Monday, December 20, 2010

The Tragedy of Baudouin I

John J. Conley, S. J., discusses King Baudouin's courageous moral stand in the tragic abortion crisis of 1990. It is a very interesting account, with passages from the monarch's letters and diaries revealing his inner torment at this saddest moment of his reign. (King Leopold III, however, surrendered to the Nazis after 18 days of fighting, not 10 days, and the popular consultation held in 1950 concerned Leopold's return from exile to resume his royal functions, not the maintenance or abolition of the monarchy itself.) Although many would disagree with me, I actually think Baudouin inherited much of his backbone and moral fibre from his much-maligned father, and from his even more maligned step-mother, the indomitable Lilian de Réthy!

5 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

This is one of the two events of King Baudouin's reign that makes him one of my favorite modern monarchs in the world. I know (because I have dealt with them) there are those who still criticize him because he did not stop the bill; it still became law. My usual response to that is, 'what more could he have done?' All any monarch can do is sign or not sign and he refused to sign. I don't like to criticize other monarchs for feeling they have no choice but to go along with the advice of their government but I do think King Baudouin should be given that much more credit for being the only one to stand in the face of popular opinion and refuse to cooperate. He was certainly a man of character whose principles were stronger than political considerations. Quite a rare thing in these times.

Matterhorn said...

Perhaps he might have been able to dissolve parliament, or something? But I doubt it would have made any difference in the long run, the same types would probably just have been re-elected. Constitutional precedence means the king is "obliged" to sign whatever law is placed before him, so Baudouin was taking a bold and radical step merely by refusing to sign.

Theresa Bruno said...

Good post. Baudouin was brave to state his unpopular opinion about abortion and not sign the law. After all, a man without a conscious, is no man at all.

MadMonarchist said...

I'm sure you are more well-informed on this issue than I am. From what I recall the King would have to have a minister sign off on the political decision to dissolve parliament and under the circumstances I doubt any would have done so. At least, it was my understanding that, due to royal inviolability, any political action carried out by the King had to have some minister to take the responsibility for it.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, there is the "no act of a King has validity unless counter-signed by a minister" problem. But even if it had been possible, it would probably have caused more harm than good.