A Queenly Godmother

Astrid of Sweden (1905-1935) – princess of Sweden and queen of Belgium

There was a story told by my Belgian grandmother, that she was named after Queen Astrid, who was also her godmother due to a royal tradition. I remember her telling me that as a child, she was once invited to play with the princess, who was of a similar age, but that they fought over a toy.  (My mother recalls that she even got sent home for this.) Her childhood memories of the young princess were not overly positive and it was entertaining to hear.

Unfortunately, the facts don’t quite support the story.

Queen as godmother

This tradition is true and is referred to on the Belgian Monarchy website: “Traditionally, the King and the Queen are the godfather or godmother of the seventh son or seventh daughter in a family, on condition that this succession of sons or daughters is unbroken.” (The Belgian Monarchy, 2020)

However, the honour is only bestowed upon the seventh son or daughter – Astrid Lemmens was the eighth daughter.

I did find a newspaper report that mentioned the queen becoming godmother to a LEMMENS daughter. Only this daughter was not Astrid but her older sister, Elisabeth. And the event had occurred in 1925, before my grandmother was even born (in 1926).

Le Carillon, 1925 Mar 28, p2 c1


A beautiful family

We announced that the Edouard Lemmens-Minne family, living on rue Polder Ste Catherine, had enriched themselves with a seventh daughter, on March 6. The eldest was born on April 12, 1913 in Nieuport. In a letter addressed to the Palace of Brussels, to the Mayor of Ostend, it says:

<The Queen accepts with pleasure to be godmother of the seventh daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lemmens-Minne>. And further: <Our Sovereign entrusts you with the task of having Her represented at the ceremony of the baptism of the child, and asks you to express Her wishes of happiness to the parents of Her new goddaughter>.

Mr. Bourgmestre Moreaux entrusted the care to Ms. Elleboudt-Moulaert, wife of Mr. Elleboudt, our alderman for Public Works.

Une belle familie
Nous avons annonce que la famille Edouard Lemmens-Minne, habitant rue Polder Ste Catherine, s’etait enrichie d’une septieme fille, le 6 mars dernier. L’ainee naquit le 12 avril 1913 a Nieuport. Dans une lettre adressee du Palais de Bruxelles, au Bourgmestre d’Ostende, il est dit:
<La Reine accepte avec plaisir d’etre marraine de la septieme fille de M. et Mme Lemmens-Minne>. Et plus loin : <Notre Souveraine vous confie le soin de La faire representer a la ceremonie du bapteme de Penfant, et vous prie d’exprimer Ses souhaits de bonheur aux parents de Sa nouvelle filleule>.
M. le Bourgmestre Moreaux confia le soin a Mme Elleboudt-Moulaert, femme de M. Elleboudt, notre echevin des Travaux publics.

Le Carillon, 28 Mar 1925, p2 c1

This means the queen did not actually attend her goddaughter’s baptism but instead used a city councilor’s wife as her proxy (Louisa Moulaert, wife of Alphonse Elleboudt). Interestingly, Elisabeth DID meet the queen in 1931, when the royal family visited Ostende and the interaction made the local paper:

De Zeewacht, 1931 July 25, p1 c7 – p2 c1

In the meantime, an endearing act took place. The young Elisabeth Lemmens, the seventh daughter of Mr and Mrs E. Lemmens, of which through mediation of Mrs. Alph. Elleboudt, the Queen is meter, presented herself to the Queen with a flower owl and spoke as follows, while the daughter of H. Schepen Vroome handed over a flower sheaf to Princess Clementine:
Dear Meter,
How proud and happy I am, your baptized child, to be the little interpreter of the population of Ostend, to tell you how welcome you are here, you see that from side to side, and read in flower and flag and festive green, the sincere love and affection of your people. Yes, everything calls out to you, how welcome you are and how your name is praised and honored here. The beating heart of the People that you were expecting for so long now see You full of joy and offer you thanks and honors with great enthusiasm, Dear Queen.
After those words, the Queen took her godchild on her lap and kissed and asked her news of her family. Prince Leopold also took them on his lap and had a conversation with the child.

