Thursday, 1 August 2013

King Baudouin commemorated twenty years on

Yesterday a memorial service was held in the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule in Brussels to mark the twentieth anniversary of the sudden death of the much-loved King Baudouin. His widow, Queen Fabiola, was joined by King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, King Albert and Queen Paola, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz, and Prince Laurent and Princess Claire.
King Baudouin died suddenly from a heart attack while staying at his holiday home, Villa Astrida, in Montril, Spain, in the evening of 31 July. He was only 62, but had been in delicate health for some years.
Belgium being the only kingdom in Europe where the heir does not succeed automatically on the death of the monarch, it was only on 2 August that the Belgians got to know that the late King’s brother, Albert, would be their new head of state.
Many outsiders had believed that Prince Albert would renounce his rights to the throne in favour of his son, Philippe, who was being groomed as future monarch by King Baudouin. But Prince Albert himself was unwilling to renounce his rights, and when King Baudouin underwent heart surgery in 1992 an understanding had been reached that Albert would indeed succeed him if the King did not survive.
Prince Philippe was not yet considered ready for the throne, and on the night King Baudouin died the senior members of the cabinet met with the late King’s chief of staff and agreed to encourage Albert to accept the crown. King Albert II was sworn in on 9 August 1993, two days after his brother’s funeral. He abdicated on 21 July this year.


  1. Was it ever indicated by the royal family that Prince Albert would renounce his rights, or was it merely unsubstantiated rumor? The English-language reports I have read are unclear regarding that point.

  2. According to the Belgian books and magazines I read as background for my article on the abdication and inauguration (which will appear in the September issue of Majesty), it was an assumption made by outsiders. Although he groomed Prince Philippe for kingship, King Baudouin was careful never to refer to him as heir and Prince Albert made it clear that he would not renounce his rights. King Baudouin therefore began to involve his brother more in the monarch's work. However, it might be imagined that if King Baudouin had lived to the age attained by those of his parents and grandparents who died natural deaths - in which case he might have been alive today - Albert would have seen little point in ascending the throne (in 1993 it also played a part that Prince Philippe was not yet considered ready).

  3. Was there something particularly unsuitable about Albert? Some gossipy message board allude to frosty relations between Fabiola and Paola, but I am interested if the brothers were not on good terms.

    1. I do not think that there was anything "particularly unsuitable" about Prince Albert, but for a long time the Prince and Princess of Liège led private lives which were the cause of much gossip and which also meant that their children were at times so to speak abandoned. It is easy to imagine that this did not sit very well with the very pious King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola.


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