The long-running royal scandal that has riveted Belgium and damaged those involved reached a new milestone when the former king Albert II reunited with the daughter he fathered out of wedlock more than half a century ago.
Albert II sat between his wife, Queen Paola, and the former Delphine Boel, who has been recognised 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 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 Albert’s daughter, which the ageing monarch had fought to avoid since paternity rumours became public in 1998.
Princess Delphine, 52, is an artist known for her quirky, sometimes outrageous, statues. Albert, 86, was king until 2013.
The gathering on Sunday was 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 her.
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 it made her life “most painful”.
The photograph of Sunday’s encounter showed the three in front of a fireplace with 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 their feelings and experiences,“ the statement said. “A new chapter had opened, rich in emotions, peace of mind, understanding and hope.”