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

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King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 Empty King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002)

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

First topic message reminder :

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  May on Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:37 pm

Hope so...

Here is another lovely video about the new book, with stunning photographs:

http://www.tvcom.be/index.php/info/news/8677

What is the singing in the background?? It's so gorgeous and poignant.
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Post  May on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:18 pm

In a recent article in Le Soir, Princess Esmeralda tried to dispel some of the myths and lies about her mother Lilian:
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/06/myths.html
Lilian was NEVER the governess of the children of the widowed King Leopold III. In fact, before marrying the King, she had never even met his children by Queen Astrid. Lilian was also not a cold and calculating woman. On the contrary, according to Esmeralda, she was all too passionate, spontaneous and choleric. She never forgave those whom she considered to have betrayed her husband and made enemies by frankly speaking her mind. She was not "politically correct". Much mystification has surrounded the circumstances of the first meeting of Leopold and Lilian. Esmeralda says simply that her mother first met her father by chance at a horse race in Ostende in 1937. Lilian's parents were hosting King Leopold and his brother, Prince Charles. Madame Baels needed someone to help her serve tea to her guests, so her daughter came along.

Lilian herself never gave interviews, never publicly defended herself against the many slurs on her reputation, leading to the perpetuation of false rumors. (This, in itself, contradicts the claim that she was a a self-centered, self-pitying woman who was always trying to attract attention ). Even Patrick Weber, a usually balanced journalist and historian of royalty, and the co-author of Esmeralda's new book, Lilian, une princesse entre ombre et lumière, relates that he only knew the legend of the Princess of Réthy before researching her in more depth for this work. He found that those who knew her well painted a picture of quite a different woman.

http://archives.lesoir.be/lilian-«-l-ange-noir-»-mis-en-lumiere-«-ma_t-20120528-01YM4Y.html
http://www.dhnet.be/dhjournal/archives_det.phtml?id=1260513
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Post  May on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:27 pm

[img]King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 78666211[/img]
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Post  May on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:28 pm

[img]King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 78101910[/img]
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Post  May on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:30 pm

[img]King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 0610[/img]
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Post  May on Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:31 pm

[img]King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 0410[/img]
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Post  Mata Hari on Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:31 pm

Excellent! thank you so much, Matterhorn!! I am learning SO MUCH!!!

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Post  May on Thu Jun 07, 2012 5:25 pm

Today marks ten years since Lilian's death; the loss of a great lady.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/06/death-of-princess-lilian.html
...As described by Michel Verwilghen in Le mythe d'Argenteuil (pp. 34-54), she passed away at her beautiful, beloved home of Argenteuil, in the early afternoon of June 7, 2002. The date was a deeply significant one for Leopold and Lilian, marking exactly 58 years since the King's deportation to Hirschstein, and exactly one year since the Princess' publication of the King's account of the controversies of his reign. Lilian died peacefully, and apparently painlessly, after a silent, stoical struggle with blood dysplasia, surrounded by her doctors and supported by her devoted housekeeper and caretaker, Madame Jeannine Degrève. Earlier, she had received religious consolation from a chaplain from the Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc. For the past year, weakening health had forced her into a kind of retreat from the world. In contrast to her previously vibrant, active life, her many years as a glamorous hostess to the great, towards the end she would receive no visitors except her two children living in Europe, her doctors and nurses, and the closest members of the entourage of Argenteuil.

On the day of her death, her son Alexandre was on his way to see her. The only one of Lilian's children to reside in Belgium, he had been visiting his mother every day. Upon his arrival, he was sadly surprised to find that his mother had already passed away. Alexandre tried to contact his sister Esmeralda by telephone, to break the sad news to her gently, but was unable to reach her. As it happened, she was traveling with her family by train, under the Channel from London to Brussels, for her niece Princess Astrid's birthday dinner. Nevertheless, Esmeralda soon learned of her loss from someone else, who offered condolence. Meanwhile, Alexandre also attempted to inform his half-brother, Albert II, of Lilian's death. The Princess of Réthy had been the only mother the King had been old enough to remember. Alexandre wished to speak to Albert personally, but was unable to do so. On a state visit to Germany, the Belgian monarch was at a ceremony with the German president. Alexandre was obliged to leave a message for Albert at Laeken. Upon Esmeralda's arrival in Belgium, she traveled to Landsrode, Alexandre's home in Rhode-Saint-Génèse. Leaving her children in the care of a nanny, the devastated princess returned with her brother to Argenteuil to pay her last respects to her deceased mother...
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Post  May on Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:37 pm

I just got hold of a copy of Geoffrey Bocca's Kings without Thrones (1959). There are two quite good chapters on Leopold and Lilian. Talking about Lilian's youth, the author writes:
London shaped most of her early life, although after World War I was over she was sent for a while to school in the provincial Palace of Bruges, and later to the College of the Sacred Heart in Ostend where in the course of composition francaise she had to write an essay on "The Man I Most Admire." The man she chose was "Prince Leopold."

