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King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002)

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Post  May on Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:33 pm

The misfortunes of Leopold III, who was falsely accused of collaborating with the Nazis and forced to abdicate in 1951:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/01/tragedy-of-leopold-iii.html

The conversion of his first wife, born Princess of Sweden and raised as a Lutheran, to Catholicism:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/07/conversion-of-queen-astrid.html

His much-maligned second wife, born Lilian Baels:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/01/princess-lilian-loved-and-loving.html
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Post  Elena on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:55 am

Matterhorn, these are all such WONDERFUL posts on the Belgian royal family. Very Happy I have to go out now but I will have more to say when I return.

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Post  Elena on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:07 pm

What a beautiful man and a tragic life! Thank you for introducing him to us!
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) Leopold3belgium

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/01/tragedy-of-leopold-iii.html
Events would put this patriotism to a stern test. At the age of 12, Leopold saw his country overwhelmed by invading German forces during World War I. Leopold and his siblings were sent to safety in Britain. Their parents remained in Belgium, exposed to all the dangers of war. Reduced to a small strip of territory near the North Sea, King Albert, in collaboration with the armies of the Entente, led the Belgian army in trench warfare against the Germans for the next four years. Queen Elisabeth remained at her husband's side, devoting her time to the care of wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees.

Leopold soon insisted on returning to Belgium to take part in the defense of his country. Accordingly, at the age of 13, he became the youngest infantryman in the Belgian army. Throughout the war, the young prince alternated between school at Eton and "vacations" with his regiment. His father, King Albert, had instructed the regiment's Colonel: "Make him dig trenches, so that he may know what it is like to have blistered hands." Every morning, therefore, Leopold used to fill fifty sandbags to reinforce the parapets. He also undertook the complete course of training for the infantry recruit - physical exercises, lessons in handling arms and grenade throwing, drill and the maintenance of equipment.

Soon, Leopold, still only 13, insisted on being taken to the front line. By Providence, he survived many dangers. On one occasion, he manned an advance post within pistol range of the enemy. Another time, he was nearly hit by a bombshell, but his companion, a 65-year-old soldier, pushed him out of the way in the nick of time.

Allied victory and the return of peace saw Leopold and his family return to Brussels, in a newly liberated Belgium. The popularity of the Belgian royal family, widely admired at home and abroad for their wartime heroism, knew no bounds.

In 1926, Leopold married Princess Astrid of Sweden, a beautiful and gracious young woman. Leopold and Astrid were deeply in love. In 1927, they had a daughter, Princess Josephine-Charlotte, and, in 1930, a son, Prince Baudouin. (A third child, Prince Albert, would be born in 1934, after Leopold's accession to the throne). In the year of Baudouin's birth, Astrid, raised as a Lutheran, converted to Catholicism, the faith of her adopted country. She did so, however, without any pressure from the Belgian royal family, out of genuine religious conviction. Leopold found great happiness in his marriage and family life.

Meanwhile, he worked hard at understudying his father, King Albert, and preparing himself for his eventual role as sovereign. He was especially concerned with the plight of the Belgian Congo, irresponsibly exploited. In 1925 and 1933, Leopold undertook extensive tours of the Congo, and, both times, returned with apt criticisms of the colonial regime and suggestions for reform.

In 1934, while Leopold and Astrid were vacationing in Switzerland, King Albert died tragically in a mountaineering accident in Belgium. Deeply shocked and grieved, Leopold and Astrid returned to Belgium immediately for the King's funeral. Some days afterwards, Leopold swore his accession oath in Brussels, becoming King Leopold III of the Belgians. On this solemn occasion, Leopold declared: "I give myself entirely to Belgium."

His reign would be characterized by misfortune. In 1935, the year after his father's death, Leopold lost his wife under equally tragic circumstances, in a terrible car accident in Switzerland. Injured himself, and shattered by grief and shock, the King returned to Belgium for his wife's funeral. Against his doctor's orders, he insisted on following Queen Astrid's hearse on foot for four miles. To Astrid's close friend, Anna Sparre, the devastated King confided: "My life is over."

