Queen Paola of Belgium
|Belgian Royal Family|
HM King Albert II
Early life and family background
She was born in Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany, Italy, the seventh and youngest child of the World War I Italian flying ace Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda (1884–1946). Her mother was Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896–1989), a matrilineal descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution. She is of Italian and Belgian ancestry and was hailed as one of the leading beauties of Europe in her youth.
Ademarus Rufus, who died in 1049, held the title of Comes in southern Italy and Siggerio Ruffo became Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II's grand marshal of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1235. The family divided into two branches after the 14th century: the Ruffo di Calabria and the Ruffo di Scaletta, to the former of which the Queen belongs.
Queen Paola's brother, Don Fabrizio Ruffo di Calabria-Santipau (1922–2005), head of the entire family from 1975, was historical heir to the titles of Prince of Scilla, Prince of Palazzolo, Duke of Guardia Lombarda, Count of Sinopoli, Marquis of Licodia Eubea, Count of Nicotera, Baron of Calanna and of Crispano, Patrician of Naples.
Queen Paola is related to historically eminent Roman and southern Italian noble families, including the Colonna, Orsini, Pallavicini, Alliata and Rospigliosi. Among her distinguished ancestors of the French aristocracy were the American general Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette and the Dukes of Noailles.
Since the fall of the Italian monarchy in 1947 the Princes Ruffo di Calabria have become connected by marriage, in addition to the Belgian royal family, to such formerly reigning dynasties as the Orléans, the Savoys and the Bonapartes.
Marriage and family
In 1958, the Prince of Liège went to the Vatican to witness the inauguration of Pope John XXIII. At a reception at the Belgian embassy, the prince met Italian Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria. "We were both shy, so we only talked a little," Paola said later about their first meeting. Shy but smitten, Prince Albert later proposed marriage to Paola, and she accepted. Their engagement was announced at the Chateau of Laeken in 1959.
The Royal Househould wanted to organise the wedding in the Vatican, and be blessed by Pope John XXIII. Albert's father, King Leopold III of the Belgians, his aunt ex-Queen Marie-José of Italy, and Paola's brother, the Prince Ruffo, sent a diplomatic mission to the pontifical court. However the Belgian Government never accepted, and objected to the wish of the court. The pope understood the government's concerns, and never agreed to participate in the wedding. Finally, avoiding an international scandal, the Prince of Liège married Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria at St. Goedele Cathedral in Brussels on 2 July 1959.
Upon arriving in Brussels for the first time prior to her wedding, Paola won over the Belgian media immediately. The charm and beauty of the blonde princess from the south quickly captured the hearts of the Belgians, wrote the newspapers of the time.
The couple have three children:
- Philippe, King of the Belgians, who married Countess Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz
- Princess Astrid, who married Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este;
- Prince Laurent, who married Claire Louise Coombs.
By the late 1960s, the marriage had deteriorated. Both spouses were allegedly having affairs, and lived apart for a long while. There were even rumors of divorce plans. By the early 1980s, however, the couple's relations had improved. It is said King Baudouin, acted as a mediator between the two. Even the devout Roman Catholic faith of their daughter, Princess Astrid, might have played a role. In the end, Albert and Paola chose to stay together.
For her 70th birthday interview, Paola, by then Queen of the Belgians, said, "we've had our problems, but now we both say that we were meant for each other. We are very happy now."
Contemporary Belgian art
Queen Paola has demonstrated interest in contemporary Belgian arts, visiting the Ventian Biënale several times. She has acquired works of Jan Fabre, Michael Borremans and others for the Royal collection. She has often met with such artists as Luc Tuymans and Dirk Braeckman.
- 11 September 1937 – 2 July 1959: Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia Ruffo di Calabria (Although The Belgian Monarchy website attributes the title of "Princess" to Queen Paola prior to her marriage, Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, La Descendance de Marie-Thérèse de Habsburg and Le Petit Gotha, among others, accord only the noble prefix of Donna to her and her sisters, reserving the title Principessa for the wife of the head of the family, Paola's father having received the title of prince in the Italian nobility in 1928 from King Victor Emmanuel III, heritable according to masculine primogeniture.)
- 2 July 1959 – 9 August 1993: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Liège
- 9 August 1993 – 21 July 2013: Her Majesty The Queen of the Belgians
- 21 July 2013 – present: Her Majesty Queen Paola of Belgium
|Ancestors of Queen Paola of Belgium|
- Although The Belgian Monarchy website attributes the title of "Princess" to Queen Paola prior to marriage, Burke's Peerage 1973, The Descendants of Louis XIII 1999, Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels 2001, La Descendance de Marie-Thérèse de Habsburg 1996, and Le Petit Gotha 2002 among others, accord only the noble prefix of Donna to her and her sisters, reserving the title Principessa for the wife of the head of the family
- Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI. "Ruffo". C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 522–529. ISBN 3-7980-0824-8.
- de Badts de Cugnac, Chantal. Coutant de Saisseval, Guy. Le Petit Gotha. Nouvelle Imprimerie Laballery, Paris 2002, p. 702 (French) ISBN 2-9507974-3-1
- "Prince Albert engagement 1959". British Pathe news.
- Koningin Paola bestelt kunst bij Michaël Borremans. focus.knack.be. 20 May 2010.
- Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (editor). Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, Burke's Peerage, London, 1973, p. 226. ISBN 0-220-66222-3
- Willis, Daniel, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Clearfield Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1999, p. 100. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5.
- Enache, Nicolas. La Descendance de Marie-Therese de Habsburg. ICC, Paris, 1996. pp. 54, 58. French.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). 23 April 2012. p. 53.
- Boletín Oficial del Estado. boe.es. 17 September 1994.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Queen Paola of Belgium.|
Fabiola de Mora y Aragón
|Queen consort of the Belgians
Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz