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Princess Delphine of Belgium
Delphine and her daughter at her first book's signing in 2008
On 19 October 1999, an 18-year-old Flemish schoolboy,Mario Danneels, published his unauthorized biography of Queen Paola, Paola, van 'la dolce vita' tot koningin (Paola, from 'la dolce vita' to Queen). The book contained a statement referring to the existence of a daughter born out of wedlock to King Albert. The Belgian press investigated, and traced Delphine. At first, both Boël and her mother refused to comment on the matter, and the palace dismissed Danneels' book as gossip and rumor.
The Belgian press interpreted a short passage the king's 1999 Christmas speech as acknowledgement that Delphine Boël was, in fact, his natural daughter:
Christmas is a time for each of us to think of our family, of the happy periods but also the difficult times. The Queen and I remember very happy times, but also the crisis that we experienced more than 30 years ago. Together we could, over a long time, overcome those difficulties and recover a deep understanding and love for each other. This period was recalled to us recently. We don't wish to dwell on that subject which belongs to our private lives. But, if those who encounter similar difficulties today could get some encouragement from our own experiences, we would be very happy.
Boël gave an interview on 15 May 2005, to the France 3 presenter Marc-Olivier Fogiel in the broadcast "On ne peut pas plaire à tout le monde" (You Can't Please Everyone) in which she alleged for the first time that she was King Albert's daughter. She claimed that when she and her mother moved to England, when she was 9, Albert (not yet king) wished to divorce his wife and join them. Her mother apparently opposed this because of the political consequences for Albert. She said her mother told her the truth about her parentage when she became 17. In her upcoming interviews, Boël said she made a telephone call to Albert when she was 33 years old asking for help. According to her statement, he replied "Never call me again. You are not my daughter," which she said was hurtful. Boël added that her efforts to contact her father via telephone and sending letters or through friends and politicians failed.
In June 2013, Boël summoned King Albert and his children Prince Philippe and Princess Astrid to appear in court. She hoped to use DNA tests to prove that she was the king's daughter. As king, Albert was immune under the law, and Delphine decided to summon her half-siblings too. When the king abdicated on 21 July 2013 immunity ceased, and Boël relaunched proceedings against him. In March 2017, the court ruled that her claim was unfounded, and her lawyers said she would take the claim to appeal.
On 5 November 2018, a court ruling was published which instructed Albert to submit to a DNA test to determine whether he was Boël's biological father. DNA testing is not obligatory in Belgium, but not submitting to it is considered evidence of paternity. In January 2019, Albert appealed in cassation against the verdict, but on 16 May of the same year, the Brussels's Court of Appeals ordered the former king to pay a fine of 5000 Euros a day to Boël for every day he refused to take a DNA-test.
On 27 January 2020, the DNA tests showed that King Albert II was the father of Delphine Boël. In October 2020, she and her children were granted princely titles by the Belgian court of appeals. As she was born out of wedlock, Princess Delphine and her descendants are not in the line of succession to the Belgian throne. They will also not receive any royal endowment, but her legal fees, which add up to EUR3.4m, will be covered by her father.
She and her half-brother, King Philippe of Belgium, met on 9 October 2020 at the Palace of Laeken.
The next day, King Albert II reacted in a press release, rejoicing over the meeting and stating "My wife and I are very happy by the initiative of the King, presage of happier days for all and in particular for Delphine."
James O'Hare, an American of Irish descent, has been the partner of Delphine Boël since 2003. The couple have two children, Princess Joséphine (born 17 October 2003) and Prince Oscar of Belgium (born 28 April 2008).
Notable published works
Boël, Delphine (8 April 2008). Couper le cordon [Cut the Cord] (in French). Paris: Éditions Luc Pire. ISBN9782507000684.
Boël, Delphine (17 February 2017). Never Give Up (in French). Brussels: Marque Belge. ISBN9782390150121.
Delphine was styled as Jonkvrouw Delphine Boël until 1 October 2020, when the Belgian courts granted her and her children the titles of prince and princess of Belgium with the style of Royal Highness.