The Royal Articles -
Queen Fabiola: the Woman Behind the Hairdo
LadyLeana works as a translation manager and lives in the beautiful city of Ghent, Belgium. She has recently decided to combine her love of writing with her equally great love of royalty.  
By LadyLeana
Published on 12/4/2008
She has had the same hairdo for fifty years, but Queen Fabiola of Belgium has nevertheless moved with the times. From her childhood as a Spanish aristocrat during wartime to her experiences as a nurse to her marriage to the King of the Belgians to her long widowhood, her warmth, strength of character, and interest in her fellow human beings have ensured that she has become one of the most memorable and beloved Queens of the 20th century.

In June 2008, Queen Fabiola of Belgium celebrated her 80th birthday surrounded by family and friends. She was the First Lady of Belgium for nearly 33 years, until a sudden heart attack took her beloved husband away. There are opinions galore about the Queen widow. She has been described as both a “Spanish witch” and a conservative Catholic. She was the Mother of all Belgians, as well as their Queen. Her charisma and unparalleled style put Belgium on the international map. She was the first western woman to ever be admitted to the throne room of the Moroccan King Hassan II. During her life as Queen of the Belgians, she was one with the King. But who was she without him? And who is she now? In this article I would like to make a sketch of the life and character of the woman who made le roi triste smile.

Before Baudouin

On Monday, 11 June 1928, a baby girl was born in the palace of the de Mora y Aragon family at the Calle Zurbano in Madrid.  She was named Fabiola Fernanda Maria de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragon. She  was the sixth child and third daughter of Don Gonzalo de Mora Fernández Riera del Olmo and Doña Blanca de Aragon y Carillo de Albornoz Barroeta-Aldamar y Elio. That same day, a kerosene stove exploded in the staff quarters of the palace. One of the servants laconically remarked that one day fireworks will be lighted for this girl… How right she was! Some thirty years later, that same baby would be Queen of the Belgians.

Fabiola de Mora y Aragon was lucky enough to be born into a noble and rich family. Her father’s family had amassed their wealth through mine concessions, and had gained a title through the marriage of her great-grandfather to the sister of a Marquis. Her mother, on the other hand, belonged to an ancient noble bloodline, which can be traced back to the Kings of Aragon among others. The de Mora y Aragons moved in the higher social circles, and were friends with the Spanish King Alfonso XIII.  Queen Victoria Eugenia - Queen Ena, as she is more commonly known -  became godmother to the little Fabiola.

Fabiola had three brothers, Gonzalo (or Gonzalito), Alejandro, and Jaime (or Jimmy, as he was also called), and three sisters, Neva, Ana-Maria, and Maria del Luz, also called Maria Luz, who was Fabiola’s junior, and also the sister she liked best and was closest to. Several sources say that Fabiola and Maria Luz called each other “my twin.”

During the first years of Fabiola’s life, her beloved Spain was in turmoil. Only three years after she was born, the Spanish people voted against the monarchy in a referendum. The King left Spain in exile and settled in Paris. The de Mora y Aragon family moved to Biarritz, France, close to the Spanish border, to escape the turmoil in their country, hoping that they would be able to return soon. Being pious Catholics, they feared the consequences of a left-wing government. They travelled back and forth to Paris to socialize with the exiled King, who organized his household there. When General Franco finally restored peace in 1933, Don Gonzalo decided to move back to Madrid, but only three years later unrest broke out again, and the Spanish civil war really began.

Don Gonzalo was in Paris with his wife and two of his children when this happened. Fabiola and the other children were at the summer residence in Zarauz, close to San Sebastian. Their German governess, Josephine, decided to try to get the children out of the country, but the eldest son, Gonzalito, refused to come along: he wanted to stay and fight. Josephine first tried to escape to France with the other children by train. Unfortunately, the trains were so loaded with refugees that the axles broke. Then she tried to get the children on a British boat, for which they had to pretend to be British citizens. The children all spoke English fluently, and they would have gotten away with the deception if a secretary from the British consulate had not recognized them. They had to disembark. Some days later, Josephine tried the same tactic, this time with a German boat. The children also spoke German fluently, thanks to  Josephine and their butler,  who was Austrian. This time, luckily, the five of them got away from Spain and they arrived safely in Biarritz, to be reunited with their parents. So the young Fabiola was a boat refugee at the age of eight.

The family stayed in Biarritz for a few days, but they decided to await the end of the war in Paris, where the family owned an apartment. Doña Blanca, though a devout Catholic, thoroughly enjoyed the life in the city of lights. She was an elegant lady who liked to attend the theatre and the opera. Unfortunately, the Spanish civil war filtered through to the French capital. There were protest rallies all over Paris, and anyone who appeared to be a Spanish noble was in danger of suffering verbal and physical abuse. Don Gonzalo decided to move to Lausanne, in neutral Switzerland, until the end of the war. The family resided in the Hotel Royal for three years. Fabiola and Maria Luz went to school in Lausanne and learned to speak French.

In 1939, the Spanish civil war ended. Aided by Hitler and Mussolini, General Franco had won. The de Mora y Aragon family returned to Madrid to find their home in ruins. It had been used by the communist fighter Dolores Ibarruri Gomez, who had made it the headquarters of the revolutionary women. The fact that their eldest son Gonzalito had survived the war lessened the bitterness of their arrival, and the family soon was restored to their place in the highest social circles.

Life for Doña Fabiola continued as normal for a girl in that social class. Soon the time came when she was introduced into society. For her first ball, at 18, she wore a dress designed by friend of the family, Christóbal Balenciaga, who would also design her wedding dress some ten years later. However beautiful and festive she looked, young Fabiola wasn’t much of a party girl: she returned home by midnight from her first ball. After a while, she went to parties only when chaperoning a friend.

 Like most girls of her age and class, Fabiola filled her days with voluntary work, which satisfied her to no end. Every night she came home, tired but content. As all her brothers and sisters married and left the house, Fabiola remained with her parents, almost to the chagrin of her mother, who was convinced that she would never marry. Fabiola herself didn’t seem to share her mother’s concern, reputedly saying to her sister Maria Luz that she would never marry any man unless she truly loved him. She continued to indulge her love of children and perform her voluntary work for the homeless and the poor in Madrid.

In November 1957, tragedy struck the family unexpectedly. Don Gonzalo died after a nasty fall in a badly lit church. The death of the Marquis left his family inconsolable. But even in those difficult times, Fabiola showed her strength and care for others. Christmas followed less than a month after her father's death. Traditionally, Fabiola organized a Christmas party for the servants. Everyone was still too shocked by the death of their master to care about Christmas, and so they were astonished when, on Christmas Eve, Fabiola burst into their quarters carrying presents for all of them. The death of her father made such an impression on the young woman that she decided to become a nurse. Together with some friends, she started training as a private nurse in the military hospital of Gómez Ulla. When she finished her education, she was already 29. She continued to work in the military hospital afterwards, assisting surgeons and attending to officers in the sickbay.

In 1958, Fabiola decided to buy her own apartment, not far from her parental home. Even though she had her own rooms in the palace at the Calle Zurbano, she felt she needed her own place. Her days always followed the same routine. In the morning, she attended church, a habit she still continues. After church she visited her mother, and they had breakfast together. During the day she worked in the military hospital, and in the evening she returned to her mother's home for dinner.

Fabiola was and is emancipated insofar that as she is proud of her independence. She lived in her own apartment at a time when unmarried daughters usually stayed at home. She knew how to drive and had her own car, a Seat 600, even though the family had a driver. She was never a feminist like the Belgian Queen Elisabeth, but she certainly made a stand for women’s rights for independence throughout her life.

Several stories circulate which say that she was engaged to a Spanish nobleman, but the reason for breaking off the engagement is not known. Some say it was because a gynaecological exam had revealed that she would be infertile, but according to several sources Fabiola herself said that she had broken off the engagement because the man was a diplomat and she would have had to move abroad. Another story that circulates, ironically enough both about Fabiola and her husband Baudouin, is that both at one point would have considered taking the veil/habit. There is no evidence where Fabiola is concerned. On the contrary, the fact that she followed a “marriage course” – to which she graduated summa cum laude - would indicate that she believed she would marry one day, and she was determined to do all in her power to make her marriage work. Her never-ending love of children also indicates that she would be happier as a mother than a Mother Superior.  

Engagement and Marriage

On Friday 16 September 1960 the world - at least Belgium - came to a standstill. People all over the country froze in their activities while the Brabançonne resounded and Prime Minister Gaston Eyskens announced the engagement of their beloved King to an unknown Spanish lady, Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragon. For once, politicians were lost for words. Court dignitaries were thunderstruck. The palace spokesman had only one day to organize the most important press conference of his life. Nobody knew who she was, what she looked like, and where, exactly, she came from.

When she was presented to the press in the gardens of Ciergnon Castle, the journalists could not find the words to describe their future Queen. Though not an undisputed beauty, Fabiola enchanted the press with her charisma, her easy smiles, and her openness. And, as if it wasn’t clear before, the King smiled, really smiled. He was so happy that he could finally present his future wife to his people that he even managed to crack a joke. Only a few days before, the papers had published an article in which they speculated about the King taking the habit, something he undoubtedly knew and had a good laugh about, since he remarked to one of the journalists that he had been undecided for a long time: “Trappist or marriage… It seems that I have chosen.”

Yes, the King had chosen. But how had they met? Fabiola and Baudouin themselves just smiled at each other and said “That’s a story we will tell our children,” when someone asked this question. So the press started digging and came up with several plausible and less plausible stories.

In one version, Fabiola and Baudouin met at a party in 1955, given by mutual friends. The King presented himself as a Belgian noble, and Fabiola had not recognized him because he had put his eyeglasses in his pocket. They instantly felt a mutual attraction and kept in touch. Of course this would mean that the King had been able to keep Fabiola a secret for almost five years, which, even in those days, would have been unlikely. King Baudouin was, after all, one of the most eligible bachelors in Europe, if not the world.

Another version plays with the idea of a royal matchmaker. Queen Ena, Fabiola’s godmother, supposedly had invited the Belgian King to visit her in Switzerland in 1957, where she was planning for him to meet one of her granddaughters, hoping that the King would fall for her charms. To make the meeting look less suspicious, she invited her goddaughter along as well. Unfortunately, the King was much more impressed by Fabiola, and Fabiola herself fell deeply in love with him. Séguy and Michelland (1995) describe in detail the torments Fabiola presumably went through: how she consulted with her priest, how he told her to go and visit the Brussels Expo of 1958, and ask for an audience with the King while she was there. But Fabiola, even though she visited the Expo, did not have the courage to ask for an audience, and returned home without seeing him. How tantalizing that must have been: so close and yet so far… Luckily for her, she still had her (fairy) godmother, who, with the help of (then) Hereditary Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte, Baudouin’s sister, arranged for a new meeting between the two of them. This time, they agreed to keep seeing each other, which resulted in secret meetings all over Europe.

A third and, since 1995, most commonly believed theory about their meeting is the story of Cardinal Suenens, who was one of the King’s closest confidants. In his book, Suenens talks about his role as a clerical matchmaker. Baudouin, according, to the cardinal, had informed him that he was really desperate to get married, and asked for his help. The cardinal introduced the King to Sister Veronica O’Brien in March 1960, who, on their first meeting, addressed him as Mister King. After a long conversation and after receiving a nocturnal vision of the Virgin Mary, Sister Veronica left for Madrid, where she met the papal nuncio Monsignor Antoniutti. He, in his turn, sent the Sister to the principal of a girls' school, who then referred her to Fabiola de Mora y Aragon. On their first meeting, Sister Veronica saw a picture in Fabiola’s apartment, of which she had dreamt the night before. The devout Sister saw this as an omen, and tried to persuade the young noblewoman to accept the King’s hand. But Fabiola kindly explained that she had her roots in Spain, and was not interested in a marriage with the Belgian King.  Sister Veronica didn’t give in. In a letter to the King, she described Fabiola as “good looking and striking.” And even though Fabiola refused the offer at first, she agreed to meet the King after an intervention by the papal nuncio. They met in Sister Veronica’s apartment in Brussels, and here the cardinal suddenly becomes very discreet when describing the blind date he had helped arrange: “It is inappropriate to describe how roses burst and bloom.”

