The once secret princess of Belgium has met former king Albert for the first time since her legal battle to be accepted as his daughter.
A photograph released by the palace today shows Princess Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg sitting smiling alongside Albert II and his wife Queen Paola in their home Castle Belvédère in Laeken on Sunday.
The meeting was described by the palace as a time of ‘forgiveness, healing and reconciliation’ after the lengthy court battle.
Princess Delphine, 52, was officially recognised her as the love child of Belgium’s former king on October 1.
Delphine had revealed earlier this month she last spoke to Albert in 2001 and said at the time she ‘expects nothing more’.
A joint statement said: ‘On Sunday 25 October a new chapter, rich of emotion, peace of mind, understanding and hope was begun.
‘During our meeting in Castle Belvédère each of us, in serenity and empathy, managed to express their feelings and experiences.
‘After the uproar, the suffering and the injuries, it is now time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
‘Together we have decided on this new path. This will take patience and effort, but we are determined.
‘These are the first step in a path that we will walk in peace. Delphine, Paola and Albert.’
It comes after the princess met her half-brother King Philippe for the first time earlier this month.
The monarch said it was a ‘warm meeting’ which took place at the Castle of Laeken on Friday October 9.
Artist Princess Delphine, 52, formerly known as Delphine Boël, is thought to be the result of an 18-year affair between the former monarch, 86, and Belgian aristocrat Sybille de Selys Longchamps, 79, that began in the 1960s.
In a joint statement shared to the Belgian royal family‘s Facebook page, Philippe, 60, and Delphine – who shared a photograph of them socially distanced – said: ‘This extensive and special conversation gave us the opportunity to get to know each other.
‘We have spoken about our own lives and our common interests. This bond will develop further in family context.’
Their union was met with delight from royal fans, with many Belgians praising King Philippe for his ‘moving’ gesture.
One commented: ‘Great respect for King Filip for this deep human gesture to his half sister!! Beautiful!!’
‘Congratulations on this warm, human gesture!’ another wrote. ‘It truly is a strong signal. This is the attitude of an committed and confident Prince who also turns his social message into actions. An example. Congrats!’
And one gushed: ‘Fantastic! How good of the King! And what’s wrong with a nice new (half) sister? Exactly: nothing! Compliments.’
Speaking after a court officially recognised her as the love child of Belgium’s former king on October 1, Delphine said her battle to be recognised as a royal was not about money or status.
She explained that her mother’s husband, wealthy industrialist and aristocrat Jacques Boel, is ‘much richer than the royal family’.
Delphine also revealed she will not be using the ‘Her Royal Highness’ prefix, adding: ‘I just wanted to be the same as my brother and my sister.’
She told Belgian radio show Matin Premiere: ‘I feel like I have a right to exist. Not to exist in the royal family but as me.
‘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.’
Speaking earlier this month, Delphine revealed she last spoke to Albert in 2001 and ‘expects nothing more’.
‘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.’
The alleged affair between Albert II and Sybille de Selys Longchamps 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’.
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.
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.
The court ruled 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.’