Thursday, July 31, 2014

Remembering King Baudouin

Today is the 21st anniversary of a sad event, the death of King Baudouin of the Belgians.  Baudouin suffered a heart attack while on vacation with his Spanish wife at the Villa Astrida in Motril.  As is well known, he was a very conscientious monarch, dedicated to preserving national unity.  Despite the political risks to the monarchy of such a stand, his strong moral and religious principles famously prevented him from signing Belgium's abortion law.  Unfortunately, his successors, King Albert II and King Philippe, have seemed to feel compelled to sign any law presented by parliament, regardless of moral or religious objections.    More information on Baudouin's life and reign can be found here and here.  In addition, here is an article on the reaction of his step-mother, Princess Lilian, to the King's passing.  It is far from true that she did not care about his death, as some have suggested.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Long Live Belgium!

The twenty-first of July, 1916, dawned a wonderful, sunny day. The entire city was green. Every one had a green ribbon, signifying hope, in his buttonhole; every dog had a green ribbon round his neck; every horse had one on his bridle; every house and every store had green paper pasted in the windows. Every shop and store was open, but everywhere green was in sight. The Germans understood, but were helpless. One particular place in the city where the Belgian martyrs were buried gave the Germans especial concern. There a guard of soldiers with fixed bayonets had been placed to prevent any demonstration. The Belgians found the matter simple. The entire city of Brussels walked through that street sometime during the day, and, as they passed the spot where the martyrs had fallen, they simply bowed their heads. The rules did not cover this point, and all day the officers and soldiers stood there, witnessing this tremendous demonstration made in their very faces, without being able in the least to do anything.
At the churches, service was held and the crowds were so great that not an additional person could have entered one of the buildings. That was the point. The churches were so full that the police could not get in. At least twelve thousand people were supposed to have been in the largest church. The Germans raged but were helpless. At the Cathedral the ordinary service was held and then the Dean announced that at eleven o'clock a funeral service would be held for the Belgian soldiers who had fallen in the war. It was sung by Cardinal Le Mercier with great pomp and dignity. The Cardinal sang the service in a voice shaken by emotion and then delivered a patriotic address which stirred the very souls of the thousands present.
On the national holiday, despite the German prohibition, they were celebrating their resistance and the Germans could not interfere! They sang the national song, and suddenly there rang through the building a shout—"Long live the King!" And despite requests that no demonstration be made, a tremendous shouting and cheering rose, swelled, broke, and reechoed through the vast spaces of the Cathedral. "Long live the King! Long live Belgium! Long live the Queen! Long live the Cardinal! Long live the Army!" Hats were thrown in the air, handkerchiefs were wildly shaken, people wept, laughed, fell on each others' necks. The soul of Belgium, repressed for two years, suddenly burst the bonds placed upon it by the German government and gave voice to its true feeling. (Read full article)

The Poetry of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte

I did not know that the daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette wrote poetry during her captivity. Here are some simple but poignant excerpts.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Portrait of Empress Elisabeth

A floral portrait of Sisi. (Via History's Untold Treasures).

Wedding of Prince Amedeo

I am happy to announce the news of the wedding of Prince Amedeo of Belgium and Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein.  The bride is the daughter of Italian nobility.  The couple were married in Rome on July 5.  Here is a video of the couple, announcing their engagement.  Here are photographs of the marriage ceremony. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An Appeal for Peace

Here is an appeal for peace launched by King Leopold III of the Belgians on August 23, 1939, along with the responses of other world leaders.  King Leopold was speaking on behalf of the Oslo Group of Powers, namely the Scandinavian and Benelux countries, assembled in conference in Brussels.  
Have not the small Powers reason to fear that they will be victims in a subsequent conflict into which they will be dragged against their will in spite of their policy of indisputable independence and of their firm desire for neutrality? Are they not liable to become the subject of arrangements reached without their having been consulted? 
Even if hostilities do not begin, the world is menaced by economic collapse. Mistrust and suspicion reign everywhere. Beneath our very eyes the camps are forming, armies are gathering and a fearful struggle is being prepared in Europe. Is our continent to commit suicide in a terrifying war at the end of which no nation could call itself victor or vanquished, but in which the spiritual and material values created by centuries of civilisation would founder? 
War psychosis is invading every home, and although conscious of the unimaginable catastrophe which a conflagration would mean for all mankind, public opinion abandons itself more and more to the idea that we are inevitably to be dragged into it. It is important to react against so fatal a spirit of resignation. 
There is no people-we assert it with confidence-which would wish to send its children to death in order to take away from other nations that right to existence which it claims for itself. 
It is true that all States do not have the same interests, but are there any interests which cannot be infinitely better reconciled before than after a war? 
The consciousness of the world must be awakened. The worst can still be avoided, but time is short. The sequence of events may soon render all direct contact still more difficult. 
Let there be no mistake. We know that the right to live must rest on a solid basis, and the peace that we desire is the peace in which the rights of all nations shall be respected. A lasting peace cannot be founded on force, but only on a moral order. (Read full article)

Friday, July 4, 2014

Miniature of Queen Elisabeth

Here is a striking miniature of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians.  With her dramatic red and gold dress, she almost reminds me of the Firebird.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


A portrait of Duchess Helene in Bavaria, one of the aunts of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians.  Helene, affectionately known as Néné, was the older, steadier sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, the legendary Sisi, and the first to be considered as a possible bride for Sisi's future husband, the Emperor Franz Joseph.