According to this story, the couple met a second time in Lourdes, France, at the beginning of July 1960. They both stayed in the same hotel, but in separate rooms. They spent their time talking, praying, and walking along the streets of the little town. Three days after their arrival, they were driving to Tarbes, when Fabiola suddenly asked Baudouin to park the car along the side of the road. They prayed together, three Hail Mary’s, after which Fabiola turned to the King and said “Now it’s yes, and I will not look back anymore.” An acceptance without proposal.

Of the above three stories, the last one is the most widely accepted. The cardinal’s book is filled with quotes from his private correspondence with the King and from the King’s diaries, which Baudouin had left to the cardinal in his will. There are other elements which support his story. The couple's yacht, for example, was named Avila, which, according to Suenens’ notes was Fabiola's codename. Baudouin himself even hinted in that direction. But Baudouin’s diaries only support the story of the acceptance in Lourdes, not of their first meeting. And Fabiola herself was not amused by Suenens’ book. She has, more than once, stated, “I have my story too,” which indicates that Suenens has taken some liberty in describing his role in the matchmaking. She also said, at one point, that she had refused Baudouin’s proposal several times “the first year,” which is also at odds with Suenens’ story, according to which they had not known each other for a year when they got married. We will probably never really know, since the Queen doesn’t give any interviews. But it is obvious that even Suenens’ scenario is not the entire story.

Recently, some people have claimed that the marriage of Baudouin and Fabiola was a marriage of convenience, and that, in the beginning they didn’t love each other at all. The story goes that Baudouin just thought that it was his duty as a monarch to produce an heir, for which he needed a wife, and Fabiola wanted to become a mother. As time went by, they found each other in their faith and really started to love each other. Whether this is true or not, only Fabiola can say. But if it had been true, they certainly gave a very good imitation of a couple in love when they married.

As to how and when the couple informed their family, stories diverge. Leopold and Lilian heard it on the radio, as did Fabiola’s rebel brother Jaime. It is not very clear when Fabiola told her mother, but how she informed her siblings is a well-known story. The family were together in their summer residence in Zarauz, and Fabiola insisted on some pictures being taken. She posed with her sisters, and then smilingly said, “Well, that was my last picture without my fiancé.” Her words only met with disbelief, especially when she said she was engaged to marry the King of the Belgians. Her siblings only believed her when her mother confirmed Fabiola’s story.

Baudouin and Fabiola married on 15 December 1960. It was a cold and misty winter morning, but that didn’t stop the people from coming out onto the streets to greet their new Queen. The wedding ceremony took over four hours. The civil wedding was performed in the Throne Room at the Royal Palace in Brussels, and the church wedding was celebrated in the St Michel & St Gudule Cathedral, also in Brussels. Dignitaries and Heads of State from all over the world attended both the civil and the church wedding. A remarkable absentee was Queen Elizabeth II, who was still dismayed with the King’s refusal to attend the funeral of George VI. Queen Fabiola was a vision of beauty and elegance on her wedding day, and the King had never looked happier. After the Mayor of Brussels had joined the couple in matrimony, and the papers were signed, Doña Fabiola became the fifth Queen of Belgium.

