Queen Fabiola’s funeral Mass was performed this Friday morning at Saint Michael and Saint Gudula Cathedral, in Brussels. As requested by the Queen in her will, the ceremony was marked by “simplicity” and “joy”, elements of the late Queen’s personality which were apparent in the texts and songs, all selected by the Queen before her death.
At precisely 10:00 a.m, Queen Fabiola’s white coffin entered St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral to the sound of an aria from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. It preceded the Belgian Royal family, who were visibly moved. The coffin chosen was in keeping with Queen Fabiola’s wishes. She had also opted for a white coffin for the burial of her husband, King Baudouin, in 1993.
Several high-profile socialites from both the European and the international scene attended, including the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and the Sovereigns of Sweden and Norway, along with Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Empress Michiko of Japan and Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand travelled all the way from South-East Asia. Prince Moulay Rachid represented Morocco.
His Grace, Bishop Léonard, primate of Belgium, then asked Archbishop Danneels to preside over the ceremony. A former primate of Belgium himself, Archbishop Danneels was a close friend of the royal couple’s.
That feeling of “joy” prevailed throughout the whole ceremony, and was also clear in the choice of biblical text readings, punctuated by meditative moments and lulled by the sounds of Bach and Mozart. In his homily, Archbishop Danneels paid tribute to the sovereign’s personality: “Our people became her people. She didn’t have any children, but by accepting us all, she had a great many, in the end”.
Princess Elisabeth was the first to read the prayer intentions, in Dutch. She was followed by Prince Gabriel and by Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg, who read the German. Prince Amedeo, Princess Louise read prayer intentions in English, and a Spanish cousin of Queen Fabiola’s, then spoke in turn. These speeches were translated and read in several languages, once again, to pay homage to the multilingual sovereign.
After the readings, José Van Dam gave a special performance, which was one of the highlights of the ceremony. The opera singer is a very close friend of the Belgian Royal family. His Bach recital enthralled the attendees.