In London she enrolled in a fashionable finishing school, the Holy Child, in Cavendish Square, and was a frequent guest of the Belgian Ambassador and his wife. It was clear even then, although Liliane was only sixteen, that she was on the way to a spectacular career. She took naturally to all sports. She was an expert golfer and swimmer. The moment her feet were long enough to touch the pedals she took the wheel of a car, and showed an instinct for unerring, fast driving. In appearance she was striking, almost six feet tall, with a Spanish profile and hair which gleamed blue-black in the sunlight. Her eyes were steady to the point of being disconcerting, and her chin was hard, but she laughed easily and possessed an energy that made her seem not so much to walk as to bound like a kangaroo.

In 1935 she made her debut and was introduced to the British Royal Family in Buckingham Palace. By the side of King George V and Queen Mary stood the Prince of Wales. He was even then secretly in love with Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Had he fallen in love instead with the eighteen-year-old girl who curtsied to him, the thrones of two nations would have been saved the most almighty shaking. (pp. 33-34)

Imagine Lilian marrying Edward VIII! I don't think, though, given Lilian's Catholicism, that this would have spared the British throne any turmoil, unless of course she had become Protestant (which I doubt would have happened; she was actually quite devoted to her faith, despite her general reputation for worldliness). In fact, didn't someone say that Wallis could only have been a worse prospective bride for Edward if she had been Catholic?
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Post  Mata Hari on Sat Jun 09, 2012 7:59 pm

Fascinating!! Very Happy

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Post  May on Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:38 pm

Thank you, Mata!! sunny

I have a new post about close brushes with death, fortunately averted, in the lives of Leopold III and his family:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/06/close-calls.html

Anyone familiar with the history of the Belgian royal family knows that it has been plagued by tragedies. These have included the early deaths of two young heirs to the throne; Prince Leopold, son of King Leopold II and Queen Marie-Henriette, and his cousin, Prince Baudouin, the elder brother of King Albert I, as well as the ghastly accidents that claimed the lives of King Albert I and his daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid, in rapid succession. Members of the family have also experienced a number of close brushes with death which fortunately had happier outcomes. In 1957, for example, King Leopold III and his second wife, Princess Lilian, suffered a car accident bearing a frightening, eery resemblance to the crash that killed the King's first wife, Queen Astrid. On their way home from the unveiling of a bust of Albert I in Cortina d'Ampezzo, one of the favorite haunts of the Roi Alpiniste, the vehicle carrying Leopold and Lilian veered off course and plunged down a ravine about twenty meters deep (Les années 60 en Belgique, Pierre Stéphany, 2006, p. 124). Although the couple escaped unharmed, the similarity with the day in Küssnacht that he had unintentionally driven his beloved Astrid to her death must have been a double trauma for Leopold.

Another scare followed the very next year, and oddly enough offered an opportunity for Leopold to reassert his friendship and admiration for Britain, persisting from his days at Eton despite the terrible conflicts with Winston Churchill during World War II and the Royal Question:

Early in 1958, Leopold and his children had a frightening escape when the door of a Sabena Convair flew open ten minutes after taking off from Nice. Leopold and Prince Albert threw themselves on the smallest children, Marie-Christina, aged six, and Marie-Esmeralda, fifteen months, to save them from being sucked out. The pilot, an Englishman, Charles Bryant, flew the plane back to Nice Airport and landed safely. Afterwards, Leopold sent the pilot a telegram worded in an interesting and significant way. It read: "Congratulations on your flying skill and on your British pluck. Leopold." The coupling of the word "British" to "pluck" suffused the note with a special kind of intensity and warmth (Kings Without Thrones, Geoffrey Bocca, 1959, pp. 63-64).

During her bitter days of exile in Portugal, medical malpractice threatened the life of Leopold's sister, Queen Maria José of Italy, wife of King Umberto II, and, for a time, robbed her completely of her eyesight:

In Portugal Marie-José took the title of the Countess de Sarre. At least she could claim Belgian citizenship. Umberto was not even allowed an Italian passport. The Portuguese police gave him a travel document and that is all he possesses to this day. The Casa d'Italia was purchased and the man who only a few months earlier had possessed forty palaces and half a hundred shooting lodges settled down to contemplate what to do next. Marie-José, however, had still to taste the dregs of unhappiness. She fell ill, not too seriously, and by mistake was given plasma from the wrong blood group. Shortly afterwards she became partially paralyzed and completely blind. She moved to Switzerland for treatment and there she remained. Her sight was partially restored in so far as she was able to see downwards, but could not turn her eyes up. She bore this dark and hooded world with a noble dignity and devoted her time after that to a history- a friendly history- of the House of Savoy (Kings Without Thrones, Geoffrey Bocca, 1959, pp. 195-196).

Of course, the tragedy of Küssnacht was itself a near miss for Leopold. What might have happened if both the King and Queen had perished in the accident, and Leopold's brother, Prince Charles, had become Regent of Belgium early on? Or if Leopold only had died and Astrid had been left to reign on behalf of her son, King Baudouin, during his minority?
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Post  May on Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:47 pm

New post about Queen Astrid and her gentle way of promoting social reform:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-social-reforms-of-queen-astrid.html
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Post  May on Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:29 pm

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 42769610
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 55482710
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 40205010
Beautiful Queen Astrid. I love you
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Post  May on Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:09 am

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Post  May on Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:31 pm

The grief of a loving husband, described by a cousin, Princess Clémentine:
Léopold est splendide de résignation chrétienne, quoique totalement anéanti. En arpentant à ses côtés le vieux parc aimé, j'ai pu sonder la beauté de cette âme endolorie. Léopold est le digne fils d'Albert. On retrouve en lui cette noble fierté au sein du malheur. La vue des pauvres enfants fend le coeur. L'aînée est ahurie. Les petits pleurent en appelant leur mère.

Leopold is splendid with Christian resignation, although totally devastated. As I walked, at his side, through the beloved old park, I was able to sound the beauty of this grieving soul. Leopold is the worthy son of Albert. There is that same noble pride in the bosom of misfortune. The sight of the poor children melts the heart. The eldest is stunned. The little ones weep, calling for their mother.
(Clémentine, princesse Napoléon: 1872-1955, Dominique Paoli, 1992, p. 209)
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Post  May on Fri Sep 28, 2012 7:09 pm

A British defender of Leopold III, Olive Muir:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/09/olive-muir.html
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Post  May on Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:15 pm

Princess Lilian, caught between two sides of the language divide in Belgium:
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/10/beauty-of-flanders.html
As we have been discussing the divide between Flanders and Wallonia, it might be interesting to consider the case of the Flemish beauty who became the second wife of Leopold III. She was the very type of the Catholic, royalist Flemish who played such an important role in deciding the popular consultation in Leopold's favor after World War II. (Sadly, with the current trend towards separatism, more and more Flemings now seem to be turning rather venomously against the monarchy as a icon of Belgian unity). Princess Lilian was also the very type of the upper-class Flemish who adopted French culture.

This position made life even more difficult for a woman already castigated by the aristocracy as a vulgar adventuress marrying far above her station, and by other elements of popular opinion and the press as a unworthy successor to an impossibly saintly Queen Astrid, as an unscrupulous temptress, devoured by ambition, luring the King into preferring private pleasure to public duty. Lilian was doubly resented for her Flemish heritage by many Walloons. She was also blamed by more nationalistic Flemings, such as her denigrating biographer, Evrard Raskin, for supposedly betraying this same heritage through her Francophile affinities.

As Jean Cleeremans describes in Léopold III, sa famille, et son peuple sous l'occupation, there were also kinder voices among the Flemish who expressed pride at their Sovereign's marriage to one of their own, to a daughter of the talented and energetic class that had brought such prosperity to the Belgian cities through the centuries. As always in Lilian's life, however, spiteful portrayals gained much greater publicity than any appreciative ones. Hating the Princess de Réthy became a veritable industry.

Yet, through it all, Lilian remained steadfastly loyal to her principles as a woman devoted to Belgium and its monarchy. Michel Verwilghen, in Le mythe d'Argenteuil, describes her concern at the rise of separatism during the last years of her life. She even worried that her step-son, King Baudouin, might not be doing enough to oppose the efforts to shatter the country. I wonder what she would say of Belgium's most recent political crises.
The poor woman could never put a foot right, in the estimation of many.
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Post  May on Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:25 pm

It's Queen Astrid's birthday! A little Swedish princess who would become Belgium's most dearly loved queen came into the world 107 years ago today. sunny I love you
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Post  May on Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:39 pm

Well, I haven't been posting on here in ages...that's what comes of getting stressed and side-tracked... Wink

BUT yesterday was the anniversary of Leopold III's accession to the throne...

