Monday, December 24, 2018

Maria de Villegas, Countess van den Steen de Jehay

Via RTBF, Florence de Moreau de Villegas de Saint Pierre, chatelaine of Louvignies, gives several brief presentations on the life and work of her aunt, Maria de Villegas, Countess van den Steen de Jehay, a close friend and confidante of Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. The presentations are all in French, but can be roughly followed in other languages through the automatically translated subtitles. For anyone wondering about the origin of the family name, the De Villegas are Belgian nobility of Spanish ancestry. 

Maria was an intellectual and literary figure, and a heroine of World War I. She worked devotedly with Queen Elisabeth in nursing wounded soldiers of all nationalities, and in providing relief and comfort for Belgian civilian war victims. The programs feature her letters, diaries, glimpses of her wardrobe and a tour of Louvignies itself. One particularly touching excerpt from her writing, noted in the clip above, is as follows. After the death of King Albert I, the Countess wrote to Queen Elisabeth to express her condolences: "I weep with you, Madame, for the admirable man you weep for. I weep for your happiness. I loved you so much when you were happy.  Let me love you even more when you are unhappy." 

More on Elisabeth's war work and her friendship with the Countess can be read HERE. Florence de Moreau's book on Maria de Villegas is available HERE

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