Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Social Reforms of Queen Astrid

Königin Astrid von Belgien, Queen of Belgium
In Astrid:1905-1935, a collection of essays edited by Christian Koninckx, Louise-Marie Libert-Vandenhove gives an interesting description of the young Queen's engagement in social causes (see especially pp. 103-115). Astrid took a special interest in the improvement of conditions for women and children. Although she was no militant suffragette, she contributed to the movement for greater freedom and independence for women in her own discreet, delicate and non-confrontational way. She was a reformer, not a revolutionary.

Libert-Vandenhove describes the difficult conditions for women, particularly those of the poorer classes, at the time Astrid arrived in Belgium. The more traditionally minded strata of society simply expected women to be content with their lot as wives and mothers, legally and politically subordinate to men, forever minors in law, ineligible to vote or run for office in national elections. The universities of Brussels, Ghent and Liège only opened their doors to women in the 1880's. At the dawn of the twentieth century, it was still quite hard for girls to pursue higher education or an interesting profession outside the home. 

Even at the outset of World War I, as Dr. Patrick Loodts has noted on his wonderful website, Médecins de la Grande Guerre, nursing as a career was still in its infancy in Belgium as it was considered scandalous for women to provide physical care to men outside their families. The Catholic University of Louvain only began admitting female students in 1920, just six years before Astrid's marriage to the heir to the Belgian throne. A emerging feminist movement had been gaining strength since the return of peace, but it was still widely frowned upon.

Many children were also suffering, particularly among the financially disadvantaged. A doting mother herself, Astrid was clearly distressed by the poor living conditions and high mortality rates of many infants and children, not only in Belgium but in the Belgian Congo and the Far East. In her memoirs, her friend Anna Sparre describes the heartfelt letters, discussing the topic, that the Queen sent her during her visits to Singapore in 1932 and the Congo in 1933

Although not particularly an intellectual woman, Libert-Vandenhove observes, Astrid was gifted with intelligence, realism and intuition. (Her husband's second wife, Princess Lilian, with her passionate interests in science, history, literature and philosophy, her creation of a kind of cultural salon at Argenteuil, was much more of a real intellectual, I always think). Above all, Astrid was blessed with a kind, gentle, sensitive disposition. These qualities, I believe, enabled her to maintain a delicate balance in promoting social change without trying to tear society apart. Aside from the fact that espousing radical feminism would have been politically disastrous for the Queen, it would simply never have occurred to her to encourage Belgian women to throw off their role as wives and mothers. She herself was first and foremost a loving wife and mother. She sought, however, to render women's lives as wives and mothers fruitful rather than oppressive. 

As Libert-Vandenhove describes in detail, Astrid was always a gracious patroness of causes promoting the good of women along with the good of their children. She was particularly interested in training women formally in childrearing and healthcare, as she herself had been trained as a young princess in Sweden. These programs had the double benefit of improving children's health while offering women better career opportunities. Astrid also tried to further the education of women in other fields. With her love of fashion, for example, she supported the training of young girls as dressmakers. A sincerely religious lady, she tended to favor Catholic charitable institutions, such as the professional school for girls run by the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. At the same time, she was open-minded enough to support, in addition, some more liberal organizations, such as the non-sectarian Fédération des Foyers Belges. She gave audiences to advocates of women's rights such as Baroness Boël, President of the National Council of Belgian Women. 

Astrid's concern for the vulnerable was deep and intense. She appeared at so many events in support of so many causes that it might seem that her involvement must have been superficial, merely a matter of protocol. Such a notion would be far from the truth. In fact, the Queen's interest moved her to insist personally on in-depth investigations of matters close to her heart. In May 1935, for instance, she patronized Milk Week, an effort to encourage Belgians to drink this healthful beverage. She took the opportunity to charge Gatien du Parc, one of her courtiers, with the task of preparing a detailed report on milk regulations in foreign countries. The investigation was extremely painstaking. 

Three months later, Astrid's tragic death in a car accident in Switzerland would deprive her family and nation of her maternal care. We can only guess, but can never know, how her gentle, caring but firm approach to social crises might have alleviated Belgian traumas during World War II and the Royal Question. 

