A long-running royal scandal which riveted Belgians as much as it damaged 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 was pictured sitting in between his wife Queen Paola and the former Delphine Boel, who is now recognised as Her Royal Highness Princess Delphine following 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 on 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 Princess Delphine’s favour and officially recognised her as the daughter of King Albert II, something the aging monarch had fought to avoid ever since paternity rumours became public in 1998.
Princess Delphine, 52, is an artist known for her quirky, sometimes outrageous, statues.
Eighty-six-year-old Albert II was king until 2013.
The gathering on Sunday was soon followed by a reportedly warm meeting with her half-brother, the reigning King Phillipe, at the palace.
Rumours about Albert and Princess Delphine’s mother, the aristocratic wife of a wealthy industrialist, had been circulating for years, but Albert long refused to recognise his daughter.
Princess Delphine said going to court was all about getting family recognition and the love of a father who had cold-shouldered her and fought her in court. She said this had made her life “most painful”.
Sunday’s photo of the encounter showed the three sat in front of a fireplace with cookies, untouched, on the table.
All three sat apart, and while their smiles were not exuberant, 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 their feelings and experiences,” the statement said.
“A new chapter had opened, rich in emotions, peace of mind, understanding and hope.”