King Baudouin I and Queen Fabiola

King Baudouin ascended the throne on July 17, 1951, upon the abdication of his father, King Leopold III.  Baudouin had suffered a deeply traumatic youth, losing his mother in a car accident at the age of five and later sharing his father's Nazi captivity in Germany and Austria during World War II. From June 1944 to May 1945, the royal family endured severe deprivation and feared massacre at the hands of the S.S. and the Gestapo. Even the return of peace, and liberation by the Allies, brought further trials, as the teenaged Baudouin saw his venerated father accused of collaborating with the Nazis during the German occupation of Belgium. He also saw his beloved step-mother, Princess Lilian, widely portrayed as a conniving, immoral woman. To maintain the peace of the country, and to preserve the monarchy, Leopold ultimately decided to abdicate. Although reluctant to replace his father, Baudouin courageously assumed his new role, determined to rebuild respect for the Belgian crown. In 1960, he married a Spanish noblewoman, Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. Sadly, the royal couple were never able to bear living children. The Queen suffered a series of tragic miscarriages. Baudouin and Fabiola, however, reigned with great dignity and dedication.  Both were devoutly religious, but unable to prevent Belgians from abandoning traditional Christian moral standards. Baudouin's reign also saw the loss of Belgium's colonial possessions. Towards the end of his life, in 1990, Baudouin suffered a severe crisis of conscience, upon the passage of a bill by the Belgian legislature, decriminalizing abortion. Refusing to sign the law, for religious and moral reasons, Baudouin was declared incapable of reigning for a day. The law was passed without his signature, and his reign resumed the following day. Three years after this painful episode, Baudouin died suddenly at his Spanish vacation home, Villa Astrida, in Motril. He was profoundly mourned by his wife, and by the Belgian people. Since his death, his widow, Queen Fabiola, has done her best to keep his memory alive. The following articles discuss the lives of Baudouin and Fabiola in more detail.