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Queen Who Never Was

Today is the anniversary of the civil wedding of Leopold III and Lilian Baels. The ceremony took place on December 6, 1941, less than three months after the couple's secret, religious wedding in the chapel of Laeken. Lilian was already expecting her first child, Prince Alexandre, who would be born in July, 1942. Leopold and Lilian had reversed the normal order, prescribed by the Belgian Constitution, of the civil and religious wedding ceremonies, and the King would later be severely castigated for this violation of the law. Given the bizarre, difficult circumstances, however, the irregularity was understandable. The King was a prisoner of war; the country was occupied by the Nazis, who might not even permit a royal marriage to take place. The government, whose approval was needed for a dynastic union, was in exile in London. The suffering Belgians might resent their King's idyll. By opting, initially, for a simply sacramental marriage, the couple had hoped to conceal their union until the return of peace. The bride's pregnancy, however, made it impossible. 

Yet, amidst war and occupation, in the government's absence, the King did not think it appropriate to impose a new Queen and new royal heirs upon the country. As Cardinal van Roey, Archbishop of Malines, emphasized in his pastoral letter of December 6, 1941, Lilian herself had renounced the title and rank of Queen. In a similar vein, the King drew up a document, declaring his desire that none of the descendants of his second marriage should have the right to succeed to the throne. By contrast, his new bride and their children should have the right to all of his other ancestral titles; Royal Highness, Prince and Princess of Belgium, Duke and Duchess of Saxony, Prince and Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. 

In constitutional terms, however, Leopold and Lilian lacked the authority, on their own, to decide matters of regal status and succession. Accordingly, the King added: "As soon as my liberty as a Sovereign is restored to me, I will ask the Government of the time to realize my intentions legally." Strangely, the King's intentions would not be realized legally for fifty years. During a constitutional revision in 1991, Prime Minister Wilfried Martens would finally clarify the issue, officially stating that the offspring of Leopold and Lilian had no rights to the throne.

After the civil ceremony, the King introduced his three eldest children, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, Prince Baudouin, and Prince Albert to their new step-mother. The children adored the beautiful, clever, vivacious young woman and immediately started calling her maman. By all accounts, it was the beginning of nearly twenty years of a close, tender family life, happily restored after the tragedy of Queen Astrid's death. The Queen Mother, Elisabeth of Bavaria, was also very fond of Lilian.

Outside the gates of Laeken, news of the wedding provoked mixed reactions. Some Belgians reproached Leopold for considering his personal happiness at a time of national disaster, others sympathized with his situation, sending flowers and congratulations to the palace. Unfortunately, however, the marriage would prove to be an important tool in the hands of the King's political opponents, particularly after the war.  Princess Lilian of Belgium was viciously vilified, by politicians and journalists bent upon toppling her husband, as the maleficent beauty behind the throne, as a veritable Whore of Babylon! 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Berthe Petit

Berthe Petit (1870-1943) was a Belgian Franciscan tertiary, mystic, stigmatist and apostle of devotion to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. She was born in Enghien, the daughter of pious parents. She was a delicate child, and, throughout her life, suffered many illnesses, causing her to receive the Last Rites seven times. From the age of four, she believed she experienced visions of Christ and the Blessed Mother. These recurred throughout her life, centering on her chief mission- to obtain the consecration of the world to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Berthe was always respected by the ecclesiastical authorities. As far as I know, the Church has never found anything contrary to the Catholic Faith in her revelations.

Berthe was born into a family of comfortable means; her father was a prosperous attorney. Deeply devout, Berthe longed to become a Sister of Charity, but it was not to be. During her youth, her father suffered severe financial reversals and Berthe was obliged to work to help support her family. She offered her disappointment as a sacrifice for the sanctification of a priest of God's choice. This proved to be Father Louis Décorsant, a French priest who became one of her spiritual directors and close collaborators.

Berthe's life was marked by physical and spiritual suffering. At the age of 10, after her First Communion, she told her teacher, a nun: "I must suffer a great deal, I must be like Jesus." The nun asked: "who told you that?" The child replied: "the little Host which is my wonderful Jesus." In addition to painful illnesses and accidents, she experienced fears, doubts, perplexities, and diabolical persecution. At one point, during World War I, while praying, she was hurled down a stone staircase by an unseen force, yet her life, miraculously, was saved. She heard hissing in her ear: "I shall fight you to the end, obsessing minds, hardening hearts, feeding passions."

By all accounts, Berthe was a delightful character, combining spiritual fervor and common sense, humble, cheerful, thoughtful, attentive to others, loving and deeply sincere. She was a splendid cook, yet, from the age of 38, lived only on Holy Communion. At one point, when she was lodging in a convent, a nun who shared her room was instructed by her superiors to observe if Berthe took any food in secret. Despite her initial skepticism, she found, after a year's observation, that Berthe really ate nothing, only drinking, in the morning, a cup of coffee (soon rejected), and, in the afternoon, a small glass of wine.

Berthe's revelations often had a political character, dealing with the spiritual dimensions of national and international events. Msgr. Pieraerts, court chaplain during the reign of King Albert I, was one of her spiritual directors and close friends. Berthe reported that Christ requested Belgium's consecration to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, as a remedy for the country's political and moral ills. Shortly after World War I, according to Berthe, Our Lord made this striking statement:
Internal strife is more rampant than ever in your country. It is being fanned by the evil seeds sown by the invader; it is fed by egoism, pride and jealousy, malevolent germs which can only generate moral ruin. I continue to have pity on a country that defended its honor at the cost of the greatest sacrifices, and on a sovereign faithful to his duty. To save this nation, I have wished, and continue to wish, that it should be solemnly consecrated to the Heart of My Mother....

(The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary: Messages of Our Lord to Berthe Petit, Franciscan Tertiary, 1870-1943, 2004, p. 51)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Lidwina of Schiedam

A Dutch Catholic mystic and saint whose relics were kept in Brussels for over two hundred years.  One of the sisters of Princess Lilian of Belgium, Ludvine Baels, appears to have been named after her.
During the winter of the year of 1395, Lidwina went skating with her friends, one of whom caused her to fall upon some ice with such violence that she broke a rib in her right side. This was the beginning of her martyrdom. No medical skill availed to cure her. Gangrene appeared in the wound caused by the fall and spread over her entire body. For years she lay in pain which seemed to increase constantly. Some looked on her with suspicion, as being under the influence of the evil spirit. Her pastor, Andries, brought her an unconsecrated host, but the saint distinguished it at once. But God rewarded her with a wonderful gift of prayer and also with visions. Numerous miracles took place at her bed-side. The celebrated preacher and seer, Wermbold of Roskoop, visited her after previously beholding her in spirit. The pious Arnold of Schoonhoven treated her as a friend. Hendrik Mande wrote for her consolation a pious tract in Dutch. When Joannes Busch brought this to her, he asked her what she thought of Hendrik Mande's visions, and she answered that they came from God. In a vision she was shown a rose-bush with the words, "When this shall be in bloom, your suffering will be at an end." In the spring of the year 1433, she exclaimed, "I see the rose-bush in full bloom!" (Read more)
Below is an image of the saint protecting a church during the German bombing of Rotterdam on May 14, 1940.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Maria de Villegas, Countess van den Steen de Jehay

Via RTBF, Florence de Moreau de Villegas de Saint Pierre, chatelaine of Louvignies, gives several brief presentations on the life and work of her aunt, Maria de Villegas, Countess van den Steen de Jehay, a close friend and confidante of Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The presentations are all in French, but can be roughly followed in other languages through the automatically translated subtitles. For anyone wondering about the origin of the family name, the De Villegas are Belgian nobility of Spanish ancestry. 

Maria was an intellectual and literary figure, and a heroine of World War I. She worked devotedly with Queen Elisabeth in nursing wounded soldiers of all nationalities, and in providing relief and comfort for Belgian civilian war victims. The programs feature her letters, diaries, glimpses of her wardrobe and a tour of Louvignies itself. One particularly touching excerpt from her writing, noted in the clip above, is as follows. After the death of King Albert I, the Countess wrote to Queen Elisabeth to express her condolences: "I weep with you, Madame, for the admirable man you weep for. I weep for your happiness. I loved you so much when you were happy.  Let me love you even more when you are unhappy." 

More on Elisabeth's war work and her friendship with the Countess can be read HERE. Florence de Moreau's book on Maria de Villegas is available HERE

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Angels of Mons

A World War I miracle? From Warfare History Network:
In the night of the 26th, the third day of the retreat west through Belgium, weary British soldiers saw tall, unearthly figures materialize in the gloom above the German lines. They were winged like angels, and as they hovered in the gathering darkness, the Germans inexplicably halted and the British slipped away to safety. During the retreat, some soldiers swore that they had seen the face of the patron saint of England. A wounded Lancashire Fusilier asked a nurse for a picture or medal of Saint George because, he said, he had seen the saint leading the British troops at Vitry-le-Francois. A wounded gunner confirmed his story. He described the saint the same way the fusilier had—a tall, yellow-haired man on a white horse, wearing golden armor and wielding a sword. Other soldiers agreed that he looked just like his image on the gold sovereigns of the day.
A story appeared in the North American Review in August 1915 about a soldier who had memorized the motto inscribed on the plates in a London restaurant. Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius it read, “May St. George be a present help to England.” Later, in Belgium, the soldier prayed for the saint’s help against the waves of German attackers and was rewarded by a host of shining bowmen, who charged the Germans with shouts of “Harrow! Harrow! Monseigneur St. George, Knight of Heaven, Sweet Saint, succor us!” The arrows of the phantom archers cut down the enemy en masse, and the German General Staff, finding the bodies of hundreds of their men lying on the battlefield with no discernible wounds, came to the conclusion that the British had used poisonous gas. (Read full article)