Intusschen had een aandoenlijk tooneeltje plaats. Het jonge Elisabethje Lemmens, het zevende dochtertje van M. en Mev E. Lemmens, waarvan door bemiddeling van Mev. Alph. Elleboudt, de Koningin meter is, bood zich aan de Koningin met een bloementuil en sprak als volgt, terwijl het dochtertje van H. Schepen Vroome een bloemengarve aan Prinses Clementine overhandige:
Lieve Meter,
Wat ben ik fier en gelukkig, Ik, uw doopkind, de kleine tolk der Oostendsche bevolking te zijn, om U te zeggen hoe welkom gij hier zijt, dat ziet gij t’allen kant, en leest in bloem en vlag en feestelijk groen, de oprechte liefde en verkleefdheid van uw Volk. Ja, alles roept U toe, hoe welkom gij zijt en hoe uw naam hier wordt geprezen en vereerd. Het kloppend hart van ‘t Volk dat U zoolang verbeidde, ziet U nu vol vreugde en bied U, Geachte Koningin, met veel geestdrift zijn dank en hulde aan.
Na die woorden name de Koningin haar petekind op den schoot en kuste en vroeg haar nieuws van hare familie. Prins Leopold nam ze ook op gijnen schoot en voerde een gesprek met het kindje.

De Zeewacht, 25 July 1931, p1 c7 – p2 c1

Queen Astrid was not queen at the time

Not only was Astrid the wrong daughter, the other Astrid was the wrong queen. Upon marrying Prince Leopold, the young Swedish princess was ‘enthusiastically adopted by the Belgians’ and ‘widely loved for her beauty, charm and simplicity’.  But Astrid only became queen in 1934 when her husband’s father, King Albert died. Sadly, she died the following year in an automobile accident in Switzerland [source].

The queen referred to in the above articles would have actually been, Elisabeth, queen of King Albert. It makes sense that Elisabeth LEMMENS was named after her royal godmother.

Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, c.1920

However, my grandmother’s story still has some merit due to being born within a few days of Leopold and Astrid’s marriage. The royal couple married civilly in Stockholm on 4 November 1926 and religiously in Brussels on 10 November 1926 – my grandmother was born 14 November 1926. Considering, the Lemmens family appeared to be strong royal supporters, it is extremely likely that they named her daughter after the princess in honour of this national occasion. So, it appears Astrid LEMMENS was named after ‘the queen’ – she just wasn’t queen at the time.

Argued with a princess

I doubt I’ll ever find out if this part of the story is true. Astrid and Leopold did have a daughter in 1927, Princess Josephine-Charlotte and so would have been around my grandmother’s age. If the story is true, this would be the princess referred to.

Princess Josephine-Charlotte, c1930s

But why would she be invited to tea? Especially since she wasn’t even a god child. If there’s any truth to the story, the answer may lie in her father, Eduard Lemmens’ service to the community [to be expanded upon in a future post].

I’m not ready to dismiss the story completely. The memory seemed quite vivid to my grandmother so it’s possible we simply misinterpreted what she said.  Unfortunately, Astrid LEMMENS is no longer around to set us straight. If only I’d looked into this sooner.



An Old Car Accident

‘The New Citroen’ was advertised in the newspaper reporting on Eduard’s accident (De Zeewacht, 1933 May 13)

My mother’s recollections of her grandfather, Eduard LEMMENS, included his involvement in a serious car accident. She believed it occurred in a chauffered car in Switzerland which led to maybe brain damage or a coma but she was not sure. I have since been able to find mention of this accident and the serious injuries obtained through Eduard’s local newspapers at the time (via the Stad en Zee Oostende site).

On the 5th of December 1931, Eduard Lemmens (then living on Nieuwpoort Avenue in Westende, Belgium) was involved in a traffic accident.  He had been travelling as a taxi passenger along Albert Avenue (which I have been unable to locate see update below) in Ghent (not Switzerland), when the vehicle collided with another car and was overturned. “As a result of the very violent impact, the last car, carrying three travellers, crashed while Van Pottelsberghe’s car swerved and stamped the car of beer merchant Haerinckx, domiciled in Dendermonde, Mont-St-Amand.” (Le Littoral, 20 May 1933, p3 c2)

Initial report of accident – Le Littoral, 1931 Dec 12, p4 c1


Ostend biesse in Ghent
Last Saturday, one of our fellow citizens, Mr. Edouard Lemmens, was driving in a taxi with three other people along Albert Avenue in Ghent. Arriving at the corner of a street, the taxi was hit/overturned by a car.
The occupants were immediately removed and Mr. Lemmens, who had a head injury and a face injury, was taken to a clinic. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Ostendais biesse à Gand
Samedi dernier, un de nos concitoyens, M. Edouard Lemmens roulait dans un taxi avec trois autres personnes le long de l’avenue Albert a Gand. Arrive au coin d’une rue le taxi fut renverse par une auto.

On retira aussitot les occupants et M. Lemmens, blesse a la tete et au visage fut transporte dans une clinique. Nous lui souhaitons prompte guerison

(Le Littoral, 12 Dec 1931, p4 c1)

Eduard suffered what seemed to be a serious head injury as initial signs of recovery were only reported on a few weeks later. He was rendered unable to work as the entire left side of his body had been paralysed, and attended further appointments in a Ghent clinic.

Le Littoral, 1932 Jan 3, p3 c3

We are pleased to learn that Mr. Edouard Lemmens, who was recently injured in a car accident, is on the road to recovery.

Nous sommes heureux d’apprendre que M. Edouard Lemmens, qui fut recemment blesse dans un accident d’auto, est en bonne voie de guerison.

(Le Littoral, 3 Jan 1932, p3 c3)

In 1932, a court date was set for the prosecution of the driver of the other vehicle, Mr Van Pottelsberghe but the court’s decision wasn’t actually reached until May the next year.

De Zeewacht, 1932 Mar 19, p6 c4

Court of Ghent

It is on the 11th of April in Ghent that the case of the car accident, of which M. Ed. Lemmens is the victim. It is M. Van Pottelsberghe who is being prosecuted.

Rechtbank van Gent
Het is op 11 April dat te Gent de zaak opgeroepen wodt van het autoogeval, waarvan M. Ed. Lemmens het slachtoffer is. ‘t Is M. Van Pottelsberghe die vervolgd wordt.

(De Zeewacht, 19 Mar 1932, p6 c4)

The driver of the other vehicle, Albert Van Pottelsberghe was an ‘entrepreneur’ of Erenbodegem, but I have been unable to find any other information on him. He was found responsible and sentenced ‘on account of involuntary injuries caused by carelessness’ and ‘violation of traffic regulations’. Van Pottelsberghe was ordered to pay 93, 058 francs to Eduard to compensate for the past two years.

[One article mentioned the “capital that will be given to him is 880,000 francs” but I’m unsure as to what this means with regards to the 93, 058 francs already awarded to Lemmens.]

De Zeewacht, 1933 May 13, p4 c2



An old car accident. – On 5 December 1931, the car of Mr. Van Pottelsberghe, contractor in Eerembodeghem, ended up on the taxi of Mr. Jules Van Ertvelde, Albertlaan in Ghent, which was knocked over with the result that the three occupants were hurt: the taxi driver Van Ertvelde, M.M. Edouard Lemmens, living at Nieuwpoortlaan in Westende and Georges Stinon, employee in Schaerbeek. The investigation regarding this case seemed without end, although the responsibility of Van Pottelberghe, from the beginning was assumed. The investigation was particularly directed towards the situation of Mr. Lemmens, who was beaten totally incompetent to work, as the entire left side of his body was paralysed. All the strikes by doctors confirmed this and the victim had to submit himself to treatments in a clinic in Ghent. On Tuesday morning the case was summoned to the fining court in Ghent. After the pleadings the following verdict was pronounced: Van Pottelsberghe is sentenced on account of involuntary injuries caused by carelessness to pay a fine of 2,100 francs or a month’s imprisonment, on account of violation of the traffic regulations to twice 210 francs, a fine or 9 days and to pay the following fees: 250 francs to Stinon, 9,157 to Van Ertvelde and 93,058 francs, to Ed. Lemmens, this already preliminary title and subject to the possible worse consequences. The payment granted to M. Lemmens represents the compensation for the two past years. The capital that will be given to him is 880,000 francs.


Een oud autoongeval. — Een Oostendenaar die eene vergoeding bekomt.Den 5 December 1931 kwam de auto van den heer Van Pottelsberghe, aannemer te Eerembodeghem, terecht op de taxi van heer Jules Van Ertvelde, Albertlaan te Gent, die omgestooten werd met het gevolg dat de drie inzittenden gekwetst werden: de taxivoerder Van Ertvelde, M.M. Edouard Lemmens, wonende Nieuwpoortlaan te Westende en Georges Stinon, bediende te Schaerbeek. Het onderzoek nopens deze zaak scheen zonder einde, alhoewel de verantwoordelijkheid van Van Pottelberghe, van den beginne aangenomen werd. Het onderzoek was bijzonder gericht tegenover den toestand van M. Lemmens, die totaal onbekwaam tot werken geslagen word, daar heel de linkerkant van zijn lijf verlamd is. Alle slag van dokters bestatigden zulks en het slachtoffer moest zich zelf onderwerpen aan behandelingen in een Gentsche kliniek. Dinsdag morgen werd die zaak voor de boetstraffelijke rechtbank van Gent opgeroepen. Na de pleidooien werd het volgende vonnis uitgesproken: Van Pottelsberghe wordt veroordeeld uit hoofde van onvrijwillige kwetsuren door onvoorzichtigheid veroorzaakt tot het betalen van eene boete van 2.100 fr. of een maand gevangenis, uit hoofde van overtreding op het reglement voor het verkeer tot tweemaal 210 fr, boete of 9 dagen en tot betaling van de volgende vergoedingen: 250 fr. aan Stinon, 9.157 aan Van Ertvelde en 93.058 fr, aan Ed. Lemmens, dit al ten voorloopigen titel en onder voorbehoud van de mogelijke ergere gevolgen. De betaling toegekend aan M. Lemmens vertegenwoordigt de vergoeding voor de twee verloopene jaren. Het kapitaal, dat hem zal geschonken worden is van 880.000 frank.

(De Zeewacht, 13 May 1933, p4 c2)


Le Littoral, 1933 May 20, p3 c2

Courts of law

Low allowance to a fellow citizen who is the victim of a car accident

On 5 December 1931, the entrepreneur Albert Van Pottelsberghe, residing in Erembodegem, unleashed his car in Albert Avenue, Ghent, and collided with the car driven by the driver Jules Van Ertvelde, living on the said avenue. As a result of the very violent impact, the last car, carrying three travellers, crashed while Van Pottelsberghe’s car swerved and stamped the car of beer merchant Haerinckx, domiciled in Dendermonde, Mont-St-Amand.
This accident CAUSED three VICTIMS, the driver Van Ertvelde and two of the passengers, Georges Stienon, employee, residing on Felix Marchal Avenue, in Schaerbeek and Edouard Lemmens, residing on Nieuwpoort Avenue, in Westende. The investigation proved that Van Pottelsberghe was responsible for the accident. He appeared Tuesday morning before the Ghent Criminal Court, which sentences her to a fine of 2,100 francs or one month’s imprisonment for unintentional injuries due to carelessness, for violating the driving regulations at a fine of 210 francs or 9 days, and for paying the following damages: 250 francs to Stienon; 9,157 francs to Van Ertvelde and 92,053 francs to Lemmens, all provisional and subject to possible future action.

Maigre allocation a un coneitoyen victime d’un accident d’auto
Le 5 decembre 1931, l’entrepreneur Albert Van Pottelsberghe, demeurant a Erembodegem, deboucha avec son auto a l’avenue Albert, a Gand, et y entrea en collision avec la voiture conduite parle chauffeur Jules Van Ertvelde, habitant ladite avenue. Par suite du choc, tres violent, la derniere auto, transportant trois voyaguers, culbuta tandis que la voiture de Van Pottelsberghe fit une embardee et tamponna l’auto-camion du marchand de biere Haerinckx, domicilie chaussee de Termonde, a Mont-St-Amand.
Cet accident fit trois victimes, le chauffeur Van Ertvelde et deux des voyageurs, Georges Stienon, employe, demeurant avenue Felix Marchal, a Schaerbeek et Edouard Lemmens, habitant avenue de Nieuport, a Westende. L’enquete prouva que la responsabilite de l’accident etait imputable a Van Pottelsberghe. Celui-ci a comparu mardi matin devant le tribunal correctionnel de Gand qui la condamne, du chef de blessures involontaires par imprudence, a 2,100 francs d’amende ou un mois de prison, pour enfreinte aux reglements sur le roulage a deux fois 210 frs d’amende ou 9 jours, et au paiement des dommages-interets suivants: 250 francs a Stienon; 9.157 francs a Van Ertvelde et 92.053 francs a Lemmens, le tout a tilre provisoire et sous reserve des suite futures possibles.

(Le Littoral, 20 May 1933, p3 c2)

Obviously being paralysed on one side of his body, would have a profound effect on his life but it doesn’t mention if the paralysis was temporary or permanent. He must’ve been a determined man as he was still able to add two more children to the family (for a total of 10!) despite his injuries (Frederick b. Feb 1933 and Micheline b. Jun 1935). My mother also recalls that they ‘ran chateaus’ and that her grandmother ‘ran the house as a Bed & Breakfast’. Although not mentioned in the articles, Eduard had previously worked in banking so perhaps the accident prevented him from continuing that career and the family needed to make a living in this new way (making use of the compensation money). Or perhaps they had already started this new business before the accident. Hopefully, the answers can be found one day in other family members.

Translated mostly with www.DeepL.com/Translator with some alterations.


Since posting, a distant Lemmens cousin helpfully explained that Albert became king so the avenue ‘Albertlaan’ was renamed ‘Koning Albertlaan’ (King Albert Avenue). King Albert I died in 1934 – the year after this accident.  I have been able to find a 1930 map (in french) that names this street ‘Boulevard Albert’.



The LEMMENS children

A while back, my mother emailed the above photo of her grandfather, Eduard LEMMENS with his siblings.   The only ones identified at the time were Eduard (left) and his brother, Michel (right) whose records I had been unable to locate – I didn’t even have names of the sisters but at least the photograph was evidence that there were at least five.

It turns out that Eduard was in fact one of thirteen children born to Frederic Jean LEMMENS & Celine Marie VAN WOUW (blogged about previously) but only these seven had made it to adulthood.

Frederic Jean LEMMENS & Celine VAN WOUW (with possibly youngest daughter, Irma)

A search for Frederic in the Dutch archives website (openarch.nl) led me to all the records in which he was listed as father.

one of the search result pages on openarch.nl for Frederic Lemmens

There seems to be a wealth of information available online for those seeking their Dutch ancestors, albeit a little tricky to navigate for the non-Dutch speaking users (like me).  I was finally able to locate a birth record for brother Michel. His name had been spelled Micheal in the records which seemed to be the reason it was difficult to find him (unlike other ‘more fuzzy’ search engines I’ve used).  All their children’s birth records were there (all born in Vlissingen, Zeeland), as well as death records for the five who died as infants/children.  I have yet to translate these death records as I want to make a death counterpart to my ‘Super-Duper-Handy-Dandy Dutch Birth Record Translation Helper’ and am currently learning some basic Dutch to help me research this particular branch.

However, with this information I was able to find the names and birthdates of the surviving children and guess who is who in the photograph. Irma and Leontine were the easiest being the youngest but I have reservations about the older girls as I can only guess at their ages (sorry, ladies).  The woman I labelled as Valentine looked the oldest to me, and ‘possible Anna’ looked younger than ‘possible Esperance’ but of course, I could be wrong.  I am in the process of trying to date the photograph and glean as much information as I can from the image (ie. why the photo album on the table?).


Next Steps:

  • Date the photograph
  • Translate death records
  • Seek more photographs to help correctly identify each individual



When life gives you MORE LEMMENS…


A kind soul offered to help me in my ‘Belgian quest’ and I’m very grateful as it opened up a lot of different doors for me.  As well as some BEFAYS info, he managed to locate my great-grandfather Eduard’s birth not in Belgium after all, but in Holland!  This ties in very neatly with the ‘Dutch Pilot’ description on the census record mentioned on the previous post.

Eduard’s birth record confirmed his father as Frederic as well as gave his mother’s name:

1886 Eduard LEMMENS birth
Birth Record of Eduardus Gustaaf Frederic LEMMENS, 1886

Rough translation:

Birth record 18 February 1886 – VLISSINGEN [prov. Zeeland, The Netherlands]
Father: Frederic Jean Lemmens, 31 years old, from Vlissingen, profession “loods” [sea pilot]
Mother: Celine Marie Vanwouw, without profession, from Vlissingen
Male child born 18 February 1886 at 08:00 am
This record is signed by witnesses Petrus Carolus Lamoot, pilot, 43, and Eduardus Josephus Baels, 39, pilot, both from Vlissingen, and the father.

So now I know the older lady in the photograph, my 2nd great-grandmother, is Celine Marie VANWOUW and they lived (at least for a time) in Vlissengen, Netherlands (aka Flushing).

When I added the data into my family tree, a gravestone record was suggested to me which gave me birth and death dates for Frederic & Celine (Eduard’s parents).

Lemmens Van Wouw
Grave of Celine Marie VAN WOUW & Frederic Jean LEMMENS in Northern Cemetery, Flushing (Vlissingen)

A bit of Google-Fu (and help from The Netherlands Online Genealogy Records wiki on Familysearch.org) led me eventually to ZeeuwenGezocht.nl which was a goldmine for me! (I had first arrived at wiewaswie.nl but I had technical issues with actually seeing the images).

Searching Frederic’s name brought up a load of records linked to him – all available digitally, instantly and for free!  More on these soon…

UPDATE: If you need help researching your Belgian ancestors, visit Belgian Ancestry Help.

When life gives you LEMMENS…

Grandma Befay's father's parents - Frederick Lemmens
Mevr. Lemmens & Frederick Lemmens (and a mystery daughter?)

I haven’t written a lot about my mother’s side of the family – in fact, I just checked and I don’t seem to have written at all about them!  This saddens me but it’s largely because her family history is centred around Belgium and so the records are not easily accessible to me (physically OR ‘literally’ as I don’t read French or Dutch).  Hopefully that will change with a little help from growing records and Google Translate.

This weekend my mother passed on a photo that my grandmother gave my mother of HER mother’s parents – got that? Basically I got a pic of my mother’s maternal great-grandparents (and maybe a great-aunt in the background).  So that’s great – an ‘ID’ed family photo… almost.  The problem is my grandmother has forgotten their names (!) although she’s pretty sure her grandfather’s given name was Frederick.

So I blow off the digital dust on my Belgian ancestors to check their names to discover I don’t actually have them on there yet.  I know that my grandmother was one of nine children born to Eduard LEMMENS and Gabrielle MINNE.  Eduard himself was one of seven siblings seen in the photo below:

Family LEMMENS (1)
Children of Frederick LEMMENS

(The youngest girl lying on the floor looks most like the mystery woman in the first photo – could it be her?)

Since I don’t currently have a ‘world’ membership, I wasn’t expecting much from searching a Belgian on ancestry, but I actually may have struck lucky!  The very first result was a British 1901 census entry for a Fredrick LEMMENS born in Ostende, Belgium.  My grandmother was born in the coastal city of Ostende, Belgium and the man’s age fit (b.1855), so it immediately interested me.  This man was on board the S.S. Truro in Hull that night and recorded as a ‘Pilot Dutch’ but it didn’t seem to be a Belgian vessel or crew.

1901 census – Fredrick Lemmens aboard the S.S Truro, Hull

A quick glance at some of the other results didn’t show any other connections but Google threw up a record on the Oostende Archives site of a sea fishing captain who “sailed for shipowners” [G. ASAERT, Analytical inventory of fishing reels (1818-1843 and 1860-1910), Brussels (ARA), 1986].  So could that delightful outfit that looked to me like a milkman’s uniform actually be a captain’s uniform? [update: Another descendant of Frederick Lemmens (RV) informs me that he is not wearing a captain’s uniform but was probably his summer jacket. Frederick apparently always wore the hat because he was bald! :)]

Ostende in the 1920s
Next steps: