Astrid Queen of the Belgians

Tomorrow will be the 105th anniversary of the birth of Astrid beloved Queen of the Belgians who was tragically lost in a motor accident. I chose today to repost this article because Price William has announced his engagement to Kate Middleton.

Upon her return from France my daughter Genevieve brought me some historical magazines and books. One of them is "Actualite de Histore", the November 2005 edition. In it I found an article on Astrid, Queen of the Belgians. As the inquest on the death of HRH Princess Diana came to a close I took a second to ponder the parallels of history.

Many people know that I am not a great admirer of Diana, due mainly to her lack of nobility in unburdening herself of her predilections to the world. They were better left unstated. As a woman she was very beautiful, graceful and intellegent, yet not overly wise.

However, certain events in human history seem to be replayed over and over. On August 31, 1997 Princess Diana and Dody Al-Fayed were killed in an automobile incident in Paris. Today, (07 April 08) in Britain, the inquest into her death was ruled as gross negligence of both Diana's driver and the paparazzi.

Diana was sometimes referred to as the Queen of Hearts...

There once was another Queen of Hearts. Her name was Astrid Princess of Belgium. This is her story...

At an evening ball, Astrid, a ravishing Swedish princess, danced all night with one of Europe's most handsome princes, Leopold of Belgium. A little timid, Astrid did not dare look into the eyes of her handsome companion.

Leopold's furtive eyes only made Astrid feel that all control was being lost to the charms of her dance partner. And as the night progressed, Leopold and Astrid never left each other's side.

Princess Astrid of Sweden was born on November 17, 1905. She was the youngest daughter of Prince Charles of Sweden, Duke of Vastergotland, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Astrid's grandparents were King Oscar II of Sweden and King Frederick VIII of Denmark. Astrid's sister, Princess Martha, married the future King Olaf V of Norway. Her eldest sister, Princess Margaretha married Prince Axel of Denmark, while her only brother Prince Carl, Duke of Ostergotland, married morganatically*.

Some months later, King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium invited the press to the royal palace in Brussels. "The Queen and I, declared Albert, would like to announce to you the impending marriage between Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant and the Princess Astrid of Sweden. We are convinced that the princess will bring joy and happiness to our son. Leopold and Astrid have decided to join their lives without any pressures or reasons of state. Theirs is a true union among people with the same inclinations." Queen Elisabeth, incorrigible that she was, insisted in saying "It is a marriage of love...tell it to our people. Nothing was arranged. Not a single political consideration prevailed in our son's decision." Leopold and Astrid were married in Brussels on November 10, 1926.

Astrid was immediately adopted by the Belgians. She was tender, understanding and profoundly human. Her public and official engagements irradiated enthusiasm. Leopold was her most fervent admirer. The love shared by the young couple was evident to all. In more than one occasion people could see them holding hands, even during official engagements.

Queen Astrid of Belgium (1905-1935)

On October 11, 1927, the Duchess of Brabant gave birth to her first child: a beautiful baby baptized with the name of Josephine-Charlotte. Almost three years later, an heir was born. He was given the name of Baudouin in memory of his deceased great-uncle who was supposed to have been king. Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium married Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg; while Baudouin married doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. The couple's youngest child, Albert, married donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria and inherited the Belgian throne from his brother Baudouin in 1993. The present heir to the Belgian throne, Prince Philippe, is the eldest son of Albert and Paola.

In 1930, the Belgian press gave extensive coverage to the birth of the long awaited royal heir. Leopold was on his way to visit some areas away from Brussels when the Duchess of Brabant went into labor. The royal palace immediately sent him a telegram that reached Leopold at a stop during his journey. The royal palace's message announced the impending birth of the couple's second child. Without thinking twice about the day's engagements, Leopold returned to Brussels immediately.

Prince Leopold and King Albert walked anxiously in the garden at Stuyvenberg Palace while the Duchess of Brabant began her labor. Next to Astrid were her mother, Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, and her mother-in-law Queen Elisabeth. At 4:15 pm the royal physicians proudly announced the healthy birth of a little prince. The sound of cannon silenced the general happiness expressed by the people of Brussels.

At Stuyvenberg, not far away from Laeken Palace, the young Duchess of Brabant, raised in the simplicity of the Scandinavian courts, joyfully raised her growing family. At a small villa in the palace grounds, Astrid cooked for her family. And every time she could, Astrid would stroll along the Avenue Louise with her children. The Court Marshall vehemently protested against these promenades. "They break protocol," he would say. Yet in her simplicity, Astrid would retort by saying "But I'm just another mother, am I not?" (a statement similar to another queen, Marie-Antoinette) She even went as far as joining the crowds during a military revue in an effort to see her promenading husband at the head of his regiment.

On February 23, 1934, just days after the tragic climbing accident which claimed King Albert's life, Leopold and Astrid made their solemn entry into Parliament. The new monarchs were accompanied by Josephine-Charlotte and Baudouin. Leopold swore allegiance to the country's constitution while claiming that he "would give myself entirely to the country." Astrid, transported by the events she was witnessing lifted her young son and offered him to the country. A new reign was inaugurated.

A few months later, on June 6, 1934, Astrid gave birth to yet another little prince, Albert. The popularity of the Belgian royal family new no bounds. Astrid's only regret was not being able to spend more time with the children. In August, 1935, the royal couple, accompanied by their two eldest children, traveled to their villa Haslihorn, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The placid vacation allowed Leopold and Astrid to spend considerable time walking and climbing in the countryside. The day before their return to Brussels, Leopold and Astrid decided to go for one last excursion. Like his father, Leopold was an avid mountaineer, and had climbed the Dolomites several times. The children had already returned to Brussels.

On August 29, 1935, the monarchs left their villa for a last fateful climb. Driving his sports car along the winding, narrow roads of the region, Leopold was looking forward to the day's events. Seated next to him, Astrid helped her husband with directions to their destination. Just a few minutes before arriving at the village of Kussnacht-am-Rigi, Astrid pointed out something to her husband. Leopold took his eyesight away from the road for an instant. Suddenly, the car plunged down a ravine. Queen Astrid was violently ejected from the automobile. Her lifeless body laid on the grass near the wreckage. Witnesses recalled a single scream, "Astrid," as a devastated Leopold held her bloodied body next to his chest.

The date of her death was 27 August 1935 almost 62 years to the day of Diana's death. Diana's car accident happened in the Tunel d'Alma, which runs under the Astrid Bridge, named after the Belgian Queen.

FromThe Snow Princess
Queen Astrid of Belgium (1905-1935)
By Art Beeche

Dieu Le Roy.

*Morganatically-definition. A Royal marriage to a noble of lesser rank or a commoner which results in the title not being passd down to the issue of that marriage. The wife is styled "Serene Magesty "and the issue are referrred to "Serene Highness".


Matterhorn said...

Thank you very much for this! It seems that today there are people who want to attack even Astrid. Apparently a new book on the Belgian queens has come out, trying to claim that the romance of Leopold and Astrid is a "myth", and even using Astrid's charitable public works against her-on the grounds that her care for the poor was "paternalist." Hmm...

Brantigny said...

It is seriousely an uncoordinated plot. That which is good is bad, and that which is bad is good. That type of calumny is simply projection.