Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Brothers

Elena Maria Vidal has an article about the Comte de Provence, a treacherous younger brother of King Louis XVI of France. Unfortunately, it reminds me of Prince Charles of Belgium, who also harbored envy and hatred of his older brother and sovereign, King Leopold III. During the King's exile in Austria, after World War II, Prince Charles, then Regent of Belgium, and the Prime Minister, Achille van Acker, even tried to persuade Princess Lilian to desert Leopold, promising her lavish sums and luxurious privileges if she abandoned her husband and returned to Belgium with her step-son, the heir to the throne, young Prince Baudouin. (Needless to say, Lilian indignantly rejected the offer, once again giving the lie to the black legend that she was a gold-digger).

The attempt to suborn the Princess was the sordid culmination of life-long tensions between the two surviving sons of King Albert I. The episode, mentioned by Leopold in Pour l'Histoire: sur quelques épisodes de mon règne (2001) and by Lilian in Un couple dans la tempête: le destin malheureux de Léopold III de Belgique et de la princesse Lilian (2004), had also been discussed, even earlier, by Jacqueline de Peyrebrune, a mistress of Prince Charles, who claimed to have secretly married him, in her Carnets intimes: le jardin secret du prince Charles de Belgique (1993). Nevertheless, upon the publication of Pour l'Histoire, the historian Jean Stengers, an old opponent of Leopold III, accused him of fabricating the scandalous story. Further evidence, however, subsequently emerged from the King's private notes and correspondence with his brother, vindicating his veracity in this sad affair.

Throughout the Royal Question, Charles collaborated with Leopold's opponents. His regency lent the trappings of legitimacy to their revolutionary efforts to prolong the King's incapacity to reign after his liberation from German captivity. During this period, Charles made little effort to defend Leopold from the false accusations of cowardice and treason on the part of British, French and Belgian authorities. Many try to justify Charles' behavior, arguing that his compliance with the government and the Allies protected the peace of the country and enabled the monarchy to survive. Perhaps he did act, at times, out of patriotism, but why connive at such a base proposition as attempting to suborn Princess Lilian? Such an action reflects malice. As a result, I suspect that the Prince's motives throughout his regency were far from pure.

7 comments:

Ms. Lucy said...

Wow...I never knew any of this. Thanks for enlightening, Matterhorn:)

Matterhorn said...

Not many seem to have heard of this. Charles is routinely presented as the "nice guy" and Leopold as the "nasty guy" but I think the opposite was true.

Anonymous said...

It seems like Charles had his own insecurities and grievances, and took them out on his elder brother. That's a shame.

It's to Leopold's credit that he never seemed to harbour any vindictiveness towards his brother, but took his brother's character in stride.

Matterhorn said...

No, Leopold was not vindictive, but he did blame Charles for, as he saw it, betraying the dynasty and the monarchy.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the link!

Aimee said...

Yes, Prince Charles was very nasty towards his brother. In a biography of his I am reading, it says that the Prince actively sabotaged his brother during his regency. And in the new book about the Belgian monarchy to appear one of these days (Van Kussnacht tot Argenteuil) the author claims that Charles paid the socialist parties - who were against Leopold III - to organise new elections, just as Leopold III was preparing to return.

Then again, he was probably very envious of his elder brother. I believe Leopold was always the preferred child with his parents, given special treatments since he was the heir to the throne. This probably left deep scars. Not that it excuses Charles' actions at all, it just sort of explains where he was coming from.

BelgieRoyalist said...

Is it not odd how often royal brothers can be the absolute opposites of each other? It seems to happens through the history of the family. EVen today I think how totally different are Prince Philippe and Prince Laurent. Not always undermining of each other as Prince Charles did, but so very different despite coming from the same place.