King Albert II, who abdicated from Belgium’s throne six years ago, is facing a hefty fine for each day he refuses to take a paternity test to settle a claim that he fathered a child in the 1960s.
Delphine Boël, a 51-year-old artist, claims to be the daughter of Belgium’s abdicated King Albert II, and fought a lengthy and often embarrassing legal fight for public recognition.
Should Boël prevail as a royal heiress, she is in line for a substantial share of the king’s fortune, which is conservatively estimated in the hundreds of millions. She may also be entitled to a title, and possibly a distant place in the line of succession.
She may receive it, but if the ex-King has his way, it will remain a state secret.
Last November, Boël won a major court advantage when, after a five-year legal battle, a Brussels court ordered Belgium’s former King Albert II (who resigned the throne to his son in 2013, citing ill health), to submit to a paternity test, by giving a DNA sample to resolve Boël’s suit.
The ex-king, 84, refused to cooperate and appealed the decision. But last week, his appeal was struck down in Brussels. (There is, however, another appeal proceeding to the nation’s highest court.) Faced with DNA evidence that industrialist Jacques Boël, the man who raised Delphine as his daughter, was not her biological father, the Brussels court decreed that in the absence of Albert’s DNA sample, she would be presumed to be his daughter.
In Thursday’s ruling, the Brussels judge has decided to fine the ex-King $5,600 for each day he refuses to submit to the test.
On Monday, his lawyer announced his intention to cooperate, but with one essential condition.
“His Majesty the King will accept the blood test,” Guy Hiernaux said, according to the New York Times. “Now that he is compelled to do so.” He would, however, only do so “on the condition that the results are kept secret until Belgium’s highest court rules on the appeal against the order.”
Local Belgian news media suggest the Court of Cassation could hear the appeal as early as December.
The ex-King’s attorney, however, believes the process could “easily” take several more years, the Times says.
Stories concerning the birth of a Belgian royal love child circulated for decades before becoming public with the publication of a 1999 biography of Albert’s Italian-born wife, Queen Paola. The couple married in 1956 and had three children, including current King Phillipe.
Boël, a Belgian artist and noblewoman, was born in 1968. She first came forward in 2005 claiming to have been born from a long affair between Albert and her mother, the Baroness Sybille Selys de Longchamps, and that as a child he had acknowledged her in private and had been very supportive.
Things changed in 1993, she claims, when Albert’s older brother King Baudouin died suddenly of a heart attack. Childless at the time of his death, Baudouin’s throne moved to Albert and his side of the family. The newly acclaimed King Albert II reportedly called Boël in 1993 once before cutting all ties.
He has denied her claims since she first went public in 2005. He also opposed her legal action, which began in 2013, shortly after he abdicated in favor of his son, Phillipe. (Until his abdication, Albert was protected as King under Belgium’s Constitution from suit or prosecution as head of state.)
For her part, Boël’s mother Baroness Longchamps, 87, has long supported her daughter’s claim. Acknowledging she met the playboy Prince in Greece when her father was Belgium’s Ambassador, she has provided intimate and somewhat explicit details of their relationship to television and other media outlets in Belgium and other European countries.
While Albert II remains a much-loved figure, Boël has won respect for her cause. A March survey in Brussel’s leading newspaper, Le Soir, found three out of four respondents supported her lawsuit.
“This is all so painful to him,” Hiernaux told the Times. “He’s over 80, not in good health. He underwent multiple heart operations. This is very hard to live with. He literally told me: ‘It’s affecting my health.’ “