Yet, as I have tried to illustrate on this blog, the Catholic faith has played an important role in the personal lives (if not the political lives) of many members of the royal family. After the First World War, the Belgian royal family was one of the few Catholic reigning houses left in Europe. Ironically enough, it was also one of the most recent Catholic royal houses, and one revolutionary in its origins. To commemorate the piety of a number of Belgium's past kings, queens, princes and princesses, I have gathered a few photographs of important religious occasions in their lives.
Here is an image of the First Communion of Princess Marie-José, the only daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, and the future Queen of Italy. Despite the malicious claim of Flemish separatist Paul Belien, in his venomous book, A Throne in Brussels (2005), that Albert and Elisabeth gave their children "no religious instruction"(p. 147), the King, a man of profound faith, actually took great pains to inculcate a noble and thoughtful piety in his children. In her memoirs, Marie-José relates, in touching terms, that her father, amidst the pressures and preoccupations of the First World War, nonetheless found time to instruct her personally in the catechism, prior to her First Communion. "Prepare yourself with care for your First Communion, it is a great day of your life. I still remember my First Communion as a happy event in my life, " he had written to his 10-year-old daughter, at convent school in Brentwood. The ceremony took place on August 15, 1916, in the church of Vinckem, where Marie-José's mother had opened a school for soldiers' children.
converted to Catholicism out of genuine conviction. "I am glad, very glad," her father-in-law, King Albert I, had repeated, on the day she was received into the Faith, "now all the family is united in the same religion" (quoted by Charles d'Ydewalle in Albert and the Belgians: Portrait of a King, 2005, p. 259). This image seems to exemplify this unity of faith...
Last but not least, we have the First Communion and Confirmation of Princess Marie-Christine, the eldest daughter of King Leopold III and his second wife, the much-maligned Princess Lilian. Bishop Fulton Sheen of New York officiated at the ceremony, which took place on May 9, 1962. As I look at this picture, I cannot help but think how sad it is that Marie-Christine became alienated from her faith and family.