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/02/february-23-1934-accession-of-leopold.html
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 17910
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Post  May on Sun Feb 24, 2013 5:47 pm

King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 Leopol10
King Leopold III (1901-1983), Queen Astrid (1905-1935) and Princess Lilian (1916-2002) - Page 4 Access10
One of the most noble and touching sights of contemporary times was that of the young, handsome, forthright Leopold, head and hand raised, taking the Oath of Accession before his Throne in the Chamber of Deputies. In his first speech as king he said: "According to a solidly established tradition, the Belgian dynasty is at the service of the nation, and I am firmly resolved never to forget it." He glanced towards Queen Astrid - a stately figure in deep black, seated with her children in virgin white - and their eyes met. Then and there he told the august gathering of State that both he and they could depend upon the love and loyalty of the Queen. These were no idle words dove-tailed into the pattern of a formal and picturesque ceremony. They were sincere. They came, not only from his manuscript, but from his heart. All who heard them knew them to be true. ~Michael Geelan
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Post  Bunnies on Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:27 pm

Glad to see you back!


I do enjoy how the queen is dressed in the flasher fashion. (That is Astrid, yes?)
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Post  Elena on Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:36 am

I agree, I just love her style! Smile

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Post  Bunnies on Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:56 am

>.> I can't believe I wrote 'flasher' instead of 'flapper.' Embarassed

But at least my intention was understood! It just surprised me a tad. I usually think of flappers as being a breezier fashion so it startled me to see a queen dressed as one, and for what looks like a formal portrait at that!
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Post  May on Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:37 pm

This is a novel of alternate history by Stéphane de Lobkowicz. He imagines that Leopold, not Astrid, died in 1935. I have not read the book (just heard of it today), but this is based on what I've seen in other reviews.
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-do-you-think-of-this.html

This book is two years old, but I only heard of it today. La reine Astrid n'est pas morte à Küssnacht ("Queen Astrid Did Not Die At Küssnacht") is a novel of alternate history authored by Belgian aristocrat and politician, Stéphane de Lobkowicz. As the title indicates, the point of departure is that the iconic fourth Queen of the Belgians survives the fatal car accident on August 29, 1935. Rather than losing her life, she loses her husband, King Leopold III. Playing on the rumor that Astrid was pregnant at the time of the crash, the author even imagines that she bears Leopold a posthumous fourth child. Otherwise, Astrid disappears into the background of the story.

The foreground is taken by her mother-in-law, cultured, energetic Queen Elisabeth, who becomes Regent for the little heir to the throne, Prince Baudouin. It falls to the German-born Elisabeth to face off against Hitler. The Belgian campaign lasts for 22 days instead of the historical 18. The beautiful city of Bruges is burned to the ground. Elisabeth barely escapes with her life to England and continues the struggle from abroad, while a defiant Belgium is placed under the ruthless rule of Reinhard Heydrich, engineer of the Holocaust. (In reality, Belgium benefited from having Alexander von Falkenhausen, a military governor who made efforts to moderate the treatment of the population). In the post-war period, Belgium is spared the Royal Question, which erupts in the Netherlands instead! Queen Wilhelmina is blamed for her departure to London, rather than King Leopold being traduced for remaining in Belgium during the occupation.

Lobkowicz also manages to weave in characters such as Leopold's brother, Prince Charles, who actually served as Regent of Belgium from 1944-1950, Leopold's second wife, Lilian Baels, and Baudouin's Queen Fabiola. Charles is given a romantic interlude with a Congolese woman of mixed racial ancestry, whom he later marries. Lilian never marries Leopold, of course, but becomes his children's governess. In reality, she never served in this role, despite persistent myths and rumors to the contrary. While a refugee in Spain, sheltered with Fabiola's family, Baudouin meets his future bride, two years his senior.

While I am not particularly attracted to reading this book, and something about the whole tone of the story even strikes me as unpleasant, La reine Astrid n'est pas morte à Kussnacht is certainly inventive. It is always interesting to consider alternate historical scenarios, so please feel free to suggest any others in the comments.
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Post  May on Wed Jul 02, 2014 1:56 pm

Here is a poem by Miriam Hyde about the death of Queen Astrid. It is entitled Night in Bruges.
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/09/night-in-bruges.html
The carillons are hush’d; still is the night,

And footsteps echo on the cobble-stones.

With faces drawn, under the cold lamp light,

A group of women talk in muffled tones.

Above them, twisted sadly round its pole,

Hangs a limp flag of Belgian colours three;

And there with one another they condole,

Sharing their grief with love and sympathy.

The black canal glides noiselessly along

Under the lonely bridge; and stars are bright.

Perhaps, somewhere among the twinkling throng,

Queen Astrid’s soul to Heav’n has added light.
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