Belgian Abdication: Profile of Baudouin

  July 20, 2013 at 6:30 am by

Our penultimate profile in the lead up to tomorrow’s abdication in Belgium shines the spotlight on the current King’s elder brother, Baudouin.

From the TRF Avatar Gallery

The second child and eldest son of King Leopold III of the Belgians and Princess Astrid of Sweden, Baudouin Albert Charles Léopold Axel Marie Gustave was born on September 7th, 1930 at Stuyvenberg Castle near Laeken. He had an elder sister, Princess Joséphine-Charlotte (born in 1927), and a younger brother, Prince Albert (born in 1934). Tragedy struck the family in 1935, when Queen Astrid was killed in a car accident in Switzerland.

From the TRF Avatar Gallery

During the Second World War, following the Belgian surrender to the German forces, Baudouin and the royal family were German prisoners of war and were exiled to Hirchstein, Germany and Strobl, Austria. The family settled in Switzerland in 1945, until their return to Belgium in 1950. He came to the throne at an early age – just shy of his 21st birthday – when his father abdicated following a series of controversies of his own making (King Leopold married for a second time in 1941, which reduced his popularity, as did his decision to surrender during the war).

From the TRF Avatar Gallery

In December of 1960, King Baudouin wed Spanish noble Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, a daughter of the 4th Marquess of Casa Riera, 2nd Count of Mora. The couple’s marriage was a happy one, but was tinged with the sadness which came from having no children (each of Fabiola’s pregnancies ended in miscarriage).

Both Baudouin and Fabiola were devout Roman Catholics, which influenced some of the King’s political actions. The most notable of these occurred in 1990, when the Belgian Government passed a law which legalised abortion in the country. King Baudouin informed the government that he was unable to provide the Royal Assent to the law without “violating his conscience as a Catholic”, which resulted in the government declaring him temporarily unable to reign (as is allowed within the Belgian Constitution) and passed the bill. Less than two days later, the King was reinstated.

The King died suddenly in Motril, southern Spain on July 31st, 1993 from heart failure. His death took everyone by surprise, despite his earlier heart surgery. 500,000 Belgians viewed his body during a lying in state at the Royal Palace, before a funeral was held on August 6th at the St Michael and St Gudula Cathedral. King Baudouin was interred into the Royal Crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken; and was succeeded by his younger brother, Albert II.

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