Wednesday, July 29, 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 (see HERE and HERE). 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 an important one for the good of his family and country. He was a tender father and a responsible ruler.

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