The once secret princess of Belgium has met former king Albert for the first time since her legal battle to be accepted as his daughter.
A photograph released by the palace today shows Princess Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg sitting socially-distanced alongside Albert II and his wife Queen Paola in their home Castle Belvédère in Laeken on Sunday.
The meeting was described by the palace as a time of ‘forgiveness, healing and reconciliation’ after the lengthy court battle.
Princess Delphine, 52, was officially recognised as the love child of Belgium’s former king on October 1, something the aging monarch had fought tooth and nail to avoid ever since paternity rumors became public in 1998.
Delphine had revealed earlier this month she last spoke to Albert in 2001 and said at the time she ‘expects nothing more’.
A joint statement said: ‘On Sunday 25 October a new chapter, rich of emotion, peace of mind, understanding and hope was begun.
‘During our meeting in Castle Belvédère each of us, in serenity and empathy, managed to express their feelings and experiences.
‘After the uproar, the suffering and the injuries, it is now time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
‘Together we have decided on this new path. This will take patience and effort, but we are determined.
‘These are the first step in a path that we will walk in peace. Delphine, Paola and Albert.’
It comes after the princess met her half-brother King Philippe for the first time earlier this month.
The monarch said it was a ‘warm meeting’ which took place at the Castle of Laeken on Friday October 9.
Artist Princess Delphine, 52, formerly known as Delphine Boël, is the result of an 18-year affair between the former monarch, 86, and Belgian aristocrat Sybille de Selys Longchamps, 79, that began in the 1960s.
In a joint statement shared to the Belgian royal family‘s Facebook page, Philippe, 60, and Delphine – who shared a photograph of them socially distanced – said: ‘This extensive and special conversation gave us the opportunity to get to know each other.
‘We have spoken about our own lives and our common interests. This bond will develop further in family context.’
Their union was met with delight from royal fans, with many Belgians praising King Philippe for his ‘moving’ gesture.
One commented: ‘Great respect for King Filip for this deep human gesture to his half sister!! Beautiful!!’
‘Congratulations on this warm, human gesture!’ another wrote. ‘It truly is a strong signal. This is the attitude of an committed and confident Prince who also turns his social message into actions. An example. Congrats!’
And one gushed: ‘Fantastic! How good of the King! And what’s wrong with a nice new (half) sister? Exactly: nothing! Compliments.’
Speaking after a court officially recognised her as the love child of Belgium’s former king on October 1, Delphine said her battle to be recognised as a royal was not about money or status.
She explained that her mother’s husband, wealthy industrialist and aristocrat Jacques Boel, is ‘much richer than the royal family’.
Delphine also revealed she will not be using the ‘Her Royal Highness’ prefix, adding: ‘I just wanted to be the same as my brother and my sister.’
She told Belgian radio show Matin Premiere: ‘I feel like I have a right to exist. Not to exist in the royal family but as me.
‘My decision to call for help through the law, I feel today that it was the right thing to do… The judicial system said that I was right and that I had the right to exist.’
Speaking earlier this month, Delphine revealed she last spoke to Albert in 2001 and ‘expects nothing more’.
‘I tried to solve the problem behind the walls, in secret, for years,’ she added, but said Albert’s repeated denials forced her to go public.
Describing her life before the judgement, she called herself ‘a black sheep’ adding that her existence was ‘unpleasant and unlivable’.
She added that she now wants to go back to focusing on her art, while moving on from the scandal of her birth.
‘It is not [the child’s] fault, they do not ask to be born,’ she said. ‘The child who comes from a love affair outside of marriage should not be treated any differently.’
The alleged affair between Albert II and Sybille de Selys Longchamps is believed to have begun in 1966 when Albert was not yet king but was married to Italian aristocrat and later queen Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria, whom he wed in 1959.
The couple lived apart for a large part of their early marriage, amid rumours that she disliked living in Belgium, finding it too cold and rainy.
Delphine was born in 1968, and the affair is thought to have ended in 1984.
Albert’s other children – Philippe, who assumed the throne after Albert’s abdication, Princess Astrid and Prince Laurent – were born in 1960, 1962 and 1963 respectively.
Albert ascended the throne in 1993, following the death of his elder brother, King Baudouin, from heart failure.
Delphine – an aristocrat in her own right and an artist – first said in 1999 that she believes she is Albert’s child.
Her statement was made shortly after the publication of an unofficial biography of Queen Paola which alluded to an affair the King had which produced a lovechild.
Albert acknowledged problems with his marriage in his Christmas speech the same year, referring to a ‘crisis’ which nearly ended his marriage 30 years before, but said he and his wife ‘surpassed those difficulties to find a deep understanding love’.
But Albert never addressed the issue of a child, and for years the palace neither confirmed nor denied the reports, merely saying that it was a ‘private matter’.
Despite years of private lobbying, Ms Boel was unable to get Albert to recognise her true identity.
After years of questions over her identity, which Delphine claimed stopped her from opening bank accounts, she went to the courts in 2013 in an attempt to prove her biological father was Albert.
The same year the legal case began, Albert abdicated for ‘health reasons’, passing the throne to son Philippe – Delphine’s half-brother.
After several early setbacks, the breakthrough for Ms Boel came in November last year when a court ruled that Albert must provide a DNA sample for testing.
Failure to comply would result in a €5,000 fine for each day the sample was missing.
Albert is thought to have undergone the DNA test shortly afterwards, which proved he is the father.
In January, he issued a statement confirming that he is no longer contesting paternity.
The court ruled that Delphine should be recognised as part of the royal family, putting her 15th in line to the throne and entitling her to a share of Albert’s estate when he dies.
A statement released by Delphine’s lawyers last week said: ‘Delphine de Saxe Cobourg has taken note of the judgment… which gives her full satisfaction.
