Queen Paola of Belgium

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File:HM Queen Paola, Princess of Belgium.jpg
Queen of the Belgians
Tenure 9 August 1993 – 21 July 2013
Born (1937-09-11) 11 September 1937 (age 81)
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 favour of their eldest child the current King Philippe of Belgium.

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).[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% 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 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.[3]

Marriage and family

File:Paola of Belgium 1969b.jpg
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]


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 Bienale 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 holiday.[7]

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.[8] She has often met with such artists as Luc Tuymans and Dirk Braeckman.


  • 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 state visits & List of honours of the Belgian Royal Family by country

Belgian honours

Foreign honours

   State honours
AUT Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria - 1st Class BAR.png Austria Austria Great Star of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria (1997) [12]
Order Stara planina ribbon.gif Bulgaria Bulgaria Cordon of the Order of Stara Planina (2003) Photo
Orderelefant ribbon.png Denmark Denmark Knight of the Order of the Elephant Photo
EST Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana - 1st Class BAR.png Estonia Estonia Member 1st Class of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (2008) Photo
FIN Order of the White Rose Grand Cross BAR.png Finland Finland Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose (2004) Photo
GER Bundesverdienstkreuz 7 Grosskreuz.svg Germany Germany Dame Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany Photo
OESSG Cavaliere di Collare BAR.jpg Holy See Holy See Dame of the Collar of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (1995) website
Ribbon.Crossproecclesiaetpontifice.jpg Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice website
Cordone di gran Croce OMRI BAR.svg Italy Italy Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (12/05/1998) Orders website
JPN Hokan-sho 1Class BAR.svg Japan Japan Grand Cordon (or 1st class) of the Order of the Precious Crown Ph. 1, Ph 2
LVA Order of the Three Stars - Grand Cross BAR.png Latvia Latvia Commander Grand Cross of the Order of Three Stars Recipients list (.doc)
Order of Vytautas GC Ribbon.gif Lithuania Lithuania Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great official news
Ord.Lion.Nassau.jpg Luxembourg Luxembourg Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau Photo
Morocco Morocco Member Special Class of the Order of Muhammad
NLD Order of the Dutch Lion - Grand Cross BAR.png Netherlands Netherlands Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion Photo
St Olavs Orden storkors stripe.svg Norway Norway Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Olav (2003) Photo
POL Order Orła Białego BAR.svg Poland Poland Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle Photo
PRT Order of Christ - Grand Cross BAR.png Portugal Portugal Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Christ (13 December 1999) Photo 1, Photo 2
Star of Romania Ribbon.PNG Romania Romania Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania (2009) Recipients table
Seraphimerorden ribbon.svg Sweden Sweden Member of the Royal Order of the Seraphim Photo
ESP Charles III Order GC.svg Spain Spain Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III (16 September 1994) [13]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 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. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI. "Ruffo". C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 522–529. ISBN 3-7980-0824-8.
  3. 3.0 3.1 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Boletín Oficial del Estado. boe.es. 17 September 1994.

External links

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