Queen Consort, Mother of the Belgians

It is not easy to describe Queen Fabiola's character. She is a strange mixture of conservative and modern. Several elements in her appearance give the impression of a conservative and strict Catholic (malicious tongues say that it was she who urged her husband to refuse to sign the bill which was to legalize abortion in 1999, causing a constitutional crisis). Her hairstyle hasn’t changed in nearly 48 years. She never wore a pair of trousers until well into the 1990s. She prays and attends church every day. And yet…
And yet this woman was the moving spirit behind many modern projects, which even now would make people frown. She is Catholic, yes, but not a Catholic of the reactionary type. Whoever suggested that she belongs to Opus Dei couldn’t be further from the truth. Her faith inspired her, even as a teenager, to go out and help those in a less privileged situation. She would wander the streets of Madrid to bring food and other supplies to the poor families in town, and as a Queen she continued in this spirit. She was the first Queen of Belgium to have a fully operational social secretariat. This department gave financial help only to those most in need. It also acted as a mediator between the people and the official agencies which could help them get out of their trouble. She organized the secretariat in such a way that it could work with the utmost efficiency. The Queen always had and still has a heart for those in need.
One night, early February 1961, the King and Queen were woken up by a phone ringing. Six houses in Jupille, a coal-mining town near Liège, had been buried by a collapsing slag heap. In those houses, four women and seven children were stuck and rescue teams were working nonstop to try and get them out alive. The royal couple didn’t hesitate for one moment but left the palace immediately to inspect the damage and help the people. Upon arrival, the Queen immediately presented herself at the First Aid post and offered her help as a nurse to the doctors, who were baffled by her behaviour. When the slag heap destabilized even further, the security officers tried to get their monarchs out of danger, but the Queen refused to leave: “The King and I will only leave when the danger is gone.”

The Queen was and still is a valiant defender of the rights of women everywhere. She always believed in equal rights for men and women, and never hesitated to encourage organizations which supported this cause. She so enjoyed her independence that, even when she was a queen, she would get into a car alone and drive to the centre of Brussels to go shopping. She even travelled as far as Paris by train, all by herself, to visit her friends there. She was revolutionary, being one of the first public figures to hug and kiss an AIDS patient in front of the cameras. She also fully supported and even gave her name to the Queen Fabiola Villages, where the mentally disabled could live, more or less independently, and where they had the opportunity to experience life in all its aspects, where they could find others just like them, fall in love, and even marry. In these villages, the disabled were given a chance to integrate into society, which even now is revolutionary in some aspects.
Fabiola and Baudouin are legendary for their social engagement. Their most famous cause is probably their fight against women traffickers. The King and Queen were deeply moved by the sight of the many prostitutes in the “Schipperskwartier” in Antwerp. Many, if not all, of the women they saw there, were victims of human trafficking. The royal couple never disdained these women for what fate had forced them to become; on the contrary, they became the most vocal advocates for this neglected and disenfranchised group. They publicly supported the organizations which tried to help these unfortunate women who were forced into prostitution and who had nowhere to turn because they had no residence permit or even proof of identity. One woman, who had managed to escape her fate thanks to that support, was even asked to read at the funeral of the King.
Fabiola had the gift of being able to really listen to people. She was social and open, and very down to earth. I don’t think there is any Queen who could be less glamorous than she was, but there are also hardly any royals who are so open and approachable as she is. Her interest in the people was never feigned, and her communication with the public came straight from the heart. She cried with her nation and laughed with them. She was, and still is, a Queen among the people. That innate natural charm allowed her to reconquer the British hearts. When King George VI died, the Belgian King had refused to attend his funeral. Protocol demanded that he did not attend the funeral of a Head of State of a country to which he had not yet paid a State Visit, which was the case here. This is why Elizabeth II sent Princess Margaret to the Belgian royal wedding instead of going herself. But Belgium was determined to defrost the cold diplomatic relationship  with the United Kingdom. The official State Visit of the Belgian King and Queen was an almost unilateral happening. Buckingham Palace did not exactly refuse all cooperation, but they didn’t really help either. However, Queen Fabiola, being her usual radiant, open self, soon found her way into the hearts of the people and almost single-handedly restored the friendship between the two countries.

