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Mary Lilian Baels

Mary Lilian Baels (November 28, 1916 - June 7, 2002) was best known as Princess de Réthy of Belgium.

- Leopold & Lilian -

Mary Lilian Lucy Josepha Monique Baels was born in Highbury, London, England, one of eight children of Henri Baels, an attorney and fish trader from Ostend Belgium, and his wife Anne Marie De Visscher, who were living in England during World War I.

In 1926, Henri Baels became Belgian Minister of Agriculture and King Leopold III appointed him Governor (royal representative) of the province of West Flanders. An avid golfer, and regular visitor to the Knokke golf course, his young daughter Lilian attracted the attention of King Leopold and the two became frequent golf partners.

Reportedly on September 11, 1941, Lilian Baels secretly married the widowed King Leopold III of Belgium, though a biography of the king, written by Antoine Giscard d'Estaing, states that the marriage actually took place on December 6, with the September date given to conceal the fact that Lilian was apparently pregnant with the couple's first child. (The king's first wife, Astrid of Sweden, had been killed in an automobile accident in 1935 at age 29.) The announcement of the king's second marriage was made to the country by the means of a letter from Cardinal Van Roey[?], primate of Belgium, to all parish priests. The letter stated that Lilian Baels had asked not to be titled Queen and that the King had decided that she would be called Princess de Réthy, and had also declared that any children of this marriage would have no dynastic rights. The marriage was considered morganatic (the Réthy title does not appear to have been officially established in royal records, though it was the name by which she was popularly known; she was, however, made a royal Princess of Belgium).

The children of King Leopold II and Princess Lilian of Belgium:

  • Alexander Emmanuel Henry Albert Marie Leopold, Prince of Belgium, born in Brussels on July 18, 1942. Married Léa Wolman in 1991; she was created a Princess of Belgium in her own right.
  • Marie-Christine Daphné Astrid Elisabeth Leopoldine, Princess of Belgium, born in Brussels on February 6, 1951. Married first, in 1981 (divorced 1981), Paul Drucker, divorced; married second, in 1989, Jean-Paul Gourgues. Resides in California.
  • Maria-Esmeralda Adélaïde Lilian Anne Léopoldine, Princess of Belgium, born in Brussels on September 30, 1956. Married in 1998, Salvador Moncada. A journalist, her professional name is Esmeralda de Réthy.

Princess Lilian of Belgium was interred next to her husband in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady in Laeken, Belgium.

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