Monday, June 7, 2010

Death of a Princess

On June 7, 2002, Princess Lilian of Belgium, born Mary Lilian Baels, widow of King Leopold III, died peacefully, after a long illness, at her home at Argenteuil, near Waterloo. One of her doctors, and close collaborators in the Princess Lilian Cardiological Foundation, Charles van Ypersele de Strihou, later testified:
During her long illness, the Princess never complained. Although aware of her prognosis, She nevertheless fought step by step with a courage that commanded the admiration of physicians and nurses. She kept her sense of humour, confronted the physicians with the limits of their art and obtained the best of their talents. She remained attached to life despite the hardship of illness and some moments of discouragement. A few weeks before her death, She confided gratefully that She had enjoyed her long, full life. (Charles van Ypersele de Strihou, "Princess Lilian: some personal recollections," in Proceedings of the Princess Lilian Cardiology Foundation Symposium to commemorate its Patron, HRH Princess Lilian of Belgium, "Cardiology and cardiovascular surgery at the onset of the XXIst century," Acta Cardiologica - An International Journal of Cardiology, suppl. to volume 59, 2004, p. 20, quoted by Michel Verwilghen in Le Mythe d'Argenteuil: demeure d'un couple royal, 2006, p. 39)
Verwilghen adds:
She who, during her life, had morally suffered so from the innumerable calumnies of which she was the victim, did not know the physical pains of the end of life. Some of her intimates said that Providence spared her a long and painful agony. As if she were falling asleep, she slipped, little by little, into unconsciousness, a few moments after the final auscultation. She ceased to breathe less than an hour later. Death came shortly before 1 pm, while Princess Lilian was surrounded only by her silent doctors and supported by her maid, whose sobs, restrained with difficulty, expressed her profound emotion.

The chatelaine of Argenteuil, who royally personified that marvelous corner of Belgium, transfigured by her talent, had left it, after living there for more than 41 years. Her mortal remains would rest there for eight days yet, before passing, for the last time, through the gates of the royal dwelling over which, at her suggestion, had been forged two "L's", interlaced and surmounted with a crown, monograms of Leopold and Lilian, evocative of their common destiny. (p. 40, translated from the French original)
Before her death, Lilian had the joy of becoming a grandmother twice, with the birth of Alexandra and Leopoldo to her youngest daughter, Marie-Esmeralda. It had been highly uncertain whether Lilian would ever have grandchildren, since Marie-Esmeralda married very late in life, and Alexandre and Marie-Christine, who had married earlier, never had children. But, at long last, Lilian had the consolation of knowing that the family she had founded with King Leopold would continue....Tragically, however, although she had hoped for a healing of the rift with her eldest daughter, Lilian died without ever being reconciled with Marie-Christine.

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