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EDITORS’ DEBATE: Should Delphine become a Princess of Belgium?

Our Deputy Editor, Brittani Barger, and our News Editor, Lydia Starbuck, debate on whether or not Belgium should have added a new princess to the Belgian Royal Family.

Lydia Starbuck, News Editor

I can’t help feeling that the decision to create Delphine, daughter of Albert II, a princess of Belgium is a step too far. The illegitimate child of the former King of the Belgians will be entitled to use the style HRH and the title of princess thanks to a court decision. What’s more, the same goes for her two children. Suddenly, Belgium’s Royal Family has got a whole lot bigger.

And that for me is at the heart of the problem. Royalty is all about PR. Always has been, always will be. You have to look good, sound good and appear good to keep the all-important popularity ratings where they need to be. Creating three new royals isn’t the best look in a year when many have suffered financial, social and emotional hardship through no fault of their own. King Albert’s disastrous handling of this very sensitive situation has caused a controversy far bigger than a simple admission of paternity might have years ago.

The laws that have led a court to conclude Delphine can be a princess were designed to limit the number of royals and yet because one word was omitted – legitimate – they have created more. Delphine and her descendants have no succession rights and the court has also ruled they will get no royal allowance which in a way makes bestowing titles on them seem even more bizarre. This strange situation has been decades in the making and could well lead to further changes to royal rules.

Delphine’s surname will be Saxe-Coburg, a nod to the past of the Belgian Royal Family and one that feels very old fashioned indeed. In fact, this whole move seems like something from a history book and certainly not the image that a forward-thinking monarchy wants to give off. Had Delphine walked away as a countess or an acknowledged daughter of Albert with no title, that wouldn’t be the case. As King Philippe and Queen Mathilde push the Belgian monarchy into a new phase, filled with public facing popular engagements and a family of happy children who will soon take on royal duties themselves, they find themselves in the middle of a Victorian melodrama created by King Albert who has remained silent apart from a sour statement that lost him even more sympathy.

It’s not Delphine’s fault that she inherited this awkward family situation, but it’s not the fault of her half-brother, King Philippe, either. Ultimately, making her a princess creates a perceived extension of an institution that relies on goodwill to survive. How Philippe, Mathilde and Belgium’s newest royal handle this delicate moment could have a big impact on the future of the monarchy itself. Becoming a princess isn’t always a fairytale.

Brittani Barger, Deputy Editor

I think with all that Delphine has had to go through over the past few years to get recognised by her father that giving her the title of Princess of Belgium with the style of Royal Highness is only right. At first, she said she only wanted King Albert to admit he was her father, but I think, due to his actions, Delphine was so hurt that she went for more. He was absolutely awful to her and refused for a long time to take a DNA test (and only did so after he was forced by the courts to pay a fine for every day he did not submit to testing). King Albert drew this out way longer than it should have ever been, and so her getting the royal title seems like a way she has gotten revenge on the father who wanted to pretend she didn’t exist.

Not only that, but it is written in Belgian law that she should get the title and style as a descendant of King Albert. The law does not say that only legitimate children should be a prince or princess, which is what left the door open for Delphine. Delphine becoming her Royal Highness Princess Delphine of Belgium is legal and has been ruled by the courts.

She will not be in the line of succession so that is not a worry for the Belgian Royal Family, and it is very unlikely that she will receive any type of government allowance. So I ask, what does it hurt that she has a title? The awkward family situation does not make for a happy Christmas get together or Delphine being extended invitations to royal functions. I highly doubt we are going to see her undertaking any public engagements with the Royal Family, so really all she is getting is the title. And to me, that doesn’t seem like something to stress about (unless you are King Albert, of course!).

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