Leopold had lost, not only his beloved wife, but his Queen, his chief support and close collaborator in his royal function. Yet, despite his terrible personal grief, he persevered, alone, devoting his energies to Belgium, during a period of mounting political tension in Europe. Hitler and Stalin were threatening; World War II was fast approaching.

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Post  Elena on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:12 pm


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Post  Elena on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:22 pm


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Post  Mata Hari on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:25 pm

I am learning so much about the Belgian royal family! Thank you! I love the Cross of Laeken blog.

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Post  May on Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:50 pm

I come home from a long and trying day and see all these lovely pictures and comments! Thank you so much, everybody! I love you
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Post  May on Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:12 am

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 240px-Astrid-Kapelle-5
Astrid-Kapelle-5 [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by GraceKelly (Own work), from Wikimedia Commons

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 240px-Astrid-Kapelle-2
Astrid-Kapelle-2 [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], by GraceKelly (Eigenes Werk), from Wikimedia Commons

I have been asked if a cultus ever developed around the memory of Queen Astrid, since she seems to have been a model Catholic. To an extent, this did occur, both in Switzerland, where she died, and in Belgium:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/08/st-astrid-of-kussnacht.html

"Central to the pious cult of Astrid's memory, of course, was the scene of the tragic car accident, heavily laden with Catholic symbolism. While the numberless flowers, wreaths and candles deposited there in the aftermath of the tragedy were universal signs of mourning, many of the mourners explicitly portrayed their visit as a pilgrimage. The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, November 1 and November 2, 1935, saw the peak of this religious activity. Then, in June, 1936, came the solemn, poignant consecration of the Queen's memorial chapel and the "King's Cross", marking the place where Astrid died in her husband's arms. Msgr. Colle, chaplain of the Belgian Royal Court, offered Mass in the presence of Belgian war invalids, other Belgian mourners, and Belgian, Swedish and Swiss dignitaries. King Leopold was too overwhelmed with grief to attend, although there were rumors that he visited the site incognito as early as May, 1936.

In Belgium and Küssnacht, both regions rich in Catholic lore, Astrid's memory became swiftly associated with devotion to Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints. The Cross, the Crown of Thorns in the memorial chapel, and many accounts of the Queen's death, recalling the Passion of Christ by placing unusual emphasis upon the shedding of Astrid's blood, suggested she was a kind of Martyr-Queen. The immaculate, white stone Cross, and the radiant figure of Astrid, clad in a flowing white robe, in a central, stained-glass window of the shrine, together with the sculpture of the Virgin Mary over the entrance, linked the Queen of the Belgians to the Queen of Heaven. Astrid's image was flanked by that of her father-in-law, Albert I, in military uniform; after Astrid's death, a combined cult of the tragically lost King and Queen sprang up in Belgium.
"
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Post  Mata Hari on Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:06 am

I find this incredibly moving. Queen Astrid was a saint. sunny Thank you!

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Post  May on Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:39 pm


Video footage of Leopold and Astrid.
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Post  Elena on Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:57 pm

Really, really lovely! Thank you! Very Happy

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Post  May on Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:01 pm

Thank you! It's fascinating to see them move, after seeing all the still photographs.
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Post  Elena on Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:30 pm

Yes, it is! They were an enchanting couple! Very Happy

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Post  May on Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:23 pm

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 5969080755_43c7185acd
Königin Astrid von Belgien,Queen of Belgium, nee Princess of Sweden 1905 – 1935 by Miss Mertens, on Flickr
Just came across this photo of the Queen today. She was a very shy person naturally, so it is remarkable that she was able to form such a spontaneous, direct rapport with her adopted people.

