Queen Paola of Belgium

Queen consort of the Belgians
Tenure 9 August 1993 – 21 July 2013
Born (1937-09-11) 11 September 1937
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

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.

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

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. 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, and there were 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." 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 vacationing 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] Newspapers believed that the queen suffered from a stroke during the holiday.[7]

Contemporary Belgian art

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 of the Belgians
Royal Monogram of Queen Paola
of Belgium
Dual Cypher of King Albert II and
Queen Paola of the Belgians



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

National honour

Foreign honours


See also


  1. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 5 Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI. "Ruffo". C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 522–529. ISBN 3-7980-0824-8.
  3. 1 2 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 - British Pathé". Britishpathe.com. 1959-04-15. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  5. "Italiaans dorp ziet Paola weer afzeggen". HLN.be. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  6. "Valtellina News - notizie da Sondrio e provincia » Annullata la visita della regina Paola del Belgio a Tirano e Grosio". Valtellinanews.it. 2013-10-31. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  7. ""Koningin Paola kreeg beroerte"". HLN.be. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  8. "Koningin Paola bestelt kunst bij Michaël Borremans - Kunst - KnackFocus.be". Focus.knack.be. 2010-05-20. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  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. "The Belgian Monarchy". Monarchie.be. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  15. "Finnish President Visit To Belgium - Day One Photos and Images". Getty Images. 2004-03-30. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  16. "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". Quirinale.it. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  17. Gettyimages.be, Paola wearing the Decoration of Honour and Sovereign Military Order of Malta
  18. "Paola et Albert à Rome - L'actualité des royautés". Royautes.ek.la. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  19. "The Belgian King Albert II (L) and Queen Paola (2ndL) and their eldest son, crown Prince Philippe of Belgium (C) are welcomed by Japanese Empress Michiko and Emperor Akihito, at the Imperial Palace... Pictures". Getty Images. 1996-10-22. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  20. "Ar Triju Zvaigžņu ordeni apbalvoto personu reģistrs" (DOC). President.lv. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  21. "The late Grand Duchess Josephine Charlotte of Luxembourg nee Princess of Belgium with her sister in law Queen Paola of the Belgians each wear the g… | Pinteres…". Pinterest.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  22. "Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Maria Teresa, Grand Duchess of Luxembou Photos and Images". Getty Images. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  23. "Photographic image : Queen Paola and King Albert of Belgium" (JPG). Static1.purepeople.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  24. "Dutch Royal Family Make State Visit To Belgium - Day 1 Photos and Images". Getty Images. 2006-06-20. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  25. "2006.06.20____.jpg (image)". 4.bp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  26. "Photographic image" (JPG). Upload.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  27. "Photographic image : Prinses Beatrix en Prins Claus" (JPG). Upload.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  28. "Norwegian Royals Make State Visit To Belgium Photos and Images". Getty Images. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  29. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2012.
  30. "The Belgian Monarchy". Monarchie.be. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  31. "Portuguese State Visit To Belgium Photos and Images". Getty Images. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  32. "Portuguese State Visit To Belgium Photos and Images". Getty Images. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  33. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 July 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  34. "Queen Silvia wore this tiara for one of the dinners during the Swedish State Visit to Belgium in May 2001. | Cameo Tiara | Pinterest | The Dinner, Belgium and …". Pinterest.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  35. "Editorial & News Images: News Photography, Pictures, Awards, Events, Sports, Celebrity Photos | Getty Images". Corbisimages.com. 2016-05-02. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
  36. "Photographic image" (JPG). 3.bp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2016-10-23.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Queen Paola of Belgium.
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
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