Belgium’s former queen Fabiola dies aged 86
Belgium's former queen Fabiola, the Spanish-born widow of the popular king Baudouin, who was at the centre of a recent row over her yearly allowance, died on Friday, the palace said. She was 86.
“Their majesties the king and queen and members of the royal family announce with very great sadness the death of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola this evening at Stuyvenberg Castle in Brussels,” a statement from the royal palace of King Philippe said.
Born Dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragon on June 11, 1928 in Madrid to Spanish nobility, she married Baudouin in December 1960 — the same year that Congo won its independence from Belgium.
The couple never had children.
The fifth queen of the Belgians, she withdrew from the public eye after the sudden death of King Baudouin in 1993 on holiday in Spain, while her brother-in-law Albert and Queen Paola took the throne.
Then in July 2013, she looked on as king Albert II passed the crown to her nephew Philippe, to whom she was close until her death.
Foreign minister Didier Reynders said all Belgians would mourn her passing.
“A page in our country’s history has turned,” he told Belgium’s RTL television.
Fabiola sparked uproar in Belgium in 2012 with the creation of a private foundation that was widely perceived as a way to avoid paying the country’s 70 percent inheritance tax.
She later dissolved the charitable vehicle, and her annual income from the state was reduced from 1.4 million euros ($1.8 million) to around 900,000 euros.
But the Spanish-born aristocrat was admired for her devout Roman Catholicism and involvement in social causes, especially those related to mental health, children’s issues and the status of women.
“She was loved by the people thanks to her spontaneity, that compensated for the rigidity and stiffness of Baudouin”, said Mark Van den Wijngaert, a historian at HUB University in Brussels.
At the death Baudoin, many said she would take refuge in a convent or return to her native Spain, but she remained in Belgium, the country that adopted her with open arms in 1959, when her engagement was first announced.
Fabiola also marked minds for wearing resplendent white to her husband’s funeral in an unexpected display of hope and resurrection instead of a mourning widow of tradition.
It was on a Catholic pilgrimage to Lourdes that the taciturn Beaudoin asked Fabiola for her hand in marriage. His queen was “chosen by the very holy virgin”, the late king would later write.
Once installed as Belgium’s new queen, Fabiola battled hard to weaken the influence of King Leopold III and his wife Lilian, who abdicated in 1950.
The family rift lasted until Leopold’s death.
Fabiola and Beaudouin never hid their “great suffering” of never having had children. Fabiola suffered five miscarriages in her life, a fate she said ultimately freed the royal couple to “love children, all the of them.”