A woman who says she is the out-of-wedlock daughter of Belgium's King Albert II has published a book, expressing anger at what she says is the King's refusal to have anything to do with her. In Cutting The Umbilical Cord, Delphine Boel, 40, says the King neglected her, causing her much pain, and she now wanted to end nine years of fruitless bids to seek royal recognition.
No matter your background, she writes in her book, "you are responsible for the child you produce. You do not abandon it. That is what my father has done".
Claims that Ms Boel is King Albert's daughter emerged in an unauthorised 1999 biography of Queen Paola, Albert's Italian-born wife. The book said Ms Boel's mother was Sybille, Baroness de Selys Longchamps, the wife of a former Belgian industrialist. In his Christmas message that year, King Albert acknowledged an extramarital affair in the 1960s that he said nearly wrecked his marriage. But he added: "We won't dwell on this subject which is part of our private lives."
Since then, Ms Boel, an artist who grew up in London where her mother moved for privacy reasons in 1976, has repeatedly tried to to get King Albert to acknowledge her as a daughter. The King and Queen Paola have three children. Ms Boel told reporters yesterday: "This is pretty much the end of the story. I have said what I had to say. If there are any more questions, please go to the other party, which is the palace."
The royal palace had no comment. The Belgian monarch does not acknowledge Ms Boel as his daughter, but neither the palace nor the government has formally disputed the claim.
Over the years, Ms Boel's public pleas have aggravated the Belgian monarchy's reputation as a royal house of bunglers. Crown Prince Philip's awkward public presence regularly triggers controversy, and his youngest son, Prince Laurent, was called to testify in a fraud case over repairs to his home in 2007.
King Albert's predecessor, his devoutly Roman Catholic brother, Baudouin, abdicated for a few days in the 1990s after he refused to approve a law legalising abortion. And his father, King Leopold III, had such controversial ties with the Nazi German occupiers in the Second World War that he was forced to abdicate in 1950.
Ms Boel said she was tired of being Albert's "dirty laundry" and that being ignored by the Belgian monarch had left her feeling "a little bit like meat left to the dogs". In her book, she says that in 1969, when she was three, Albert was ready to divorce Paola but that her mother prevented that.
She and her mother moved to London in 1976 where she said they regularly saw King Albert, though she says she did not know him to be her father at the time.
In 1999, Ms Boel said she called King Albert on his mobile phone after her mother fell seriously ill. "You must never call me again," she says the Belgian monarch told her. "I want to hear nothing of this whole thing any more. Besides, you are not my daughter."
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