Saturday, 18 February 2017

Belgium's Royals Remember

The King and Queen of the Belgians arriving at the mass remembering members of their country's royal family
(photo MonarchieBe Twitter)

The King and Queen of the Belgians have led commemorations at the mass held every year to remember the members of their country's royal family who have died. The service takes place on February 17th at Laeken where many members of Belgium's royal family are buried.

The service has been held since the 1930s when two royal deaths within eighteen months left both the family and the country in deep mourning. On February 17th 1934, King Albert I, the hugely popular monarch who had led Belgium through World War One died in a mountaineering accident at Marche-les-Dames. Widespread grief in Belgium and Europe followed. He was succeeded by his elder son, Leopold III, who took the throne alongside his hugely popular wife, Astrid, born a princess of Sweden. But on August 29th 1935, Queen Astrid was killed in a car accident at Kussnacht am Rigi in Switzerland. She, too, was widely mourned. The mass, held on the anniversary of Albert's death, became a focal point for grief and for remembrance.

Today, it commemorates all those members of the Belgian Royal Family who have passed away. This year, Philippe and Mathilde led commemorations at a difficult time for their family as the King of the Belgians' mother, Queen Paola, had just been hospitalised after a fall left her with a broken hip.

Despite that, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde carried out an extensive walkabout at Laeken where large crowds had gathered to see them.

They also spent time speaking to the big groups of school children who had come along for this royal event. The Belgian royal family's popularity continues to grow - almost four years after the abdication of Albert II and the start of the reign of Philippe, approval ratings remain consistent and both the King and Queen of the Belgians are building reputations at home and abroad for their commitment to major issues.

Over eighty years after their deaths, Albert I and Astrid remain seminal figures in Belgium's royal history.  Days like the memorial service remain a focal point for Belgium's royals both on a personal and public level. 

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