Sunday, January 16, 2011
The Two Wives of Leopold III
Emily Chauviere, a librarian at the University of Dallas, gives an interesting description of Leopold III and his two wives: the enchanting Scandinavian princess whom he married amidst splendor and celebration, who bore him a daughter and two sons, before dying young, and the alluring Flemish commoner whom he wedded in secrecy and mourning, who gave him a son and two daughters, and with whom he spent his last years; the woman whose loss saddened his youth and the woman whose presence brightened his old age. I am glad that the author avoids the usual vilifications of Princess Lilian and treats her with respect. Popular reactions to the King's second marriage, however, were actually more mixed than Ms. Chauviere suggests. As for Leopold's surrender to the Germans, it aroused criticism on the part of Belgian and Allied ministers, but the Belgian people, in general, still seemed to love their sovereign at that point, admiring his courage in sharing their captivity. (See, for instance, The Prisoner at Laeken: King Leopold, legend and fact, 1941, by Emile Cammaerts).
Here is an article of my own, comparing and contrasting Astrid and Lilian. Although I like both women, I feel that Astrid was better suited to the role of Leopold's consort, since she was gentler and more diplomatic.