Delphine Boël is the daughter of Sybille de Selys Longchamps and (as she claims) King Albert II of Belgium. Delphine is currently pursuing a lawsuit against King Albert II because she seeks recognition from him. Let’s take a look back at her story.
On 2 July 1959 Prince Albert married the Italian beauty Paola Ruffo di Calabria in a traditional ceremony in Brussels, Belgium. Prince Albert and Princess Paola had a very passionate relationship which resulted in 3 children in the first 3 years of their marriage. At the time of their marriage, Prince Albert was not expected to become King. His elder brother King Baudouin remained childless and Prince Albert became King after the sudden death of Baudouin. Soon after the birth of Albert and Paola’s third child, Laurent, they started to struggle with their relationship. In the summer of 1966 Prince Albert met Sybille de Selys Longchamps while being on holiday in Greece. Sybille was married to Jacques Boël but they also struggled in their relationship. 3 weeks after their first encounter, Prince Albert declared his love to Sybille. She rejected him at first as they were both married and she didn’t see any future in their affair.
However in the autumn of 1966 Prince Albert and Sybille met again and they started their affair. Princess Paola was aware of the affair and she is said to have been seeing other men. The Belgian press knew of the affair and was even able to publish pictures of the couple but they never did so. In the spring of 1967 Baroness Sybille found out she was pregnant with Albert’s baby. On 22 February 1968 their love child Delphine Michèle Anne Marie Ghislaine Boël was born. Their daughter Delphine received Sybille’s husband Jacques Boël’s last name and he is also the official father on the birth certificate which happens automatically when one is married. Prince Albert chose Sybille and Delphine and the family of three lived together in Knokke, Belgium.
The relationship between Albert and Sybille lasted around 16-17 years. The last time Sybille saw Albert was two weeks before the 25th wedding anniversary of King Albert and Queen Paola. After that the connection was broken. According to Sybille she never knew the reason of their break-up. He denied all contact with Sybilla and with Delphine ever since.
The children as victims
Meanwhile Prince Albert and Princess Paola’s children Philippe (now King Philippe of the Belgians), Princess Astrid and Prince Laurent were left alone. Albert spent as much time as he could with Sybille and Delphine while Paola was very often abroad. The children didn’t have a happy childhood, they were alone and not loved. Even on Christmas servants of the royal palace took the children to their homes so the children didn’t have to celebrate Christmas on their own.
Ever since the oldest son Philippe became King of the Belgians in 2013, there has been a lot written about the fact that the other members of the family were very often absent. King Albert and Queen Paola moved to Italy after the abdication of Albert. They are very little in Belgium, not even on the national day. The ties with his brother and sister are complicated but in any case better than with his parents. Furthermore King Philippe is not a very affectionate man, at least not publically. Conversations with the King seem to be stiff and unnatural. For example when King Philippe married Mathilde their balcony kiss was a bit awkward. Instead of leaning in for a kiss, Philippe gave his bride a very modest kiss on the cheek. Luckily there is Mathilde who seems to be able to soften Philippe and ever since they met Philippe is doing better in his role as Prince/King when it comes to communication. Many believe it is (partly) because of the absence of love in Philippe’s childhood that he is less able to be spontaneous and communicate.
There were more children that have been affected by the affair, especially Delphine. At the age of 17 her mother told her Albert was her father. When she turned 18, Delphine was struggling physically and mentally. She was in a very bad place and was diagnosed with anorexia. Over the years she seemed to be doing better. Nowadays Delphine is married and she lives with her husband and two children in England. But according to her mother she is still struggling. Sybille said: “If you know a little about psychology, you know that you never recover when your father rejects you.” Delphine Boël is an artist and a recurring theme is her battle with King Albert.
Delphine has tried for years to get in touch with King Albert but he refuses any contact. In 2013 Delphine filed a lawsuit against King Albert in which she demands that he accepts her as his daughter. That is definitely not an easy lawsuit. First she has to prove that Jacques Boël is not her biological father and then she has to prove King Albert is her father. Definitely that last part will be extremely difficult as Albert will never agree to provide a DNA sample. Via his lawyer Albert has said he “doesn’t want to be want to be considered the father of Delphine”. After some complications with the constitutional court, Delphine received permission to start her lawsuit in early 2016. A DNA sample has already proven Jacques Boël is NOT Delphine’s father. Now the court still has to accept the results and decide about the fatherhood of Jacques Boël. After that Delphine will start to prove that Albert is her father. As said before, he doesn’t want to provide a DNA sample so Delphine will try to prove the fatherhood by pictures, letters and presents she received. There is still a long way to go.
The question remains why Delphine Boël decided to start the lawsuit many years after she found out who her father was. Some say it has to do with money. However that’s highly unlikely because her official father Jacques Boël is one of the richest men in Belgium and he is assumed to have more money than King Albert. By pursuing this lawsuit, Delphine will lose her rights to the inheritance of Jacques. Besides, even if Albert recognizes her as his daughter, she will never be in line to the throne, never have a dotation and never have the title of Princess of Belgium. Delphine herself says she seeks the recognition because of her children and for justice.
Unfortunately this is only one side of the story. In 2013 Sybille de Selys Longchamps (Delphine’s mother) agreed to give an extended interview for the Belgian television. In the documentary “Our Daughter is called Delphine”, she talked openly about her relationship with Albert. Other information available comes from the palace staff that worked for Albert and Paola during the times of the affair with Sybille. King Albert never said a word about his relationship or his daughter. The only moment he spoke about that period in his life was when he gave a Christmas speech in 1999: “This Christmas feast is also the occasion for each of us to think to one’s own family, to one’s happy periods but also to one’s difficult moments. The Queen and I have remembered very happy periods but also the crisis that our couple have experienced more than 30 years ago. Together we could, very long time ago already, surpass those difficulties and find back a deep understanding and love. This period have been recalled to us short ago. We don’t wish to dwell on that subject which belongs to our private lives. But, if certain people who meet today similar problems could get some reasons to hope from our lived experience, we would be so happy.” That’s probably all he’ll ever say about that period in his life.
Will we ever know the truth? That’s hard to say. What we do know is that Albert has indeed had an affair with Sybille, that it lasted for a very long time but that he decided to go back to his wife. King Albert and Queen Paola seem to be happy now. Does this mean that Delphine is without a doubt his daughter? The answer is no. But there is some “proof”. Delphine looks very much like Albert’s mother Queen Astrid of Belgium (previously: Princess Astrid of Sweden) who died at a very young age in a car crash. She has the same nose, the same shape of her face. We also know for sure that Jacques is not the father. Then there are the options that Sybille had another affair and that man is the father of Delphine or Albert is the father. We hope to find out some day. To be continued….