Twenty-three Years Ago Today…

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.

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King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in JAPAN

In 1964, British Pathé took footage during King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola’s official state visit to the Empire of Japan.  Enjoy lovely Crown Princess Michiko – always chic and beautiful.  There is a charming true story that unites King Baudouin with then Crown Prince Akohito. During a diplomatic stop-over for the King in Japan, Crown Prince Akihito requested to speak to Baudouin privately.

This generated much nervous buzz in the Belgian embassy, as it was highly unusual. Akihito requested Baudouin’s help getting his letters to Michiko in Europe, since she was supposedly sent there to separate the two. Baudouin took all of the letters Akihito had been trying to get the Japanese diplomatic corps to deliver to Europe in the pouches and the King delivered them himself to Michiko.

Additionally, he spoke to the Emperor on the behalf of Akihito and Michiko, helping pave the way for a beautiful marriage of the now Emperor and Empress of Japan. That is why Akihito and Michiko felt quite close to Baudouin and Fabiola and undoubtedly why Michiko paid her respects at Fabiola’s funeral in December 2014.

Enjoy!

This footage is the sole property of British Pathé and they retain all legal rights. It is only presented here within the YouTube Plugin.

Faux King Baudouin – 1951

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

La Libre.be : Le “faux Roi”: 60 ans déjà – (toute l’histoire ici)

Dry Cheese and Milk On The Windowsill

This week we will start a new series from the German magazine, Story.  They have done a special edition in honor of Queen Fabiola after her death on 5 December 2014. Their story is Fabiola in 7 Anecdotes.

Dry Cheese and Milk On The Windowsill

Both459During Baudouin’s reign, the menu was very basic at the Castle of Laken. It was the royal couple themselves who often turned out the lights at night. According to close aids, the motto of the royal couple was “no ostentatious luxury” and as the saying goes in Dutch, “every nickel was turned seven times before being spent.”

Even the receptions at the castle couldn’t be too expensive. A worker at the palace said that “it was a public secret that one didn’t eat very well at the palace back then.” At official ceremonies, staff had to make the rounds with “plates with dry cheese chunks, until people started laughing with it.”

Baudouin’s grand Marshal, Herman Liebaers, told how the royal couple received a thousand bottles of the grand-cru wine Hospice de Beaune as a wedding present. Sixteen years later, only fourteen bottles were empty. “When the weather was cold, the queen put the milk outside on the windowsill” says another worker at the palace. “She thought it was cozier and more homey than milk out of the fridge. But it was a strange sight seeing bottles of milk outside the window of the Palace of Laeken.”

Long after King Baudouin’s death, Fabiola took her own sandwiches with her when she was away during lunch. She would ask her chauffeur to stop for a while in a parking lot, so she could eat in the backseat. When she went away with her nieces and nephews on private occasions, she made the sandwiches herself.


 

I would like to thank a dear friend, Isabelle from Belgium, for her work as translator of this story. Thank you, my friend.

On This Day – 15 December 1960

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.

Media Myths: Infertility and Impotence

If It's A Girl, She Will Be Queen

Fabiola Mother This Summer!

Next in the Media Myths series is the cruel claim that Fabiola was infertile. This issue impacted the couple in deeply profound ways, as one can imagine. It seems especially grievous that the trauma of their medical challenges were exploited to sell tabloid copy. The inferred image is of an infertile woman and an impotent man. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy. Being pregnant five times, should have quieted malicious whispers of infertility or any notion of the King lacking virility.

Covering this information illustrates vividly the sad axiom, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Both Fabiola and Baudouin exhibited inspirational courage of spirit, facing the public always with a smiling face and head held high. Reports are that each time her pregnancy was announced, the palace overflowed with the abundant generosity of the Belgian people, rejoicing at the special news of their King and Queen. Each time, a brief quiet announcement would pierce their joy.

Unscrupulous authors lazily cling to tired court rumours, one claiming Baudouin’s step-mother, Lilian Baels, received a letter reporting Fabiola never menstruated and was, thus, infertile. While laughable, the depths to which man will go for notoriety is immeasurable and certain writers and journalists have sold such nonsense to readership eager for a juicy detail. Earlier untruths cast Lilian as the apple of Baudouin’s adoring eye, being hopelessly in love with his step-mother. The proof is nowhere to be found in that pudding; Leopold and Lilian were as ignorant to Baudouin and Fabiola’s engagement as were all Belgian citizens.

