Sunday, September 9, 2018

Report: Memorial Mass for King Baudouin of the Belgians

By our "field reporter" Arjan.

On Saturday, 8 September, a memorial mass to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of King Baudouin of the Belgians took place at the Église Notre-Dame de Laeken in Brussels. As you might know, the late King was related to the reigning dynasties of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein. Most and foremost, Baudouin's sister was the late Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg (1927-2005), the mother of Henri, the current Grand Duke of Luxembourg. Princess Margaretha, youngest daughter of Joséphine-Charlotte, is married to Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein, younger brother of Hans-Adam, the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein.

Many members of the Belgians Royal Family and the Luxembourgish Grand Ducal Family attended the mass, plus Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein and their children.

As I live in the Netherlands and Brussels is only a 1,5-hour-drive from my house, I decided to go to Brussels to watch the event.

I arrived at the church at approximately 9.30am. The mass would start at 11am. There were only a handful of people waiting and I could stand almost exactly in front of the main entrance. I had expected this though: Belgian royal events don't usually attract many people, which emphasises how European monarchies differ in many ways. I killed time by chatting to some people and listening to some music. 

Then, two policemen asked whether I could identify myself and they wanted to search my bag. They were very friendly though and they said they asked me because they knew many people who were waiting from other events. Everything was okay, I even showed them my Twitter account to show them this was serious business to me!

Funny thing: The police said to the public that we were invited in the church to attend the mass! But: Bags were not allowed. So that was a problem for many people. Plus: Many had flowers and presents with them and wanted to make sure they could give those presents to the royals afterwards. So everybody stayed outside. And I did so too: I had a bag with me and I wanted to shake some hands if possible (you have a big chance to do so when you're surrounded by people with flowers!)

The first royal to arrive (quite early) was Princess Léa of Belgium, the widow of Prince Alexandre (a half-brother of King Baudouin). Apparently, she knew a lady who was standing near me, so I could take a few close ups of her.

Quite some time later, the first closer relatives of the late King arrived: Archduke Carl Christian and Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria with Carl Christian's mother, Archduchess Yolande. Archduchess Marie-Astrid is born a Princess of Luxembourg (sister of Grand Duke Henri and thus a niece of King Baudouin).

The next royals to arrive were Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein and their children Princess Maria-Anunciata, Princess Marie-Astrid and Prince Josef-Emanuel. Sadly, I could only take good pictures of Prince Nikolaus and Princess Maria-Anunciata, as they got out of the car on the left side of the car.

Photographing the Liechtensteins was especially difficult because at the same time another car arrived: Prince Guillaume (youngest brother of Grand Duke Henri) and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg with their children Prince Paul-Louis, Prince Léopold and Princess Charlotte. So I really had to disperse my attention! In the end, I could take some pictures of both families when they entered the church.

Then, a procession of cars arrived at the same time. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians got out of the first car.

Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg was the next to arrive. He was accompanied by his son Prince Louis. Although it was announced that his wife Grand Duchess Maria Teresa would also attend the mass, she was absent.

Although they were not announced to attend, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore of Belgium, the younger children of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, attended the mass.

In a minivan arrived Princess Astrid of Belgium and her husband Prince Lorenz (born Archduke of Austria-Este) with their son Prince Amedeo, daughter-in-law Princess Elisabetta and their daughters Princesses Maria Laura and Luisa Maria. Prince Laurent arrived as well.

After the mass, that lasted for about one and a half hours, King Philippe, Queen Mathilde, their children and Grand Duke Henri were the first to exit the church. 

While the King and Queen and their children immediately went to the public, the Grand Duke stood in the background. But then the lady next to me (the one with the flowers and the presents) called him and he came to her. I could take some close ups and I ended up shaking his hand as well!

After that, many people exited the church, not at all in order of precedence. Only members of the Belgian Royal Family exited the church through the main door. As I expected, the minor family members appeared to have left through a side door.

I also shook some more royal hands: Queen Mathilde, Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel and Princess Eléonore. Princess Léa also walked by again.

An unexpected guest: Hélène Vestur, the first wife of Prince Jean of Luxembourg (brother of Grand Duke Henri was also a guest). Here she's talking to Prince Louis. It's interesting that she attended, while neither her former husband and nor any of their children did.

 More royal handshakes from King Philippe and Prince Laurent!

It was nice to see that Princess Astrid and her family took a lot of time to chat to the public and pose for pictures. In the end, they were the last to leave. I also shook Princess Astrid's hand.

But in the end, Prince Lorenz seemed to want to leave and he gently escorted his wife to the car!

So now everyone had left. I decided to walk to the side door; perhaps I could see some other royal relative there, preparing to leave. And I was not disappointed: I immediately recognized Archduke Carl Christian and Archduchess Marie-Astrid, chatting to some people. Archduchess Yolande was already in the car and I could see them drive away.

But after only a few yards, the car stopped again. Apparently, Archduchess Yolande had to step in another car. Carl Christian and Marie-Astrid then left together.

In the meantime, the church had been opened for the public. I could take some pictures of the interior and I managed to get my hands on one of the last remaining liturgy booklets in the church!

Then I went to the Royal Crypt, the last resting place of the members of the Belgian Royal Family. It's only rarely accessible for the public, so this was a special occasion for me, as I had never been there. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde had placed a wreath before the tomb of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola as apparently, the family went down the crypt at the end of the mass.

The tomb of King Leopold I and Queen Louise-Marie.

The tomb of King Leopold II and Queen Marie-Henriette.

The tomb of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth.

The tomb of King Leopold III, Queen Astrid and Princess Lilian (the second wife of King Leopold III).

The graves of Prince Charles (brother of Kind Leopold III) and Princess Joséphine (sister of King Albert I).

The grave of Prince Alexandre, the half-brother of Kings Baudouin and Albert II and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte. I guess the flowers had been laid there by his widow Princess Léa.

The grave of Empress Carlota of Mexico (born Princess Charlotte of Belgium), daughter of King Leopols I.

The grave of Prince Leopold Emmanuel of Liechtenstein, who lived for only a day. He was the first son of Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein.

After that, it was time to go home. I had a wonderful day and I was completely satisfied!

I hope you've enjoyed reading my report and make sure you follow me on Twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment