Friday, March 6, 2009

Queen Astrid's Premonitions

Strangely, not long before the tragic car crash in Küssnacht, Queen Astrid had a definite premonition of her death. She confided her forebodings to her friend, Anna Sparre, who was traveling with the royal couple in the Alps. Anna tells the story in her book, Astrid, mon amie. 
One afternoon, Astrid and I were drinking coffee in front of a mountain hut... It was our last stop before returning to the village where we had left the car.

I believe it was the 18th of August. The weather had suddenly changed, and the cold gave us the impression that it was October. The clouds had suddenly gathered around the hut and we could see no further than a metre ahead; it was grim, and both of us were suffering slightly from altitude sickness... We wanted to return to civilization, we had had enough of the mountains. 

Astrid was not completely herself; she seemed serious and was not in a mood to joke. I remember a few snatches of our conversation. 

The tragic death of her father-in-law, King Albert, in a mountaineering accident, only a year and a half earlier, had been a terrible shock to Astrid; she feared that her husband, King Leopold (also a passionate alpinist) would meet a similar fate. 
"Do you understand I am often terribly afraid that something will happen to Leopold, and that I will be left alone with the children?"

I understood her very well, but I realized that it would be impossible to persuade him to give up this sport, which, although dangerous, was so important for his well-being.

"Also, Annisen, you do not realize how much I fear, at times, that I will die. It would be even worse for the children, and terrible for Leopold. My dear, can you promise me something?"

"What is that?"

"If I die while the children are still little, will you look after Joe-Joe (her daughter, Princess Josephine-Charlotte)?" 

"We have to pull ourselves together, dear. With this bad weather, we are not quite ourselves and that is the reason why you are thinking of horrible things. Why should anything happen to you...?"

"I am serious. Look after Joe, promise me."

"No, my dear, right now we must be reasonable. How could I come and say: 'I promised Astrid that I would take care of Joe in my apartment at Västerås...It is not realistic! Please, do not ask me to make this promise. Chase away these black thoughts."

"But I promised I would look after my god-daughter, Christina, if something happened to you," she answered, trying to smile.

"That is a completely different matter, and very kind of you. It is reassuring to know you will look after her." 

That was the end of the conversation, but her melancholy persisted until we entered the car. Ten days later, she was dead. 


Lucy said...

Oh my about strange feelings. This was certainly tragic. How she must have been haunted by this after the fact...

May said...

It is certainly very strange.

Another thing, Astrid had a "mascot", a little ball of wood she used to wear in the car... to "touch wood," she said. She lost it soon after this conversation, and told Anna: "If only you knew how nervous this makes me, even if it is only superstition."

King Albert had some strange premonitions too.
Four years before he died, he wrote to his daughter Marie-José: "Life is a race, fate does not wait, I'm near the end." Yet he was in perfect health, only 55 years old. And shortly before his accident, he confided to a priest that he was ready to meet death at any moment, ( he took great care about having a clear conscience at all times ).

Lucy said...

Wow! I don't think it's coincidence at this point.

May said...

So many strange things. Also, Albert and Astrid died of the same wound at the back of the skull. Leopold remarked on this. It's very striking to see photos of Albert's lying-in-state, with his head swathed in wrappings, and then see photos of Astrid's lying-in-state, again, with her head bandaged up... so sad.

I did a post on the similarities in Albert's and Astrid's lives ( there were quite a few points of comparison).

The Belgian royal family really has a very tragic history.