by Scott Mehl
Queen Astrid of Belgium
Queen Astrid of Belgium was the first wife of King Leopold III of Belgium. She was born Princess Astrid Sofia Lovisa Thyra of Sweden, on November 17, 1905, at the Arvfurstens palats (Hereditary Prince’s Palace) in Stockholm. Astrid was the third of four children of Prince Carl of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland, and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. Through both of her parents, she was closely related to the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian royal families. Her father was the son of King Oscar II and brother of King Gustav V of Sweden. Her mother was the daughter of King Frederik VIII of Denmark, and sister to King Christian X of Denmark and King Haakon VII of Norway.
Astrid had two older sisters and a younger brother:
- Princess Margaretha (1899-1977); married Prince Axel of Denmark, had issue
- Princess Märtha (1901-1954); married Crown Prince Olav of Norway, had issue
- Prince Carl, Duke of Östergötland (1911-2003); lost his royal status upon marriage, became Prince Carl Bernadotte, had issue
Considered a potential bride for several royals, including the future King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, and the future King Olav V of Norway (who ended up marrying her sister Märtha), Astrid fell in love with the future King Leopold III of Belgium. The two were third cousins once removed, through their mutual descent from King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria.
Their engagement was announced in September 1926 and the couple was married two months later. A civil ceremony was held first, on November 4 in Stockholm, and a religious ceremony followed on November 10 at the Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula in Brussels.
The couple eventually settled at Stuyvenberg Palace and had three children:
- Princess Josephine-Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (1927 – 2005)
- King Baudouin of Belgium (1930-1993)
- King Albert II of Belgium (1934-)
Astrid was quickly embraced by the Belgian people and worked very hard to support causes and efforts which brought her into contact with them. The country celebrated the birth of their children, particularly when their first son, Baudouin, was born. In 1934, just months after the birth of their youngest son, Leopold’s father King Albert I passed away, and they became the new King and Queen of the Belgians. Just 28 at the time, Astrid threw herself into her royal duties, while continuing to raise her young family. Sadly, it would be just a year later than Astrid’s life would come to an end.
In August 1935, the family was on holiday in Switzerland. Having sent the children ahead, Leopold and Astrid decided to take one last outing before returning to Belgium. On a drive in the mountains near Lake Lucerne, with King Leopold at the wheel, and Astrid beside him, the king was distracted by something Astrid pointed out to him and lost control of the car. The convertible went off the road and down a steep slope, crashing into a tree. Both of them were thrown from the car, but Leopold was not seriously injured. Astrid, however, was thrown into another tree and died from her injuries. She was just 29 years old. Later, a chapel and memorial were built in her honor in Küssnacht am Rigi, at the scene of the accident.
Following a state funeral in Brussels, Queen Astrid was buried in the Royal Crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken. Today she lays aside her husband, King Leopold III, as well as his second wife, Princess Lilian.