The Palace in Wartime

Brand Whitlock gives a moving account of the early days of World War I in Brussels.  Here is a description of an audience with Queen Elisabeth and one of her ladies in the royal palace, transformed into a hospital for the wounded.  
We had to wait,  and talked for a long time-- about the war, of course, the Countess was very much moved, her eyes filling with tears every few minutes.  But after a while, accompanied by the good Doctor le Boeuf who had done so much for the Red Cross, we were conducted down the long red-carpeted corridor to the Queen's private apartments, and shown into the little blue drawing room.  And presently the Queen entered.  She wore a simple blue gown with transparent sleeves, and a white, low, girlish collar; not a jewel, only her wedding-ring on her hand, and her hair dressed in delicate simplicity.  She was calm, with a certain gravity, and her blue eyes were wistful in the little smile that hovered about her lips.  There was no ceremony in this rather unusual presentation. 
We were walking down the long state apartments, with their glittering chandeliers, all vastly different than from their aspect when last I had seen them, thronged with men in brilliant uniforms at a court ball.  They were filled that day with with long lines of hospital cots, the white coverlets already drawn back--waiting for the wounded.  At the foot of each cot a little Belgian flag was fastened.  
"The children put them here," said the Queen. 
Up and down through those long apartments we passed in that model hospital into which, all within eight days, the Queen had transformed her palace.  Gone the old stateliness and luxury; nothing now but those white cots, operating rooms, tables with glass tops, white porcelain utensils, even X-ray apparatus--with all their sinister implication.  Now and then a nurse would appear, dropping a curtsey as the Queen passed.  (Everybody's Magazine, Vol. 38, March 1918, p. 17)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Grandchild of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

I had never heard until a few days ago on Elena Maria Vidal's blog that Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte, Duchesse d'Angoulême, the daughter of the tragic King and Queen of France, did indeed become pregnant at one point during her exile in England.  Sadly, she suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, and was never able to have another child.

Still, it is touching to think that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette did have a grandchild.  I wonder if the baby was a son or a daughter.  Becoming a mother would have meant so much to Marie-Thérèse, in either case,  I am sure, but especially so if the child had been an heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, in an ironic twist of fate, Marie-Thérèse's cousin, Marie-Amélie of Naples, Duchesse d'Orléans, married into the rival branch of the royal family, was blessed with baby after baby, including the first Queen of the Belgians, Louise.  Marie-Thérèse became  Louise's godmother.

On the Tea at Trianon Forum, there is a discussion of the tragic pregnancy of the Duchesse d'Angoulême.  There is a horrible suggestion that she may have been raped in prison during the Terror and suffered damage, impairing her ability to bear children.  While I hope and pray that this was not the case, I would not put much past the depravity of her captors.

Defending Leopold III

 History and Other Thoughts remembers the greatly maligned monarch with sympathy and affection.
I have a thing for misunderstood and mistreated historical figures, such as King Leopold III of Belgium, who also happens to be my favourite king ever. Although still a teenager when World War I broke out, Leopold, willing to do his part like everyone else, insisted to fight as a private soldier. After the war, he met Princess Astrid of Sweden. The two fell deeply in love, got married and had three children together. Then, tragedy struck. One day, while the royal couple was vacationing in Switzerland, Astrid lost her life in a car accident. Leopold, who had been driving, was inconsolable.  
Politically, Leopold, who wanted what was best for Belgium, often clashed with politicians, who were more interested in furthering their careers than anything else. When World War II broke out, the government fled, but Leopold and his family stayed behind, sharing the privations and struggles of his people, and becoming prisoners of Hitler. During this time, he also married, Lilian Baels. Unfortunately their marriage, which produced three children, was spun, by Leopold's political enemies, in a way that portrayed him as a villain, thinking only of his happiness while his people were suffering.  
The royal family was eventually moved to Germany were they were almost killed by the Nazis. After the war ended, the socialists and revolutionaries, eager to establish a republic, tried to prevent their comeback. Only after a referendum in his favour, was Leopold allowed back, but the political situation was so tense that he was forced to abdicate. I feel very sorry for him. He was a honest, upright and brave man who always strove to do his duty and put his people first. And yet, he had such a difficult life, marred by tragedy and attacked by political opponents who didn't hesitate to fabricate lies about him to gain power for themselves. It's a shame he has mostly been forgotten. He deserves everyone's admiration and respect. (Read more)