Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Villa Haslihorn

Here are some photographs of the vacation home of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid near Lake Lucerne.  It was during an excursion from Villa Haslihorn that the royal couple suffered the terrible car accident that claimed Astrid's life on August 29, 1935.  In her memoirs, Astrid mon amie (Luc Pire Editions, 2005), the Queen's friend, Anna Sparre, quotes some passages from the last letter, dated August 23, and finished August 24, that Astrid sent to her, from Villa Haslihorn (pp. 184-186).  Anna only received the letter on August 30, the day after Astrid's death, and found it surreal to read, all the while knowing that the person who had written it, in such a lively way, was no more. Years later, however, it would be a consolation to Anna to re-read Astrid's account of the happy days which would prove to be her last.  To Anna, it felt like meeting, once again, "my own friend, alive, so faithful and full of goodness" (p. 184.)

In her letter, Astrid refers to her Swedish maid, Maja, Leopold's valet, Joseph, the children's governess, Mlle. Landsman, and Anna's husband and daughter, Clas and Christina. Anna had been vacationing with the royal couple, but had just returned home to Sweden.  Leopold had been called back to Brussels, where the youngest of the royal children, Prince Albert, had been left behind. The King, however, would soon be returning for the rest of his vacation with his wife and two oldest children, Josephine-Charlotte and Baudouin.  The children would be sent back to Brussels ahead of their parents, who had then planned a series of excursions into the mountains. The first of these trips had been set for August 25, but was delayed until August 29, to give the children more time with their father. In Astrid's letter to Anna, one feels the Queen's great charm, affection and joie de vivre, tinged with a hint of nervousness, loneliness and melancholy.  As Anna's departure had neared, Astrid had been gripped by forebodings of a coming tragedy.  Even this seemingly cheerful note strikes me as slightly bittersweet.
"What a good time we had together, and for once, we had a chance to deepen things, so that we could be quiet, when it became difficult up there in the clouds...
It was so sad, yesterday, when you left... All at once, I went through all the Swedish papers which Maja had brought, reading them one after another, so as not to have to think, because thinking only complicates things. At eight o'clock, Maja came in with breakfast; you cannot imagine how kindly she had prepared all sorts of delicious things... 
Later the children got up, they dressed themselves up in my clothes, and, at half past nine, Joseph, the children and I made an excursion by boat from Lucerne.  An outing of almost two hours, splendid in this fine weather.  Arrived at our destination, we took the cable up a good long way, just to the point where the view of the peaks and the lakes is the most beautiful.  There we played and had lunch. On the menu was chicken, which the children ate with their fingers. You can imagine their chatter.  You will understand what a lovely moment it was.  At five we were back in Lucerne, where Mlle. L. was waiting for the children, to take them home. Guess what I did next: I went to the hairdresser and had my hair washed.  I feel completely different. Did you have a chance to go to the hairdresser in Berlin? 
When I returned home, around seven, the children were already asleep.  All by myself, I nibbled something before sitting down in the living room, where I listened to records and read the paper. I received a telegram from Leopold: he said that baby was doing wonderfully. How kind of him to tell me! 
At half past nine, he telephoned to say that baby was sweeter than ever and that he was walking. I long so much to be with him! 
It was terribly hot in Brussels, over thirty degrees at the time of our conversation. His voice was cheerful and happy, but he already wanted to be here... 
Mlle. L. told me that the evening of Leopold's departure, she had gone to see if the children were sleeping.  Joe was crying in her little bed.  Do you know why? Yes, because her papa had gone.  'All the other children are with their papa more often than I am,' she said to me. 'Me, I never see my papa.'  That too, I told Leopold on the telephone. 'In that case, we will not leave before the 29th,' he replied.  Sweet, eh?  
Today, it is very fine weather again. At half past seven, the children and I took the motor-boat to Lido. There is a very good swimming instructor there. 'Now you can learn to swim,' I said, but they did not want to.  So we sat down at the edge of the water to watch how he did it with the other children and Joe suddenly said she wanted to learn to swim, too. What fun she had! Of course, Baudouin said he wanted to take lessons, too. You should have seen how cute he was. The teacher declared that Joe would learn in five days.  She was delighted, because she would be able to swim when her father arrived. Afterwards, we went to lunch.  
At this moment, Baudouin is sleeping, Joe and I are on the terrace, stretched out on deck chairs.  Joe is "reading" and I am writing to you, my papers are on my knees.  I hope you will be able to decipher my writing.  Now you know everything we have done.  Joe and I will soon be going into town to deposit Leopold's films there... 
Did Christina like the little house we bought her in Bolzano? I hope that she and Clas are doing well. You too, you must have been happy to return to Adelsnäs. Write to me very soon.  Tell me everything! I think so often of you..."


Anonymous said...

Astrid's daughter, the late Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte, said in an interview that, somehow, she knew that her mother had died before her governess told her. She also mentioned that she frequently could sense that things would happen. Astrid sensed that something would happen, her daughter also did later in life. Curiously, Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, granddaughter of Astrid's sister Martha, also says that she can sense things that other people can't (although she has taken this 'ability' to a different, more controversial, dimension). I suppose this ability to foresee things or to feel things beyond the physical level must run in this family, the descendants of Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden.

I hope everything is alright with you, Matterhorn.

Best regards,


May said...

Those are very interesting observations, Jorge. I have heard that the Swedes in general have a tendency to extrasensory perception.

Thank you for your concern. It's been a tough summer.