Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
In honor of the new King Philippe of the Belgians, it might be a suitable moment to revisit the beautiful and emotional wedding of his parents. This month marks the anniversary of their marriage. Whatever their lapses and failings may have been along the way, their union has survived and grown stronger through many sad times. The Australian Women's Weekly offers a vivid portrait of the Italian princess, Paola Ruffo di Calabria, who became the wife of Prince Albert of Liège in July 1959. The two young people had hoped to marry in the Vatican, with John XXIII officiating, since they had first met during the festivities surrounding his coronation, less than a year earlier. For political reasons, however, the plan proved too controversial to realize. In Amours royales et princières, Patrick Weber describes the criticism of the Belgian royal family, accused of being too entangled with the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, Albert and Paola renounced the idea of a Vatican wedding, and the marriage took place in Brussels, at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. The Australian article includes images of the exquisite young bride, moved to tears as she pronounced her nuptial vows during the religious ceremony. It also shows the bridegroom's grandmother, Queen Elisabeth, steadying a nervous Princess Paola at the civil ceremony. Only 21 years old at the time, Paola was a shy, tender, sensitive young woman, who must have suffered severely during the long period of estrangement from her husband.
At the time of the wedding, of course, all the marital troubles were in the future, and Belgians simply rejoiced in the passionate romance of King Baudouin's winsome younger brother and the stunning, delicate Italian beauty. The cheer of the marriage celebrations was a welcome change from decades of grimness, beginning with the deaths of King Albert I and Queen Astrid, and continuing through World War II, the Nazi occupation, the Royal Question, the abdication of King Leopold III, and the endless, festering controversy over his role at the palace after his son's accession to the throne. King Baudouin would not marry Doña Fabiola, his popular Spanish queen, for over another year, making Paola the first Southern European bride to join the Belgian royal family. Previously, the Belgian princes had chosen consorts from countries further to the north, as illustrated by Louise-Marie of France, Marie-Henriette of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria, and Astrid of Sweden. The marriage of Albert and Paola would give Belgium an Italian queen; as an interesting mirror image, the marriage of Albert's aunt, Princess Marie-José, to Prince Umberto of Savoy, had already given Italy a Belgian queen. Despite the discord, and rumored infidelity, that would plague the marriage of Albert and Paola in the years to come, the prince would ultimately be shown to have been wise in his choice of spouse. As the sixth Queen of the Belgians, reconciled to her husband, and dedicated to her children and grandchildren, Paola would prove to be a mature, tasteful, gracious, steady and supportive matriarch of the royal family. Following Albert's abdication, it is to be hoped that she will enjoy many peaceful and happy years.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
A war correspondent's report on the courage and steadfastness of the Belgian people during the second German assault on their country in a generation. Although the King and his government were soon to suffer a fatal rift, it is undoubtedly true that all parties showed bravery in the common struggle against the invader.
We should like to describe the most reckless and the most abject of the exploits of the parachutists, but we doubt whether the censor will allow it. The brave King Leopold III had joined his Army on the morning of the Friday. Nazi espionage, it seems, had discovered the position from which he was to direct operations.
It was a fort on the outskirts of Liege. A long succession of parachutists descended from the clouds and attempted to seize the Sovereign. The bravery of the Belgian soldiers made their efforts vain, but the fort in question was attacked unceasingly until finally, after the King had gone to another part of the front line, it was captured. The attitude of the young King, together with the legendary heroism of the Belgian soldiers and the calm energy of the Government, maintained the morale of the population. The wireless had at first announced that the King would speak to his people, but his message was in fact published in the newspapers, for the King was unwilling to lose a single minute that he could devote to his duties as Commander-in-Chief of his armies. This little story, quickly spread among the people, made a great impression. The calm dignity of the session of the two Chambers happily supported the example given by the King. And the Ministers were not less deserving of admiration. The dramatic interview between M. Spaak and the German Ambassador will long be remembered. The "moi d'abord" with which M. Spaak compelled his visitor to listen to a reply anticipating the humiliating proposals which he brought, was more spectacular in its proud defiance, but it was not finer than the courage of M. Pierlot. I met the Prime Minister on the morning of Saturday, the 11th, as he was walking quite alone, his despatch case in his hand, on his way on foot from his modest home to the Government buildings in the Rue de la Loi. Was this to show to all that Belgium had nothing to fear from a Fifth Column ? And his speeches, in which each evening he brought consolation to his countrymen, were courageous, resolute but never unwarrantably optimistic.
And the people themselves, so good, so honest, so loyal, so valiant and so undeservedly embroiled in a fearful slaughter. To them all honour is due. Never was such a rude awakening suffered with such serenity. Nothing but the necessities of the Army was allowed to interfere in any degree with the normal tempo of life. Men continued quietly in their occupations. The flower-sellers, the newspaper sellers in Brussels never left their pitches during air-raid alarms. The newspapers carried their long lists of small advertisements, a thousand petty transactions which proceeded as if nothing had happened. The shops where food was sold, wonderfully stocked, were undisturbed by pillagers or by hoarders. Slowly, almost cheerfully, people set to work to make their arrangements for a black-out, and to protect their windows from the flying fragments of bombs. No panic, no despair. But an anger which will never more forgive this second attack on an innocent country. These Belgians do not harbour any illusions. They know that they must pass through the ordeal of a second occupation by the enemy. But they are none the less convinced of the final victory of the Allies and of a glorious future for their country.
