Queen Paola of Belgium

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HM Queen Paola, Princess of Belgium.jpg
Queen consort of the Belgians
Tenure 9 August 1993 – 21 July 2013
Born (1937-09-11) 11 September 1937 (age 79)
Villa Claudia, Forte dei Marmi, Italy
Spouse Albert II of Belgium
(m. 1959)
Issue Philippe of Belgium
Princess Astrid, Archduchess of Austria-Este
Prince Laurent
Full name
Donna[1] Paola dei Principi Ruffo di Calabria
House Ruffo di Calabria
Father Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria
Mother Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana
Religion Roman Catholicism

Queen Paola of Belgium (born Donna[1] Paola Ruffo di Calabria on 11 September 1937) is the wife of the former King Albert II and was Queen of the Belgians from 1993 until his abdication in 2013 in favour of their eldest child the current King Philippe of Belgium.

Early life and family background[edit]

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).[2] 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.

Queen Paola is fluent in Italian, French, German and English. Less fluent, and the cause of occasional criticism, is her Dutch, the mother tongue of nearly 60 percent of Belgians.[citation needed]

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.[2] 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.[2]

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 1946, 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.[3]

Marriage and family[edit]

Paola in 1969, with Albert behind her

In 1958, the Prince of Liège went to the Vatican to witness the coronation 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.[4]

The Royal Household wanted to organise the wedding in the Vatican, and to have it 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.[citation needed] 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.

The couple have three children:

By the late 1960s, the marriage had deteriorated. There were even rumors of divorce plans. By the early 1980s, however, the couple's relations had improved. 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."[citation needed] On May 17, 2016 Paola became a great-grandmother to Archduchess Anna Astrid, the daughter of her eldest grandchild Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este.


In 2015 Queen Paola was admitted to hospital, after vacation in Italy. The court announced that she had to cancel a planned visit to the Biennale in Venice. Further communications were kept private. The queen sent a message to Grosio, where she was expected to visit the residence of her aunt the Marquesa Margherita Pallavicini Mossi.[5][6] Papers believe that the queen suffered from a stroke during the holiday.[7]

Contemporary Belgian art[edit]

Queen Paola has demonstrated interest in contemporary Belgian arts, visiting the Venetian Biennale several times. She has acquired works of Jan Fabre, Michael Borremans and others for the Royal collection.[8] She has often met with such artists as Luc Tuymans and Dirk Braeckman.


Alliance Coat of Arms of King Albert II and Queen Paola.svg
Alliance Coat of Arms of King Albert II
and Queen Paola of the Belgians
Royal Monogram of Queen Paola of Belgium.svg
Royal Monogram of Queen Paola
of Belgium
Dual Cypher of King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians.svg
Dual Cypher of King Albert II and
Queen Paola of the Belgians


  • 11 September 1937 – 2 July 1959: Donna[2][3][9][10][11] 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]
  • 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


See also List of honours of the Belgian Royal Family by country

National honour[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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
  2. ^ a b c d e Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI. "Ruffo". C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 522–529. ISBN 3-7980-0824-8.
  3. ^ a b 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
  4. ^ "Prince Albert engagement 1959". British Pathe news. 
  5. ^ http://www.hln.be/hln/nl/947/Royalty/article/detail/2443227/2015/09/02/Italiaans-dorp-ziet-Paola-weer-afzeggen.dhtml
  6. ^ http://www.valtellinanews.it/articoli/Annullata-la-visita-della-regina-Paola-del-Belgio-a-Tirano-e-Grosio-20150828/ Annullata-la-visita-della-regina-Paola-del-Belgio-a-Tirano-e-Grosio
  7. ^ http://www.hln.be/hln/nl/947/Royalty/article/detail/2443933/2015/09/03/Koningin-Paola-kreeg-beroerte.dhtml
  8. ^ Koningin Paola bestelt kunst bij Michaël Borremans. focus.knack.be. 20 May 2010.
  9. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (editor). Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, Burke's Peerage, London, 1973, p. 226. ISBN 0-220-66222-3
  10. ^ Willis, Daniel, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Clearfield Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1999, p. 100. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5.
  11. ^ Enache, Nicolas. La Descendance de Marie-Therese de Habsburg. ICC, Paris, 1996. pp. 54, 58. French.
  12. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). 23 April 2012. p. 53. 
  13. ^ http://www.monarchie.be/sites/default/files/imagecache/ImageDetail/images/fr_bulga3_3160.jpg
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  15. ^ http://5.t.cdn.belga.be/picture:9519900:preview:watermark
  16. ^ http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/queen-paola-dr-arajarvi-president-halonen-and-king-albert-news-photo/3160967#
  17. ^ http://9.t.cdn.belga.be/picture:271937:preview:watermark
  18. ^ http://www.quirinale.it/elementi/DettaglioOnorificenze.aspx?decorato=11914
  19. ^ gettyimages.be, Paola wearing the Decoration of Honour and Sovereign Military Order of Malta
  20. ^ http://royautes.ek.la/paola-et-albert-a-rome-a80259962
  21. ^ http://www.gettyimages.ae/detail/news-photo/the-belgian-king-albert-ii-and-queen-paola-and-their-eldest-news-photo/173523009
  22. ^ http://www.president.lv/images/modules/items/DOC/2011maijs-tzo%20registrs.doc
  23. ^ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/131237776617506777/
  24. ^ http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/queen-paola-duchesse-maria-theresa-the-grand-duke-henri-of-news-photo/73644919
  25. ^ http://static1.purepeople.com/articles/7/13/41/57/@/1344517-queen-paola-and-king-albert-of-belgium-950x0-1.jpg
  26. ^ http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/queen-beatrix-queen-fabiola-and-queen-paola-stand-together-news-photo/71249860
  27. ^ http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_7EtBCCjTQ4g/RlKtqVhmWyI/AAAAAAAAAcs/oOlTKKRIhe0/s1600-h/2006.06.20____.jpg
  28. ^ https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/Anefo_911-3015_Tweede_dag.jpg
  29. ^ https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Huwelijk_prinses_Beatrix_en_prins_Claus_%281966%29.jpg
  30. ^ http://www.gettyimages.in/detail/news-photo/queen-paola-from-belgium-and-queen-sonja-from-norway-pose-news-photo/2016067
  31. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  32. ^ http://www.monarchie.be/sites/default/files/imagecache/ImageDetail/images/fr_pol.jpg
  33. ^ http://7.t.cdn.belga.be/picture:3513377:preview:watermark
  34. ^ http://www.gettyimages.dk/detail/news-photo/queen-paola-maria-jose-ritta-portuguese-president-jorge-news-photo/55950709
  35. ^ http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/prince-laurent-princess-claire-prince-lorentz-princess-news-photo/55950746
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2012. 
  37. ^ https://www.pinterest.com/pin/470907704762550240/
  38. ^ http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/rights-managed/0000378959-031/royal-couple-of-sweden-on-state-visit
  39. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado. boe.es. 17 September 1994.
  40. ^ http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H7aXw5lOH-Q/Vpjd5BkVttI/AAAAAAAATDc/tUDg6bSq8CY/s1600/w_nor_sp07359f.jpg

External links[edit]

Queen Paola of Belgium
Born: 11 September 1937
Belgian royalty
Preceded by
Fabiola de Mora y Aragón
Queen consort of the Belgians
Succeeded by
Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz