Saturday, August 27, 2011

Queen Astrid Through Her Father's Eyes

In his memoirs, Dix-huit ans auprès du Roi Léopold, Count Robert Capelle, former secretary of King Leopold III of the Belgians, quotes a description of Queen Astrid by her father, Prince Carl of Sweden. It is a lovely, touching portrayal, and one which accords with every other description of Astrid I have seen.
Astrid was not granted a long life; she was too good for this base world. But all her life, as wife, mother, and queen, and especially as she was short-lived, like our Nordic summer, was a rare and brilliant proof of the truth of the words her father addressed to her, as a twenty-year-old bride. For, throughout her whole life, she was the same person, with a heart that was pure, devoted, and frank, as she was during her childhood and youth; and she was truly loved as no human being had ever been loved on this earth. She was granted every happiness, until the moment when her young heart broke and she departed into eternity...

In response to her own, ardent desire, Astrid pursued her studies alone, without companions. We suggested to her a lively, kind little girl who, as it seemed to us, would suit her, in the hope that this girl would help her to overcome her shyness and would strengthen her sense of her own worth; but she immediately begged to be alone, with her young teacher, whom she loved. Her natural shyness was the reason why she had difficulty, at first, in being at ease with other children and in being completely herself in their company. It was the intimate reason for her request, which we did not feel entitled to deny, although it was against our belief in the advantages of companionship in learning.

Our Astrid's modesty did not derive from self-satisfaction, and it was not based on any other fault of character. She had a heart of gold, everyone considered her a wonderful child. During her childhood, she wept easily, and, once she had begun to weep, the flood of tears would never end. But her tears were not the result of excessive sensitivity, but rather the expression of her despair in the face of her own shyness; when the reason was not the fact that her dear mother - Noni, as the children called her - had to leave for a trip, or that one of those she loved was ill, or that some other grief had pained her sensitive heart. But, at times, she could also overflow with joy. She was not at all a gloomy child, but simply reserved, and her disinterested and affectionate heart opened up more and more, as the years passed and she began to dominate herself. She loved everyone, in her discreet fashion, and everyone loved her...

If Astrid had been able to live and to celebrate her silver wedding, as her mother did, I am certain that she would have become, after 25 years, a wife as radiant as her mother had been in her time, and that Astrid's husband and their children would have had no fewer reasons than I and my children to thank and to bless her, and to render her the beautiful homage which I, one day, rendered her mother: "Sweden may be proud of her daughter!"

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