The long-running royal scandal that has riveted Belgium and damaged the reputations of those involved reached a new milestone when former King Albert II reunited with the daughter he fathered out of wedlock more than half a century ago.
Capping a momentous few weeks, Albert II sat between his wife, the former Queen Paola, and artist Delphine Boel, who is now recognized as Her Royal Highness Princess Delphine after a bitter two-decade paternity fight.
“After the tumult, the suffering and the hurt, it is time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation,” the three said in a joint statement issued by the royal palace Tuesday, two days after the meeting.
“Together, we decided to take this new path. It will require patience and effort, but we are determined,” they said.
Last month, a Belgian court ruled in Boel’s favor and officially recognized her as the daughter of Albert, something the aging monarch had fought tooth and nail to avoid ever since paternity rumors became public in 1998.
Princess Delphine, 52, is a sculptor known for her quirky, sometimes outrageous statues. Albert, 86, reigned as king until 2013.
With four lavish homes and a fuel-guzzling yacht to maintain, retired Belgian King Albert II is reportedly finding it difficult to get by on his royal pension of $1.2 million a year.
The meeting Sunday was followed by a reportedly warm meeting between the newly minted princess and her half-brother, the reigning King Phillipe, at the palace.
Rumors about a liaison between Albert and Princess Delphine’s mother, the aristocratic wife of a wealthy industrialist, had swirled for years. The princess said that taking legal action was all about getting family recognition and the love of a father who had cold-shouldered her for too long and fought her in court. She said it made her life “most painful.”
A photo of Sunday’s encounter showed Albert, Paola and Delphine in front of a fireplace with some cookies, untouched, on the table. All three sat apart and their smiles were not exuberant, yet it was a watershed moment for Belgium’s royal house.
“During our encounter at the Belvedere Castle, each of us, with empathy and in serenity, was able to express [our] feelings and experiences,” the statement said. “A new chapter had opened, rich in emotions, peace of mind, understanding and hope.”