Astrid's childhood friend, Anna Sparre, wrote a wonderful memoir of her friendship with the Queen, Astrid mon amie. In the book, there is a scene of Astrid kissing and comforting a young child, who was weeping and wailing, and later on telling Anna, who had been present: "You think I wasn't sincere; well, you're wrong. I couldn't help myself, he was so upset, the poor little one."
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Post  May on Fri Oct 28, 2011 12:48 am

Lilian's Cardiology Foundation:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/07/princess-lilian-cardiology-foundation.html

"In Le mythe d'Argenteuil (2006), Michel Verwilghen gives a full and detailed account of the development of the Princess Lilian Cardiology Foundation (pp. 309-314). Established in 1958 in Brussels, the institution combined the scientific interests and charitable inclinations of the second wife of King Leopold III. Following the widely publicized, successful surgery of her teenaged son, Prince Alexandre, who had been suffering from a cardiac abnormality then inoperable in Belgium, by Professor E. Gross at the Children's Hospital in Boston, Lilian began to receive appeals from other Belgians for help in obtaining similar care in the United States for their loved ones. Initially on an informal basis, the Princess responded generously to the requests, supplying financial assistance and organizing administrative and moral support for the patients. Her thoughtful and compassionate approach extended through their whole experience; during the transatlantic flight, sufferers were provided with companionship, children were given gifts to raise their spirits. (Little girls received dolls, for instance).

As the Princess' work expanded, she decided, at the suggestion of Belgian diplomat Joseph Jennen, to form a non-profit organization to perpetuate her enterprise. Accordingly, on December 10, 1958, she created the Fondation Cardiologique Princesse Lilian. The press, all too often brutally abusive of Lilian, had the good grace to give this accomplishment, at least, appreciative treatment; only Le Drapeau Rouge, a Communist, and, not surprisingly, violently anti-monarchist paper, saw fit to sneer at her efforts. At the outset, the headquarters of the Princess' foundation was placed across the street from the Royal Palace of Brussels, at 14 Rue Bréderode. It would later be moved to Ixelles, a suburb of Brussels. A close friend of Leopold and Lilian, Ernest-John Solvay, presided over the organization for the first few years of its existence. After the King, the Princess and their children left Laeken for the country estate of Argenteuil, in 1961, however, Solvay was replaced by Fernand Collin, a financier, jurist and professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. For a number of years, a former secretary of King Leopold, Charles Everarts de Velp, served as the secretary of Princess Lilian's foundation. The institution's administrative council included eminent Belgian personalities from the worlds of business and politics, such as Camille Gutt, former member of the World War II cabinet of Prime Minister Hubert Pierlot."
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Post  Elena on Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:06 am

I really feel that I am getting to know these great ladies. Thank you! queen

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Post  May on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:16 am

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Post  Elena on Thu Nov 03, 2011 11:43 am

What a beautiful baby boy and a lovely family.

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Post  May on Thu Nov 03, 2011 2:08 pm

I agree, Elena ! I love you
More information about the birth here:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/11/november-3-1901-birth-of-leopold-iii.html

Queen Elisabeth later wrote:
What a memory! One of the most beautiful of my life, hearing the first cry of my first child! You were so pretty, and later, so handsome! But this, you do not like people to tell you, or, at least, not too bluntly. Since then, so many joys, so many sorrows!
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Post  May on Sat Nov 05, 2011 9:38 pm

Here is a post with a link to a recording of a speech by King Leopold, addressed to the USA on October 27, 1939. The speech outlines the reasons for Belgium's policy of independence and neutrality, and emphasizes the role of Belgium in trying to maintain the peace in Europe.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/11/king-leopolds-broadcast.html
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Post  May on Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:57 pm

The mother of Princess Lilian, Anna Maria de Visscher:
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/07/anna-maria-de-visscher-mother-of.html
Anna Maria de Visscher was the scion of respectable bourgeoisie, the daughter of a mayor and the granddaughter of a minister. Her ancestors included illustrious figures, such as the Comte Félix de Muelenaere, a member of the National Congress that founded the Kingdom of Belgium, and three times Foreign Minister between 1831 and 1841. In 1905, Anna Maria married Henri Baels, a rising young Ostende shipowner, lawyer and politician, to whom she bore eight children, six daughters and two sons.

