Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bereavement

A touching account by Lea Laurent of the family sorrows of Albert and Elisabeth prior to the First World War. (Some of the dates are a few days off, but that's a minor matter).
The year 1912 was for the Queen one of uninterrupted mourning. But her first great trial, the death of her father, had already befallen her at the end of 1909, and her husband's accession to the throne had obliged her to hide her sorrow with smiles, which only made it the more poignant.
The series of bereavements in 1912 began with the death of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg on the 28th February. He was uncle by marriage to the Queen, and the near neighbourhood of the two courts, added to family ties, had led to a close friendship.
On the 25th May, a telegram announced the death of Duchess Amélie of Urach, daughter of Duke Karl Theodor by his first wife. In spite of the great difference in age, the Queen had loved her step-sister tenderly, and during her holidays never failed to visit her at her castle of Lichtenstein in Würtemberg.
In the following month, on the 28th June, the Royal house of Bavaria lost little Prince Rudolf, aged three, the third son of Rupprecht and Princess Marie Gabrielle. The poor mother, who was in delicate health, never recovered from the blow.
For a short time there was a respite, and it seemed as if Death had grown weary; but soon other victims were claimed. Duke Franz Josef, the Queen's youngest brother, was cut off after a few days' illness, in the flower of his early manhood. This was a grievous loss to Elisabeth, whose family affection was exceedingly strong. Fears were again entertained for her health, but she bravely overcame her weakness. She attended the funeral and returned to Brussels, accompanied by her sister, Countess Törring. 
They endeavored to console each other, recalling memories of their childhood and of the dear ones who had been taken from them. They were together one autumn evening, perhaps contrasting their own evergreen forests with the changing colours of our northern woods, when the King came into the room. He was overcome with emotion and almost unable to speak. At last he told them of the sudden death, at Sorrento, of Princess Marie Gabrielle, without any warning that the end was so near. The two sisters fell weeping into each other's arms. 
The King went alone to Munich, for he would not allow the Queen's health to be injured by any possible agitation which it was possible to avoid.
But the cup of sorrow was not yet full. The following month the Countess of Flanders gave up her pure soul to God. She died on the 26th November in the arms of her son. In the death of this admirable woman the Queen lost a second mother who had always been to her a loving friend and a wise counsellor. The Countess of Flanders who, in a secondary position,  had succeeded in maintaining her dignity without provoking hurtful jealousies, had been the best of all guides for Princess Albert. And when Elisabeth was unable to take her children with her on her journeys, she confided them to her mother-in-law, knowing that in her keeping they would be as safe as in her own.
The grief of the King was intense, and at the funeral he was unable to control his emotion. The fact that he was habitually calm and imperturbable made this display of feeling all the more touching, and it was, moreover, an eloquent tribute to the lamented Princess. Among the hundreds of wreaths there was one composed of masses of orchids, from Albert and Elisabeth, "to our beloved mother."

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