‘Her other requests for it to be dealt with on the same footing as her brothers and sister have also been satisfied.
‘She is delighted by this court decision which ends a long process which is particularly painful for her and her family.
A legal victory will never replace the love of a father but offers a feeling of justice, further reinforced by the fact that many children who have gone through the same ordeals will find the strength to face them.’
As Princess Delphine is reunited with her father Albert for the first time, who are her new relatives with the Belgian Royal Family?
After officially being recognised as the love child of the country’s former King Albert II, Princess Delphine has a lot of catching up to do with her new family.
Artist Delphine Boel, 52, won a seven-year legal battle in January, which resulted in Albert, 86, admitting he was her biological father after submitting to a court-ordered DNA test last year.
Belgium’s newest princess has met her father, the country’s former king, Albert II, and her brother King Philippe, but it’s unknown if she has been introduced to her other relations.
However, the new princess will no doubt be eager to get to know her extended family, which includes King Philippe’s wife Queen Mathilde, who is known for her elegant style and gracious public appearances.
Born Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz, the Belgian Queen is a former speech therapist who set up her own practice when she was just 22-years-old.
She then went on to take a masters in psychology and continued her studies after marrying Prince Philippe, graduating in 2002 with honours.
The royal has a special interest in children, thanks to her speech therapy work, and is the World Health Organisation’s Special Representative for Immunization.
She also takes part in the annual World Economic Forum in Davos and has led economic missions to the US and Vietnam with King Philippe.
The couple share four children, including future Queen, Princess Elisabeth, who spent 18 months boarding at UWC Atlantic College in South Wales before returning home to Brussels in March ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Like students across the country, the royal has been forced to finish her studies remotely and will not return to the school.
She has spent lockdown living with her parents, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, and her three siblings Princess Eléonore, 12, Prince Emmanuel, 14, and Prince Gabriel, 16, in Brussels.
The princess, who received her International Baccalaureate Diploma this summer, is currently undertaking a one-year course in social and military sciences at the Brussels Royal Military Academy, starting this Autumn.
King Philippe spent three years at the esteemed institution between 1978 to 1981.
There, she will learn in-depth about the four components of Belgian defense; Army, Air Force, Navy and Medical.
While in isolation at Laeken Palace, Elizabeth and her siblings Prince Gabriel, Prince Emmanuel, and Princess Eleonore, have spent time volunteering.
They showed their support for Belgium’s elderly population by calling retirement homes and delivering baked goods.
Elisabeth’s younger sister Princess Elenore has been tagging along on some of her mother’s engagements, doing her best to help Belgium move forward from the pandemic.
It is also unclear if Princess Delphine has met with her other siblings, Princess Astrid and Prince Laurent, 56, or met with their families as yet.
Princess Astrid, 58, already has a large family, having welcomed five children with husband Prince Lorenz.
Her eldest son Prince Amedeo welcomed his first child with wife Princess Elisabetta, 28, in 2018, baby daughter to the world for the first time, announcing she will be called Anna Astrid.
The couple who have been dubbed the William and Kate of Belgium married in July 2014 in an elegant, intimate ceremony at The Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere in Rome.
Prince Amedeo is the nephew of King Phillipe but gave up his position as sixth in line to the throne to marry Elisabetta in 2014 by failing to obtain a royal decree for the marriage.
At the time palace sources claimed it was a deliberate move to give up his right to the throne so that he could live an independent life with wife Elisabetta, who is known as Lili, free of any official role.
Meanwhile Princess Astrid’s youngest son, Prince Joachim, 28, also hit the headlines this summer after he flew 1,050 miles to Spain to attend a party with his girlfriend and 26 others in breach of lockdown where he caught coronavirus.
Speaking in a statement to People, he said: ‘I would like to apologise for travelling and not having respected the quarantine measure.
‘I did not intend to offend or disrespect anyone in these very difficult times and deeply regret my actions and accept the consequences, the royal concluded.
Prince Joachim is not the only member of the royal family who has faced a challenging few months due to Covid-19.
Princess Delphine’s youngest brother Prince Laurent revealed in May his wife British-born Princess Claire of Belgium has been ‘seriously ill with a lingering illness’.
Speaking at the time, Prince Laurent said the family were ‘hit’ six months ago when Princess Claire, 46, who was born in Bath as Claire Coombs, became ‘seriously ill.’
He explained that when Princess Claire, who was born in Bath as Claire Coombs, was diagnosed with the coronavirus in March, the family’s main concern had been due to her already compromised immune system.
As reported by Royal Central, the royal told Nieuwsblad: ‘Her illness was discovered in an early stage. The treatment is now over. We can do nothing now but wait and hope she will be okay. I really hope it will be so.’
It is unknown what the lingering illness British-born Princess Claire, who was born in Bath as Claire Coombs and who worked as a land surveyor, was diagnosed with.
Prince Laurent of Belgium and Princess Claire of Belgium married in 2003 and have since gone on to have three children together, Princess Louise, and twins Prince Nicolas and Prince Aymeric.
Since March, the family have been sheltering in place in their home, the Villa Clementine in the leafy southern Brussels municipality of Tervuren.
Prince Laurent also revealed that he is also considered as an at-risk person, after being hospitalised in 2014 with pneumonia.
Prince Laurent’s reputation for outspokenness that has earned him the nickname ‘Belgium’s Prince Phillip’.
Meanwhile Princess Claire rarely appears in public with her husband, but occasionally supports him at environmental causes or animal charities.
The royal is the leading patron of Brussels Choral Society, which sang at the religious part of her marriage ceremony, and is a member of the Board of Trustees at the British School of Brussles.
Meanwhile she also often attends charitable and commemorative events hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium.