On Monday, royals from throughout Europe headed to Spain to remember a late monarch, uncle, and friend: King Baudouin of Belgium.
Thirty years ago this summer, King Baudouin of Belgium suddenly passed away at the age of 62. He’d reigned as Belgium’s monarch from 1951 until 1993. In this year’s National Day speech, King Philippe paid tribute to his late uncle, who was one of his most beloved mentors.
King Baudouin was the elder son of King Leopold III of Belgium and Princess Astrid of Sweden. He became monarch in July 1951, at the age of 20, when his father abdicated. Leopold III had been the focus of intense criticism and pressure over his possible collaboration with the Germans during World War II, and the abdication was the final answer to a years-long political crisis known in Belgium as the “Royal Question.”
Baudouin was a solitary, introverted figure during his first decade on the throne, so much so that one of his mentors, Cardinal Leo Suenens, decided to find the king a bride. He collaborated with a nun, Sister Veronica O’Brien, who found the perfect candidate: Doña Fabiola Mora y Aragón. She was part of a Spanish noble family with ties to the exiled Spanish royals—Queen Ena was her godmother—and she was pious and dedicated, but with an effervescent personality. Baudouin and Fabiola were introduced and fell in love, marrying in Brussels on December 15, 1960.
Baudouin and Fabiola ended up having one of the happiest and most successful royal marriages of the 20th century, but sadly, they were never able to have children. Fabiola endured five miscarriages in the 1960s.
Unable to have children of their own, Baudouin and Fabiola focused their love on their many nieces and nephews, including the three children of Baudouin’s brother, Albert, and the five children of his sister, Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg. Albert and Paola’s troubled marriage meant that their children often found themselves without parental attention, and Baudouin and Fabiola stepped in to play major roles in their upbringing. Prince Philippe, who was understood from early on to be the future heir to the Belgian throne, became particularly close to his uncle.
The affection between Philippe and his aunt and uncle is evident in photographs taken throughout his early life, including this portrait taken at Laeken in 1990, the year Philippe turned 30.
This cozy family photograph, taken at Baudouin and Fabiola’s cottage, Villa Fridhem, was taken during the couple’s silver anniversary celebrations. Prince Albert and Princess Paola are joined by Prince Philippe. Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte’s daughter, Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein, is pictured sitting beside Philippe, while Fabiola holds Margaretha’s infant daughter, Princess Maria-Anunciata.
Baudouin and Fabiola also maintained close ties with family and friends in Fabiola’s native Spain. Among these friends were King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, pictured here with Baudouin and Fabiola in 1978.
Baudouin and Fabiola also purchased a holiday home in Spain in 1972. Villa Astrida, named for his late mother, is located in Motril, a Mediterranean coastal town in Granada. Fabiola and Baudouin are pictured at the vacation home above in 1977.
The Belgian royal court has released several images of the late monarch at Villa Astrida to coincide with the 30th anniversary of his death, including this picture of Baudouin and Philippe relaxing in the living room.
King Baudouin suffered from heart problems, undergoing an operation to correct a mitral valve prolapse in the spring of 1992. But it was still a major shock when he died of a heart attack at the Villa Astrida in Spain on July 31, 1993. He’d made one of his final public appearances, on Belgium’s National Day in Brussels, just ten days earlier. He was succeeded by his brother, King Albert II.
Baudouin passed away in his favorite chair, where he spent hours reading, at the villa in Motril. A new statue of the late king has been erected in the town to commemorate his links to the area, showing him sitting as he did in that beloved spot.
The statue’s inauguration was part of a memorial conducted on Monday to the memory of the late king. The ceremony was attended by several members of his extended family, including King Philippe, who arrived in Motril with his younger daughter, Princess Eleonore.
There, they greeted several other royal family members and friends, including Queen Sofia of Spain. The late Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte’s family was represented by several of her children and grandchildren, including Princess Marie-Astrid, Princess Margaretha, and Prince Guillame.
Here, several local dignitaries, family members, and friends pose together during the gathering. From left to right, we’ve got Prince Nikolaus of Liechtenstein, husband of Princess Margaretha; Luisa García Chamorro, the mayor of Motril; Leticia Ruiz de Ojeda Silva, Queen Fabiola’s great-niece; Queen Sofia; King Philippe; Princess Eleonore; Inmaculada López Calahorro, a Granada government representative; and Francisco Javier Martínez Fernández, the Archbishop Emeritus of Granada.
Family members attended a memorial mass in the late king’s honor during their time in Motril.
They also shared memories and delivered remarks during an inauguration ceremony for the memorial.
Here, several members of the family are pictured during the commemorations. You’ll spot Prince Guillaume and Princess Sibilla of Luxembourg behind King Philippe and Queen Sofia. (Princess Sibilla has Spanish royal ties as well—she’s a great-granddaughter of King Alfonso XIII and Queen Ena.)
Queen Sofia wore relaxed resort wear for the memorial: a silky patterned blouse and jacket, white trousers, and espadrilles.
As is her usual move these days, she piled on the jewelry as well, wearing colorful earrings and a variety of necklaces.
Princess Eleonore was cool in a white dress and brown sandals.
She wore small diamond stud earrings with delicate necklaces, bracelets, and rings. One of the necklaces (identified by UFO No More) is an Aries zodiac sign pendant by Maje. (Eleonore was born on April 16, a birthday she shares with Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.)
Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein, the younger daughter of Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg, wore an elegant printed midi dress to honor her late uncle.
She accessorized with floral button earrings, a beaded necklace, and pearl bracelets. Margaretha inherited jewelry from the late Queen Fabiola, and some of these pieces do have a vintage look about them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were connected to Baudouin and Fabiola in some way.