by Susan Flantzer
Photo Credit – Wikipedia
Princess Clémentine of Belgium (Clémentine Albertine Marie Léopoldine) was born at the Royal Castle of Laeken in Belgium on July 30, 1872. She was the third of the three daughters and the youngest of the four children of Leopold II, King of the Belgians and Archduchess Marie-Henriette of Austria. In 1869, when Leopold and Marie-Henriette’s only son Leopold died, King Leopold blamed Queen Marie-Henriette for their son’s death. Little Leopold had fallen into a pond, caught pneumonia and died. Hoping for a crown prince because only males could inherit the throne, Queen Marie-Henriette became pregnant again, but the long-awaited crown prince did not materialize as the child was a girl, Clémentine. Clémentine’s parents completely separated after her birth.
Clémentine had three older siblings:
Even before the death of their brother, Clémentine’s siblings had a difficult childhood. The marriage of their parents started out unhappy, remained unhappy, and the couple lived mostly separate lives. King Leopold had many mistresses and he made no real attempt to have a successful marriage. Queen Marie-Henriette was cold and inaccessible. Their mother showed no interest in the children and their father, who was only interested in his business in the Belgian Congo, did not spend time with his daughters.
By the time Clémentine was eight-years-old, both her sisters had married and she was the only child left at home. She grew up alone under the guidance of governesses who taught her French, German, music, history, and literature. Clémentine had a close relationship with her sister Stéphanie. The two sisters maintained a faithful correspondence and considered each other their best friend. Clémentine’s relationship with her father improved. In 1894, she got her own coach and could come and go without the permission of her mother. By 1895, Queen Marie-Henriette moved to Spa, Belgium where she lived out the rest of her life at Hôtel du Midi, the home she had bought there. Clémentine replaced her as the first lady of the Belgian court.
Clémentine fell in love with her first cousin Prince Baudouin of Belgium. Baudouin was the elder son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, brother of King Leopold II who had become heir to the Belgian throne after the death of Leopold’s only son. Therefore, Baudouin was second in the line of succession. It appears that Clémentine and Baudouin were informally betrothed. Although accounts differ as to whether or not Baudouin was in favor of this arrangement, it was generally seen as the best way of uniting the cadet and main branches of the Belgian Royal Family. However, Baudouin died of influenza in January 1891 at the age of 21.
Clémentine first met Prince Victor Bonaparte in 1888, when the prince visited Brussels. The prince had become head of the House of Bonaparte upon the death in 1879 of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the only child of Napoleon III, Emperor of the French. Clémentine confided to one of her sisters that she was attracted to Victor, but her father opposed the match because it could compromise the relations between the Kingdom of Belgium and the Republic of France. King Leopold’s refusal caused many arguments between father and daughter. In 1903, Clémentine once again asked permission to marry Victor and her father again refused. Clémentine persisted but was threatened with disinheritance by her father.
In 1909, after her father had died, Clémentine received permission to marry Victor from the new Belgian monarch King Albert I, her first cousin and Prince Baudouin’s younger brother. On November 14, 1910, at the Castle of Moncalieri in the Kingdom of Italy, 38-year-old Clémentine married 48-year-old Victor. Clémentine later wrote to her sister Stephanie: “My good husband, gentle, adoring, tender, loving, intelligent, connoisseur of people and things. He is beautiful, this Prince. Napoleon is a love, I adore him.”
Victor and Clementine; Photo Credit – Wikipedia
Clémentine and Victor had two children:
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Clémentine and Victor initially settled in Brussels because the Republic of France did not allow pretenders to the throne to live in France. During World War I, Clémentine, Victor, and their children lived with the former Empress of the French, Eugenie, the widow of Emperor Napoleon III, at her home Farnborough Hill in Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Following the end of the war, the family returned to Brussels. Prince Victor died on May 3, 1926, in Brussels, Belgium.
Clémentine initially remained in Belgium after her husband’s death. However, she was greatly saddened by a major political crisis in Belgium, The Royal Question, and therefore, lived the majority of the rest of her life in France. The Royal Question (1945 to 1951) concerned whether King Leopold III could resume his royal powers and duties as King of the Belgians despite allegations that his actions during World War II were contrary to the Belgian Constitution. The crisis was eventually resolved in 1951 by the abdication of Leopold in favor of his elder son King Baudouin I.
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The last ten years of Clémentine’s life were happy and peaceful. She enjoyed her many grandchildren and received the Legion of Honor for her 80th birthday. On March 8, 1955, Clémentine died at the age of 82, at her home in Nice, France, the Villa Clairvallou. She was buried with her husband at the Imperial Chapel of Ajaccio in Ajaccio, Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. The Imperial Chapel was built by Cardinal Joseph Fesch, the half-brother of Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother Letizia, so that Letizia and any other members of the Bonaparte who desired so, could be buried there.
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Wikipedia: Princess Clémentine of Belgium
- De.wikipedia.org. (2017). Clementine von Belgien. [online] Available at: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clementine_von_Belgien [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].
- En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Princess Clémentine of Belgium. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Cl%C3%A9mentine_of_Belgium [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].
- Fr.wikipedia.org. (2017). Clémentine de Belgique. [online] Available at: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cl%C3%A9mentine_de_Belgique [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].
- Nl.wikipedia.org. (2017). Clementine van België. [online] Available at: https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clementine_van_Belgi%C3%AB [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].