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 was the golden bachelor reigning king of the time and all the tabloids had him interested in or dating 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 misinformation 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.