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Belgian king meets once-hidden half-sister for first time

Matthieu Demeestere

Agence France-Presse

Brussels, Belgium  /  Fri, October 16, 2020  /  02:33 pm
Belgian king meets once-hidden half-sister for first time

This handout picture taken on October 9, 2020 and released on October 15, 2020 by the Belgian Royal Palace shows Belgian princess Delphine and King Philippe - Filip of Belgium during a meeting at the Royal Castle in Laeken-Laken. (ROYAL PALACE OF BELGIUM/AFP/Handout)

Belgium's King Philippe has met his once-secret half-sister Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg for the first time, the palace said Thursday, after she won a legal battle to be admitted to the royal family.

The meeting, held at a royal palace on October 9, led to a "long and rich exchange" that will allow the relationship to develop within a "family framework", said the statement.

Former king Albert II, Philippe's father who reigned from 1993 until 2013, had been forced to undergo a DNA test in 2019 following a long drawn-out battle with the woman who had insisted for years she was his daughter.

The test confirmed he was indeed her biological father, which he had refused to admit since the revelation in 1999 of an old extra-marital affair.

A Belgian court ruled on October 1 that the 52-year-old artist can indeed adopt her father's name and call herself a princess. 

The current king has now publicly welcomed Delphine into the family, unlike his father so far.

The "warm" meeting between Delphine and the king took place at the monarch's Palace of Laeken official residence, the royal family said.

"We had the chance to get to know each other during a long and rich exchange that allowed us to speak about our respective lives and our areas of common interest," said a palace statement signed simply by Philippe and Delphine.

"This relationship will from now on develop in a family framework," the statement added.

Read also: Belgium's hidden princess regrets father's cold shoulder

Daughter of long affair

Delphine was born in 1968 to a baroness, Sibylle de Selys Longchamps, and future king Albert early in an affair that lasted until 1984.

Albert had already married his future queen, Paola, and the illegitimate daughter was kept secret.

Despite rumors and press reports, Albert continued to deny his paternity throughout his two-decade reign and after his abdication, until a court ordered a DNA test in 2019.

The result was finally released in January, and the saga could have been over -- but the former king, now 86, continued to show his daughter the cold shoulder.

In a statement, Albert's lawyers said "the scientific conclusions indicate that he is the biological father of Mrs Delphine Boel."

But they added that his legal paternity was not the same as being a father and noted that he had made no "familial, social or educational decisions" in Boel's upbringing.

When the former king informed his hidden daughter and the Belgian people, through legal counsel, that he felt no connection with her it was "like a knife in the back," she told reporters on October 5.

The hidden princess said she had been in touch with her father until he cut contact brutally when she was 33 years old.

His dismissive rejection of the hard-fought recognition was a step too far and she decided to press for legal recognition as a royal.

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