal.
Of the above three stories, the last one is the most widely accepted. The cardinal’s book is filled with quotes from his private correspondence with the King and from the King’s diaries, which Baudouin had left to the cardinal in his will. There are other elements which support his story. The couple's yacht, for example, was named Avila, which, according to Suenens’ notes was Fabiola's codename. Baudouin himself even hinted in that direction. But Baudouin’s diaries only support the story of the acceptance in Lourdes, not of their first meeting. And Fabiola herself was not amused by Suenens’ book. She has, more than once, stated, “I have my story too,” which indicates that Suenens has taken some liberty in describing his role in the matchmaking. She also said, at one point, that she had refused Baudouin’s proposal several times “the first year,” which is also at odds with Suenens’ story, according to which they had not known each other for a year when they got married. We will probably never really know, since the Queen doesn’t give any interviews. But it is obvious that even Suenens’ scenario is not the entire story.
Recently, some people have claimed that the marriage of Baudouin and Fabiola was a marriage of convenience, and that, in the beginning they didn’t love each other at all. The story goes that Baudouin just thought that it was his duty as a monarch to produce an heir, for which he needed a wife, and Fabiola wanted to become a mother. As time went by, they found each other in their faith and really started to love each other. Whether this is true or not, only Fabiola can say. But if it had been true, they certainly gave a very good imitation of a couple in love when they married.