The Belgian Royal Family is one of the best related royal families of the World, maintaining friendship and blood relations with nearly all the European royal families, reigning and non-reigning. This circumstance was reflected in the impressive royal guest list of the wedding of His Majesty King Baudouin I and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón. The fact that no official group picture of the wedding was taken makes it difficult to know all the guests who attended the wedding, but still it is possible to know, from the various pictures seen throughout the website, that it certainly was an impressive royal gathering.
Although it might seems that the whole Belgian Royal Family was present, there was a remarkable absence: the one of HRH Prince Charles, regent of the country during the difficult years of the “Question Royale”. King Baudouin’s family was headed by his father and former sovereign, HM King Leopold, and HM Queen Elizabeth, widow of King Albert I, the Artist Queen. King Leopold’s unpopular and elegant second wife, HRH Princess Liliane of Belgium, Princess of Réthy, was present with her children (who are not in the Belgian line of succession), TRH Prince Alexandre, Princess Marie Esmeralda and Princess Marie Christine. The extremely popular and stylish couple formed by TRH the Prince and Princess of Liège dazzled everyone, especially the beautiful Princess Paola, dressed for the wedding in beautiful Italian-Renaissance style.
Even if nearly all the European reigning royal families were represented, only three foreign heads of state attended the wedding. HM King Olav V of Norway, who was keen to attend most foreign royal events during his reign, attended accompanied by his daughter, HRH Princess Astrid. The neighbouring royal families were also represented on the highest level, the Dutch by HM Queen Juliana of the Netherlands with her husband, HRH Prince Bernhard and the Luxembourg by TRH Grand-Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Luxembourg. HRH Princess Beatrix, heiress presumptive to the Dutch throne, and TRH Hereditary Grand-Duke Jean and Grand-Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxembourg also attended. The Luxembourg Royal Family’s representation also included the children of the Hereditary Grand-Ducal couple, Prince Henri and Princess Marie-Astrid, nephews of the King of the Belgians, since the Hereditary Grand-Duchess was his sister.
The other Nordic royal families were not represented in the highest level, neither by HM King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden nor by HM King Frederick IX of Denmark. King Gustav’s son, HRH Prince Bertil, Duke of Halland, represented his father, while HRH Prince Axel of Denmark (son of HRH Prince Valdemar of Denmark and grandson of King Christian IX) represented his counsin, King Frederick, accompanied by HRH Princess Axel, born Princess Margaretha of Sweden and sister of the late Queen Astrid of the Belgians and the late Crown Princess Martha of Norway, thus an obvious presence at the wedding of her nephew.
The British Royal Family had had a very cold relation with the Belgian Royal Family since 1952, when King Baudouin, against the wish of his people and the British wishes, refused to break protocol and attend the funeral of King George VI in London and Windsor. Belgian protocol had it that the King could only attend a funeral in a foreign country if he had already visited that country in state. Since the King was only reigning since July 1951 and he had not yet visited the United Kingdom he thus refused the invitation to attend the funeral and sent his brother the Prince of Liège instead. This froze the very good relation which had existed between the British and the Belgian sovereigns and this was confirmed when in the summer of 1959 the British Royal Family refused the invitation to attend the wedding of the Prince of Liège and Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria. In return, and as most European royal families did, the Belgian Court sent no representative to the wedding of Princess Margaret and the photographer Mr. Anthony Armstrong Jones, seen by the European royalty as a too unequal wedding and thus unworthy of their attendance.
However, HM Queen Elizabeth II did send representation to the royal wedding of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola. Nevertheless, it might be understood as a little revenge from the British Court, since the Queen sent precisely Princess Margaret and Mr. Armstrong Jones in their first foreign representation, instead of sending her husband or other member of the Royal Family. Certainly the guest who got most attention in Brussels, Princess Margaret was received by the Prince and Princess of Liège and dazzled everyone in the galas before the wedding and in the wedding itself.
The Spanish Royal Family, whose relation with the family of Doña Fabiola had always been extremely close, was also represented at the highest level by HRH the Count of Barcelona, Head of the Royal House, and HRH the Countess of Barcelona, born Princess of Borbón-Two Sicilies. Their son, HRH the Prince of the Asturias was also present at the wedding, as was the Count of Barcelona’s sister HRH Infanta Maria Cristina, Countess of Marone, with her husband Italian Count Enrico Marone Cinzano. However, HM Queen Victoria Eugenia, godmother of Doña Fabiola, preferred to stay away of the ceremony.
Apart of the Spanish, other formerly reigning royal families were represented by their heads: HM King Umberto of Italy and HM Queen Maria José – born Princess of Belgium and aunt of King Baudouin – attended accompanied by their daughters, TRH Princesses Maria Pia, Maria Gabriella and Maria Beatriz. The former King of Romania, HM King Michael, attended with his wife, HM Queen Anne, born Princess of Bourbon-Parma and the former King of Bulgaria, HM King Simeon was also present. Other members of non-reigning royal families included HIRH Archduke Otto of Austria-Hungary and TRH the Duke and Duchess of Braganza, D. Duarte Nuno – Head of the Portuguese Royal House – and D. Maria Francisca, born Princess of Brazil. HIH Princess Alix Napoleon was also present.
Despite the fact that the Count of Barcelona would play a prominent role in the Royal Wedding, being witness at the civil wedding and escorting the Princess of Réthy to the religious ceremony (and seating by the side of King Leopold and the Marquis of Casa Riera in the Collegial), Generalísimo Francisco Franco, the Spanish Head of State, sent a special representation to the ceremony, which was received in audience in the Royal Palace in the days before the wedding, when they delivered the present of the Spanish people, a diamond and emerald tiara in form of aristocratic crown. The General’s daughter, the Marchioness of Villaverde, Doña Carmen Franco y Polo, headed the delegation. Her husband, the Marquis of Villaverde, a strong man in the Spanish dictatorship, accompanied her, as did other officials.
The family of Doña Fabiola was also present, excluding her eccentric brother D. Jaime de Mora y Aragón, who was not authorised to leave Spain before the wedding, allegedly on the King of the Belgians’ personal demand to the Spanish authorities. Doña Blanca de Aragón y Carillo de Albornoz, Marchioness-Widower of Casa Riera, mother of Doña Fabiola, headed the family.
The Pope sent a very special and impressive delegation, headed by Cardinal Siri, but including several other bishops and clergymen. All resulting of the fact that it was the last Catholic King who was getting married. The Government of the Kingdom and members of the Camber of Deputies and the Senate, as well as the military authorities and the clergy were among the three thousand people present in the Collegial Church. The Diplomatic Corps and representatives from cultural, economic and other social organizations were also present.