In April 2008, during a segment of the VTM programme Het Nieuws, Queen Fabiola of Belgium was recorded speaking for the first time about the five miscarriages that she experienced. From 1960 until his death in 1993, Fabiola was the wife and queen consort of King Baudouin of the Belgians. She stated that her losses did not make her bitter: “I lost five children, but I’ve learned to live with it. On the contrary, you learn from the experience. I had problems with each pregnancy, but in the end I kept thinking that life is beautiful.”
|King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgian at the Vatican, June 1961.
|Newspaper headline from 9 June 1961.
|Newspaper headline from 26 June 1961.
On 8 June 1961, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola visited Pope John XXIII. It was reported by the international press that the couple had informed the Holy Father that the queen was with child. The Vatican itself would not officially confirm or deny the story. However, while giving an interview to Belgian reporters in Rome, Pope John XXIII let the secret slip: “The Queen was very kind because she told us that she is expecting a baby.” The king and queen returned to Belgium, and two weeks the queen did not appear in public. On Sunday, 25 June, the grand marshal of the court issued a communiqué: “Contrary to what one had been permitted to hope, a happy event should not be expected at the Royal Palace at Laeken in the near future. The Queen’s state of health gives no reason for worry. Her Majesty will have completely recovered within a few days.” This was the first child that the queen and her husband lost.
Queen Fabiola learned of her second pregnancy in February 1962. A physician in Lausanne was consulted; the reply of Swiss gynaecologist Professor Rochat must have been devastating to the queen: “Owing to a physiological defect you have only a ten percent chance of carrying a baby to full term, and barely a five percent chance of surviving the birth.” In May 1962, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands celebrated their silver wedding anniversary, and Baudouin and Fabiola were among the guests. Amsterdam newspaper Vrije Volk wrote that the Belgian queen was expecting. A palace spokesperson in Brussels, when asked about the veracity of the report, stated: “I would say no. It is true that the queen is avoiding strenuous engagements.” In June, the pregnancy ended in miscarriage.
In September 1963, Queen Fabiola suffered her third miscarriage. The queen and her husband King Baudouin had been on holiday at Zarauz, Spain, since August. Either three or four months pregnant, Fabiola lost the baby that she was carrying on Saturday, 14 September 1963. The queen was reported to be “depressed,” though in “good health,” and was looked after by doctors at the resort on the Bay of Biscay where the royal couple were vacationing. The miscarriage occurred one day after Baudouin returned from a fishing trip off of the southern coast of Spain. Noting that the king would return to Belgium on 20 September, a royal communiqué from Brussels elaborated: “Queen Fabiola will postpone her return by a few days. The hopes which recent information as to her health condition had provoked are unfortunately not founded anymore.” A royal birth had been expected in February 1964.
In March 1966, Fabiola and Baudouin discovered that they were expecting a child. The couple visited Pope Paul VI to receive his blessing over their fourth pregnancy. On Friday, 8 July 1966, the royal court announced that the queen was with child. The birth was expected in the winter of that year. In view of the queen’s medical history, “appropriate reservations” were cautioned to be made about the outcome. King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola wished to share their hopes with the Belgian people. Acting on the advice of doctors, all of the queen’s public engagements were cancelled. Sadly, on Sunday, 10 July 1966, Queen Fabiola was admitted to hospital in Brussels, where she underwent emergency surgery. Two days after the court announced that Fabiola was with child, it was confirmed that the queen had suffered a miscarriage as a result of an extra-uterine pregnancy. The baby had died in her womb. Fabiola was thirty-eight years-old.
|Newspaper headline from 26 February 1968.
In early 1968, Baudouin and Fabiola discovered that the queen was expecting a child for the fifth time. The queen underwent an operation in Brussels on Sunday, 25 February. According to her doctors, the aim of this medical intervention was “eliminating an obstacle to a new pregnancy.” In satisfactory condition, Fabiola was expected to remain at the clinic where she underwent the procedure for two weeks to recover. Alas, the true scenario behind the surgery was to guarantee the queen’s health after another much longed for baby had died in the uterus. After this final tragedy, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola resigned themselves to the fate of never becoming parents.
The king and queen were strengthened in their sorrows by their strong Roman Catholic faith. Baudouin and Fabiola poured affection and guidance into the lives of their nephews and nieces. The royal couple became resolved to act as parental figures for all of the children of Belgium.