The business of outsiders blaming Fabiola for the couple’s childlessness is cruel and unconscionable. I wonder at how it is journalists or palace “insiders” feel confident or even suitably emboldened to testify with authority to the queen’s personal medical details. Fabiola’s affirmation of suffering from miscarriages was widely reported by the Belgian press in 2008. Belgians, nevertheless, were surprised at learning Baudouin and Fabiola suffered the loss of five babies.

I certainly don’t know anything more about the details than what Fabiola said in 2008. I do know that often a spontaneous abortion/miscarriage is triggered as the body’s fail-safe way of stopping a non-viable baby. Most often, this is manifested due to chromosomal insufficiency or abnormalities. The baby receives chromosome material and markers from both parents. This is how diseases get passed down from generation to generation.

It was scarcely reported, but King Baudouin suffered from Barlow Syndrome. His physical characteristics are classic for Barlow. Tall, extremely slender, elongated features, requiring corrective lenses for sight… Another system impacted is the skeletal system. As people age, material around the skeleton deteriorates and leads to back pain. Baudouin suffered severe back-pain later in life that he attributed to his golfing passion as a young man.

One of the most serious complications of Barlow Syndrome is mitral valve prolapse, from which Baudouin suffered. Surgery was performed on him in 1990 in an attempt to fix the valve. Until the last 20 years or so, this often meant a patient’s life span could be cut by a quarter or even a third. There is an increase frequency of sudden cardiac failure in Barlow patients with valve problems – even if they’ve been successfully operated on.

Heart ailments were fairly common in the King’s family. Indeed, his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, died of heart failure. His father, Leopold III, died of a heart attack. His brother, Alexander, required heart surgery to correct a defect during his youth.

All of this makes me wonder if each time Fabiola conceived there wasn’t a chromosomal abnormality that triggered a miscarriage? It is exceedingly rare that a woman who has multiple miscarriages (3 or more) continues to have miscarriages. Statistically, after a miscarriage a woman has about a 65% chance of carrying the next baby to term. And yet Fabiola had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. She was checked by renowned Swiss doctors, so one might infer that she did not have a physical abnormality, which would have been seen and diagnosed by those physicians.

La Reina Fabiola ha visto frustradas nuevamente sus esperanzas de maternidad

The Sad News – click for rough translation

That leaves us back at chromosomal abnormality possibly being in play – in this case, each time you’re still working from affected genetic material which could possibly encode the child’s chromosomes incorrectly – thus triggering another miscarriage.

I thus present to the unscrupulous journalists and anonymous insiders this: Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out that perhaps a miscarriage was triggered by chromosomal biologic material incompatible with viable life? Now wouldn’t that just be interesting? Not an issue of everyone supposedly knowing whether Fabiola menstruates or not. Not an issue of Fabiola being guilty of knowing she had infertility and needing to sacrifice her marriage to go to a convent releasing Baudouin to marry again in order to gain an heir. Not an issue of Fabiola being “barren”. Not even an issue of any kind dealing with Fabiola.

It is not for us to know. In the end, the lasting lesson in this tragedy was the indomitable spirit of these two inspirational souls who lived as one. King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola bore their cross with grace and turned this adversity to triumph by welcoming all the children of Belgium into their hearts. I will follow up on that point in an upcoming post.

Let us find encouragement in the story of loss and hope from these two guiding lights.

Bonus Material: Coming soon.

 

Media Myths Series: The Monk-King

B98In this first post for my Media Myths Series covering media bias and fabrications, I will focus on some obvious mistaken or misleading information produced by Belgian and European media based on un-named “insiders” who claim intimate knowledge of the King. This one deals with the claim that Baudouin wanted to abdicate in favor of a monastic life.

It is quite obvious, based on his life and photo evidence that he absolutely did not want the secluded life of a religious. He wanted a wife – a traditional wife and a traditional life. He was already miserably secluded in the Palace at Laeken and hated being so. His dreadful unhappiness shown on his face and through the pain in his eyes. Indeed, his spiritual mentor, Cardinal Léon Joseph Suenens, who after Baudouin’s untimely death wrote a book on the King’s inspiring faith, never mentions anything about the King wanting the solitary life of a religious. Cardinal Suenens and Baudouin discussed his painful isolation in Laeken Palace and his desire to find a spouse. After meeting innumerable European princesses and finding no connection with them, Baudouin asks the Cardinal to assist in a search for a suitable Roman Catholic young lady of great spiritual depth and faith to match his own.

Therefore, by this evidence, there is no logic or proof in the media’s assertion that Baudouin wanted to live a monastic life.