Her character so original and unconventional, she certainly got it from her famous godmother, Empress Sissi, to whom she sometimes confided her secrets, during long walks on the shores of Lake Starnberg, who saw them both grow up. . These two Elisabeth – they had the same first name – shared a taste for nature, but also for travel and adventure. From an early age, the daughter of Charles-Théodore, Duke of Bavaria but also an ophthalmologist by profession, is not afraid of anything, and lets herself be carried away by her desires. This is how she would later be found with her head in the clouds, a seasoned aviator, being one of the first women to undergo her first flight in 1917.

One meeting changed Elisabeth’s fate more than any other. In May 1897, she attended the funeral of her aunt, the Duchess of Alençon, who tragically perished in the flames of the Bazar de la Charité in Paris. In the tearful assembly, where all the European elite are gathered, she meets the gaze of Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, son of the Count of Flanders and nephew of King Leopold II. She then swears to marry only him. A wish that will come true a few years later, on October 2, 1900.

Certainly, Albert and Elisabeth love each other, even though they are a couple that some consider ill-matched. She is as shy and serious as she is outgoing and reckless. But on the contrary, these two opposing characters complement each other. And when he acceded to the throne in 1909, by a twist of fate, Albert, crowned King of the Belgians, needed the support of his wife, even though he did not feel sufficiently prepared for his new role. She is the one who encourages him in particular to give his induction speech in French and Dutch. A great first in this country divided between two cultures. She also supported her during the Great War, which devastated Belgium. The valiant Elisabeth is on the front line to help the wounded. She will then inherit the nickname “Queen nurse”.

Like her grandmother Sissi, Élisabeth des Belges cannot sit still, and likes to explore new cultures. United States, Russia, Africa, East… She travels the world, to find answers to the many questions she asks. While staying in the British Indies, she was amazed by a practice then unknown in Europe: meditation. No one will be surprised afterwards to see the Queen of the Belgians trying her hand at some yoga postures in the gardens of Château de Laeken.

The other trip which undeniably marked her life was the one she made in Egypt, in February 1923. A few months earlier, the queen consort of the Belgians learned that Tutankhamun’s tomb had just been discovered by archaeologist Howard Carter , and is about to be opened. In less time than it takes to tell, Elisabeth is packing her bags and leaving for Luxor, so as not to miss any of this event. Accompanied by her son Leopold, she is therefore one of the first people to enter the pharaoh’s burial chamber. The press around the world is covering this historic moment and worrying to see the Belgian Queen arrive covered in a thick coat of fur, when it is over thirty degrees in the Valley of the Kings. The day before, Her Majesty was simply seized with the flu, and was afraid of catching a cold … The anecdote still makes you smile.

Élisabeth, alongside Paul Claudel, for the performance of the play “Le Partage de Midi”, at the Marigny theater in Paris, in December 1948

Élisabeth des Belges doesn’t care what people say or think about her. She just follows his whims and passions. And it must be said that the queen has a lot of them. She is interested in all the arts, which she is fond of. Her talent for music is recognized – she plays the violin and teaches her grandchildren – but also for painting and sculpture, and even photography. She likes to immortalize her many prestigious guests. Because Elisabeth frequents all European intellectuals: the writer Colette, the painter Eugène Laermans, the poet Émile Verhaeren or the scientist Albert Einstein, who often comes to visit her. Élisabeth is a jack-of-all-trades that her friend the author Jean Cocteau described as follows: “In Belgium, there is only one queen, small of stature and great soul, who always knew how to use her modesty as a queen. to say: “I am only an artist”, and his artist’s modesty to say: “I am only a queen”. “

It is in the midst of nature, which she never tires of observing, that Elisabeth likes to take refuge. For example, she records the songs of birds, of which she knows all the names. Not lacking in energy, she is an excellent rider, but also a skilful skier.

🔴 𝗖𝗘 𝗟𝗨𝗡𝗗𝗜 𝟭𝟭 𝗝𝗔𝗡𝗩𝗜𝗘𝗥 🇧🇪 | For the first time in #secretsdhistoire, @bernstephane portrays Elisabeth of Belgium, a woman with a whimsical and endearing personality, “Queen Nurse” during the First World War.⚠️ 𝗜𝗡𝗘𝗗𝗜𝗧

This vigor, it also puts it at the service of many causes. As World War II broke out, she stood beside her son, Leopold III – on the throne since Albert’s death in 1934 – and organized her own resistance. It acts to free political prisoners and even to help the Jews. In 1942, when the wearing of the yellow star became compulsory for Jews in Belgium, the Queen Mother was photographed with a brooch, pinned to her dress, which depicted the Star of David. A final provocation against the Hitler regime that could have cost him dearly. “I’m risking the firing squad, and although I am shot, I don’t care about death,” she exclaims despite the threat.

Established in her positions, Elisabeth will remain so until the end of her life. Although obviously royalist, it is also paradoxically… communist. In 1958, in the midst of the Cold War, she flew to the USSR, where she was accommodated in the Kremlin by Khrushchev. In 1961, she traveled to China to meet Mao Zedong, despite her grandson, King Baudoin’s ban. This acquaintanceship earned her the new nickname of “red queen.” “Elisabeth, unforgettable Queen of the Belgians, has always done what she wants. So fondly remembers her granddaughter, Prince Esméralda of Belgium: “What remains to me of my grandmother is this extraordinary determination, this strength of character and opinion, this moral courage to go at the end of his convictions … “

To see: Elisabeth, the strange queen of Belgium, in Secrets d’Histoire, Monday January 11 at 9:05 p.m. on France 3