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If one were to choose the most unforgettable day of Belgian history of the 20th century, several memorable events would come to mind. But surely amongst those would be the 15th of December 1960, the day that Belgium saw for the first time the wedding of one of its sovereigns. A day full of pomp, of ceremony, of grace, of affection, of precious moments that pictures captured forever. The Palace of Brussels had not seen so many light for many years, after the gloomy years that followed Queen Astrid’s tragic death. In 1959 there was a first essay of what a grand event in the Belgian Court was, but it was nothing to compare with this cold day of December.

Hundreds of guests began arriving early at the Royal Palace of Brussels, where the magnificent and large Throne Room had been prepared with hundreds of chairs for all the guests. The dress code was of full morning gala, with men in gala uniform or dress coat, with their jewel-incrusted decorations shining, and women in long dress with hat and decorations. A magnificent table, wonderful piece of furniture, had been placed in the middle of the room, the whole ceremony having been designed having the television cameras in mind. Chairs were all around, given the size of the room, spectacular for its outstanding chandeliers.

Outside, enormous crowds were gathering, since the very coldest of the night, to witness this unforgettable event. Thousands of soldiers from the three services began to line the route from the Royal Palace to the Collegial Church of Saint Michael and St. Gudule. At around 9 am, the first cheers were heard outside the Palace, when King Baudouin arrived, together with his aide-de-camp, Queen Fabiola being already in residence. Meanwhile, foreign kings, queens and princes, the members of the Government and Parliament, the members of the Diplomatic Corps, were all arriving to the Palace.

At 9.56 am, after the entrance in the Throne Room of the representatives of the Royal Houses of Europe, reigning and non-reigning, the eyes were all turned into the door, through which came an officer who loudly announced the entrance of the most expected couple: His Majesty the King of the Belgians, in uniform of Lieutenant General of the Armies, wearing the ribbon and the collar of the Order of Leopold and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón, now just minutes away of becoming the Queen of the Belgians. Doña Fabiola was simply stunning , a part of a dream coming true.

Cristobal Balenciaga’s design was perfect for that day, perfect for that noblewoman, perfect for her tender and unique smile. Simple in its lines, but grand in its overall aspect, the white silk dress, with ermine in the beginning of the skirt and also rounding the shoulders line, from which left the long a regal train, also all bordered by ermine. The long veil hanged from a magnificent jewel, the historic diadem of the Belgian Kingdom, offered to Princess Astrid, on the occasion of her wedding to Prince Leopold. The diamonds’ impressive shining captured all eyes for an instant, but it was the future Queen’s beauty that dominated. Probably never had a dress been so beautiful, so romantic, so regal and so simple.

Being followed by their immediate family, their parents and siblings, the King and his bride sat in two chairs placed right in front of the table, which was reserved for the authorities of the city of Brussels who would take a direct part in the celebration of the civil wedding. The scene seemed to have been taken from a movie, when, surrounded by officers in their gala uniforms in vivid colours, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Albert Lilar, came forward to read a short text telling of the Belgian Government’s unanimous approval of the marriage of the King. Then, Mr. Lucien Cooremans, the Burgomaster of Brussels, in a splendid uniform crowded with decorations read the articles of the Belgian Civil Code related to marriage, as it is done in every wedding. A member of the Municipal Council read the Marriage Acts.

And then it was the first important moment of the day, as the Burgomaster posed the question to the King: “Sire, do Your Majesty declare to take Doña Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón as your wife?” After the King’s firm answer, the question was posed to Doña Fabiola: “Doña Fabiola Fernanda María de las Victorias Antonia Adelaida de Mora y Aragón, do you declare to take His Majesty King Baudouin Albert Charles Leopold Axel Marie Gustav, Prince of Belgium, as your husband?” After an immediate “Oui.”, Belgian had a new Queen, for the first time in decades. The King smiled at his wife, the two seemed to be alone in that room.

After having declared the King and Doña Fabiola united in marriage, thus King and Queen of the Belgians, the Burgomaster began pronouncing a speech he had been preparing for weeks. At the end of it, it was time for the signing of registers, by the Belgian sovereigns and their witnesses. King Baudouin had chosen two personal witnesses, HM King Leopold, his father, and HRH the Hereditary Grand-Duke of Luxembourg, his brother-in-law. Queen Fabiola had chosen her brother, the Marquis of Casa Riera, dressed in the white uniform of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and HRH the Count of Barcelona, head of the Spanish Royal Family, to which the Mora y Aragón had always been extremely close and loyal.

Admiring the whole ceremony, several dozens of members of royal families from all over the world sat just behind the King and the new Queen. They all waited while the witnesses signed the registers not in the main table but in other tables, which were placed to the left of the sovereigns. As a special deference to the King, forty additional witnesses signed the civil register, including members of the Government of the Kingdom, members of Parliament, judges and other high dignitaries.

The ceremony ended just within half an hour of its beginning and after having received the congratulations from the Burgomaster and other members of the Municipal Council, the King and Queen of the Belgians, followed by their families, left the Throne Room, while all the guests prepared to go to the Collegial Church. Outside, the crowds cheered, trying to heat themselves. It was then time for a long cortege to begin, at the end of which would come the King and the new Queen, the reason for so many people to brave the coldness of a mid-December day.

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