Monday, January 26, 2009

A Tender Father

After the tragic loss of his wife, Queen Astrid, King Leopold III of the Belgians had to try to be both father and mother to his children... despite his many public obligations. 

His eldest daughter, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, also attempted, courageously, to take care of her younger siblings, Baudouin and Albert. But she was only a child herself.

Queen Elisabeth did her best, lavishing affection on her grand-children, but it would take Leopold's remarriage with Lilian Baels, who proved to be a devoted step-mother to the royal children, to restore the family circle. 

Yet, Leopold is reproached for marrying during the war, when the Belgians were suffering. He is accused of selfishly valuing his own happiness more than that of his people. Were there no other wartime weddings in Belgium? How did the marriage harm the people? Leopold and Lilian were married with great discretion, as befitted the somber and tragic times. It is not as though they indulged in feasting and revelry. 

There is no doubt that the royal children would have suffered profound psychological damage, in the atmosphere of anxiety and insecurity during the Nazi occupation, and, particularly, in the traumatic period of captivity in Germany, without maternal care and affection. Lilian's vigilance, in fact, protected the family from many dangers, during their deportation by the SS and subsequent imprisonment under harsh conditions in an insalubrious German fortress. Belgium owes her a great deal, since she played an essential role in safeguarding the lives and mental equilibrium of the King and the heirs to the throne. 

The King's remarriage was not a selfish act, but a necessary one for the good of his family and country. He was a tender father and a responsible ruler. 


Lucy said...

By remarrying, he gave his children stability and the proper care needed. Children thrive within a two-parent family- and definitely need the nurturing love of both a mother and a father. So this was most unselfish.

May said...

How I agree...

What is really ridiculous is when people accuse Leopold of betraying the memory of Queen Astrid by remarrying... when has perpetual widowhood been a moral obligation? And Astrid would have had one thought: the good of her children, and they needed a mother.

Lucy said...

Yes, I also think Astrid would have wanted this for her children.

Anonymous said...

They thrive within a one parent family, too. It doesn't hurt a child to have a devoted, single parent. Just look at too many two parent families, no guarantee of well-brought up children.

Remember, the myth of the perfect two parent family is just that, a myth. B

May said...

B., thank you for your comment. I agree that a two parent family is no guarantee of happiness, but I would still prefer to have two devoted parents, if possible, rather than just one. But I understand it is not always possible and single parents often have to do the best they can in the circumstances, and I commend their efforts.

Anonymous said...

In how many two parent families are their TWO devoted parents: usually one overworked, under-appreciated mother. Or vice versa.

May said...

People and situations are never perfect. Nonetheless, I think there's a reason why children have, by nature, BOTH a father and a mother.

My primary purpose in this article, though, was not to debate relative merits of different family models in society at large, but to discuss the situation of Leopold III and his family at a very dark, dangerous and difficult time. Believe me, he needed all the help he could get raising his children. For their part, they were thrilled to finally have a mother again. As Leopold himself later said, "she was a ray of sunlight for us all..."

I am sorry this seems to be an upsetting topic for you, please be assured that nothing here is meant to attack you personally. Thanks again for reading.