A conviction so firm, so religious, inspires them in the face of danger and of death ; the beautiful serenity of soul which Faith gives to the Believer. That, and that alone, explains the appearance of Brussels. When I left there at the week-end following the invasion, the streets were filled again with strollers, the cafes and the restaurants, at the hours within which they were allowed to supply food, were full. And but a little way away, at the gates of the city, holiday-makers stared at the military transports, sunning themselves and taking the air just as if the German aeroplanes had not taken the air at dawn on May 10th. (Read entire article)
Here are some old pictures of the childhood summer residence of Queen Astrid's family, in Stockholm. The little princess' parents, Carl and Ingeborg of Sweden, lived here from 1899-1908. The last picture shown is an invitation to a garden party on the grounds of the villa.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
This appears to be an issue of a Swedish magazine dedicated to Queen Astrid from 1936. It seems to feature a testimony from Astrid's father, Prince Carl of Sweden, regarding his deceased daughter and her mother and siblings. I do not know, but it might be the same testimony quoted by Count Robert Capelle in his memoirs of his service to Astrid's husband, King Leopold III. In any case, we can see that Astrid remained a popular figure in her homeland, and that she was far from forgotten after her marriage to the heir to the Belgian throne.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
The Mad Monarchist has some reflections on the similarities and differences between the abdications of Albert II and his father, Leopold III, as well as good wishes for the new King of the Belgians to be, Prince Philippe Leopold Louis Marie, Duke of Brabant.
Some media outlets have erroneously reported that this is the first abdication in Belgian history which, I am sure, most monarchists at least know is not true. King Leopold III abdicated in 1950 but he was, until now, the only Belgian monarch to abdicate and that was under some rather unique (and unfair) circumstances. King Leopold I did offer to abdicate once but his people did not wish it. He, as well as King Leopold II, King Albert I and King Baudouin all reigned until their deaths. Traditionally, the situation in Belgium is rather like that in the United Kingdom; abdications have happened but only rarely and under difficult circumstances. So, in that regard, the abdication of King Albert II is something surprising and out of the ordinary...
In any event, Prince Philippe will soon be the new King of the Belgians and I would be hard pressed to name a modern royal figure for whom I have greater respect for than the Duke of Brabant. I do hope he takes the name ‘King Leopold IV’ rather than ‘King Philippe I’ but, alas, I doubt it. I am sure he will be told that the name “Leopold” has negative connotations these days but that is unfair and unfortunate. Particularly the last one, King Leopold III, has been the victim of some of the most gross injustices and slander of any royal figure in recent history. He was a fine, upstanding, God-fearing man who does not deserve to be spoken of with anything less than pride and admiration. Similarly, whatever he shall be called, it remains to be seen if Prince Philippe will be given a fair chance. As we have talked about before, the Duke of Brabant has also been subject to many unfair efforts to lower his standing in the eyes of the public with all sorts of slander and cruel jokes being made about him despite the fact that he has done nothing at all to deserve it. In fact, he has often been ridiculed specifically for being such an upstanding man. I pray he will be given a fair chance and that the public will rally to support him. If he is given that support I have no doubt he will be one of the great monarchs of Belgian history. He certainly has the character for it. (Read entire post)
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Here is a brief clip of Prince Philippe paying tribute to his father, King Albert II, on the day after the monarch's announcement of his upcoming abdication. Pictures of the soon-to-be King Philippe, Queen Mathilde and their children HERE.
Here is a post in French about Princess Lilian's love of deer and the hunt, illustrated by her stag-themed jewelry, such as the brooch shown above, part of a citrine parure sold at Christies in 1987. For her Silver Wedding in September 1966, Lilian's husband, King Leopold III, presented her with a diamond brooch, in the shape of a stag's head, designed by Cartier according to Lilian's wishes. This piece became her favorite brooch. She wore it for her last public appearance, in September 1993, for the 20th anniversary of the Leopold III Fund for the Exploration and Conservation of Nature. She also wore it for her daughter Esmeralda's London wedding to eminent scientist Salvador Moncada in 1998. In contrast to many other of Lilian's possessions, which were auctioned off following her death, the cherished diamond brooch remains in her family to this day.
It is hard for me to speak of my aunt Lilian, so soon after her passing, without feeling the tears springing to my eyes. I very much miss her presence, as well as our frequent telephone conversations. I met her for the first time in Portugal, at the beginning of the 1950s. My uncle and my aunt Lilian were passing through Estoril, and were traveling to America. I saw them again in Brussels, for the eightieth birthday of my grandmother, Queen Elisabeth. It was a very joyous birthday. Aunt Lilian was resplendent, she was expecting Esmeralda.
In 1958, I was again in Belgium, invited to a court ball. It was my first ball, I was delighted, and at the same time, very intimidated. I was staying at Laeken, and the evening of my arrival, Aunt Lilian came into my room. She wanted to see my evening dress. Very quickly understanding that I suffered from painful shyness, an inheritance from the Coburgs, she reassured me by admiring my gown and saying a thousand kind things to me.
From that time on, my affectionate friendship for my "Belgian uncle and aunt" never weakened. I went to see them at Argenteuil, Ciergnon, Hinteriss, or in Biot, in the south of France. With my aunt, we talked about everything. The conversation was always interesting, and often amusing. Aunt Lilian was one of the most beautiful women I have known. She was also very intelligent and enthusiastic about life, with a strong, decided character. She was sometimes misunderstood. However, she had a big heart and always showed herself ready to help her neighbor. My affection and admiration for my aunt continued unclouded, without interruption, for 42 years, and I will miss her forever.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Well, it's official this time. Today, King Albert II of the Belgians announced his abdication, effective July 21, 2013, in favor of his son, Prince Philippe. I hope and pray for the best for Albert and Paola, for the new King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, for the rest of the Belgian royal family, and for their people and country.