 Indische Waterlelies at Efteling Apart from her social involvement, the Queen is also known for her love of children. Even before she was married, the sight of children delighted her. Her brothers and sisters all had large families. In the end she would have no fewer than 37 nieces and nephews, for whom she wrote her famous fairy tales. Los doce Cuentas maravillosos contains twelve fairy tales, all with a very strong Christian undertone - one critic even claimed they were conversion stories instead of fairy tales. The various characters, ranging from princesses to gnomes to animals, learn to leave behind their various bad habits and love and care for others selflessly. One of her most famous fairy tales is “The Indian Water Lilies”, in which an ugly, evil witch casts a spell over two moon fairies who stayed behind to dance on the water while their sisters had already returned to the sky. She wants to take away their glow, but the little fairies still retain their beauty. Outraged over this injustice, the witch turns the fairies into snow-white water lilies. Every night at midnight, they are allowed to turn into fairies again and dance on the water in the moonlight, but they can never return home. In the Efteling theme park in the Netherlands, one of the attractions is dedicated to this tale, even though they took some liberty when recreating the story, showing seven fairies on the lake instead of two. After Fabiola became Queen, her Fairy Tales were translated into over 70 languages. The book was a bestseller in Belgium for decades, and when a few of her tales were recorded, the albums were just as successful. The Queen donated the royalties she would have earned to various good causes.
It is well known that she always wanted to have children, but fate chose differently. Until about a year ago, nobody knew how many miscarriages the Queen had suffered. But everyone knew how painful this unfulfilled wish was to her. No matter where she went, she was never happier than when she had a child in her arms or on her lap. She was able to talk to  young people, and she was always interested in their world. The pain of not having any children soon turned into an unconditional love for all Belgians and all children, as if each of them was her own. And that love was mutual: the Belgians saw their King and Queen as a real father and mother of the nation. Never was that feeling so obvious as when the King died of a heart attack in 1993 at his summer residence Villa Astrida in Motril, Spain. The country seemed adrift. Baudouin had reigned for 42 years, and suddenly he was gone. Nobody felt that emptiness more than the Queen widow. But in this hour of need she saw and felt that the entire country mourned with her, a country which had not only lost its Head, but also its heart.
The Queen was heartbroken after the sudden loss of her husband, and yet she managed to radiate the hope and the belief that one day they would be together again when she walked in front of that funeral procession, the Queen in white. Right after the funeral, she was an emotional wreck. The loss of loved ones is always hard to cope with, but when you are a public figure you cannot deal with your pain alone. Fabiola fled to her sisters Ana Maria and Maria Luz in Santiago de Compostela, where she stayed for a long time, away from the cameras and public attention.

The Queen Widow

Even though Fabiola now has to live and work in the shadow of her in-laws, she does not hide away. She still actively promotes women’s rights and fights against all kinds of social injustices. And lately, she has been actively enjoying the new-found freedom those shadows provide. Fabiola has always been a time scheduler’s worst nightmare. Even in her youth she was always late, or maybe just in time, because she could never resist talking to people. When she became Queen, she revolted when she learned about the strict rules she was supposed to follow. If she had two engagements on one day, she was often late for the second because her entourage could not get her away from the first in time. She would always keep chatting to the people who were waiting for her and lose track of time. Now that she is no longer the wife of the Head of State, protocol is less strict. The Queen is enjoying life to the fullest, and has more than once surprised the world by suddenly revealing sides of herself nobody knew before. “The more the time passes, the more it makes me feel alive,” she has written.
And this is true. Despite her age, her frailty, and the loss of her husband and her position in her country, Fabiola is blossoming like a young girl. She is exploring the boundaries of her new freedom, and seizes every opportunity to attract attention and leave an unforgettable impression. She wants people to remember her spirit and her liveliness. She has become even more open; she laughs and is happy. She doesn’t need to uphold the image of the dignified wife of a monarch, she can just enjoy whatever she does. Journalists almost fight for the privilege of following the Queen widow on an official visit, because they never know what she might do next. Who does not remember the almost incredible footage of the Queen who suddenly began to dance during the performance of a Belgian pop group, Mint, at the castle of Laeken? I remember that my mouth fell open, and I wasn’t the only one. Even the singer skipped a note, so great was his surprise.
The Queen widow never cared about “frivolous” things like makeup, designer clothes, or luxury. Fabiola and Baudouin always drank water with their meals at home, even though they would open a bottle of wine for their guests. Their lifestyle was very down-to-earth and almost ascetic, especially in comparison with other royal families. The interiors of their private apartments at the Palace of Laecken, their chalet in Opgrimbie, or the holiday home in Motril were not at all luxurious, though not uncomfortable either. Fabiola is often accused of taking away the glamour of the Belgian royal family, and this is partly true. She hardly ever organized lavish parties at the Palace, and when it comes to fashion she is not remotely in the same league her sister-in-law Paola, who, on an official visit to Luxembourg, wore no less than twelve outfits in four days. Fabiola was not uninterested in clothes as such, but she was horrified by the excessive amounts of money one had to pay for designer dresses. Some people even claim that Fabiola was so shocked that she made a habit of borrowing evening dresses from couturiers, only to have them copied by her own seamstresses. Then she would hand the original back and appear at an official banquet in her fake dress. She definitely still does not really care about her appearance. During the official visit of the Crown Princely couple of the Netherlands, she didn’t hesitate to make her appearance in a forty-year-old dress. She will throw together a mishmash of jewellery whenever she goes out: a gold brooch left, two or three hairclips right, whether they really match or not. The only part of her appearance she is particular about is her hair. She has never changed her hairstyle since her engagement, because she knew Baudouin liked her hair that way. She is so persistent about her hairstyle that she sometimes even wears a wig, just to be sure that her hair always looks the same.

