Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Royal Crypt of Laeken

Here are some photographs, courtesy of Michel Wal, of the royal crypt of the Church of Our Lady, Laeken. (Do click to enlarge the pictures!) The crypt is the traditional burial place of the Belgian sovereigns, their consorts, and some other members of the royal family. This is where Princess Lilian, the second wife of King Leopold III,  did not want to be interred. Nonetheless, perhaps it is just as well that she was. After being harshly criticized all her married life, at least she receives royal honors in death.

The tomb of the first King and Queen of the Belgians, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. As a matter of fact, the whole Church of Our Lady of Laeken, a neo-Gothic construction of the 19th century, was designed as a mausoleum for Louise-Marie.

The resting place of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth. This is the tomb that certain sensationalist authors try to surround with scandal and mystery. Some, contesting the official version of Albert's death, and preferring more lurid theories (eg: "he was shot over a love affair"), propose to open the tomb and autopsy the King's remains to reconstruct "what really happened" on February 17, 1934. Others like to suggest that Van Eyck's lost masterpiece, The Just Judges, stolen shortly after Albert's death, is buried along with the King. Really, I think Albert's death was tragic enough without all this lurid and morbid speculation. I know I am giving it far more attention than it deserves, but it always annoys me.

Another view of the crypt. Enlarging the picture shows the photographs of King Leopold III, Queen Astrid, and Princess Lilian atop the third grave from the right.

The burial places of Prince Charles, younger brother of King Leopold III and Regent of Belgium from 1944-1950, Crown Prince Leopold, the only son of King Leopold II and Queen Marie-Henriette, and Princess Josephine, one of King Albert I's sisters, who died in infancy. Albert had another sister named Josephine in memory of this lost baby.


Pilgrim said...

Princesse Liliane did never belong in there, since she was not royal! Propz Pilgrim

May said...

She was never Queen, but still, she was a King's wife and a "Princess of Belgium." Nonetheless, I agree, it was, strictly speaking, inappropriate to bury her in the place designated for the kings and queens.

But then again, I think it was a nice gesture on the part of Leopold III, to want Lilian buried along with himself and Queen Astrid in this place of honor. It was not, however, what Lilian herself wanted, and I think she was more correct in this.