The Shadow of Delphine.

This afternoon, 10 September, the last hearing took place in the paternity case between HM King Albert II of the Belgians and his daughter Delphine Boël. The Brussels Court of Appeals will deliver its decision by the end of October. After the hearing, Delphine Boël’s lawyer Marc Uyttendaele stated: She wants to have exactly the same prerogatives, titles and qualities as her brothers and sisters. It was further revealed that Delphine’s surname will be changed to “van Saksen-Coburg/de Saxe-Cobourg,” as this is the family name of her father, the king.


According to Article 2 of the Royal decree on the granting of the title of Prince or Princess of Belgium (November 2015): “In the public and private acts which concern them, the Princes and Princesses, children and grandchildren, descended directly from His Majesty King Albert II, bear the title of Prince or Princess of Belgium following their first name and, in so far as they bear them, their family name and their dynastic title and before any other titles which are theirs by right of their ancestry. Their first name is preceded by the predicate His/Her Royal Highness.” The degree does not stipulate that the “children and grandchildren, descended directly from His Majesty King Albert II” have to be born within wedlock in order to be legally entitled to the royal title and style. Therefore, Delphine may very well be recognised by the court as “Her Royal Highness Princess Delphine of Belgium” with the surname of “van Saksen-Coburg/de Saxe-Cobourg.”

King Albert’s lawyer, Alain Berenboom, reacted: “We assume that this case will finally end. It was painful for everyone, hurting all parties that were involved in it, and King Albert was involved in it despite himself, without his asking. So it is time for this to stop.” In January 2020, King Albert acknowledged that he was the biological father of Delphine Boël. A communiqué from the king was issued via his attorney, Monsieur Berenboom. The statement read as follows:

His Majesty King Albert II has taken note of the results of the DNA test in which he cooperated at the request of the Brussels court of appeal. The scientific conclusions show that he is the biological father of Madame Delphine Boël. 

Even though there are arguments and legal objections to justify that legal paternity does not necessarily mean biological paternity, and that the procedure used seems to him disputable, King Albert has decided not to use those arguments and to end with honour and dignity this painful procedure. 

King Albert insists that since the birth of Madame Delphine Boël he was not involved in any family, social or educational decision regarding Madame Delphine Boël, and that he has always respected the bond that existed between Madame Delphine Boël and her legal father.


Since the late 1990s, through both private and public channels, Delphine Boël has sought to gain recognition from King Albert II that he is her biological father. This was sparked by the revelation in Mario Danneels’ 1999 book Paola: From La Dolce Vita to Queen, a biography of Albert’s wife Queen Paola, that Albert had sired a child with another woman. Until the release of the book, Albert and Delphine had remained in touch off and on, and Albert had indeed played a rather present role in Delphine’s life during her younger years, even after Albert and Paola reconciled in the 1980s. However, once the Danneels’ book was released, the king began to steadfastly deny his paternity. For almost twenty years, the king refused to take any responsibility for his actions. In an interview that the king’s lawyer Monsieur Berenboom gave in January, he said: “The king will no longer legally contest that he is her legal father. We have noted the results of the DNA test. It shows that through DNA King Albert is 99.99% likely the biological father of Delphine Boël. The king will treat his children equally. He will include Boël in his will at the same level as his other children. King Albert therefore now has four children.

Sybille de Selys Longchamps with her daughter Delphine. 

Jonkvrouw Delphine Michèle Anne Marie Ghislaine Boël was born on 22 February 1968 at Brussels. Her parents are Albert (b.1934), then Prince of Liège and later King of the Belgians, and Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps (b.1941). At the time of Delphine’s birth, both of her parents were married to other people. Albert of Belgium had married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (b.1937) in 1959; Sybille de Selys Longchamps had married Jonkheer Jacques Boël in 1962. At the time of Delphine’s birth, her father already had three children with his wife, but her mother had no children with her husband.

