Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Le mythe d'Argenteuil: demeure d'un couple royal

Here is a review in French of Michel Verwilghen's wonderful book Le mythe d'Argenteuil: demeure d'un couple royal (2006). The article includes elegant photographs of Princess Lilian, Princess Esmeralda and Argenteuil, the home of the second family of King Leopold III from 1961 to 2002. I highly recommend Verwilghen's work to anyone who reads French. It is a careful, erudite history of the estate of Argenteuil, yet beautifully written, with humanity, poetry, passion and wit. Thanks to the charming style, the account is easy and fun to read, despite all the intricate details of changes of reign, transfers of ownership, legal disputes and political controversies. Verwilghen takes to task a number of malicious myths about Leopold and Lilian, such as the endlessly repeated story that they stole all the furniture from Laeken while moving to Argenteuil. Verwilghen also offers many astute, and often amusing observations regarding the political biases in the Belgian press. There are wonderful photographs in the book, including a few rare, touching images of an aged Princess Lilian with her granddaughter, Alexandra. Verwilghen's fascinating, moving, nuanced description of Lilian is probably the finest in print. Without falling into hagiography, he magnificently illustrates her faith, hope and charity.

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