Thursday, December 10, 2009

Death of Leopold I

On December 10, 1865, the first King of the Belgians, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, died after a lingering illness. Although he had ruled a predominantly Catholic country for over 30 years, he remained firmly Protestant to the end. Charles d'Ydewalle, biographer of Leopold's grandson, King Albert I, gives a melancholy account of Leopold's passing:
The death-bed of Leopold I was a sad one, with something puritanical and cold about it. In his death agony, he called: "Charlotte...Charlotte..." but no one knew whether he was calling to his daughter, the Empress of Mexico, or to that first Charlotte of Claremont and those enchanted years whose happy memories once more unfolded before his darkening eyes.
"Do you regret the sins you have committed, Sire?" asked his daughter-in-law. He sighed heavily, and answered: "Yes..."
"In the name of the love you bear for the Queen's memory," went on the wife of Leopold II, "will you not be converted to her religion so that you may meet her again in Heaven?"
"Nein..." he whispered.
Thus died the first King of the Belgians.
The same day, the Monitor eulogized the deceased Sovereign, whose political and diplomatic abilities had secured Belgium's place among the independent nations of Europe and had won him the title "Nestor of Kings."
Brussels, December 10, 1865.
An immediate mourning is about to spread over Belgium.
The first of our kings, the founder of our national dynasty, his Majesty Leopold I, died this morning at the Palace of Laeken, at a quarter before twelve o'clock, surrounded by his august family, whose grief we will not attempt to portray.
History will tell what was the sovereign who, in the times of grave uncertainties, did not hesitate to respond to the wish of the nation, by coming to strengthen and fix its destinies ; who, during a reign of nearly thirty-five years, at an epoch so troubled as was ours, knew how to call to himself the love and veneration of the Belgian people, and to win the high esteem and respect of sovereign monarchs and peoples ; who, true to his solemn pledges, was minutely scrupulous in the observance of our constitutional compact, and in reward for this duty, so religiously fulfilled, and the services which he did not cease to render to the country, carries with him the gratitude of a whole nation united to bless his memory; who, finally, leaves to the august heir of the crown, with his great and noble example, a free, happy, and prosperous kingdom, which has acquired its place among the family of European nations.
Belgium will long weep the loss she has sustained ; she will ever preserve the remembrance of a King who was for her a devoted friend, a constant support; but her too just regrets will not cause her to forget her legitimate hopes.
The country does not die, and if on all sides is raised the doleful cry—
The King is dead! —
All Belgians, mastering their affliction, and rallying round the throne, will re-echo the shout
—Long live the King !


MadMonarchist said...

He was a statesman of considerable talent and foresight. For myself I would have preferred that he had converted on his deathbed, but I suppose it speaks for his convictions being sincerely held that he did not. I didn't say so in my last post on him but although he's not my favorite Belgian monarch without him there would have been none of the others.

May said...

He is not my favorite, either, and, as a Catholic, I too find it depressing he did not convert. Nonetheless, as you say, he must have really just not believed Catholicism was the true religion.

He is buried in the Church of Our Lady, Laeken, although if I recall correctly it was rather a delicate matter, the issue of whether he could be buried there or not, considering he was not a Catholic (not to mention he was allegedly also a Freemason- although I don't suppose that was anything unique in Europeans in high places at the time).

May said...

Of course, saying that he "remained firmly Protestant to the end" is subject to the proviso "God alone knowing his heart," etc.

Anonymous said...

I am a catholic, so i did wish he converted. But, I think that the question of 'will you convert to be reunited with the queen' may have been the reason he remained a protestant. His first wife Princess Charlotte was a protestant and I think he really loved her. I also read somewhere that Leopold wanted to be burried in England besides her (he never really gotten over, he asked a woman who looked like her to marry him in 1931, but she left him because by then he was too cold. It was said that he 'changed' after her death).48 years ago when Princess Charlotte was burried in St. George's Chapel in England, he asked that her side have enough for room for him. I also read that later before his death that he had also already asked permission from Queen Victoria, his niece to be burried in England as well, and she did give her approval. But, they wouldnt allow him to be burried there. I am not sure if it;s his family or the people of Belgium, as he was the king of Belgium they said he must be burried there.It is sad.

Anonymous said...

He didn't not convert because he didn't love his family, etc, just he kept to his own religious principles. It's up to everybody to follow their own consciences.

Aswell I hink this need of some to make him into this martyr to the memory of Charlotte do him and his family a disservice. Yes, he loved his first wife, but he loved his 2nd wife and family, etc, too.