Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16, 1951: The Abdication of King Leopold III

My dear Baudouin, it is with pride that I transmit to you the noble and heavy mission of carrying, henceforth, the Crown of a Belgium which has remained, despite the most terrible of wars and the upheavals that followed, territorially and morally intact, free, and faithful to her traditions.

This mission, you will exercise, with the will to serve your country and to continue the work of the Dynasty, conforming yourself, in this way, to the principles I have inculcated in you. These principles, I myself received from my father, King Albert; they always inspired my attitude during the hard years of a reign I leave to History the care of judging.

Today is the sad anniversary of the abdication of King Leopold III. Here is a recording of the King delivering the first few lines of the moving speech he gave on this tragic occasion. I love the King's voice, so noble, strong and purposeful, yet gentle at the same time.


MadMonarchist said...

A sad occasion, though I can understand Leopold's reasons. What I often wonder about is how King Baudouin must have felt on this occasion. He must have had terribly mixed feelings about it. With his father still alive and well I wonder what must have been going through his mind as he took his oath as the new King of the Belgians.

Matterhorn said...

By all accounts, Baudouin was very upset on this occasion, perhaps taking his father's humiliation even harder than Leopold did himself. It is said that he felt quite guilty, almost like a parricide or usurper, about taking the throne while his father was still alive.

The crowds, for their part, cheered for Leopold, rather than Baudouin, when the two kings appeared on the balcony. Leopold put his son on his right and gestured towards him, as if to say: "This is your new King, acclaim him," but the voices continued to cry: "Leopold! Leopold!" Baudouin must have felt very awkward!

I feel very sorry for Leopold, he suffered so much in his life, and it upsets me that so many still have such a negative opinion of him. But, at least, the tragedy o his reign ended in an *abdication*. He was luckier than many other doomed monarchs....Charles I, Louis XVI, Nicholas II, his own great-uncle Maximilian of Mexico...Leopold III was a real survivor, and he managed not only to survive many perils himself, but to preserve the Belgian monarchy, even if in a weakened form, by abdicating at the right moment. That is more than many others have been able to do.

MadMonarchist said...

That's what I was afraid of, I just did not know if anything had ever been said about it. Some countries look at abdication in different ways. In Holland it is practically routine but in the UK it is unthinkable barring some sort of scandal. Given the circumstances of Leopold's abdication, regardless of the view of abdication, I could only assume this must have been a very emotional experience for King Baudouin. I probably feel more sympathy for him simply because, unfortunately, I imagine King Leopold being rather thick-skinned after already having gone through so many heartaches but for Baudouin, being a fairly young man and with the trauma the family had already been through it must have been an extremely difficult experience.

Matterhorn said...

I'm not sure about Leopold being thick-skinned. There are endless testimonies from his intimates regarding his inner "serenity", which, I believe,came from a clear conscience, but I don't think I would call him "thick-skinned." One of his friends, the French director Marcel Jullian described Leopold as "burned with shame" at having been calumniated in such an awful way, even years afterwards. Michel Verwilghen, in LE MYTHE D'ARGENTEUIL, similarly describes Leopold as being more sensitive than he liked to let on. In the end, I don't know who is more to be pitied, Leopold or Baudouin, I suppose both were tragic in their different ways. Certainly Baudouin had alot of trauma at a very young age, with the horrible death of his mother, the war, captivity and so on, but then, he didn't have to live with being labeled "The Felon King," "The royal Judas," being pictured as a crowned snake in nasty cartoons, etc., etc.

Lee said...

At least in recent times, those who scapegoated and blamed Leopold are finally being outed and he is getting some vindication.

Truth always reveals itself; sometimes it takes awhile, but it does come out.
I have no respect for the certain self-serving hypocrites (they make me very angry) who slammed Leopold, yet lied to their own governments and people. One in particular never had the true guts and courage to admit he scapegoated an honourable man. That's beyond shameful.

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