Astrid of Sweden

Astrid of Sweden (17 November 1905 – 29 August 1935) was the Queen of the Belgians as the first wife of King Leopold III. Originally a princess of Sweden of the House of Bernadotte, Astrid became the Duchess of Brabant after her marriage to Leopold in November 1926. She became queen of the Belgians after the accession of her husband on 17 February 1934 until her death. Astrid's only daughter, Joséphine-Charlotte, later became Grand Duchess consort of Luxembourg, while both of her sons reigned as King of the Belgians. Astrid was also a sister of Crown Princess Märtha of Norway (wife of King Olav V) and a maternal aunt of King Harald V of Norway.

Astrid of Sweden
Astrid av Sverige.jpg
Queen Astrid in 1935
Queen consort of the Belgians
Tenure17 February 1934 – 29 August 1935
BornPrincess Astrid of Sweden
(1905-11-17)17 November 1905
Arvfurstens palats, Stockholm, Sweden
Died29 August 1935(1935-08-29) (aged 29)
Küssnacht am Rigi, Schwyz, Switzerland
Burial3 September 1935
Spouse
(m. 1926)
Issue
Full name
Astrid Sofia Lovisa Thyra[1]
HouseBernadotte
FatherPrince Carl, Duke of Västergötland
MotherPrincess Ingeborg of Denmark

Early lifeEdit

 
Astrid with her mother and sisters

Princess Astrid was born on 17 November 1905, at the Arvfurstens Palats in Stockholm as the third child and youngest daughter of Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland, and his wife, Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Her father was the third son of Oscar II, King of Sweden and Norway, by his wife, Sophia of Nassau. Her mother was a daughter of King Frederick VIII of Denmark by his wife, Louise of Sweden. Astrid's father was a younger brother of King Gustav V of Sweden, and her mother was the younger sister of kings Christian X of Denmark and Haakon VII of Norway.

Astrid had two elder sisters Margaretha, Princess Axel of Denmark, and Märtha, Crown Princess of Norway, and a younger brother Prince Carl Bernadotte (prev. Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Östergötland).

Astrid spent most of her childhood at Arvfurstens Palace in central Stockholm and at the family's summer residence in Fridhem. Astrid was raised in the strict education and without much luxury. Astrid attended the Sint Botvid boarding school, where lessons were taught in French. She then went to Akerstrom-Soderstrom finishing school.[2] She studied sewing, piano, ballet and childcare.

As did many princesses of the time, Astrid was encouraged to undertake works of public service in preparation for a life devoted to charitable causes. She worked for a time at a Stockholm orphanage, caring for infants.[3] She also completed a home economics course at a Swedish school dedicated to preparing women for domestic lives.[3]

Astrid enjoyed the outdoors and sports such as swimming, skiing, climbing, horseback riding, and golf.[3] She and her sisters were occasionally seen shopping unaccompanied on the streets of Stockholm.[3]

Engagement and weddingEdit

 
Astrid and Leopold's engagement photograph

As an eligible princess, Astrid was mentioned as a potential bride for a number of princes including the future Edward VIII of the United Kingdom and the future Olav V of Norway. Astrid's successful suitor was Prince Leopold of Belgium, Duke of Brabant.

In September 1926, their engagement was announced. King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium invited the press to the royal palace in Brussels. "The Queen and I," declared Albert, "would like to announce to you the impending marriage between Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant and the Princess Astrid of Sweden. We are convinced that the princess will bring joy and happiness to our son. Leopold and Astrid have decided to join their lives without any pressures or reasons of state. Theirs is a true union among people with the same inclinations." Queen Elisabeth said: "It is a marriage of love... tell it to our people. Nothing was arranged. Not a single political consideration prevailed in our son's decision."

