Happily ever after? Belgian king meets secret daughter after decades of refusing to recognise her

James Crisp
·2 min read

Belgium’s newest princess has met the country's retired king for the first time since winning her long-running fight to be recognised as his daughter.

Albert II refused to admit that Delphine Boël was his secret lovechild for 20 years and only after losing a seven-year court battle that forced him to take a DNA test.

On October 1, a court ruled that the 52-year-old artist - who was partly raised in Britain and has an American husband - could take her father's name and call herself a princess.

Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha meets her father King Albert II and Queen Paola in the Castle Belvédère in Laeken, near Brussels.   - EPA-EFE
Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha meets her father King Albert II and Queen Paola in the Castle Belvédère in Laeken, near Brussels. - EPA-EFE

The palace released a photograph of Princess Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg, sitting smiling alongside Albert II and his wife, Queen Paola, in their Brussels residence of Castle Belvédère on Sunday.

“A new chapter opened, full of emotion, understanding and, also, hope," they said in a joint statement that offered the prospect of a happy ending to the Royal soap opera.

"After the tumult, the wounds and the suffering, comes the time of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation [...] These first steps pave the peaceful course which it is now up to us to pursue."

After the court-ordered DNA test, Albert’s lawyers said he had made no "familial, social or educational decisions" in Delphine’s upbringing.

The secret princess told reporters the icy legal statement was “like a knife in the back” and that her father had brutally cut contact with her when she was 33.

Albert abdicated in 2013 in favour of his son Philippe, 60, citing health reasons. Philippe met with his half sister for the first time earlier this month in a meeting that showed relations were improving.

Delphine was first reported to be Albert’s daughter in 1999, six years after Albert took the throne.

She was born in 1968 to a baroness, Sibylle de Selys Longchamps, early in an affair that lasted until 1984.

Albert had already married his future queen, Paola, and the illegitimate daughter was kept secret.

He chose to stay with Paola rather than abdicate to be with Mrs de Selys Longchamps, it is claimed.