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Belgium’s royal godchildren visit Dutch themepark for ‘reunion’

Namesakes of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

KAATSHEUVEL, the Netherlands - A call at themepark Efteling for ‘Baudouin’ (in Dutch Boudewijn) or ‘Fabiola’ could have sparked quite a response recently. As many as 125 visitors could have answered ‘Here!’ They all are official godchildren of the late Belgian King Baudouin and his wife Queen Fabiola, and were on a reunion visit to the attraction where one of the Queen’s fables was translated into a ride.

All the godchildren are the seventh consecutive son or daughter in Belgian families. An unwritten tradition is that such a child will become a godchild of the reigning monarch or his or her spouse and henceforth carries the given name of the king or queen.

There are an estimated 500 ‘royal’ Baudouins in Belgium and 250 Fabiolas. The king was a monarch for nine years before he married the Spanish noblewoman. Baudouin, who had succeeded his father in 1951, died childless in 1993. The tradition to name the seventh (consecutive) male or female child is still alive. Now they are named ‘Albert’ or ‘Paola’, after the current King and Queen.

Now ‘Albert’

No one knows when the tradition was started or why it has become a tradition in the first place. Not everyone is aware of the tradition and people sometimes only apprise of the naming possibility at city hall when a knowledgeable civic records clerk points it out to the father registering his child. Some parents still opt out of the naming convention.

The number of Alberts and Paolas is significantly lower. Not only has Baudouin’s brother Albert been king for only eleven years, the number of large Belgian families has dwindled as well.

‘Water Lillies’

The trip to the Efteling was organized by one of the Baudouins, an alderman from the historic town of Bruges. Because of privacy laws, it was impossible to trace all his co-godchildren. The reunion’s organiser ultimately placed ads in Belgian dailies. Some of the former King and Queen’s godchildren had met earlier, at reunions for the king’s 40th anniversary, and at his funeral.

In keeping with the number seven, the godchildren this time met on the seventh day of the seventh month (July 7). The meeting place in Kaatsheuvel was special to the Fabiolas in the group. Queen Fabiola wrote a number of fairy tales, one of which - ‘Indian Water Lillies’ - was turned into an attraction in the park conceived by famed Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck. The attraction was opened in 1966.