 
Astrid and Leopold on their wedding day

In Stockholm on 4 November 1926 civilly and in Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, Brussels on 10 November religiously, Princess Astrid married Prince Leopold. The couple travelled separately to Antwerp after their civil marriage, to be reunited in Belgium. For the religious marriage, the couple were attended by a large wedding party of young friends and relatives: Princess Feodora of Denmark, Princess Marie-José of Belgium, Princess Märtha of Sweden, Princess Ingrid of Sweden, Alfhild Ekelund, Prince Carl of Sweden, Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden, Crown Prince Olav of Norway, Margareta Stähl, Count Claes Sparre, Anna Adelswärd, Prince Charles of Belgium, Count Folke Bernadotte, Baron Sigvard Beck-Friis, Anne Marie von Essen, and Baron Carl Strömfelt.[4]

Princess Astrid was given a tiara as a wedding gift from the Belgian government, created by Belgian jeweler Van Bever, the original version of the diadem is a flexible diamond bandeau in a stylized Greek key motif topped with 11 large diamonds on spikes. These large stones, totaling around 100 carats on their own, symbolize the nine provinces of Belgium and the (now former) Belgian colony of the Congo. She later added a set of diamond arches to enclose each of the 11 independent stones. After Astrid's death the tiara was in the possession of King Leopold, and his second wife Lilian, Princess of Réthy wore parts of the tiara but not the full gem (Lilian never held the title of Queen). Leopold abdicated the throne in favor of his son Baudouin; when Baudouin married, Leopold gave the tiara to the new queen. Fabiola, Belgium's first queen since Astrid, wore it on her wedding day. She handed the jewel over after Baudouin's death to be worn by Queen Paola who, after the abdication of her husband Albert, gave it to Mathilde new Queen of the Belgians.

Duchess of BrabantEdit

Astrid and her husband spent their honeymoon in south of France before moving into a wing of the Royal Palace of Brussels. After the honeymoon period, Astrid began learning French and Dutch.[5]

Astrid was enthusiastically adopted by the Belgians. She was widely loved for her beauty, charm and simplicity. Her public and official engagements radiated enthusiasm. As Duchess of Brabant, she worked tirelessly to alleviate various forms of adversity.[6] Leopold was her most fervent admirer. The love shared by the young couple was evident to all. On more than one occasion people could see them holding hands, even during official engagements.

 
Astrid and Leopold visiting Alfa Romeo in Italy

In October 1927, Leopold and Astrid had a daughter, Princess Joséphine-Charlotte (later Grand Duchess of Luxembourg). The birth of her only daughter had been a tough period for Astrid.[5] One year later, she and her husband visited the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).[7] Upon their return from Dutch East Indies, they moved into Stuyvenberg Castle.[5] In September 1930, Astrid gave birth to Prince Baudouin, who eventually became King of the Belgians. She and her family lived at Stuyvenberg, not far away from the Royal Castle of Laeken.

Raised as a Lutheran, Astrid converted to Catholicism after marrying Leopold. She had initially considered converting to Catholicism, simply because it was the religion of Belgium, but the priest she consulted, Father William Hemmick, told her not to do so until she genuinely believed it was the true religion.[8] Astrid learned more about Catholicism and, several years later, in 1930, converted from genuine conviction. Her decision made her happy, and she confided to a close childhood friend: "My soul has found peace."[9] Her father-in-law, King Albert I, who was very devout himself, repeated, on the day of Astrid's conversion: "I am glad, very glad. Now all the family is united in the same religion."[10]

In 1932, Astrid and her husband traveled Asia and Congo. Their children stayed with Astrid’s parents in Sweden.[5]

QueenEdit

On 17 February 1934, King Albert I died in a mountain-climbing accident in Marche-les-Dames, Belgium. Leopold and Astrid became the new King and Queen of the Belgians with the style of Majesty. Later that year, the third child of Leopold and Astrid was born. He was named Albert after his grandfather, and would eventually succeed his brother Baudouin as King of the Belgians.

As a queen of the Belgians, Astrid dedicated her time to raising her children and promoting social causes which brought her into contact with the Belgians.[11] She was very concerned with the situation of women, children, and disadvantaged people. During an economic crisis in Belgium in 1935, she organized a collection of clothing, money and food for the poor. She did this through an open letter, which was published as the "Queen’s Appeal". Queen Astrid also visited many poor settlements in Belgium.[12]

Queen Astrid was particularly interested in training women formally in childcare and healthcare.[13] She also supported the training of young girls as dressmakers so they would have better career opportunities.[13] She supports Catholic charitable institutions, such as the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul and liberal organizations, such as the Fédération des Foyers Belges.[13] She also gave audiences to advocates of women's rights such as Baroness Marthe Boël, president of the National Council of Belgian Women.[13]

In May 1935, Queen Astrid patronized Milk Week, an effort to encourage Belgians to drink healthy beverages. She took this opportunity to charge Gatien du Parc, one of her courtiers, with the task of preparing a detailed report on milk regulations in foreign countries.[13]

DeathEdit

 
Funeral of Astrid
 
Astrid chapel in Küssnacht am Rigi

In August 1935, the King and Queen went incognito to Switzerland on holiday. Prince Albert remained in Brussels. Only one year old, he was considered too young for the journey. Joséphine-Charlotte and Baudouin had travelled with their parents to their holiday home, Villa Haslihorn in Horw, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. The placid vacation allowed Leopold and Astrid to spend considerable time walking and climbing in the countryside. The children were sent back to Belgium with their nannies on 28 August.

On 29 August 1935, the King and Queen decided to go for a last hike in the mountains before returning home. Their chauffeur was sitting in the back of the Packard One-Twenty convertible, the King was driving and the Queen looking at a map, helping her husband with directions to their destination. Just a few minutes before arriving, the Queen pointed out something to her husband, Leopold took his eyesight away from the road for an instant and suddenly the car went off the road, down a steep slope, and slammed into a pear tree. Queen Astrid had opened her door to try to get out, but she was thrown out upon impact. Her body collided with the trunk of the tree, while the car slammed into a second tree. King Leopold was thrown out of the car as well, but he was only lightly injured. The car went on, only to stop in a lake. It was 9:30 am on 29 August 1935. The Queen died from her injuries at the scene of the accident at Küssnacht am Rigi, near Lake Lucerne, Schwyz, Switzerland. Witnesses recalled a single scream, "Astrid", as a devasted Leopold held her bloodied body next to his chest.

Queen Astrid is interred in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken, Brussels, beside her husband, King Leopold III, and his second wife, Lilian, Princess of Réthy.

LegacyEdit

The queen was deeply mourned by her husband, King Leopold, by the Belgians, and by the Swedes. In 1935, the Belgian postal authorities issued a postage stamp showing her portrait outlined in black, known as the Astrid Mourning issue. Later that same year, it released a series of anti-tuberculosis fund stamps with the same design.[14]

A commemorative chapel was built in Switzerland at the site of the crash. The chapel has become a destination for Swedish and Belgian tourists. A museum nearby holds images and memorabilia of the event, including a shard from the windscreen and the log of the pear tree. The tree itself was felled by a storm in 1992. The car was sunk at a deep part of the Vierwaldstättersee at the request of the king.[15]

A memorial was built by the architect Paul Bonduelle in Laeken, Belgium, and inaugurated on 21 July 1938. The building, which is in the late neo-classical style, faces the Church of Our Lady of Laeken and backs onto the Palace of Laeken. The same year, on the initiative of the local Veterans' Front, a bronze bust of the Queen was erected in Wisterzée Park in Court-Saint-Étienne, Belgium, by sculptor Victor Rousseau.

As of May 2020, two of her grandchildren are reigning monarchs; King Philippe of Belgium and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. She was also a maternal aunt of King Harald V of Norway. Four of her female descendants have been named Astrid to honour her, her granddaughters Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria, Princess Astrid of Belgium, her great-granddaughter Princess Marie-Astrid of Liechtenstein, and her great-great-granddaughter Archduchess Anna Astrid of Austria-Este. Her niece Princess Astrid of Norway (later Mrs. Ferner) was named to honour her.[16]

Astrid Avenue in Bogor Botanical Garden in Indonesia (formerly Dutch East Indies) was named after her when she was honeymooning there with her spouse in 1928, the avenue is decorated with spectacular display of canna lilies of various colors.[17][18]

The popular Swedish layer cake Princess cake was named after Astrid and her two sisters when they were children.

Titles, styles, honours and armsEdit

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 17 November 1905 – 4 November 1926: Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid of Sweden
  • 4 November 1926 – 17 February 1934: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Brabant
  • 17 February 1934 – 29 August 1935: Her Majesty The Queen of the Belgians

HonoursEdit

ArmsEdit

 
Alliance Coat of Arms of King Leopold III
and Queen Astrid of Belgium
 
Royal Monogram of Queen Astrid
of Belgium

AncestryEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Catherine Barjansky. "Portraits with Backgrounds."
  • Art Beeche. "The Snow Princess."
  • Robert Capelle. "Dix-huit ans auprès du Roi Léopold."
  • Charles d'Ydewalle. "Albert and the Belgians: Portrait of a King."
  • Evelyn Graham. "Albert King of the Belgians."
  • Luciano Regolo. "La Regina Incompresa."
  • Lars Rooth. "More Joy Than Pain."
  • Anna Sparre. "Astrid mon amie."
  1. ^ Burke's Royal Families of the World ISBN 0 85011 023 8 p. 514 (spelling of her full name as baptized)
  2. ^ "Astrid of Sweden – Queen of Hearts". History of Royal Women.
  3. ^ a b c d McMahon, Emily. "Wedding of King Leopold III of the Belgians and Princess Astrid of Sweden". Unofficial Royalty. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  4. ^ McMahon, Emily. "Wedding of Leopold III and Astrid of Sweden". Unofficial Royalty.
  5. ^ a b c d "Astrid of Sweden – Queen of Hearts". History of Royal Women.
  6. ^ "Princess Astrid (1905-35)". Swedish Royal Court.
  7. ^ Priherdityo, Endro (16 March 2016). "Kisah Cinta Putri Belgia Masih Tersimpan di Kebun Raya Bogor" [The Memory of Belgian Princess's Love Story Is Still Saved in the Bogor Botanical Garden]. CNN Indonesia (in Indonesian). Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  8. ^ More Joy Than Pain, 1991, by Lars Rooth pp. 84–85
  9. ^ Quoted by Anna Sparre in Astrid mon amie, 2005, p. 128
  10. ^ Quoted by Charles d'Ydewalle in Albert and the Belgians: Portrait of a King, 2005, p. 259
  11. ^ "Queen Astrid of Belgium". Unofficial Royalty. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  12. ^ Sparre, Anna. Astrid mon amie, 2005.
  13. ^ a b c d e Koninckx, Christian. Astrid:1905-1935 (2005). pp. 103-115.
  14. ^ Stanley Gibbons Simplified catalogue. Stamps of the World, 1985 Edition
  15. ^ Der belgische König kommt nach Küssnacht Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine Neue Zürcher Zeitung
  16. ^ "Princess Astrid celebrates her 80th birthday". Norwegian Royal House. 11 February 2012. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  17. ^ "Taman Astrid - Kebun Raya Bogor". Lovely Bogor (in Indonesian).
  18. ^ Priherdityo, Endro (16 March 2016). "Kisah Cinta Putri Belgia Masih Tersimpan di Kebun Raya Bogor" [The Memory of Belgian Princess's Love Story Is Still Saved in the Bogor Botanical Garden]. CNN Indonesia (in Indonesian). Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  19. ^ https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/df/32/21/df322157135717c6c324c204c1264ae8.jpg

External linksEdit

Astrid of Sweden
Born: 17 November 1905 Died: 29 August 1935
Belgian royalty
Preceded by
Elisabeth of Bavaria
Queen consort of the Belgians
1934–1935
Vacant
Title next held by
Fabiola de Mora y Aragón