Umberto and Maria José

In response to questions, I wanted to share some thoughts on the troubled marriage of King Umberto II of Italy and Queen Maria José, daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.  For a more in-depth account, I can recommend this article by Cristina Siccardi, as well as the biographies of Umberto and Maria José by Luciano Regolo.

As a young bride, Maria José suffered from many nasty rumors. Evil tongues mocked her thick, curly hair by calling her la Négresse blonde, whispered that her children were not Umberto's, or suggested that they had been conceived artificially, since the princess had been unable to become pregnant for four years... The rumors were unsubstantiated, although Maria José loved to form friendships with artists and intellectuals and her bold, unconventional ways, like those of her Wittelsbach mother, probably fostered gossip. It is also probably true that Maria José and her husband were basically incompatible. The marriage had been arranged by the Belgian and Italian royal families to strengthen the friendship between their countries dating from the First World War.  The Treaty of Versailles also left very few Catholic reigning houses to provide suitors for Maria José. From childhood, she was raised by her mother to see Umberto as the perfect Prince Charming, arousing expectations of a great love which were later sadly disappointed. 

Umberto and Maria José had admiration, respect and affection for one another, but Umberto seems to have had trouble relating to his wife in a romantic way. My impression is that he loved her, but was not in love with her. Umberto was concerned and solicitous for his wife, but tended to be reserved and distant towards her. After the fall of the Italian monarchy and the exile of the Savoys, Maria José found  Portugal, the royal family's refuge, too depressing. She also had difficulty relating to her husband on a daily basis. While Maria José was much more open, Umberto tended to hide his feelings of deep sorrow and humiliation, to withdraw into silence. His wife came to believe that he needed space to deal with his inner turmoil. Accordingly, she moved to Switzerland, where she felt more cheerful.  Health reasons also contributed to her decision. The royal couple, however, always maintained cordial relations, and continued to visit one another. Umberto, who shared Maria José's cultural interests, assisted his wife with her prestigious historical research on the House of Savoy, and wrote her beautiful letters. Every month, he sent her a bouquet of red roses with an affectionate note. When Umberto was dying of cancer, his wife was at his side and they spent many tender hours together, holding hands.

There have been many allegations that Umberto was unfaithful, and even bisexual, but some skepticism may be in order, as many of these claims seem to have been fomented by the fascists, who saw the handsome, popular young prince as a potential threat to Mussolini. It is also known that Umberto was deeply religious and Maria José praised him in the highest terms, after his death, as a man of great moral rectitude and personal virtue who never lost his dignity or rigor, even amidst the most atrocious sufferings. In the end, I feel that the King and Queen had a good marriage.

