Queen Fabiola of the Belgians has, as previously mentioned, died in her home in Brussels on Friday evening. The 86-year-old widow of King Baudouin I was known for her diligent work for the benefit of the less fortunate, but recently came under heavy fire for her inheritance arrangements.
Born Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón in Madrid on 11 June 1928, was the sixth of the seven children of Gonzalo de Mora y Fernández, Marquess of Casa Riera and Count of Mora and Blanca de Aragón y Carrillo de Albornoz, who were of fairly recent nobility but owned significant estates and were closely connected to the Spanish court. Indeed Queen Victoria Eugenia was Fabiola's godmother.
Fabiola spent parts of her childhood in exile, as her parents in 1931 chose to follow King Alfonso XIII's example and flee the country after the republican election victory. The family lived in France and Switzerland for two years before returning to Spain, but fled again when the Civil War broke out. It was only after Franco's victory in 1939 that the family settled permanently in Spain.
Fabiola trained as a nurse and worked in a poorhouse in Madrid. She also wrote twelve children's stories, which obviously sold very well in Belgium when they were translated and published there after she became Queen.
That happened on 15 December 1960, when Fabiola wed King Baudouin I in Brussels's Cathedral and put a smile on the face of the man who had until then been known as "the sad king".
As Queen, Fabiola was particularly involved with social issues, physical disabilities, mental health, education and children with learning difficulties. Sadly the couple proved unable to have any children of their own, but the marriage was by all accounts a very happy one.
King Baudouin, whose health was not strong, died suddenly from a heart attack while holidaying in Spain on 31 July 1993, and many will recall the dignity shown by Queen Fabiola as she, dressed entirely in white, followed his coffin to his last resting place.
Queen Fabiola was only 65 when she was widowed and she continued to play an active part for many years and remained a fixture at royal events. In 2013 she was heavily criticised for setting up a private foundation which would allow her to bequeath money to her Spanish relatives and charities without paying inheritance tax. Although this was perfectly legal it did not sit will with the public at a time of financial trouble.
In recent years Queen Fabiola was increasingly weakend by osteoporosis and by the autumn of 2012 she was in a wheelchair. She attended the inauguration of her nephew Philippe as King on 21 July 2013, but the memorial service for King Baudouin on the twentieth anniversary of his death ten days later turned out to be her last public appearance.
In recent months she had suffered from respiratory problems and been confined to her home, Stuyvenberg Palace, where she died on Friday at the age of 86.
A more detailed obituary by me will appear in the February issue of the British monthly magazine Majesty, which will be on sale at the end of January, as the announcement of her death came just after the January issue had been sent to the printers.