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An immense cortege of cars began leaving the Royal Palace of Brussels just at the end of the civil ceremony of the wedding. The mid-December cold did not prevent the hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the streets of cheering, while the bells of the Collegial Church of Saint Michael and Saint Gudule sounded throughout the city. More than six thousand soldiers from the three services of the Armed Forces lined the streets from the Royal Palace, through the Place Royale and then through the Boulevard de l’Impératrice until the Collegial. And then, for the cortege after the wedding, the lining of the streets continued all the long way through many streets and through the world-famous Grand Place, crowned with the glory of the Town Hall’s magnificent tower. Through the streets, military bands played to try to warm up the people who patiently waited.

In the Collegial, the three thousand guests had begun arriving. White flowers took the main part of the decoration inside the church, while outside a red canopy covered the staircase of the Great West Door. Flowers lined the canopy up the stairs and so did soldiers from the three services, who also lined part of the nave and its long red carpet, which led from the Great West Door to the Quire and the golden altar. Above it, the coat of arms of the Kingdom formed part of the ornamentation, as did the big banners from the various Belgian provinces, hanging from the high walls, though the nave.

The ceremonies had begun running late, especially due to the length of the cortege that carried the guests from the Royal Palace to the Collegial. The impressive cavalry of the Belgian Army was ready, the mounted escorts and bands were taken to position and everyone was ready. It was quarter past midday when the military salute “Aux Champs” was played, what marked the beginning of the cortege. Just after, the band of the Army magnificently played the Brabançonne – the Belgian National Anthem – and the glass-ceiling Cadillac, carrying the King and the new Queen of the Belgians, left the gates of the Palace. The cries of “Vive la Reine” were unanimous, a loud cheer broke through Brussels. The canon blasts of the traditional salute were heard through the city, and the carillon of the Collegial played joyfully.

Meanwhile, at the Collegial, the the representatives of the Royal Houses of Europe had begun receiving the cheers of the people gathered in the enormous square in front of the church. Only those closely attached to the royal couple, the closest family, followed behind the Cadillac. Soon the cortege approached the Collegial and everyone prepared for the first public sight of the magnificent dress of Queen Fabiola, who was given a loud cheer as she left the car. The King promptly helped her to leave and to mount the staircase, while King Leopold and the Marchioness of Casa Riera left their car and followed the couple up the stairs. Queen Fabiola’s brother, the Marquis of Casa Riera, escorted Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians, who was immensely cheered by her loving people. The Count of Barcelona (barred from appearing in the Spanish press by Franco regime and missing in each picture of the issue of ¡Hola! magazine which covered the event) accompanied HRH Princess Liliane and other members of the family, including the couple’s siblings, followed in the cortege.

Inside the Collegial Church, the choir and orchestra began the superb interpretation of a magnificent music piece, which led the cortege up the enormous aisle. In the middle of it, the Auxiliary Bishop of Malines, Monsignor Suenens, and the clerical cortege awaited to welcome the King of the Belgians and the new Queen, who was so in the eyes of men, but not yet in the eyes of God. The red of the carpet, the colours of the long dresses and the religious habits, the shining of jewels, decorations and uniforms, the magnificence of the music, the history of those walls and the outstanding stained glass windows and then the sight of that lovely couple passing through it all, made it one of the most impressive scenes one could have witnessed in a lifetime. Regal, glorious and yet so simple, so impressively intimate.

Looking rather serious, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola went up the aisle into the Quire and stopped in front of the altar, near the two kneelers covered in red, in front of which sat His Eminence the Cardinal Van Roey, Archbishop of Brussels-Malines. The old Cardinal had married, back in 1926, the then Prince Leopold and Princess Astrid of Sweden in that same Collegial Church. The previous year, in 1959, he had married the Prince of Liège and now it was the first time in history that a King of the Belgians was getting married in Belgian soil, and it was to Cardinal Van Roey a special honour and a tremendously moving moment. He was, actually, marrying a King for the second time, since he had officiated, during the dark years of World War II, the wedding of King Leopold and Miss Liliane Baels, to whom was given the titles of Royal Highness, Princess of Belgium and Princess of Réthy.

