Thursday, 11 December 2014

Foreign guests for Queen Fabiola's funeral

At 10 a.m. tomorrow the funeral of Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, who died last Friday, will take place in the Cathedral of Saints Michel and Gudule in Brussels.
The late Queen had herself wished for a simple funeral in the local parish church in Laeken and did not want to lie in state, therefore asking for "a coffin so ugly that they will not dare show it to the public", but this was apparently deemed incompatible with the dignity of the monarchy and her body has now laid in state at the Royal Palace since it was taken there on Tuesday.
All the members of the Belgian royal family are of course expected to attend, with the exception of Princess Marie-Christine, who has been estranged from the rest of the family for decades and did not even attend the funerals of her parents, and a number of foreign dignitaries will also be present. The Luxembourgian delegation will include the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, Grand Duke Jean and the Hereditary Grand Duke and Hereditary Grand Duchess. The Queen of Denmark and the King and Queen of Sweden will be there, and so will the King of Norway, who rarely leaves the country on Fridays, when he presides in the State Council, but has now appointed the Crown Prince Regent in his stead. King Harald will be accompanied by his sister, Princess Astrid; both being first cousins of the late King Baudouin, to whom they were close.
The Netherlands and Spain will be represented by their former monarchs, Princess Beatrix and King Juan Carlos, respectively, the latter accompanied by Queen Sofía.
The Empress of Japan is flying in from Tokyo, which is only the second time that she leaves Japan without the Emperor, while Thailand will send Princess Sirindhorn. The British royal family, a short train journey away from Brussels, will according to the Belgian media not deign to attend, but be represented by the British ambassador to Belgium.


  1. Guess they didn't draw straws. Charles and Camilla have engagements as does William (but he would not be sent). It should be noted that who goes is discussed between the sovereign and the Foreign Office so perhaps this was the advice of FO.

    1. The King of Norway and the King of Sweden both had important engagements at home today, yet they are in Brussels.

      I suppose no one would actually believe that the British foreign ministry would advice Queen Elizabeth not to send any member of the royal family to the funeral of the queen dowager of a European country with which Britain has no diplomatic or political issues.

      It would have been easy - and indeed courteous - to put any member of the British royal family, from Prince Philip down to Princess Alexandra, on the Eurostar. They would have been able to be back in London for a late lunch.

  2. British representation quite disappointing!

    1. I think I would use another word also starting with "dis", but ending in "respectful".

  3. Trond, I would have to disagree. The decision to send is made by the Foreign Office, advising the Queen. There may be different protocols for the funeral of the consort of a king who has had two successors. She was not the wife of the current head of state or the last head of state. But, yes, the Queen does not pick the rep on her own. The Ambassador represented the Queen. I am not defending, just stating the possible reason why. Fabiola was not the consort of the current head of state or even the last one, nor the mother of the king. The British have always done things differently. Unlikely to have been put a train. More likely flown and not a snub, most likely protocol. Also rare to cancel an engagement because of all the work that went into it, people waiting to meet and see them (and their responsibility is in the UK.) Accept the fact that the British do things differently. Always have

    1. Marlene Eilers Koenig, how many successors a queen dowager's late husband has had makes no difference in protocol.

      Despite the current British government's inept handling of relations with the EU there is no reason for the foreign ministry to advise the royal family for staying away from the funeral of the queen dowager of a neighbouring country. There were relevant reasons for doing so in the case of King Leopold III, but not in this case.

      Eurostar has even been used for state visits, and is the fastest means of travel between London and Brussels (going by Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussel Zuid is faster than transportation to airport, flight and transportation from airport).

      Your point about cancellation applies to all royal houses - all the work that went into it, people waiting to meet and se them (and their responsibility is in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Liechtenstein, Japan, Thailand, Morocco and Kuwait, to mention only those monarchies who honoured Queen Fabiola by showing the common courtesy of sending a member of the royal family to represent the country). Besides, twelve working members of the British royal family had no engagements today).

      Accept that it is not usual for the British royal family not to be represented at the funeral of a major European royal as long as they have been invited.

  4. Trond, you need to understand that the British sovereign does not make the decision on who to send. The Queen is the head of state, not the head of government. and, thus, needs to go through the Foreign Office to attend official events. The Queen cannot just call the Gloucesters and say, get out the black suits. The Queen did not make the decision: the Foreign Office did. When I was in Serbia as a VIP guest for the State funeral last year, I asked Crown Prince Alexander about why a British royal was not coming as he is close to BRF. An invitation was sent, but the Foreign Office would not allow a member of the BRF (for political reasons) to attend the state funeral. The same thing for King Michael;s birthday Charles was invited but was told he could not attend. Try to consider that the Queen does not have the power to decide who gets to go to a wedding or a funeral, that the final decision is made by the Foreign Office. That's how it works in the UK. The Queen is a "servant" of the Government. She does not make the laws. I don't like arguing with you. The British monarchy does things differently. There must be a reason why the British government chose not to have a royal go but there have been reports today that the government chose a low level rep because of their attitude toward Brussels and the EU. It does not matter what the Swedes did or that Michiko traveled from Japan. Their governments thought that it was important to attend. The British government did not. It is not relevant what other countries did. The British foreign office does not apply to them. It does to the British royals. Have you noticed that no British royal has visited Israel (apart from Philip bringing his mother's remains) because the Foreign Office won't permit it.

    1. Marlene Eilers Koenig, you must try to understand that in most such cases the foreign ministry does not make a unilateral decision. Such decisions are made in consultation between government and court. In a case like this, if Queen Elizabeth had wanted a member of her family to attend the Belgian queen dowager's funeral, it would be highly unlikely that the FCO would veto it.

      There can be political reasons for the FCO to veto a royal presence as a foreign event, but no such reasons apply in this case. There are no issues between Britain and Belgium and Queen Fabiola herself was wholly uncontroversial. The foreign ministry also knows perfectly well that it is diplomatic custom that the European royal families attend each other's funerals and they do not seem to have raised any objections on previous occasions, as the British royal family has been represented at most major royal funerals.

      The exception is the funeral of King Léopold III, but in that case there were political reasons going back to 1940 and how the British government felt that Léopold III by capitulating had betrayed the allied war effort.

      Have you noticed that no Norwegian royal has ever visited Israel? Now you can try and guess if that is because they have not themselves wanted to or whether the governments until now have not allowed them to do so. After that you can try and guess who made the decision that the King and Queen should pay a state visit to Burma two weeks ago. You need to understand that what you write both in this comment and in the previous one applies to all the constitutional monarchies in Europe, yet all of them, except Britain, managed to get at least one representative to Brussels in keeping with diplomatic protocol.

      If the British royal family had wanted to send a representative to Brussels the foreign ministry is highly unlikely to have objected. Philip Hammond is indeed a eurosceptic, but the foreign ministry would not be so stupid that they would not realise that there is a significant difference between the EU and Belgium/the Belgian queen dowager, just as there is a major difference between the UN and the USA, even though the UN is located in New York. The FCO is also perfectly aware of diplomatic protocol.

      You should also take note that the official explanation given by Buckingham Palace to AFP is that no British royal attended because of "long-standing engagements". Other royal families also had long-standing engagements, but rearranged them, as one does in such situations. Twelve working members of the British royal family did not have any official engagements on Friday, so unwillingness to change private engagements appears to be the reason for the British absence. Indeed they did not think it important to attend, but that was not a priority that rested solely with the foreign ministry, who had no reason whatsoever to veto British attendance at this event.


Comments are welcome, but should be signed - preferably by a name, but an initial or a nick will also be accepted. Advertisements are not allowed. COMMENTS WHICH DO NOT COMPLY WITH THESE RULES WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED.