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Queen Elisabeth of Belgium

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Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, great-grandmother of King Philippe, was born on this day in 1876, as Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria, named after her famous aunt, Empress Elisabeth ‘Sissi’ of Austria. In 1900, she married Crown Prince Albert of Belgium. The couple had three children, including Queen Marie Jose of Italy, and became King and Queen in 1909. Working with nurses during WWI, she established the Queen Elisabeth Medical Foundation in Belgium to help those who could not afford medical care. Passionate about music, she was also one of the founding members and patrons of the Queen Elisabeth Violin competition. Queen Elisabeth initially retired from public duties after being widowed in 1934, but returned after the tragic death of her daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid, in 1935. She remained the ‘First Lady’ of Belgium until 1960, when her grandson got married, known as the ‘Red Queen’ in her later years, after visiting several communist countries. Dowager Queen Elisabeth died in November 1965, aged 89.

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