Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23, 1909: The Accession of Albert I

On December 23, 1909, six days after the death of his uncle, Leopold II, Prince Albert of Belgium swore allegiance to the Constitution before Parliament, becoming the third King of the Belgians, just two days before Christmas. By a joyful, yet sobering coincidence, then, Belgian Catholics celebrated the accession of their new, earthly King, only two days before hailing the birth of their heavenly King! Leopold I and Leopold II had taken the constitutional oath only in French; Albert innovated by repeating it in Dutch. The people heartily welcomed their retiring, studious, conscientious and progressive young sovereign and his lively, artistic, philanthropic consort, born Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria. Already blessed with three children, Prince Leopold (b. 1901), Prince Charles-Theodore (b. 1903), and Princess Marie-José (b. 1906), their warmth and domestic virtues, contrasting vividly with the deceased King's coldness and flagrant scandals, had already earned Albert and Elisabeth widespread love and veneration. The royal couple's heroism amidst the horrors of World War I would only enhance these popular sentiments. During their own reign, the King and Queen would pass into legend.

4 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

What a completely joyous occasion that must have been. It is also interesting to hear he was the first to take the oath in Dutch. I would have thought Leopold III or Baudouin would have been the first to do that. Albert is one of those who makes me think of that famous line, "every inch a king". Humble, pious, devoted to his God, his family and his people -you cannot ask for much more than that in any leader. Compassionate in peace, determined but never spiteful in war, he really seemed to have his priorities in order. Belgium was fortunate to have him.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, I only wish they could have had him for longer. However, I am glad in a way that he was spared World War II. At least, he did not have to go through all Leopold III endured.

MadMonarchist said...

Probably true. There was a time that I would have said that King Albert's prestige from WW1 would have made it impossible for him to be treated as Leopold III was, however, since learning about what criticism (some of it similar to that of his son) Albert did suffer at the hands of his allies and for favoring a peaceful end to the war -I don't think I can say as much now. However, he (and the Queen) can be credited with instilling in King Leopold the character required to withstand such slings and arrows.

Matterhorn said...

I think it would have been harder to treat Albert that way- but not impossible. Still, there's no doubt that the loss of the two most adulated members of the royal family - Albert and Astrid- left the monarchy in a particularly vulnerable position. Kings and Queens ought to stay away from cliffs.