Fabiola de Mora y Aragón (11 June 1928 – 5 December 2014) was Queen consort of the Belgians from her marriage to King Baudouin in 1960 until his death in 1993. The couple had no children, so the Crown passed to her husband’s younger brother, King Albert II.
Fabiola de Mora y Aragón was born in Madrid, Spain, at the Palacio Zurbano, the main residence of the Marqués de Casa Riera. She was the sixth of seven children of Don Gonzalo de Mora y Fernández y Riera y del Olmo, 4th Marqués de Casa Riera, 2nd Count of Mora (1887–1957), and his wife, Doña Blanca de Aragón y Carrillo de Albornoz y Barroeta-Aldamar y Elío (1892–1981), daughter of the 6th Marchioness of Casa Torres and Viscountess of Baiguer. Her godmother was Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.
Before her marriage she published an album of 12 fairy tales (Los doce cuentos maravillosos), one of which (“The Indian Water Lilies”) would get its own pavilion in the Efteling theme park in 1966.
On 15 December 1960, Fabiola married Baudouin, who had been King of the Belgians since the abdication of his father, Leopold III, in 1951. At the marriage ceremony in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, she wore a 1926 Art Deco tiara that had been a gift of the Belgian state to her husband’s mother, Astrid of Sweden, upon her marriage to Leopold III. Her dress of satin and ermine was designed by the couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga. Fabiola was a hospital nurse at the time of her engagement; TIME magazine, in its 26 September 1960, issue, called Doña Fabiola the “Cinderella Girl” and described her as “an attractive young woman, though no raving beauty” and “the girl who could not catch a man.” On the occasion of her marriage, Spanish bakers set out to honour Fabiola and created a type of bread, “la fabiola”, which is still made and consumed daily in many Spanish cities.
The explorer Guido Derom named the Queen Fabiola Mountains – a newly discovered range of Antarctic mountains – in her honour in 1961. She also has several varieties of ornamental plants named after her.
The royal couple had no children, as the Queen’s five pregnancies ended in miscarriage. There are reports, however, that she had a stillborn child in the mid 1960s. Fabiola openly spoke about her miscarriages in 2008: ‘You know, I myself lost five children. You learn something from that experience. I had problems with all my pregnancies, but you know, in the end I think life is beautiful’.
Baudouin died in late July 1993 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Albert II. Fabiola moved out of the Royal Palace of Laeken to the more modest Stuyvenberg Castle and reduced her public appearances so as not to overshadow her sister-in-law, Queen Paola.
Admired for her devout Roman Catholicism and involvement in social causes particularly those related to mental health, children’s issues and women’s issues, Queen Fabiola received the 2001 Ceres Medal, in recognition of her work to promote rural women in developing countries. The medal was given by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). She was also honorary president of the King Baudouin Foundation.
In July 2009, the Belgian press published news of anonymous death threats she received stating she would be shot with a crossbow. She responded to the threats during Belgian National Day celebrations by waving an apple to the crowd in a reference to the William Tell folk tale. Subsequent threats by an individual said to have a similar signature to the July 2009 threat-writer were received again in January 2010.
Queen Fabiola was hospitalised for 15 days with pneumonia beginning 16 January 2009, with her condition described as “serious”. She subsequently recovered and began attending public functions the following May. Queen Fabiola had been in poor health for years, suffering from osteoporosis, as well as having never fully recovered from a lung inflammation she had in 2009. On the evening of 5 December 2014, the Royal Palace announced that Queen Fabiola had died at Stuyvenberg Castle.
The federal government declared a period of national mourning from Saturday 6 December to Friday 12 December, the day when the funeral of Queen Fabiola took place at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels.
The Royal Family, members of the government and the Lord Speaker received the coffin at the Royal Palace on 10 December where it was placed in the grand antechamber, where it was decorated with flowers and attended by an honour guard of generals, members of the King’s Royal Military household. Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Metropolitan Archbishop-emeritus of Mechelen-Brussels, celebrated the Requiem Mass.
Members of several royal families around the world including the Empress of Japan, Queen of Denmark, King and Queen of Sweden, King of Norway accompanied by his sister Princess Astrid, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Sovereign Prince of Liechtenstein and Empress Farah of Iran, attended the funeral. No members of the British Royal Family or the Monegasque Princely Family attended the funeral, leading to criticism by both Belgian and international press