Albert, Sybille, and Delphine on holiday in Corsica (1974).
Photograph (c) VIER
Baroness Sybille de Selys Longchamps, Delphine Boël, and the Prince of Liege (later King Albert II of the Belgians)

Albert and Sybille began their relationship in the Summer of 1966: they met in Greece, where her father was the Belgian ambassador. By this point, both parties were in marriages that had soured. In the 2013 documentary Our Daughter Is Called Delphine, Sybille stated: “From the start I felt that we were not indifferent to each other. Months later I was invited to a dinner. I was seated next to Albert. I immediately realised this was done on purpose. Paola was furious. She butted him with her elbow once or twice. At that point I realised he had feelings for me.” A romance developed, and Albert’s brother King Baudouin pressured Sybille’s father to get the couple to end their relationship. However, Sybille was already pregnant with Albert’s child: “I thought I could not have children because I had had an infection. We had not taken any precautions.” Albert sent Sybille flowers when he learned that she had given birth to their daughter.

Delphine and Sybille.

In the early 1980s, Albert and Sybille ended their relationship. Albert, who became King of the Belgians in 1993, and Paola healed the issues in their marriage. Sybille divorced Jacques Boël in 1978, and was remarried in 1982 to the Honourable Michael Anthony Rathborne Cayzer, a son of the 1st Baron Rotherwick. Sybille became a widow when Anthony died in 1990.

For many years, Delphine Boël has been in a relationship with James “Jim” O’Hare. The couple have two children: Joséphine (b.2003) and Oscar (b.2008). One might surmise that Delphine named her children after her paternal great-great-great-grandparents, King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway and his wife Joséphine (née Duchess von Leuchtenberg).

Through her father Albert, Delphine’s ancestry is Gotha through and through. Through her mother Sybille, Delphine’s roots are heavily grounded in the Belgian aristocracy. However, her maternal family offers a surprising American connection: Delphine’s great-great-great-grandfather was James McMillan (Hamilton, Ontario 12 May 1838 – Manchester, Massachusetts 10 August 1902), who served as a United States Senator from the State of Michigan from 1889 until 1902.

U.S. Senator James McMillan of Michigan


The Ancestry of Delphine

1. Jonkvrouw Delphine Michèle Anne Marie Ghislaine Boël (b.Brussels 22 February 1968)
who is partnered with James O’Hare and has issue:

– Joséphine O’Hare (b.Uccle, Brussels 17 October 2003)
– Oscar O’Hare (b.28 April 2008)


2. King Albert II of the Belgians (b.Stuyvenberg Castle, Brussels 6 June 1934; he married at Brussels on 2 July 1959 Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia Ruffo di Calabria [b.Forte dei Marmi 11 Sep 1937])
who was in a relationship between 1967 and 1984 with
3. Baroness Sybille Michèle Emilie Marie Ghislaine de Selys Longchamps (b.Uccle, Brussels 28 August 1941; she 1stly married at Ways, Belgium on 11 September 1962 [divorced 1978] Jonkheer Jacques Pol Pascal Marie Ghislain Boël [b.Brussels 31 March 1929]; she 2ndly married on 14 May 1982 the Hon. Michael Anthony Rathborne Cayzer [28 May 1920 – London March 1990])

4. King Léopold III of the Belgians (Brussels 3 November 1901 – Brussels 25 September 1983)who wed in a civil ceremony at Stockholm on 4 November 1926 and then married in a religious ceremony at Brussels on 10 November 1926
5. Princess Astrid Sofia Lovisa Thyra of Sweden (Arvfurstens Palace, Stockholm, Sweden 17 November 1905 – Küssnacht am Rigi, Schwyz, Switzerland 29 August 1935
6. Count Michel François Raphaël Marie Ghislain de Selys de Longchamps (Waremme 2 April 1910 – Villers-la-Ville 23 October 1982)
who married at Brussels on 25 November 1937
7. Countess Pauline Julie Caroline Cornet de Ways-Ruart (Brussels 23 December 1914 – Brussels 19 October 1953)

