Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Talk With Princess Henriette

In her memoirs, Marie-José, daughter of King Albert I, quotes a letter from her father to his wife, Elisabeth, written during their engagement. "After you," he told her, "I love my sisters most." Both were certainly very lovable souls, devoted to religion, family and country. I came across a wartime interview with Albert's eldest sister, Princess Henriette, Duchess of Vendôme. Like her sister-in-law, Queen Elisabeth, Henriette worked valiantly during World War I to relieve the sufferings of combatants and noncombatants alike. I do encourage everyone to read the interview, Henriette seems so staunch, loyal, charming, maternal and tender. To illustrate her character, I wanted to include this message, from 1914. The Princess thanked the American Commission for Relief in Belgium, and pleaded for more aid for her people:
I gladly accept your invitation to become patroness of the Women's Section of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium. I know that I speak for every Belgian woman and child when I say that we thank God for what you are doing. Now that the extremity of our distress is becoming known, we feel sure that the tender hearts of the women of America will respond to our cry.

Food is terribly needed by millions of my brave brother's unhappy subjects, who still remain in their native land. Before Winter is over the need will become still more desperate. In the name of the suffering women and little children of Belgium, I ask the women of America to help us.

A few memories of a tragic yet heroic period in Belgian history, in anticipation of the upcoming 95th anniversary of the war...and a tribute to those refined, yet amazingly strong royal ladies of old.

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