The world and, in particular, the people of Belgium lost an extraordinary servant King. Today marks the twenty-third anniversary of the shockingly early passing of King Baudouin I of the Belgians on 31 July 1993. He died of a massive heart attack while on vacation at the royal couple’s compound, Villa Astrida, in Motril, Southern Spain.
Belgian politician, Philippe Moureaux, and former prime minister, Mark Eyskens, have revealed that Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels pressured King Baudouin I to provide royal assent to the 1990 Belgian law liberalizing abortion, despite his strong pro-life beliefs. Despite this pressure, Baudouin was firm in his belief in the dignity and humanity of the unborn.
Aside from the troubling notion that a cardinal of the Roman Catholic church argued for the passage of an abortion law, the real story behind this news is just how firm in his convictions King Baudouin remained his entire life.
At various times, there were people saying he was under the influence of Sister Veronica O’Brien, Cardinal Suenens, Cardinal Danneels, Liliane de Rethy, his father, Fabiola, the Catholic church and the Roman Catholic Charismatic movement.
Despite the press speculation and assertion, King Baudouin always exhibited something completely different than the folks who spoke of him being easily swayed. He was quite rigid and firm in his beliefs and actions and was deliberate in everything down to his physical comportment and gate.
No doubt Leopold had a strong influence on Baudouin and especially around the abdication and first few years. However, beginning with his 1955 trip to the Congo and peaking during his 1959 tour of the USA we see a blossoming of his self esteem and confidence.
Then, we come to the time of his looking for a wife. He did not allow himself to be influenced by his grandmother Elizabeth or others into marrying any of the numerous available Princesses of Europe. And, with just about every issue, the tabloids had him associated with different various princesses. He wanted a deeply religious woman and preferably of Spanish heritage and he was firmly set on this. When the opportunity presented itself, he told Suenens about his dilemma of finding a suitable wife. He was absolutely not willing to compromise his standards. The church assisted with networking to bring about an introduction to Fabiola, and there is little doubt that if they had not had the chemistry, he would have kept looking.
Important to point out here is that Leopold and Liliane had absolutely NO IDEA of his engagement. They learned at the same time the country learned about the engagement of the King. He was his own man and kept mainly his own confidence, with the help of Cardinal Suenens and Sister Veronica, who both acted as sort of spiritual mentors or a spiritual director – some may know the full meaning of that term.
Then we enter the phase when people think Fabiola had control of Baudouin – again, I think this is a major deception. While it is said that Liliane and Fabiola took a disliking to one another virtually immediately, I believe it was Baudouin who was most rigid about his dislike of how things developed between the two couples (Liliane/Leopold and Baudouin/Fabiola). After Liliane took all the furniture out of the palace and Baudouin/Fabiola returned from their honeymoon to empty rooms, Baudouin had little to no contact with his father and step-mother.
There are many other stories that I believe show Baudouin’s quite stubborn streak in being fairly immune to influence when he had his mind set on something, but nothing shows this as clearly as the abortion issue.
So, it seems now that Danneels tried to convince the King to give royal assent to the liberalization bill. It was reported that even Fabiola, while not speaking to the right or wrong, did remind Baudouin of his constitutional responsibility of providing assent to Belgian legislation. But that is neither here nor there. The article is about Danneels. No matter what you think of the abortion issue, it is a very clear illustration of the strength of character which King Baudouin drew on in dealing with the abortion question.
The King wrote in his diary “how can I face my God knowing that I helped in the destruction of his creation.”
There once was a young man who exactly resembled young King Baudouin of the Belgians and this is what happened next…
21 November 1951 a small group of students is about to be talked about in the whole of Belgium. They rent a limousine and driver and distribute the roles of palace ministers, officers, King, and so on… Their target is none other than the Institute d’Heverlee, Sacred Heart – as the saying goes home of “eleven thousand virgins.” There they will be welcomed with open arms by a community of Sisters and the “King” will shamelessly visit the institute only to be discovered by a suspicious Bishop to end this epic student prank.
Musical credit: Spike Jones, Charleston
Baudouin and Fabiola had very clear and refined spiritual philosophies that combined to form a powerful love and caring for the Belgian people. As a shepherd king, Baudouin was known for the deep spiritual spring which bubbled up within his daily life embodying his personal dedication to his people, which dictated his daily aims and activities. He explained to a fellow pilgrim his purpose in being king was:
” to love his country,
to pray for his country,
and to suffer for his country. ” ¹
Paramount within him was his belief in the FIAT prayer that we ‘Always and everywhere be witnesses to the Lord.’ This dovetails exactly with Queen Fabiola’s remembrance card which states her simple and profound example to us all, reminding us to, Always say YES to God. May we always give thanks for those faithful pilgrims who have gone before us for their example to us as God’s children.
¹ from “Baudouin, King of the Belgians: The Hidden Life” by Cardinal Suenens.
On this day in history, 15 December 1960, King Baudouin and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón were united in marriage and Queen Fabiola would go on to bring a warm ray of sunshine from Spain to a sometimes gloomy King Baudouin.