The royal couple sat and soon the Cardinal, who remained seating given his precarious health, began the ceremony by asking the King and the new Queen if they had come there freely and in their own will to marry each other, to what they both firmly assented. The Cardinal then said: “Sire, Madam, with the King’s permission, His Excellency Monsignor Forni will now bring to the knowledge of this illustrious assembly the autographed message that His Holiness the Pope has addressed me on the occasion of the Royal Wedding”. After bowing to the sovereigns, Monsignor Forni, representative in Belgium of the Holy See, read the Message of His Holiness Pope John XXIII and at the end of it left the centre of the altar, where several bishops and members of the clergy surrounded Cardinal Van Roey.

Immediately after, the Cardinal delivered his speech, before asking the royal couple to rise and rising himself. He then asked the King to repeat his words and with that came the most moving moment of the ceremony, with the King changing the “vous” for the “toi”. The Cardinal asked the King to say “Moi, Baudouin, je vous donne à vous, Fabiola, que je tiens ici par la main, ma foi de mariage, et je vous prends pour ma légitime épouse, devant Dieu et la Sainte Église.” However, the King and, after him, the Queen, giving a much more personal tone to the words they were pronouncing, said instead:

“Moi, Baudouin, je te donne à toi, Fabiola, que je tiens ici par la main, ma foi de mariage, et je te prends pour ma légitime épouse, devant Dieu et sa Sainte Église.”

“Moi, Fabiola, je te donne à toi, Baudouin, que je tiens ici par la main, ma foi de mariage, et je te prends pour mon légitime époux, devant Dieu et la Sainte Église.”

The Cardinal then pronounced the blessing and confirmation of the wedding in Latin, and then blessed the wedding rings, which were brought in a silver plate. Again the couple, while exchanging the rings, changed the “recevez” for “reçoit”. The Cardinal and the other clerics who were around him then left the Altar, since it was the Auxiliary Bishop, Monsignor Suenens, that would officiate the Mass, clothed in the Charles V chasuble, with magnificent gold embroidery. While this was happening, at the end of Quire a choir of children sang graciously. During the Mass, through the readings and the consecration, the King and the Queen of the Belgians stood kneeled, notably showing that in that moment they were no more than two Christians in the most special moment of their lives.

And the end of the ceremony, the Magnificat of Johan Sebantian Bach was played by the orchestra and the choir, while the King and the Queen and their witnesses, signed the registers. The King chose his brothers Prince Albert, Prince of Liège, and Prince Alexander, son of King Leopold and Princess Liliane. The Queen had also chosen her brothers, the Marquis of Casa Riera and the Count Alejandro of Mora. The Pontifical Legate, Cardinal Siri, gave the Papal benediction and while the cortege prepared to leave, Cardinal Van Roey approached the royal couple to congratulate them for their marriage. The cortege through the nave was slow and grand, at the sound of Bach’s march. At the end of the nave and down the staircase of the Collegial Church, sixty officers lined the red carpet to form the traditional “voute d’acier” with their swords.

After stepping down the staircase, Queen Fabiola spontaneously handed her bouquet of white orchids and orange-tree white flowers to King Baudouin, and waved and thanked with both hands, for all those cheers, all that love she was receiving. Meanwhile, canon blasts were heard and the bells of all the churches of the Kingdom were sounded in honour of the new Queen. The cortege then restarted, towards the Palace, but now through a much longer route, which included the world-famous Grand Place and allowed many hundreds of thousands to cheer their new Queen. “Vive la Reine” was the most heard cheer and it was heard much higher when the Cadillac arrived at the Palace Square and the Brabançonne, the National Anthem was played.

Inside, the King would offer a banquet to two thousand guests, in the Throne Room and the adjacent rooms and everything was fervently being prepared. But while the cortege was still entering the Palace gates outside, the people were already crying for what would be the climax of the day, the appearance on the balcony of the imposing Royal Palace. An officer of the royal court came out to the balcony to put a velvet and gold cloth and soon afterwards the King and Queen of the Belgians came outside to be truly acclaimed by thousands and thousands who forced the security barriers. Queen Fabiola thanked again, with both her hands. It had been the most extraordinary day and she would, later, in perfect French and Flemish, thank the whole country in a surprise television and radio address with the King in which Her Majesty said that “from now on, my heart and my life belong no only to my husband but to you all”. The King, quoting Saint-Exupéry, said that “to love is not looking at each other, it is looking together in the same direction”.

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