Sweet-faced and with a golden heart to match, there’s a reason the beautiful Astrid of Sweden was the beloved Queen of the Belgians—until her utterly tragic end took the royal far too soon. From her fairy tale beginnings to the nightmare of her final hours, Astrid truly was like a long-lost “Snow Princess” from a storybook.
Astrid of Sweden Facts
1. She Was Born Into Luxury
To say Astrid was born with a silver spoon in her mouth would be a huge understatement, it was more like a solid gold ladle. Born on November 17, 1905, this fierce Scorpio was the youngest daughter of Prince Carl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden. As the beautiful baby of the family, the royals often doted on Princess Astrid. Sadly, this only makes her end all the more heartbreaking.
2. She Caused a Frenzy
There hadn’t been any Swedish princesses in the royal line for a good long while, and the public greeted the three royal girls with enormous enthusiasm. In fact, when Astrid’s older sister Margaretha had her confirmation in 1916, it caused a total media frenzy—but Princess Astrid would soon outdo even her popular sibling.
3. Her Family Was Unusual
There’s a side to the Swedish royal family that people don’t know. Astrid’s mother Ingeborg was one of the most capable members of the Swedish nobility, but she had a softer side when it came to her children. Astrid’s relatives were a loving, close-knit brood, and around Sweden, people called them “the happy family.” That doesn’t mean everything was perfect, though…
4. Her Mother Played Favorites
Today, Princess Astrid is beloved in Sweden, but she wasn’t always as revered in her own family. She might have been the baby, but she wasn’t her mother’s favorite. After all, Ingeborg was loud and confident, while Astrid had always been sweet and quiet. Instead, Ingeborg saved her best affections for Astrid’s older sister Martha, who was outgoing and brassy.
5. Her Family Forced Her to Go Without
People think of royals as living extravagantly, but the truth was much more complicated. Astrid’s parents wanted their children to grow up simply, and even installed a real stove in their play cottage so that they could learn how to actually cook food. For them, hard labor was far better than royal “manners.” Well, they’d very much need this work ethic…
6. She Suffered a Devastating Loss
In 1922, tragedy struck the “happy” Swedish royal family when the stock market crash hit, and destroyed nearly all of their investments. Still a teenager, the young Princess Astrid watched in horror as her mother went almost entirely bankrupt and had to sell off their property. And another twist of fate was around the corner.
7. She Met Her Prince Charming
Just after her 20th birthday, Astrid’s parents started looking around at the eligible bachelors across Europe. After all, they needed to get her a royal husband now that their stock was down. It was a date with destiny. From almost the moment Astrid met Prince Leopold of Belgium, the pair were utterly smitten with each other, and Astrid embarked on complete fairy tale…at first.
8. She Took an “Illicit” Lover
Astrid was one of the most ravishing princesses of her day, so it’s no wonder that Leopold knew he had to have her the moment he saw her. Yet they hid a secret behind bedroom doors. Instead of marrying immediately, servants kept seeing a “butler” coming and going from Astrid’s residence. Yep, this was actually Leopold in disguise, meeting his lover in semi-secret.
9. Her Intimate Habits Shocked People
Astrid and Leopold were infamously—some might say uncomfortably—into PDA. Wherever they went, people saw them holding hands and canoodling with each other. They even maintained obvious physical contact during official engagements, which was a pretty big deal for royals in the 1920s. Astrid and Leo, you filthy animals.
10. She Snagged Her Prince in a Bizarre Way
A down-to-earth princess if there ever was one, one of Astrid’s favorite hobbies was cooking—actually, this was how she won her way into Leopold’s heart. The princess was always making new dishes for her loved ones, and Leopold once admitted he was “bowled over” by her endive salad. The prince really was head over heels.
11. She Had a Different Kind of Marriage
In the fall of 1926, Astrid and Leopold officially announced their engagement, inviting journalists to a press conference, where Leopold’s parents King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth couldn’t help boasting, “It is a marriage of love…tell it to our people.” Very few royals got love matches in those days, and Leopold and Astrid were supposed to be the lucky ones.
13. Her Wedding Got Unruly
When Astrid and Leopold had their royal church wedding on November 10, 1926, it was a fairy tale for the ages. The festivities in Brussels opened with a 21-gun salute, but the crowds were so loud and fervent, the shots were barely audible. It was no wonder: Astrid looked resplendent in a cream wrap dress with a veil made of Belgian lace, naturally.
14. She Was a Rebel
Don’t let her angelic looks fool you: Behind Astrid’s sweet face was a steely will no man could bend. Despite the warnings of her stuffy court officials, Astrid was determined to live her life, and often snuck out to do things the “normal” way. One day when her husband was in a procession, she even went so far as to watch him from the middle of the common crowd.
15. Her Life Seemed Perfect
Leopold and Astrid had three children together: Josephine-Charlotte, Baudouin, and Albert. Just like her own parents, Astrid strove to raise them without any royal airs. The family often lived in a small villa on the palace grounds, and Astrid still loved cooking for them personally rather than leaving it to the help. Except it wasn’t long before Astrid’s fiery side came out again.
16. She Made Powerful Enemies
Astrid was beloved by pretty much all of her subjects in both Sweden and Belgium—they called her “tender, understanding, and profoundly human”—but she also made some formidable enemies in the palace. The most conservative and haughty members of the court tended to dislike her democratic attitude, but Astrid knew the perfect way to deal with them.
17. She Gave a Perfect Comeback
Astrid loved taking her children on walks through Brussels’ busy Avenue Louise, which absolutely infuriated one of the court aides for breaking protocol. When the man berated her, she gave the perfect reply. She might have been “simple,” but she was no dummy: In response, she said innocently, “But I am just another mother, am I not?”
18. She Lived Through Tragedy
On February 17, 1934, everything changed for Princess Astrid. On this day, her beloved father-in-law King Albert I of Belgium perished suddenly in a mountaineering accident. Without warning, the grieving Princess Astrid was now the Queen Consort of the Belgians…though as we’ll see, she had precious little time to enjoy her title.
19. She Never Forgot Her Loved Ones
After the tragic passing of her father-in-law, Astrid made a heartbreaking decision. She was pregnant at the time of King Albert’s accident, and when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy soon after, she named the little tyke “Albert” in memory of the grandfather who the young heir would never get to meet. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
20. She Went Undercover
Perhaps in an effort to up their chances of that sweet, sweet PDA, Astrid and Leopold often went undercover when they traveled. For their honeymoon, they may have even taken it one step further and misreported their destination, saying they were headed to Egypt and Switzerland but really posting up in France. Sadly, this habit would come back to haunt them.
21. Her Husband Made a Huge Sacrifice
Astrid really should have had a happily ever after. Not only was Leopold deeply in love with her, but he was also willing to risk everything for that love. When she went into labor with their second child while Leopold was away, her prince charming dropped all his important meetings to get back home for the birth—not something many men did back then.
22. She Was the “Perfect” Height
Astrid was one tall drink of Swedish spring water. Though we don’t know her exact height in feet and inches, her mother-in-law Queen Elisabeth—who was quite short herself—used to remark approvingly that Astrid was the perfect height to reach her lanky son Leopold’s eyes. Well, that’s all the better for more PDA, my dear.
23. She Was a Heretic
Leopold and Astrid’s marriage wasn’t all holding hands and secret honeymoons. Right before their wedding, Leopold asked Astrid to make a crucial decision. He wanted her to convert from her native Lutheran faith to Catholicism, the official religion of Belgium. This was a big deal back then—but Astrid’s response wasn’t what you’d expect.
24. She Made a Heavy Decision
Never one to rush into things, Astrid took her time deciding if she would convert, royal pressure be darned. She even consulted a Catholic priest about her faith and only converted literal years after their wedding. Yet when she did, she did it with her whole heart. As she told a childhood friend about her choice: “My soul has found peace.”
25. She Was Almost the Queen of England
Things might have been very different for Astrid if she hadn’t married Leopold. One of the other men her parents considered for her hand was the then-Prince of Wales, Edward VIII of the United Kingdom. Considering that Edward eventually abdicated his throne in order to marry the divorcee Wallis Simpson, it was probably a good thing that that ship sailed.
26. She Wrote a Groundbreaking Letter
1935 was the year that Queen Astrid of Belgium proved her mettle. The country was in the throes of an economic crisis, and Astrid immediately took the helm to console her people. Not only did she visit the poor, but she also penned “The Queen’s Appeal,” an open letter that helped raise supplies for those in need. Sadly, however, 1935 was also the year Astrid hit her worst tragedy yet…
27. She Was a Tomboy
Like any good Swede worth her salt, Astrid was an Outdoor Girl. Among her favorite sports were skiing (natch) as well as horseback riding, swimming, and even golf. These weren’t just idle pastimes, either—the pursuits also helped mold her statuesque, athletic frame that eventually drove the common people wild.
28. Her Wedding Was Scandalous
Leopold and Astrid’s wedding might have been a romance come to life—but it caused a huge scandal. Before their church wedding in Belgium, they had a no-fuss civil ceremony at the Swedish Royal Palace. And that’s not all. The man who officiated, Carl Lindhagen, was the first non-clergy member to ever marry a royal couple, and—gasp—he was a known socialist.
28. She Received an Incredible Wedding Present
Let me tell you, it really pays to marry a prince. As a wedding present, the Belgian government gifted Princess Astrid with an exquisite tiara featuring 11 enormous diamonds, coming courtesy of the famed Belgian jeweler Van Bever. Astrid might have been a simple girl who knew how to get down and dirty, but she wasn’t saying no to that.
29. She Was an Overnight Success
After her royal engagement, Astrid became an instant sensation. Wax figures of the Swedish beauty popped up in shops, and news footage of the future Queen of the Belgians played at cinemas. People even started to write into publications for Astrid’s famous “endive salad” recipe that had so successfully bagged her a prince. Endives: The gift that keeps on giving.
30. She Had to Learn to Be a Princess
Like so many of the smart royal set, Astrid went to finishing school, completing her highborn education at Akerstrom-Soderstrom school. While there, she studied typical feminine “accomplishments” like piano, ballet, and childcare. The future Queen Consort of Belgium even volunteered at an orphanage in her spare time, as one does.
31. She Has Her Own Dessert
Astrid and her family were so integral to Sweden’s sense of identity, they even had a cake named after them. The Swedish “Princess Cake” is a layered confection topped with marzipan and named after Astrid and her siblings; their former teacher created the delicacy when they were young. You know you’ve made it when someone can eat you.
32. Her Whole Family Was Famous
Astrid’s beautiful sisters did almost as well for themselves as the Snow Princess herself. Her eldest sister Margaretha married Prince Axel of Denmark, while the middle sister Martha wed the Crown Prince of Norway. Sadly, Martha passed before she could make it to the throne. Of course, this was nothing compared to Astrid’s fate…
33. She Was a Fashion Legend
These days, everybody knows that Stockholm girls are the coolest girls, but Astrid and her sisters practically invented it. She and her siblings Margaretha and Martha often went shopping—unaccompanied—for the latest trends on the streets of Stockholm. Princess Astrid in particular became famous for her iconic sense of style.
34. She Made a Lasting Impression
While some royal wives have found it hard getting accepted into the family (ahem, Meghan Markle), Astrid had no trouble. Elisabeth reportedly once said of the sweet, charming Astrid: “I might not…have succeeded in finding for my son an ideal bride, but Leopold has done more, he has found for me an ideal daughter-in-law!”
35. She Earned an Iconic Nickname
Although she only lived for a brief time before her life was cut tragically short, Astrid earned herself some legendary nicknames. People called her the “Snow Queen” or the “Snow Princess,” and it even snowed on her wedding day to Leopold. Once the common people went wild over her, they also named her “The Queen of Hearts.”
36. Defiance Ran in Her Family
If there’s one thing to know about Queen Astrid, it’s that she came from fiery Swedish stock. Mama Ingeborg in particular was one formidable woman. In protest of Germany during WWII, the Queen Dowager even once blocked off the palace window that faced the German embassy. As we’ve seen, beneath her serene surface, Astrid could be just as radical.
37. She Loved Milk…a Weird Amount
Got milk? Astrid did. The Queen patronized a number of charitable initiatives—but one was more than a little bizarre. In order to encourage Belgians to drink healthy beverages and lay off those famous lagers, Astrid helped set up “Milk Week” and even hired one of her courtiers to report on milk regulations around the world. Uh, whatever floats your boat, Astrid.
38. She Shared a Heartbreaking Bond
Astrid and her siblings might have had some royal rivalries, but they stuck with each other when it really counted. In 1932, Princess Martha expressed her love toward Astrid with a heartwarming gesture: She named her newborn girl “Astrid” in honor of her aunt. But in a few short years, that touching act would turn utterly heartbreaking.
39. She Was Famously Beautiful
Astrid wasn’t just gorgeous, she was famous worldwide for her beauty. With her light hair, wide eyes, and sweet face, Astrid was the “pretty” one of her family and, when she came of age, one of the most eligible royals in Europe.
40. She Went on One Final Trip
In August 1935, Astrid and Leopold were on yet another incognito holiday, this time in Switzerland. They had brought their two eldest children along to their Swiss villa for most of the trip, but late in the month, they sent the tykes back to Belgium with their nannies to sneak in some alone time together. Sadly, it couldn’t have gone worse.
41. Her Informal Attitude Turned Fatal
Of course, mommy and daddy’s solo holiday started out picturesque, with the king and queen deciding to take a mountain hike among the Swiss pear trees on August 29, 1935. Because these were no-fuss monarchs, they even insisted that their chauffeur sit in the back seat on the way there, while Leopold drove and Astrid navigated. This was a fatal mistake.
42. Her Husband Was Guilty
Some time along their drive to the hiking path, Astrid, who was referring to her map, pointed at something outside of her window. It was an innocent enough gesture, but it had devastating consequences. Leopold, following her hand, likely took his eyes off the steep, mountainous road for one second. A second was all it took.
43. She Met a Tragic End
In the next few moments, a horrific event occurred—and Leopold could never take it back or forgive himself for it. With the king at the wheel, their car tilted off the road, plummeted down a steep slope, and quickly careened into a tree. The force threw Leopold entirely out of the car…but when the chaos cleared, he realized his beloved wife had it much worse.
44. She Never Stopped Fighting for Her Life
Astrid was a stubborn fighter until the end, and as the car rattled down the mountain slope, she had tried to save herself by opening the door and rolling out. Tragically, that’s not what happened. The vehicle was simply moving too fast and too violently, and the Queen was also thrown from the car, her body slamming into another pear tree.
45. No One Could Save Her
Since the King and Queen of Belgium had been traveling incognito and with very little retinue, there was no one around to provide immediate medical attention. Sadly, this is exactly what Astrid needed. Instead, she passed at the scene of the accident, just after 9:30 am on the beautiful August morning. After her came the deluge.
46. The World Mourned Her Deeply
When the world heard the shocking news, it went into instant mourning. Throngs of people attended the Snow Queen’s funeral, though none were able to believe something so horrific had happened to someone so good. Astrid now lies in the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in her adopted home of Brussels. But it wasn’t the last we heard of her…
47. She Has a Grisly Memento
To this day, there are still macabre tokens of Astrid’s final minutes near where she perished. A museum close to the site of her fatal accident keeps not only a shard from the windshield of her wrecked car but also a log of the pear tree her body collided into.
48. Her Fatal Crash Site Is Still There
For those less into gothic vibes, mourners also built a small chapel on the crash site as well, and it remains a popular pilgrimage destination for those who want to keep the Snow Queen’s memory alive and well.
49. Her Memory Lives on
Today, Astrid still lives on. No fewer than two of her grandchildren are reigning monarchs: King Phillipe of Belgium and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg. She is also second cousins with Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Philip.
50. Her Husband Performed a Bitter Penance
Leopold was wracked with grief and guilt after killing his beloved wife. In fact, he could barely stand to think of that fateful day. So he made a chilling request. Instead of ever recovering the vehicle he was driving, he ordered his men to sink the car into the depths of Lake Lucerne, near where the royal couple fatally crashed.