Belgium’s former king meets love child daughter for first time

Leo Cendrowicz
·2-min read
Delphine Boel (R), now Belgium’s Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, meeting her biological father, King Albert II (C), and Queen Paola during an informal meeting in Brussels, Belgium 25 October 2020 (issued 27 Ocober 2020). (EPA/HANDOUT ) (EPA)
Delphine Boel (R), now Belgium’s Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, meeting her biological father, King Albert II (C), and Queen Paola during an informal meeting in Brussels, Belgium 25 October 2020 (issued 27 Ocober 2020). (EPA/HANDOUT ) (EPA)

Belgium's former King Albert II has finally met with his love child Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg, after years of denials over the paternity of the recently recognised princess.

The meeting, which included Albert’s wife, the former Queen Paola, took place on Sunday at the Belvédère Castle, the royal couple’s official residence just outside Brussels. In a joint statement, the three said, “a new chapter has begun, filled with emotion, peace of mind, understanding and, also, hope,” adding that, “each of us was able to express calmly and with empathy, their feelings and their experience".

Mrs Saxe-Cobourg, 52, earlier this month won a bitter, seven-year legal battle to call herself a princess after the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that she was entitled to the same rights and royal titles as her father's other three children.

The court ruling came in the wake of DNA tests which proved she was indeed the daughter of Albert, 86, who abdicated in favour of his son King Philippe in 2013.

Albert, who was crowned king in 1993, fought the paternity claim for more than a decade, but submitted to the test last year when a court threatened him with fines of €5,000 a day if he refused. After it came back positive, he grudgingly admitted in January that he was her father.

Known until recently as Delphine Boël, Mrs Saxe-Cobourg became publicly known in 1999 after a book revealed she had been born out of wedlock during then King Albert’s 18-year extra-marital affair with her mother, Sibylle de Selys Longchamps. In 2013, Delphine launched a lawsuit to have Albert recognised as her biological father.

The statement after Sunday’s meeting with Albert and Paola acknowledged the painful struggle that had led to the moment. “After the turmoil, the wounds, and the suffering, it is time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. Together, we decided to take this new path. It will take patience and effort, but we are determined.”

Mrs Saxe-Cobourg gave a tearful press conference after the verdict on her name and title, saying she “did not expect anything” from the palace, and that people in similar situations should not feel ashamed and encouraged them to find their birth parents. "If someone wants to know their identity it's the right thing to do," she said.

However, two weeks ago she visited King Philippe and his wife Queen Mathilde in an meeting described as a “warm encounter….that gave us the opportunity to learn to know each other.”