Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Children of King Leopold III

Princess Josephine-Charlotte was the first child of King Leopold III and Queen Astrid. She was born in Brussels in 1927 and was educated in the palace and at boarding school. During World War II she was taken with her family to Germany as prisoners at the end of the war. When it was over she studied in Switzerland then went home to Belgium to help those struggling with recovery and to encourage the arts. In 1953 she married Prince Jean, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In 1964 they became the Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Josephine-Charlotte was very popular and the picture of refinement, style and charitable generosity in Luxembourg. Through her marriage she and Grand Duke Jean had five children; 3 sons and 2 daughters. She was very glamorous but loved nothing more than working in her garden or going hunting and fishing. A beloved daughter of Belgium she became a national treasure in Luxembourg, strengthening ties between the two countries. She died in 2005.

Baudouin, who would be the fifth King of the Belgians, was born to King Leopold III and Queen Astrid in 1930, close to the anniversary of Belgian independence and so the birth of an heir to the throne was particularly celebrated. However, family tragedies became rather routine in the early years of Prince Baudouin. Toward the end of World War II he had to endure horrible conditions with his family in German captivity which was followed by the “Royal Question” which troubled Prince Baudouin greatly who would rather have been a priest than become king. But, his father was going to abdicate and two abdications would potentially ruin the monarchy. At the age of 21 in 1951 he became King of the Belgians in a very traumatic and difficult atmosphere. The country was going through many social upheavals and agitation. The Belgian colonies in Africa were lost, the division of the country between Flanders and Wallonia occurred and King Baudouin was greatly troubled by the moral decline in society. He never had children and died in 1993.

Albert II, our esteemed reigning King of the Belgians, is the second son of King Leopold III, born in 1934. In 1940, with his siblings, they fled to France and then Spain from the Germans but came home later in the year. Like the rest he spent time in captivity by the Germans, then in exile in Switzerland only to see his father abdicate and his brother become King. In 1959 he married our Queen Paola from an Italian princely family and began work as an important trade official for Belgium. He also started a family, eventually having three children. He served as President of the Belgian Red Cross and set up his own foundation to also help in the area of trade and business. When his brother died in 1993 he became King Albert II of the Belgians. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to promote Belgian interests, unite the country and encourage the political parties to work together. Since the internal division of the country between the Flemish and Walloon the King has been forced to shoulder an ever greater burden in bringing the factions together to form coalitions for effective governments. He has always accepted the will of the people but has refused to deal with those who would see Belgium destroyed.

Prince Alexandre was the first son of King Leopold III and his second wife Princess Lilian who he married during the war (she was never queen). Alexandre was born during the war in 1942 and so was only a baby when the family was shuffled around to Germany, to Austria to Switzerland and finally able to return to Belgium. Because of political prejudice against the marriage of King Leopold to Princess Lilian their children together were not included in the succession to the throne but with two sons already this did not matter much but there was some distance between the two parts of the family. Prince Alexandre studied first medicine but then decided on business, looking to a career in trade. His mother raised him according to high standards thinking he would have official duties with the monarchy but this did not occur. He married in secret in 1991 because he feared there would be disapproval over his choice of wife; a twice divorced mother of two. Prince Alexandre died in 2009 of pulmonary embolism.

Princess Marie-Christine is the second child of King Leopold III and Princess Lilian. She was born in 1951 in Laeken and has been, much the pity, the “black sheep” of the children of Leopold III. She was given the best upbringing her parents could give but in the end she totally rebelled against them and really all of her background completely. This would have been only moderately bad if she had chosen to go and live her own life but she instead tried to actually harm her family while still enjoying the privileges of her status. She has spread the most horrid lies about her youth and her family (Princess Lilian especially) and mocked the monarchy while living the high society life. She has been married twice, once in Canada and once in the United States and tried to become a famous actress without success. She publicly denounced her half-brother King Baudouin and refused to attend his funeral or that of her full brother Alexandre. She has also expressed republican sympathies. I am sorry but she is a bad princess!

Princess Marie-Esmeralda, the youngest child of Leopold III and Princess Lilian, is thankfully a much better person than her sister. She was born in Laeken in 1956 and, like the others, did not have an especially easy time growing up, much of the tensions probably resulting from the politically imposed division between the family that made the children of Princess Lilian somewhat of “second class” royals. However, Marie-Esmeralda had a more mature attitude than her sister and remained attached to her parents through the good and not so good times. She has defended King Leopold III and Princess Lilian from the heavy unfair criticism they have faced, before and even after their deaths. Using the name Esméralda de Réthy she succeeded in becoming a journalist and in 1998 in London married a British Honduras pharmacologist. She has happily had two children; a daughter and a son both born in London and she enjoys her work as a journalist and a writer as well as trying to continue the good works of her parents. She described her character as like that of her mother, in the good and bad ways.


  1. I was interested to see if you would cover the King's 'second batch'. I would also have to, sadly, agree on Princess Marie-Christine. God knows I've had a hard time with the actions of some royals but I love them anyway even if I don't love the things they do, but when it comes to attacking your own family in such a way...I think that's beyond the pale.

  2. I include them because they are the King's legitimate children and I do not think it was right how they and Princess Lilian were treated. As for Marie-Christine, she is the only one I do not like and like you say it is because of the betrayal. She's been a betrayal of her family and so really her country too I think. Don't like to talk about her, I rather ignore her and focus on the rest.

  3. Thank you for these summaries. I too have alot of trouble with M-C and it took me a long time before I posted on her. I tried to do it kindly, giving her the benefit of the doubt and so on but I do find her actions shocking and disturbing. And it's sad the way so many people, already prejudiced against Leopold and Lilian just swallow M-C's negative statements about them wholesale, ignoring the happier experiences of the five other children raised by this much-maligned couple.

  4. Thank you! That is why also I cannot be forgiving for her, because so much negative comments have already been made about the monarchie in the same time, plus her attitude toward King Baudouin was reprehensible and she does not seem to care at all about her own family so I feel not obligated to care for her too. When only one says such negative things and all other information is contrary I must discount her version.

  5. I also wanted to say, the picture of young Baudouin you have selected is so beautiful! At some point, I want to post on the family's captivity in Germany etc. in more detail. I have a sad picture of a forlorn-looking young Baudouin behind the barbed wires.