Fabiola still has an eye for those whom others might easily disregard. Once she even asked a cameraman if his camera wasn’t too heavy. First she asked in French. When she noticed he was Flemish, she asked again in Dutch. The cameraman answered that he was used to it, but then he hardly knew how to hold his camera when she commented that he must be a really strong man. But there are more remarkable events taped on camera. Some years ago, on All Soul’s Day (2 November), the journalists of the VTM tv programme Royalty followed the Queen during Mass. When later she went into the Royal Crypt, one of her staff stopped the cameras from following her, but the Queen asked them to come along. Then right in front of the camera, she started reciting a prayer about Jesus’ bride. I cannot help but think that a conservative Catholic, which is how she was always portrayed, would never do this.
It is clear that Fabiola is preparing for her eventual death. The childless Queen, determined not to be forgotten by the country she dedicated her life to, has started to make remarkable statements whenever she knows the cameras are pointed at her. That way, for instance, she revealed that she had lost five children through miscarriage, which is more than any biographical source had declared thus far. She has not only adopted a more relaxed way of life, but she is also trying very hard to straighten out the issues between herself and those she loves. Some people say, for instance, that she was the one who saw to it that Laurent was accepted again in his family after a long train of scandals, of which the infamous marine trial was the absolute low.

“Le Roi, c’est la Reine”, André Cools once said, referring to how Bauduoin and Fabiola always seemed inseparable. This was certainly true when the King was still alive, but even after his death the Queen widow never truly seems to be without her husband. To Fabiola, Baudouin is not really dead. She still talks to him, and she likes nothing better than to talk about him with people who knew him. She always wears his watch and a locket with the image of the late King engraved in it. Death no longer scares her, on the contrary; it gives her hope, every day, because she knows that one day they will be together again. 

Balfoort, Brigitte & Joris De Voogt. Koningin Fabiola, Een meisje van 80. Leuven, 2008.
van den Berghe, Jan, Kroniek van 100 jaar Europese koningshuizen, Ghent, 1999.
Van Daele, Henri. Zes Koninginnen. Tielt, 1996.
De Jonghe, Ralf. Koningin Fabiola, Vrome vorstin in een vluchtige wereld. Antwerp, 2008.
McNaughton, C. Arnold. The Book of Kings: A Royal Genealogy. Vol. 1. London, 1973.
de Mora y Aragon, Fabiola. Los doce Cuentos maravillosos, 3rd ed. Sinople, Bilbao, 1960.
Séguy, Philippe, & Antoine Michelland. Fabiola, La reine blanche/Koningin in het wit. Paris/Antwerp, 1995.
Suenens, Léon. Koning Boudewijn, Het getuigenis van een leven/ Le roi Baudouin, une vie qui nous parle. F.I.A.T., 1995.  (Website of the Belgian royal family) (The dancing Queen) (The waterlilies at Efteling)

Photo Credits
Photos of Queen Fabiola's visit to Orval taken by Flickr member
Little Firefly and used with permission.
Collage of Queen Fabiola, showing the characteristic hairstyle over several decades, by Royal Forums member
TheTruth and used with permission. 
Photos of the wedding of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola from the Royal Forums avatar collection.
Photo of the Indische Waterlelies attraction at Efteling taken by Flickr member
drhenkenstein and used with permission.