Members of the royal family and the government gather in Laeken at the weekend to commemorate the death of Belgium’s fourth king, Baudouin, on the 25th anniversary of his death. Baudouin was the son of Leopold III, but died childless, leaving the throne to his younger brother Albert, who stepped down in 2013 in favour of his son Philippe, who continues to reign.
Baudouin was survived by his wife Fabiola, a Spanish princess, who died in 2014.
Baudouin took the throne over in 1951, years after the liberation of the Second World War, and despite the existence of his elder sister Josephine Charlotte, whom he preceded at the time in the succession to the throne.
Remarkable by his absence at the ceremony at the weekend was Baudouin’s brother and successor King Albert II, now aged 84, who is on holiday in the south of France. And while the present king Philippe was present with his wife and three of their children, another absentee was crown princess Elisabeth, who is now attending school in Wales.
The ceremony was led by Cardinal Jozef De Kezel, head of the Catholic church in Belgium. In his homily, he described King Baudouin as “a righteous man” and “a king and monarch with a great and noble heart”. And he recalled the huge crowds who turned out in the streets to mark the passing of the king:
“Old people, the poor, refugees, victims of human trafficking,”, he said referring to a particular concern of both king and queen. “For them he always had a sympathetic ear. He saw them never as victims, but always as people whose humanity had to be recognised”.