Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 1916: The Birth of Lilian Baels

Today is the birthday of Princess Lilian of Belgium, the lovely but controversial second wife of King Leopold III. She was the daughter of Flemish ship-owner, lawyer and Catholic politician Henri Louis Baels and his wife, Anne Marie de Visscher, both living in London at the time of the baby's birth. Like everything else about Lilian, even her full given name and place of birth are matters of dispute. According to her birth certificate, prepared in London, in the district of Islington, and sub-district of Highbury, on January 17, 1917, she was born November 28, 1916, at her parents' home, 5 Highbury New Park, Islington, London, and named Mary Lilian Lucy Josepha Monique. According to her marriage contract, drawn up in Brussels on December 5, 1941, she was Mary-Lilian-Henriette-Lucie-Joseph-Ghislaine. A strange discrepancy, since name changes were only legalized in Belgium much later, in 1987. To add to all the confusion, a family tradition had it that Lilian was, indeed, born in London, but in Highgate, not Islington! 

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