Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The King's Father-in-Law

Geoffrey Bocca gives a dramatic account of the reaction of Governor Baels to the news of Lilian's engagement to Leopold III, contradicting the usual assumption that the ambitious politician threw his daughter into the King's arms:
When Henri Baels heard about it he was furious and set himself completely against the match. Baels had spent most of his life in politics. He could see as neither the exhausted King nor his daughter, the trail of disaster, of calumny and misrepresentation the marriage would bring. He loved both his King and his daughter as only a profound monarchist and a father can. The people, Baels knew, would not see Leopold any more as a solitary hero tormented by doubt and patriotism, but as a man who put his happiness first and married a woman while the country was flat on its face with a German boot on its neck. His daughter, an innocent apolitical girl, was being condemned to an intolerable fate; she would be compared every day to Astrid, whose death had turned her memory into something legendary and almost holy. Baels argued day after day for ten days. Those ten nights he passed sleeplessly turning and often in tears. 
Seeing his arguments had made not even a dent in the couple's mind he yielded, but on conditions. One of the conditions was that the Dowager Queen Elisabeth must be present to give her approval and blessing, and the second was that Cardinal van Roey, the primate of Belgium and none other, was to perform the ceremony. These were the most eminent authorities that Baels could think of to muster at the time. He also insisted that Mme. Baels not be informed until afterwards. He knew that the shock to his sensitive and intelligent wife would be as great as it was to him, and he wished to tell her in his own way (Kings Without Thrones, 1959, pp. 40-41).

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