Friday, November 26, 2010

Queen Astrid to the Belgian Nation

In the past, I have mentioned Queen Astrid's charity drive during the hard winter of 1934-1935. Here is the famous open letter that she addressed to the Minister of State, Henri Jaspar. It was published in the papers in February 1935, a year after the accession of her husband, King Leopold III. Although the Belgian queens, beginning with Louise-Marie d'Orléans, had always been noted for their charitable works, never before had a royal consort addressed the nation in such a direct and determined manner as did the supposedly shy Bernadotte princess:
Monsieur le Président, I thank you for your willingness to contribute, by your devotion and your experience, to the success of the aid I wish to see brought to the children, to the adults, to the elderly who are suffering most cruelly from the crisis and from poverty. Many initiatives in this regard, I know, are already manifesting themselves in all classes of society. But the time has come to do more. Those who are less afflicted by the privations will understand the distress of the unfortunates by seeing them suffer from cold, from hunger and from illnesses caused by poor nutrition. The times are hard for all. Nevertheless, I have the firm hope that those who have the means will consent to make a sacrifice. In this way, they will relieve many misfortunes. Let some give money, however little it may be. Let others give objects. You will want to examine, Monsieur le Ministre, in what forms these gifts can then be gathered and distributed, as equitably as possible, by using the benevolent competition of works which so many activities in this domain deploy. It is not in vain, I am persuaded, that we will appeal to the spirit of solidarity, still so alive in our country. For my part, I will receive, with gratitude, at the Belle-Vue Palace, all that the generosity and the heart of our fellow-countrymen will suggest to them to offer to lessen sufferings before which no one can remain insensible. (Translated from"L'Appel de la Reine de 1935", Marie-Louise Libert-Vandenhove, in Astrid: 1905-1935, 2005, Christian Koninckx, p. 117)

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