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Belgium

Granny Knows Best: the grandparents of King Philippe of the Belgians


Photo: Laura Dekkers

We are concluding our September series “Granny Knows Best” with a look at the grandparents of King Philippe of the Belgians.

King Leopold III

Leopold was born on 3 November 1901 to the future King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He fought in World War One, after Germany invaded Belgium, as a member of the Belgian Army in 1914; he was only twelve. The following year, after Germany had taken over most of the country, he was sent to the United Kingdom to study at Eton.

He married Princess Astrid of Sweden in Stockholm in 1926. Together, they had three children: Princess Joséphine-Charlotte (later the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg as the wife of Grand Duke Jean), Prince Baudouin (who later reigned as King Baudouin), and Prince Albert (later King Albert II and the father of King Philippe).

Leopold became King of the Belgians on 17 February 1934, but tragedy struck the following year. While he and Queen Astrid were driving in Switzerland, the King lost control of his vehicle, and they crashed. Queen Astrid was killed in the wreck.

By Willem van de Poll – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King Leopold III later remarried in 1941 to Lilian Baels, while a prisoner of the Germans after refusing to cooperate with the Nazi Germany government. They had three children together: Prince Alexandre and Princesses Marie-Christine and Marie-Esméralda.

He and his family were later deported to Germany on the orders of Heinrich Himmler in 1944. They were liberated by American forces in May 1945, but many Belgians did not want him to return due to some of his actions during the war – including surrendering to Germany. His brother, Prince Charles, was named regent in 1944. He returned to Belgium in 1950 and was met with large strikes. He then abdicated in favour of his son, Baudouin.

King Leopold III died in 1983.

Queen Astrid

Princess Astrid was born on 17 November 1905 to Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg. She was the granddaughter of King Oscar II.

She married Prince Leopold of Belgium, Duke of Brabant, in 1926 and had three children together. Astrid never got to meet her grandchildren because she died in a car crash in 1935. She was only 29-years-old. Her youngest child, Albert, was only one-year-old.

By Willem van de Poll – http://proxy.handle.net/10648/aeaa5f58-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

Princess Lilian, The Princess of Réthy

Lilian Baels was born on 28 November 1916 in London to Belgian parents. They had fled to London after the First World War.

She first met King Leopold in 1933 during a military review. They encountered each other a few more times before Queen Elisabeth invited her to Laeken Castle to meet Leopold where he was imprisoned by the Germans. When he first proposed, she declined. Elisabeth convinced her to marry him, but Lilian refused to accept the title of queen, so she was known as Princess Lilian and Princess of Réthy.

Embed from Getty Images

Lilian and the King had three children together: Prince Alexandre and Princesses Marie-Christine and Marie-Esméralda.

The family was deported to Germany on the orders of Heinrich Himmler in 1944. They were liberated by American forces in May 1945, but many Belgians did not want him to return due to some of his actions during the war. They didn’t return to Belgium until 1950, and Leopold abdicated that year.

Lilian was quite unpopular in Belgium and died in 2002.

Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda

Born in the Kingdom of Italy on 12 August 1884, Fulco Ruffo di Calabria was made Prince Ruffo di Calabria in 1928 by decree (he was already the 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda).

Ruffo married Luisa Gazelli in June 1919 and had seven children. Their youngest child, Paola, married Prince Albert in 1959 and became Queen Paola.

By Unknown author – http://www.finn.it/regia/html/grande_guerra.htm, Public Domain

He fought for Italy in World War One as a pilot and was later named a senator by King Victor Emmanuel III in 1934. He served in the senate for ten years and was a supporter of dictator Benito Mussolini. After the Second World War, he was convicted for his support of fascism.

He died in 1946 and never met his grandson who would be King of the Belgians.

Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana

Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana was born in 1896 to Augusto Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana and Maria Cristina dei Conti Rignon.

In 19 May 1919, she married Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda in Turin. They had seven children, including Paola.

Philippe’s grandmother is seen in the below picture looking on as he was baptised.

Embed from Getty Images

Luisa died on 27 April 1989.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. Her love of royals began in middle school, and she's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites.