Queen Elisabeth of Belgium

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One of the possible activities during the All Quiet-training is a visit to the Queens hospital. This hospital is named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, which played an important part in Belgium during the First World War with her husband King Albert I. As a result, the royal couple became extremely popular. Hereby we made a portrait of Elisabeth, one of the most legendary queens in Belgian history.

The niece of Sisi
Elisabeth was born on 25 July 1876 in Possenhofen (Germany) as Duchess in Bavaria. Her father Karl-Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, was a famous ophthalmologist, her mother Maria José Bragança was princess of Portugal. Her aunt and godmother was Elisabeth of Austria, better known as Sisi. At the funeral of another aunt, Sophie in Bavaria (a younger sister of Sisi), she met Prince Albert of Belgium. They married on 2 October 1900 and had three children: Leopold (later King of Belgium), Karel (Regent of Belgium after the Second World War) and Marie-José (the last queen of Italy). After the death of King Leopold II in 1909, her husband Albert ascended the throne, and so Elisabeth became Queen of Belgium.

Heroes during the war
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Germany wanted to surprise France by invading the country through neutral Belgium instead of taking the expected route. On 4 August 1914, the German army invaded Belgium. The Belgians made great efforts to defend themselves, but the German army was very strong and after a few weeks the main part of Belgium was conquered. However, there was one area that proved inexpugnable: the area around the Yser, a river in West Flanders.

The Belgian Government quickly went on exile in France, but King Albert didn’t escaped and took the lead in the army. He supported his soldiers in the trenches during the entire war, which gave him the nicknames soldier-king and knight-king. Under his leadership Belgium was saved from destruction and the country was recognized as the ‘brave litte Belgium’.

Nurse
His wife Queen Elizabeth also played an important role during the First World War. For her, the war certainly was a strange situation: Belgium fought against Germany, her native country. Because of this, at first she was accused of passing the military plans of her husband to the Germans. Later, however, she became very popular with the Belgians due to her work for the Red Cross. Contrary to what you could deduce from pictures of her in a nurse’s uniform, she was not fully active as a nurse – that just was war propaganda. Her main task was to boost the morale of the wounded and depressed soldiers by distributing them flowers, fruit and chocolate. On occasion, she also assisted the doctors, for example by putting on bandages.

Saving Jews
After the end of the war, Albert en Elisabeth were welcomed as heroes in the whole world.  King Albert died in 1934, so their son Leopold III was king during the Second World War. However, Leopold’s wife Queen Astrid was killed in 1935 in a car accident, so Elisabeth took over her duties as queen. Because of her involvement with Germany, she tried not to interfere too much during the Second World War, but she was involved in the rescue of many Jews thanks to her contacts at the Red Cross. Because of this, she received the title of respect Chassid Umot ha-Olam (Righteous Among the Nations) in Israel. Pope John XXIII and Oscar Schindler received that title as well.

Queen Elisabeth, who was very much involved in music and to whom the Queen Elisabeth Competition is named, died at the age of 89 on 23 November 1965. Crown Princess Elisabeth, her great-great-granddaughter, is named after her.