Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Belgium stunned by death of King Albert

February 18, 1934

King Albert I of Belgium was killed earlier today in "mountaineering accident," reports the Associated Press.  He was 58 years old.

He had long been "a devotee of mountain climbing."

The King's body was not discovered until 12 hours after his accident.  He was  "killed yesterday in a fall while scaling a cliff" in the Ardennes, near Namur, Belgium.

Belgians  awoke this morning to news of the King's death.  The country has been "plunged into deepest mourning."  

King Albert's body now lies in state  in his bedroom at his chateau at Laeken.

The funeral will take place on Thursday.  On Friday, Albert's elder son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant, will be proclaimed as King Leopold III.

Albert's widow, Elisabeth, "who is far from well, " was "spared the news" of her husband's death as "long as possible."  She was finally told at 6 o'clock this morning.  She collapsed to the ground, and has been confined to her rooms all day.

King Albert's body was found at 2 a.m., at the "precipice at Marche les Daumes near Namur."   Several weeks ago the area was "classified as a national preserve."  The king was familiar with area, and "once scaled the rocks."

He had been accompanied by his valet, on the automobile trip to the area.  He got out of the car, and asked his valet to wait.   Mr. van Dyck watched as the king "start out up the rocks," but soon lost his view of the king, and never saw him alive again.

As darkness approached, the valet became "uneasy" as he knew King Albert had an appointment at the Palais des Sports in Brussels.  Although he had "every confidence" in the king's "ability as an alpinist," he feared the King would be late for his appointment.  He made a telephone call to Baron Edmon Carton de Wiart, who has a chateau nearby to ask for assistant.  The baron called the palace at Laeken to say that the King had been delayed.  He joined the valet to start a search for the missing king.

They "shouted and searched" for sometime, and were joined by townspeople and the local police.  They spent a greater part of the night searching the King.

It was at 2 a.m., when the King's body was found by accident, when one of the searchers "got his foot caught in the rope that the King at attached to himself as an aid in scaling the rocks."

Albert's body was "bent double" and there was a "huge gash" on the left side of his head.  The climbing rope was still wrapped around Albert's waist.

His body was found at "the foot of a great pinnacle rock and in a little crevasse."  It appeared from the loose rock that the king had lost his footing.  He was about half way to the top of the summit when he suffered his accident.

Albert's eyeglasses were found on a rock "about thirty-six feet above where his body was discovered.  A canvas sack and his climbing axe were found near his body.

His body was taken to the road and immediately by car to Laeken, arriving at about 3:30 a.m.  His head was "swathed in bandages."

Late last night, Queen Elisabeth had been told that the King had been delayed by an automobile accident and would return to Brussels today.

The Duke and Duchess of Brabant were in Switzerland, where they were informed about King Albert's death by telephone.  The heir to the throne and his wife, arrived back in Brussels tonight at 10:45.   The Duke and Duchess got back on their train and traveled to the private royal station at Laeken.    Prince Leopold went first to "console his mother, Queen Elisabeth," and the went alone into the room where his father's body lay "clothes in a general's khaki uniform."

The Duke of Brabant's younger brother, Prince Charles, was in Ostend, when he also informed by telephone.  He drove his own car, and reached the palace at 7:00 p.m., tonight.

Princess Marie Jose and her husband, the Prince of Piedmont, heir to the Italian throne, are expected to arrive tomorrow.  She expects a child in about a month.

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