Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6, 1951: The Birth of Princess Marie-Christine

A portrait of Princess Marie-Christine, at the age of fourteen, by Agustin Seguro. From childhood, the princess enjoyed the arts; she liked music, painting, and acting, and adored stuffed animals and pets. This image, then, seems quite emblematic of Marie-Christine's personality as a young girl, and it also, of course, shows off her ethereal, blonde beauty.
Today is a landmark anniversary, the 60th birthday of Princess Marie-Christine of Belgium, second child and eldest daughter of King Léopold III and Princess Lilian. Nearly a decade separated her birth from that of her eldest full brother, Prince Alexandre-Emmanuel, who came into the world, just over ten months after his parents' wedding, on July 18, 1942. For Marie-Christine's parents, it had been a dreadful decade, marked by the Second World War, the royal family's imprisonment in Germany and Austria from 1944-1945, and five years of exile in Switzerland from 1945-1950, all amidst the sordid intrigues and violent controversies of the "Royal Question". In 1950, left-wing strikes and riots had forced the newly-returned King Léopold to delegate his royal powers to his eldest son and heir, Prince Baudouin. He would formally abdicate on July 16, 1951, five months after his little daughter's birth. Five years later, Marie-Christine gained a younger sister: Princess Marie-Esméralda, born September 30, 1956. Despite the considerable age difference between the two girls, they were close playmates in their youth, according to Marie-Esméralda.

Marie-Christine spent the first nine years of her life at the Castle of Laeken, just outside Brussels, with her parents, siblings and half-siblings. At this stage, she was especially close to her eldest half-brother, King Baudouin; it is said that she suffered particularly bitterly from the politically imposed separation between her father's two families, after Léopold, Lilian and their children moved to Argenteuil, a state property near Waterloo. Nonetheless, Marie-Christine continued to lead a highly privileged existence. Like her siblings, she had the benefit of encountering many eminent personalities of political, scientific and cultural life, guests of her parents at Argenteuil. At times, she also accompanied her father, a keen and accomplished explorer, environmentalist and photographer, on his foreign travels. Her mother, known for her interest in medical science and desire to combat human suffering, established a pediatric foundation, named in honor of her eldest daughter. (This association, however, would later be absorbed by the Fondation Cardiologique Princesse Lilian.) Marie-Christine may have claimed that her mother never loved her; yet, whatever parenting mistakes Princess Lilian may have made, how could she not have been fond of this little blonde sprite, who so resembled her beloved husband, King Léopold? In fact, I find that some of the warmest images of Lilian are those picturing her with her eldest daughter.

In the past, I have discussed, in more detail, Princess Marie-Christine's estrangement from her family (see HERE and HERE), a trend apparently well underway by her teenage years. Her rupture with the rest of the Belgian dynasty has made her a controversial, polarizing figure. Many people, already prejudiced against the much-maligned Léopold and Lilian, accept Marie-Christine's embittered criticisms of her parents quite unreservedly. This is unfair, as it overlooks the much more positive experiences of the five other children raised by this unfortunate couple. Alternatively, admirers of the Belgian monarchy react to Marie-Christine's attacks on the royal family with indignation and hostility. Yet, in Charity, we must wish her only the best! Furthermore, whether she likes it or not, she is still a Princess of Belgium. Therefore, if we care about the Belgian royal family, we must care about her, too. Peace and blessings to Princess Marie-Christine +


MadMonarchist said...

I first heard her story in a book on the royal families of Europe and it was a hard one to take. I don't, myself, have anything to compare it to. Certainly there are royals that I consider my own and who I love dearly for that reason even though I disagree with a great deal of what they do and disapprove of many of their actions. However, I don't know of another case where a royal has so attacked their own family and seemed so unrelenting in not simply wishing to part with them but to tear them down at every opportunity. I can only hope that the Princess will some day come to her senses and realize that no one's family is perfect and perhaps she should be thankful for her own and count her blessings.

May said...

I also hope she will someday "grow up" and come to terms with her family and her past. The rift is all the more unfortunate since there are so few children left from that generation- just Albert II, M-C, and Esmeralda now.

I've often been appalled by M-C's spiteful treatment of her family; whatever her problems, her parents had already suffered enough, and already been publicly attacked in all sorts of horrid ways, they did NOT need their daughter to join in the chorus too. In spite of everything, though, in recent months I've come to really care about M-C. Every person has an infinite value and, in addition, she is a descendant of a number of people I do like very much, so partly for their sakes, I can only wish her the best-- which includes the hope that she will take a more mature attitude to life.

Anonymous said...

Some people can be quite relentless in their condemnation of their parents without just cause. It says more about them than it does the people they scorn.
Events and grievances one has can indeed be blown out of proportion.

It's almost if continuing the vendetta justifies to the child their resentments; it just adds fuel to once was probably a very tiny fire.

May said...

I also suspect that alot of Marie-Christine's venom is a way of justifying herself.