The following quote is taken from the blog, The Cross of Laeken, from a post dated August 2, 2010 – A Chaplain’s Testimony. Please be certain to check out this treasure-trove of Belgian royal history.
Here is a description of Léopold III by Rev. Collart, one of his chaplains during his later years at Argenteuil.
J’ai pu voir transparaître, dans la limpidité de son merveilleux regard, la simplicité et la chaleur de ses paroles, toute la grandeur d’un de nos semblables qui s’est situé tellement au-dessus de nous. Le langage du croyant au prêtre, du confident à l’ami, quand on a cherché ensembles des réponses à des questions lancinantes, quand on a eu si souvent l’occasion de prier ensemble, on ne peut pas ne pas se connaître. Aussi est-ce avec une tranquille assurance que je puis certifier ceci: jamais il n’a failli à l’image de l’homme exceptionnel que ses fidèles ont gardée de lui. Il savait sans préoccupations personnelles déceler où était le bien de ceux qu’il voulait servir. Il ne flattait pas, il savait tenir un langage ferme et vrai quand il entrevoyait où et comment il fallait s’orienter pour assurer le bonheur et la liberté de son peuple et je l’entendais volontiers reprendre à son compte les paroles du vieux Caton au peuple romain qui s’égarait: “Je voudrais vous être agréable, je souhaiterais vous faire plaisir, mais je préfère essayer de vous sauver.”
The translation is a bit rough, because it is mine:
I was able to see transpire, through the limpidity of his marvelous gaze, the simplicity and warmth of his words, all the grandeur of one of our fellow men who is placed so far above us. The language of the believer to the priest, of the confidant to the friend, when we searched together for answers to tormenting questions, when we had, so often, the occasion to pray together, it is impossible not to know one another. So it is with a tranquil assurance that I can certify this: never did he fail to live up to the image of the exceptional man his faithful followers kept of him. He was able, without personal preoccupations, to discern where the good of those he wished to serve lay. Henever flattered, he knew how to use a firm and true language when he saw where and how he had to orient himself to ensure the happiness and liberty of his people and I used to hear him take up, for his own, the words of Cato the Elder to the Roman people who were going astray: “I would like to be agreeable to you, I would like to please you, but I prefer to try to save you.” (Quoted by Jean Cleeremans in Léopold III, sa famille, son peuple sous l’occupation, 1987, p. 16)
I bring this quote to you from The Cross of Laeken because it so reminds me of the plain-spoken direct and sincere manner which I so admire in King Baudouin. One can say without doubt it was a direct reflection of the deep character and sincere religious faith of his father, Leopold III, who suffered great difficulties in his life and experienced unjust attacks to his character and leadership. He was a good man, and that certainly carried through in his worthy son, Baudouin.