Princess Marie-Christine of Belgium
We are honored that Marie-Christine found the love of her life from China Doll Maltese. Below is her story!
Most little girls dream of being a princess, so it is ironic that the only thing Princess Marie-Christine of Belgium ever wanted was to live a normal life in which she could make her own decisions, choose her own friends, and offer something meaningful to others. Today, she has all that and much more and she couldn’t be more delighted.
From the beginning, Princess Marie-Christine’s family life had all the ingredients of an exciting epic. Her father, King Leopold III, had lost his first wife in a tragic auto accident. Shortly after that, World War II broke out and he was faced with a difficult decision. Against overwhelming odds, he was forced to capitulate in the name of protecting the country. This left him a virtual prisoner within his own borders. As a result of his actions, he chose to relinquish the throne to his eldest son and Princess Marie-Christine’s brother, Baudoin.
King Leopold III and his second wife had three children, Princess Marie-Christine, among them. Having a special sense of wonder and curiosity, made it difficult for a child like Princess Marie-Christine to grow up under the extraordinary circumstances of royalty. A castle for a home and the constant attention of nannies, servants and bodyguards were a poor substitute for the simple and warm dynamics of a normal family life.
Education by private tutors deprived her of the social opportunities found in school. Having virtually no one to talk to, she became an avid reader and learned to speak properly as a result of Shakespeare and other classics.
With the exception of her younger sister, Esmeralda, and her Dame de Compgnie, there was rarely any family or friends about, so it was her horses and dogs that offered her the joy and company that were otherwise unavailable. Fortunately, she wasn’t unhappy in her seclusion, for she-knew nothing else to compare it to.
At 14, she was placed in her first private school, thrust among girls from all walks of life. The nuns didn’t care that she knew nothing of responsibility, they still expected her to make her bed and perform other daily chores.
This became the first of three boarding schools during her adolescent years. One thing she discovered was that she strongly preferred the company of girls who weren’t from royal or wealthy backgrounds, she liked down-to-earth types she could more readily identify with.
Since her domestic upbringing had taught her nothing more than to expect to get married and have children. She had no particular goals in life, but certain personal interests had begun to take shape. There were sports, a love and talent for drawing, and most of all, an adoration for movies. Actually, she was intrigued by the entire movie industry with its stars and glamour.
Just as her sense of self was beginning to bloom, she got her first taste of hard-core reality. While in France, attending her premiere royal ball, she was sexually assaulted by a distant relative. Ashamed and confused, she kept the ugly incident a secret. The prospect of telling anyone, including her mother, was unthinkable.
Back at the castle, she tried to go on as if nothing had happened, but word traveled fast and people were beginning to talk. When the rumors reached her mother, she confronted the Princess without listening to her side of the story. Princess Marie-Christine was then sent to the South of France where she would live in seclusion with only the company of her Dame de Compgnie. There was little for her to do there but read, reflect and weep. Princess Marie-Christine regards this period as ”The world was ending for me.”
Ultimately the two-month seclusion became more unbearable than the assault itself so, in 1980, as a final resort, the family sent her away to stay with relatives in Toronto, Canada.
Although the very first job of her life was arranged for her in the Office of Protocol, she landed something else on her own; production assistant on a television show where she was able to learn the ropes and begin making her first real friends.
Her parents frowned on her desire for independence and threatened to cancel her passport if she didn’t return home immediately. To elude deportation, Princess Marie-Christine made a desperate decision and maried a Canadian citizen. When her parents realized the extent of her rebellion, they decided to cut her off and leave her to her own fate.
The marriage turned bad in a matter of weeks and the Toronto press began hounding the princess, so she fled to the Montreal Film Festival and remained in that city. Her morale spiraled downward as she went from one job to the next. Depressed and bordering on hopeless, she was hired as a hostess for fashion shows. Her facility for speaking and friendliness made her a natural. The pay wasn’t much, but she felt it was preferable to asking her family for a handout.
And then in the tradition of a good princess story, in 1982, she met her “knight on a white horse.” Jean Paul came from a military family in Southwest France. He was warm and responsive and took a sincere interest in Princess Marie-Christine. He paid real attention to her and took care of here when she was sick. She actually felt listened to for the first time in her life. These qualities had a major impact on her because she’d never perceived of someone not on the family payroll, acting as if they cared. She found she could connect with this charming man who had a gift for lifting her spirits.
Her new found happiness was soon interrupted with the news of her father’s death. With a girlfriend at her side, she rushed to Belgium the day before the funeral. As she gazed upon the coffin, she experienced the tension she’d felt for so long, drain from her body. A sense of peace washed over her. Before her family could detain her, she headed straight back to Canada.
When her brother, King Baudoin, asked if there was anything he could do for her, she asked if he would provide the money she needed to divorce her husband. He accommodated her in 1983 and that was the last contact she ever had with her family.
Finally free of her past, she and Jean Paul moved to France to be near his parents. Three years later, the couple moved to Los Angeles and, in 1989, were married. Among other notables, James Coburn attended the small but elegant ceremony at the Westwood Marquis.
The couple moved to Orange County for three years before settling in Lake Tahoe.
Princess Marie-Christine finally has it all. The sad little princess has found her way. She has the man she loves and the life she’s longed for. She even has Piccolo and Pacha, her prized Yorkshire and Maltese, who travel with her everywhere. “Either hotels accept the dogs or we don’t go.”
Princess Marie-Christine never wants the solitude of royalty again. She never wants to cut another ribbon or launch another vessel. She’s had her share of emptiness. Now, she just wants to live her life freely, in an important and meaningful way.
Her brother, King Baudoin, died in 1993 and was succeeded by her other brother King Albert II.