Friday, March 26, 2010

The Melancholy of Albert I

An interesting anecdote from Charles d'Ydewalle's Albert and the Belgians: Portrait of a King illustrates all the King's sad and ironic skepticism.
The truth is, that he never appreciated the glorious adventure of his life. Again and again he would mutter between his teeth: "My people do not love me."
One Sunday he started off by car for the fêtes that were being held in a certain town. As they drove along, the King began to confide in his aide-de-camp, and the dialogue began: "The people of not like me. In my heart of hearts, I don't know why I'm going. On a Sunday, too. There won't be a soul there. They'll all be out in the country. The only people who will be there are the officials who hope to get a decoration."
The King arrived. The bells pealed. The roads were thronged, the balconies were thronged, the very roofs were thronged. The crowd of officials performed their duties adequately, and everything went swimmingly. The King saluted, his face impassive, almost indifferent, and left, after having voiced his thanks and congratulations to all. On the way back, the conversation was resumed.
"Happily, Your Majesty was mistaken. There was a huge crowd."
To which the King, buried in a corner of the car, replied, in a semi-serious tone: "Yes, there will be a similar crowd when I am led to the scaffold."


MadMonarchist said...

Sounds like a man with an over-abundance of humility. My late grandfather was the same way. No one ever met him who did not adore him and yet to hear him tell it he was the most unpopular man around. In my book at least it is better to be too humble than too arrogant; at least I know which sort I would prefer to be around.

May said...

Albert was definitely a humble man, and he was also painfully aware of the fickleness of popularity. He used to say "Louis XVI was acclaimed, so was Nicholas II, and so were the Habsburgs..."