During the Nazi invasion of Belgium, while her husband, the Governor of West Flanders, circulated constantly to alleviate the plight of his province, Madame Baels worked for the Red Cross. The young Lilian assisted her mother in her task, transporting wounded French and Belgian soldiers by car to the St. John Hospital in Bruges, simultaneously flooded by refugees. She also helped to evacuate the elderly from the hospice of Alost, which was within the combat zone, exposed to enemy fire.

As the military situation headed towards disaster, however, Madame Baels decided to leave for France to bring two of her daughters, then ailing, to safety. Lilian drove the family car. At a restaurant in Bernay, near Lisieux, the news of the Belgian capitulation reached the four women. At Paul Reynaud's infamous broadcast, branding the Belgian king a traitor and felon, French and Belgian officers began vilifying Léopold III, tearing apart his photograph on the front cover of a magazine. Horrified, Lilian indignantly rebuked the officers. One spitefully retaliated by seizing the Baels' car key and throwing it into a ditch. After obtaining a replacement, the ladies proceeded to the south of France, renting a villa in Anglet, near Biarritz.

Madame Baels would have many sorrows in the years to come. Her husband and her son were unfairly accused of cowardice and treason, while her daughter Lilian was battered by gossip and slander. According to Lilian's account, as recorded in Un couple dans la tempête (2004), the news of her secret marriage with King Léopold upset and worried her mother, who foresaw that it would provoke a political storm. "My little one, you don't know what's in store for you. It will be appalling, they will all attack you, you will have a terribly hard life," she is quoted as saying (pp. 36-37). Anna Maria Baels, née de Visscher, died of heart failure in 1950, while the question of the King's return from exile was still being decided. On the grounds that her arrival, at such an emotional moment, might sway the people in Léopold's favor, Lilian was prevented from returning to Belgium to bid farewell to her dying mother.
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) AnneMariedeVisscher
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Post  Elena on Mon Nov 07, 2011 10:06 pm

VERY interesting! Shocked

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Post  May on Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:03 am

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/09/fourth-child-of-leopold-astrid.html


Was Queen Astrid pregnant when she died? Did King Leopold lose, not only his beloved wife, but his fourth child in the terrible car crash in Küssnacht? I have often heard this claim, yet, Astrid's best friend, Anna Sparre, makes no mention of a pregnancy in her account of the Queen's death. At one point, at the Alexander Palace Forums, I read that Anna did not believe the rumors, as Astrid had told her nothing about a pregnancy and Anna would have been the first to know. Apparently, the Queen's namesake and biographer, Astrid Bammens, also discounts the theory, and, certainly, there was never an official announcement of a pregnancy. Perhaps the stories are no more than speculation. Or, if Astrid was expecting a fourth child, perhaps she herself was unaware of it...
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King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) Empty Re: King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002)

Post  May on Thu Nov 10, 2011 2:40 pm

Today is the anniversary of the religious wedding of Leopold and Astrid.

On November 4, 1926, Prince Leopold of Belgium, eldest son and heir of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth, married Princess Astrid of Sweden, niece of King Gustav V, in a civil ceremony in Stockholm. On November 10, the religious wedding followed in Brussels. Both handsome, shy, sensitive, thoughtful, and noble people, Leopold and Astrid had fallen passionately in love. Since Astrid was still a Lutheran, however, a papal dispensation was required for the marriage. (Interestingly, it was the mirror image of the union of King Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie, where the groom was Protestant and the bride Catholic). The princess also had to promise to raise her children in the Catholic Faith. Both her sons, Baudouin (1930-1993) and Albert (1934-), would become Kings of the Belgians, while her daughter, Josephine-Charlotte (1927-2005), became Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 2151098187_3d92d456e5
Hochzeitsfoto von Astrid von Schweden und Leopold von Belgien / La Reine Astrid by Miss Mertens, on Flickr

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 2151888660_9ab2b0ea87
Hochzeitsfoto König Leopold III. und Königin Astrid von Belgien by Miss Mertens, on Flickr

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) 2234802718_64d1dcb20f
Kronprinz Leopold mit seiner Braut Prinzessin Astrid by Miss Mertens, on Flickr
May
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King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) Empty Re: King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002)

Post  May on Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:06 am

May
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King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) Empty Re: King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002)

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