Belgium’s newest princess has spoken out for the first time after a court officially recognised her as the love child of the country’s former king, Albert II.
Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, who previously went under the surname Boel, was overcome by emotion as she addressed reporters in Brussels on Monday, four days after a judge’s ruling saw her added to the royal family tree.
The 52-year-old artist insisted the ruling was not about money or status, as she revealed that she will not be using the ‘Her Royal Highness’ prefix.
‘Boel was already very heavy,’ she said – referring to the name she inherited from her mother’s husband, wealthy industrialist and aristocrat Jacques Boel.
‘[He] is much richer than the royal family,’ she continued. ‘I just wanted to be the same as my brother and my sister.’
Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, formerly Delphine Boel, is overcome with emotion as she speaks at a press conference after being officially recognised as the daughter of Albert II, the former King of Belgium
The 52-year-old artist insisted the ruling was not about money or status, that she will not be using the Her Royal Highness prefix, and simply wants to return to her life as an artist
‘I feel like I have a right to exist. Not to exist in the royal family but as me,’ she told Belgian radio show Matin Première.
‘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.’
Delphine also revealed that she has had no contact with her biological father or her siblings since the ruling, and last spoke to Albert in 2001.
‘I expect nothing more,’ she replied, when asked whether she expects Albert to contact her in the future.
‘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.’
While the court battle has not confirmed the circumstances of Delphine’s birth, she is thought to be the result of an 18-year affair between the former monarch and Belgian aristocrat Sybille de Selys Longchamps that began in the 1960s.
Delphine added that she is ‘very happy’ that the ruling has ‘vindicated’ her ‘right to exist’ on level terms with her half-siblings, King Philippe, Prince Laurent and Princess Astrid
Delphine also revealed that Albert has not been in contact since the ruling, and that she does not expect to hear from him in future
That affair 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’.
Albert (left) confirmed in January that he was no longer contesting Delphine’s claim of paternity, after taking a DNA test (pictured right, her mother Sybille de Selys Longchamps)
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.
Delphine (left, with her mother in 2000) first claimed to be Albert’s lovechild in 1999, after an unofficial biography of the Queen claimed he had an affair and a child born out of wedlock
Delphine Boel, now 52 (pictured in Paris in 1999) has been recognised as the illegitimate lovechild of Albert II, former King of Beligum, after a seven-year legal battle
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.
A court ruled on Thursday last week 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.’