Friday, September 13, 2013

Praying to St. Anne

This is not a picture of any of the Belgian royals, but rather of two of the greatest princesses whom they count among their relatives.   This large stained glass window was given to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne d’Auray by Henri, Comte de Chambord, the last heir to the elder line of the Bourbons. The window depicts Henri's mother, Caroline of Naples, Duchesse de Berry, and his aunt, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angoulême, the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The two women are shown praying to St. Anne, the patron saint of Brittany.  Marie-Thérèse and Caroline were the cousin and niece, respectively, of Marie-Amélie of Naples, Duchesse d'Orléans, later known as Queen of the French, as the wife of Louis-Philippe. Marie-Amélie was the mother of Louise-Marie, the first Queen of the Belgians, and the foremother of all the Belgian kings after Leopold I. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Preparing for a Queen's Funeral

The first days of September, 1935 were a sad time for the peoples and royal families of Belgium and Sweden. The little heir to the Belgian throne, Prince Baudouin, had lost his loving mother, Queen Astrid, in a car accident, barely more than a week before his fifth birthday.  Together with his father, King Leopold III, his older sister, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, his younger brother, Prince Albert, his Swedish grandparents, Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg, and his other maternal relatives, Baudouin had suffered a devastating bereavement which would cast a pall over his whole family for decades.

Meanwhile, the Belgian people were reeling from the cruel, senseless loss of their idolized young Queen, who had been so full of life, charm, beauty, goodness and promise.  In her memoirs, Astrid's intimate friend, Countess Anna Sparre, describes the scenes of intense, reverent mourning in Belgium. Spontaneously, the people filed past pictures of the late Queen, carrying flowers and candles, kneeling to pray for her soul, for her stricken husband and children.
Anna also mentions the grief in Sweden at the loss of this beloved daughter and princess, as illustrated by the women's magazine pictured above. Anna herself had learned abruptly of her friend's death during a chance conversation. After innocently mentioning Astrid, with whom she had recently spent a pleasant alpine vacation, she was stunned to hear of the tragedy. Initially, Anna could not believe the news, insisting that there must be some mistake, but the signs of mourning outside soon showed that the painful tidings were all too true. Like the people of Brussels, the men and women of Stockholm wept openly in the streets. Astrid's mother was prostrated with grief.

Anna's memoirs also give us an insight into the way those touched by Astrid's death tried to cope with her loss by comforting one another. Anna attended the funeral of Queen Astrid as the personal guest of King Leopold. Although she dreaded meeting him after the tragedy, Anna did her best to console the heartbroken widower, himself physically injured from the accident. Anna gives many touching details of their first meeting and conversation after her arrival in Brussels.  Concerned that he build up his strength for the fatiguing day ahead, she helped to serve his breakfast on the morning of the funeral, while her own hands trembled...For her part, Anna received kindness from Leopold's aunt, the Duchess of Vendôme, who asked to hear her memories of Astrid as a child.

The prayer card at the top of this post perhaps best sums up Astrid's legacy, with the following quote from the Apocalypse: Blessed are those who die in the Lord, for their works follow them!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bust of Queen Astrid

A refined and delicate sculpture which captures the Queen's sensitive personality quite well, I think.