Baudouin’s mother, the Swedish Princess Astrid, died in a car accident in Switzerland and was like the Princess Di of her time. She died at 30 years of age in 1935 and is still loved by her people. Father was Belgian King Leopold III, whose (at the time) very controversial decision not to evacuate during the WWII invasion of Belgium by German troops and then surrender to the Germans made him a scapegoat for folks like Churchill. He also remarried during the war despite being held hostage by German high command. His people were furious and after the war he was forced to abdicate in favor of his 20 year old son, Baudouin.
Baudouin was a very lonely and stressed out looking young man. They called him the sad king. He had to deal with the Belgian Congo situation and some other serious situations during the first 10 years of his reign. People believe his fierce loyalty to his father made him vulnerable to influence by Leopold, who with his wife and new family, lived in the same palace as King Baudouin. In 1960, during the inflamed independence movement of the Belgian Congo and its dramatic events, Baudouin reached out to a spiritual adviser named Cardinal Suenens and was put into contact with an ex-nun who he confided in on spiritual and personal matters – the main thing being his hunt for a good woman to marry.
He has like the golden bachelor reigning king of the time and all the tabloids had him hooked up with every princess available in Europe, but he was looking for a quiet and very religious woman from Spain. So, the ex Irish nun, Veronica O’Brien, went down to Spain for him to find someone suitable to introduce to the King in hopes of a good match with chemistry. Crazy story short, she found a Spanish aristocrat named Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. There’s a lot of mis-information saying the church made them marry but that’s b.s. The church facilitated the introduction and the story is magical because they had a very close and loving marriage, despite suffering the devastation of experiencing FIVE miscarriages (perhaps one or two still births). They were denied a child of their own, despite loving children very much. The last two pregnancies were particularly dangerous and Fabiola had to have emergency surgery.
In 1979 they hosted 1,000 Belgian children at the palace in Brussels where King Baudouin spoke openly about their disappointment in not being parents:
You know that we are childless. For many years we struggled to fathom the meaning of this sorrow. But gradually we came to understand that, having no children ourselves, we have more room in our hearts to love all, truly all, children.
They always took their role as national parents to heart and worked tirelessly to improve the welfare and lives of the Belgian people, starting the King Baudouin I Foundation, which is a very good non-profit still doing vital work to today.
King Baudouin died very suddenly in 1993 and was deeply mourned by his people. His funeral was the only one outside of England ever attended by Queen Elizabeth, who was a good friend of Baudouin’s. He was deeply respected and loved for his quiet dedication.
Before his death, he had started a commission to help Filipino women trafficked to the sex trade in Antwerp. This made for a very dramatic moment at his funeral when a Flemish journalist who had covered the King’s work with prostitutes read in English the message by a prostitute standing next to him in front of the entire congregation. She was crying so the journalist read her message in which she said she had not only lost a King, but more so a friend.
Amazing footage from his funeral. Fabiola is in cream/white.
They built a small cottage on some royal grounds where they could live like a normal couple. Fabiola cooked and Baudouin cleaned. That’s how they liked it.
I’ll leave you with some of the entries in his daily spiritual journal that he kept, which were translated by Cardinal Suenens, his spiritual adviser. In his book, “The Hidden Life” from Cardinal Suenens – to whom Baudouin had bequeathed all his spiritual journals – the Cardinal reports many of Baudouin’s own hand-written entries including these direct quotes from Baudouin’s journal:
Lord, why have you moved heaven and earth to give me this precious pearl, my Fabiola?
The danger we could run into would be flattery. What we need is people who are daring enough to contradict us and to put a spanner in the works if a project deserves it. Lord, surround us with people of this calibre and honesty, and help us to accept contradiction.
Fill Fabiola with your holiness. May she live her life in your joy and your peace. Teach me to love her with your own tenderness. Give her a more positive self-image. May she know that she has been loved and chosen specially by You. Thank you for having given me this treasure. Help me to love her still more, with that Love which comes from You.
Fabiola is so loving; she warms my heart. Her silent, yet active presence is a source of great joy to me. My God, how you have spoiled me!
Fabiola is adorable to me and spoils me terribly. She is full of gaiety. Thank you, God.
Thank you, Jesus for having nurtured in me an immense love for my wife. Thank you for having given me a spouse whose love for me is second only to her love for You. May we both grow in you, Lord.
Mary, show me what I should do so as not to miss an opportunity of loving, of denying myself for your sake, of living the present moment to the full, as if it were my last, and of loving my darling Fabiola infinitely more. Yes, Mother, teach me to love her with tenderness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, and teach me to have faith in her.
Thank you for Fabiola’s incredibly strong and tender love. Help me to be filled with your joy and to love with your love.
May the year 1990 be a year of deep affection for Fabiola. Lord, show me the way to help her to have confidence in herself. May she feel my confidence in her and my admiration.
Help me, too, to love Fabiola while encouraging her; help me to accept that her rhythm is not mine, that her way of thinking and arranging things is special to her. Teach me, too, to respect her personality with its differences and its inconsistencies. Jesus, I thank you for having given me this wonderful treasure.
(This next entry would have been from 1978)
Eighteen years ago Fabiola and I dedicated ourselves to each other as we came out from Mass in Lourdes, on the feast of St. Isabella of Portugal.
My God, I thank you for having led us by the hand to the feet of Mary, and every day since then, I thank you, Lord, that we have been able to love each other in your Love, and that that love has grown each day.
I knew Our Blessed Lady was a Queen and a Mother, and all sorts of other things, but I never knew that she was a Matchmaker!
Writing before the wedding, Baudouin made note of a letter from “Avila” (The code word for Fabiola during their secret courtship):
“At times the waiting is hard, but only yesterday, in a delightful letter, Avila (Fabiola) wrote:
<<Quote from Fabiola’s letter to Baudouin before engagement announcement in 1960>> : “In relation to us, I have such peace and trust in God that everything that may make things go quicker or later, better or worse, is only because God permits it, and will make the best of it, for our spiritual benefit.”
Isn’t it wonderful to learn such a fine lesson from one’s future wife? I am truly proud of my fiancee and I love her more and more each day.”