8. King Albert I of the Belgians (Brussels 8 April 1875 – Marche-les-Dames 17 February 1934)
who married at Munich on 2 October 1900
9. Duchess Elisabeth Gabriele Valerie Maria in Bavaria (Possenhofen 25 July 1876 – Brussels 23 November 1965)
10. Prince Oscar Carl Vilhelm of Sweden (Stockholm 27 February 1861 – Stockholm 24 October 1951)
who married at Copenhagen on 27 August 1897
11. Princess Ingeborg Charlotta Carolina Frederikke Louise of Denmark (Charlottenlund 2 August 1878 – Stockholm 11 March 1958)
12. Raymond Charles Michel Ghislain de Sélys Longchamps (Liège 25 February 1880 – Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, Brussels 23 October 1966)
who married
13. Emilie Caroline de Theux de Meylandt et Montjardin (Aywaille 4 June 1880 – Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, Brussels 2 October 1972)
14. Count Paul Martin Félix Cornet de Ways-Ruart (Brussels 16 August 1866 – Brussels 27 January 1951)
who married
15. Gladys “Jewel” McMillan (Detroit, Michigan, United States of America 10 May 1891 – Brussels 30 April 1967)

16. Prince Philippe Eugène Ferdinand Marie Clément Baudouin Léopold Georges of Belgium, Count of Flanders (Laeken 24 March 1837-Brussels 17 November 1905)
who married at Berlin on 25 April 1867
17. Princess Marie Luise Alexandra Karoline of Hohenzollern (Sigmaringen 17 November 1845 – Brussels 26 November 1912)
18. Duke Karl Theodor in Bavaria (Possenhofen 9 August 1839 – Kreuth 29 November 1909)
who married at Kleinheubach on 29 April 1874
19. Infanta Maria José “Maria Josefa” Beatriz Joana Eulália Leopoldina Adelaide Isabel Carolina Micaela Rafaela Gabriela Francisca de Assis e de Paula Inès Sofia Joaquina Teresa Benedita Bernardina of Portugal (Bronnbach 19 Mar 1857 – Vienna 11 Mar 1943)
20. King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway (Stockholm 21 January 1829 – Stockholm 8 December 1907)
who married at Biebrich on 6 June 1857
21. Princess Sophie Wilhelmine Marianne Henriette of Nassau (Biebrich 9 July 1836 – Stockholm 30 December 1913)
22. King Frederik VIII of Denmark (Copenhagen 3 June 1843 – Hamburg 14 May 1912)
who married at Stockholm on 28 July 1869
23. Princess Louise Josephine Eugenie of Sweden and Norway (Stockholm 31 October 1851- Copenhagen 20 March 1926)
24. Michel Ferdinand Raphaël de Sélys Longchamps (Liège 20 November 1841 – Waremme 11 January 1911)
who married
25. Eusébie de Brigode de Kemlandt (Liège 10 June 1850 – Liège 5 March 1935)
26. Marie Georges Theodore Xavier de Theux de Meylandt et Montjardin (Saint-Trond, Limbourg 23 September 1838 – Brussels 13 December 1896)who married at Namur on 10 May 1865
27. Eugénie Louise Philippine Ghislaine de Thysebaert (Namur 25 October 1844 – Brussels 6 July 1902)
28. Count Arthur Marie Antoine Ghislain Félix Cornet de Ways-Ruart (Brussels 27 September 1838 – Vonêche 28 January 1890)
who married at Warnant on 12 October 1865
29. Marie Josèphe Ghislaine Caroline de Jacquier de Rosée (Warnant 2 July 1839 – Etterbeek 30 December 1927)
30. James Howard McMillan (Detroit, Michigan 17 September 1866 – Colorado Springs, Colorado 9 May 1902)
who married in June 1890
31. Julia Villiers Lewis (Detroit, Michigan 12 August 1870 – 23 January 1956)


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