Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Education of Lilian Baels

Here is a vivid description of Princess Lilian's youth, by Geoffrey Bocca.
London shaped most of her early life, although after World War I was over she was sent for a while to school in the provincial Palace of Bruges, and later to the College of the Sacred Heart in Ostend where in the course of composition francaise she had to write an essay on "The Man I Most Admire." The man she chose was "Prince Leopold." 
In London she enrolled in a fashionable finishing school, the Holy Child, in Cavendish Square, and was a frequent guest of the Belgian Ambassador and his wife. It was clear even then, although Liliane was only sixteen, that she was on the way to a spectacular career. She took naturally to all sports. She was an expert golfer and swimmer. The moment her feet were long enough to touch the pedals she took the wheel of a car, and showed an instinct for unerring, fast driving. In appearance she was striking, almost six feet tall, with a Spanish profile and hair which gleamed blue-black in the sunlight. Her eyes were steady to the point of being disconcerting, and her chin was hard, but she laughed easily and possessed an energy that made her seem not so much to walk as to bound like a kangaroo. 
In 1935 she made her debut and was introduced to the British Royal Family in Buckingham Palace. By the side of King George V and Queen Mary stood the Prince of Wales. He was even then secretly in love with Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Had he fallen in love instead with the eighteen-year-old girl who curtsied to him, the thrones of two nations would have been saved the most almighty shaking. (Kings without Thrones: European Monarchy in the Twentieth Century, 1959, pp. 33-34)
Imagine Lilian marrying Edward VIII! Given Lilian's Catholicism, though, I do not think that this would have spared the British throne any turmoil, unless, of course, she had become Protestant. (I also doubt that this would have happened, since Lilian was actually quite devoted to her faith, despite her general reputation for worldliness). After all, have some not commented that Wallis could only have been a worse choice if she had been Catholic?

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