Works of Mercy

Here is a description of Queen Elisabeth's charitable works during World War I:
It is difficult for anyone who had even the slightest experience of the field hospitals in the early days of the War to think or write calmly of the scenes they witnessed. Yet the Queen, who was not of robust physique and has that sympathetic temperament which makes it difficult to witness suffering, shrank from nothing. There was hardly a field hospital in the whole of Belgium that she did not visit at some time or other during the War.
She not only visited them, but took part in the actual nursing, often assisting in the dressings and in the work of the wards. Her Majesty did a great deal of her nursing under Doctor Depage, who had helped her in her training. Her previous experience, when assisting her father, Duke Charles Theodor, stood her in good stead. From her girlhood she had been used to sick beds and the consolation of suffering, so now she passed through ward after ward, bringing cheer and comfort in her train.
As the field hospitals travelled from place to place where they were most needed, the Queen did her utmost, and inspired others to do their utmost, too, to find suitable buildings in which they could carry on their magnificent work. She was intensely anxious that there should be full equipment for both the wounded and the staff. Often bedding was impossible to procure in sufficient quantity, and the wounded slept on straw. Her Majesty organized house-to-house collections for bedding, and, when the hospital was at Furnes, she gave twenty beds with spring mattresses for the use of the most serious cases.
Once when it had proved exceptionally difficult to get supplies, the Queen, attended by only one lady-in-waiting, went from house to house to see what could be obtained. The inhabitants of the place were for the most part more than willing to give, but the exigencies of war had left them with little. Few recognized the slender, gentle-voiced lady, who pleaded for the wounded soldiers, as their Queen. One good woman, who had given all but the bed on which she herself slept, was so overcome when she learned of her visitor's identity, that she hurried after her up the street, dragging her one mattress behind her as a final offering !
The Queen visited the hospital at Furnes twice regularly every week, and her visits were made without ceremony of any kind. She was never accompanied by more than one lady and, as a rule, by a Belgian medical officer. Her interest in the patients was felt and appreciated by everyone in the hospital.
Her thorough knowledge of surgery and medicine made her able to understand and appreciate the methods of nursing, and she never failed to pay due tribute to the staff for their efforts and for the extraordinary ingenuity with which they carried out serious operations with wholly inadequate materials.
In one hospital in four days there were admitted nearly four hundred patients, many of them with wounds necessitating grave operations, yet all the surgeons had to work with were two scalpels, a finger saw, and a few forceps !
From bed to bed the Queen would pass, a slight figure always plainly clad, usually in black, with a word for each of the men who had suffered in her country's cause. To each she spoke — to Belgians, French, and Germans (for there were usually a few Germans brought in with the rest), as Her Majesty made no distinction. They were suffering ; they had made the supreme sacrifice for what each believed to be the right, and in that place of pain at least there was no room for bitterness.
In the early days of the War, the Queen expressed a hope that Belgian women who could write both English and German would force themselves to forget their wrongs, and, for the sake of humanity, attend hospitals to write letters for prisoners other than Belgians. She realized how the anxiety of many a soldier's home would be alleviated if news, however slight, reached their homes. In the Queen's mind, as in the minds of her noble fellow- workers in the cause of the Red Cross, a wounded man had no nationality ; he suffered, and that was enough to evoke all that was humanly possible to ease his pain, both mental and physical.
Sometimes the King accompanied the Queen on her visits of mercy — always in his soldier's uniform without decorations of any kind. Together they would go round the hospitals, not so much as a King and Queen visiting their subjects, but as a kindly, simple man and woman, eager to do what they could for their fellow-creatures. Her Majesty was deeply interested in the visits which Madame Curie, the world-famed scientist, paid to the hospital at Furnes, where she stayed to work for a week, bringing her X-ray equipment for the use of the hospital. To aid Madame Curie in her much-valued labours on behalf of the wounded, there was fitted up for her a radiographic department with the aid of thick curtains and much brown paper. Here this remarkable woman worked with untiring zeal, taking radiographs of innumerable cases. Her daughter was assiduous in helping to develop the plates, and thus enabled Madame Curie to achieve work of the utmost value.
At a later stage in the War, the Queen took a deep interest in the marvels of plastic surgery, which enabled so many poor fellows to take up their work in the world after leaving the hospital. At one hospital some very severe facial cases were being treated, and the head surgeon, anxious to spare the Queen some terrible sights, begged her not to visit that particular ward. Her Majesty was not, however, to be deterred by the awful disfigurements. "They suffered for their country," she remarked, "and the Queen of that country should be the last to shrink from them." She spoke to each man in turn, pressing his hand in kindly sympathy before she turned away.
Passing month by month from hospital to hospital. Her Majesty constantly encountered those pitiful screams of homeless refugees who, with houses shelled and villages laid waste, straggled to the frontier. They would be met carrying their few poor possessions on their backs, or pushing wearily their hand-carts before them. Little children, hardly old enough to realize the horror which had befallen them, might be seen pushing perambulators filled to overflowing with what could be gathered up of the few remaining household possessions. Old men staggering under sack-loads of clothing and bedding and women burdened with the strangest assortment of miscellaneous goods, were fleeing from misery into darkness. The Queen saw them all, and with tears in her eyes would stop to speak to them as they passed. They could not tell her where they were going, for to half of them their destination was unknown. They only knew that their homes had been destroyed by the enemy and that now they must seek an unknown country and an unknown future.
These processions distressed the Queen even more than the scenes at the hospital, for there at least all that was possible was being done. For these poor refugees there was nothing Her Majesty could do except to give a child a caress or slip some silver coins into a woman's hand. Her Majesty sought no recognition and, in her war work, was content to be taken for an ordinary member of the Red Cross. But to the refugees she would sometimes reveal her identity if she thought that by so doing she could give some slight comfort or even shadow of encouragement to the poor creatures."I will think of you, I will pray for you daily," she would tell them, as they trudged on their desolate road. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

When the Invader Came

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)