Thursday, November 1, 2012


This article, published February 12, 1961, in the Pittsburgh Press, shortly after Queen Fabiola's arrival in Belgium, furnishes an interesting example of the unfounded insinuations that circulated around Leopold III and his second wife, Princess Lilian. (It is actually one of the mildest examples I have seen.)
Fabiola also has a mother-in-law problem; a step-mother-in-law problem, to be exact. And Princess Liliane de Rethy could be a formidable foe. Back in 1941, when Leopold married her, she was Liliane Baels, daughter of the Governor of West Flanders. For 20 years she has been the most unpopular woman in the land, but Baudouin's devotion to her is so great he has been known to fly into rages over newspaper attacks on her, and to cancel all appointments for the day. 
When, at the time of their engagement, Baudouin and Fabiola gave their first press conference, they were later joined by their respective families for photographs. A girl journalist from an Italian magazine marked Fabiola who looked, at once, slightly untidy and infinitely appealing, with her hair wind-swept, and wearing a strawberry-colored dress, a cashmere cardigan and pearls. Squeezing the arm of a newspaper companion, this journalist exclaimed: "We are about to catch a glimpse of the future. If Liliane wishes to obliterate Fabiola she will stand next to her." 
As the royal group took their positions, Princess Liliane moved, smiling, to Fabiola's side. Tall and beautiful, fresh from the coiffeur and supremely elegant in a Paris suit, she did just what the girl journalist predicted- she obliterated the bride-to-be.
What nonsense. So Lilian could not even pose beside her own step-daughter-in-law for a family photograph without being accused of trying to steal the limelight from the new Queen? Supposing she had kept her distance from Fabiola? Then she would have been charged with being unfriendly and sulking at her loss of status as first lady of the realm. The poor woman was so reviled.

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