BRUSSELS: Belgium’s King Philippe met his once-secret half-sister Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg for the first time last week, days after she won a legal battle to be admitted to the royal family.

The meeting took place on Oct 9 and led to a “long and rich exchange” that will allow the relationship to develop within a “family framework”, said a statement by the palace on Thursday.

Former king Albert II, who reigned from 1993 until 2013 and is Philippe’s father, had been forced to undergo a DNA test in 2019 following a long battle with the woman who had insisted for years she was his daughter.

The test confirmed he was indeed her biological father, which he had refused to admit since the revelation in 1999 of an old extra-marital affair.

A Belgian court ruled on Oct 1 that the 52-year-old artist can indeed adopt her father’s name and call herself a princess.

“It’s a victory of sorts, but I am sorry it came to this,” she told reporters earlier this month.

The “warm” Oct 9 meeting between Delphine and the king took place at the monarch’s Palace of Laeken official residence, the royal family said.

“We had the chance to get to know each other during a long and rich exchange that allowed us to speak about our respective lives and our areas of common interest,” said a palace statement signed by Philippe and Delphine.

“This relationship will from now on develop in a family framework,” the statement added.

Delphine was born in 1968 to a baroness, Sibylle de Selys Longchamps, and future king Albert early in an affair that lasted until 1984.

Albert had already married his future queen, Paola, and the illegitimate daughter was kept secret.

Despite rumours and press reports, Albert continued to deny his paternity throughout his 1993 to 2013 reign and after his abdication, until a court ordered a DNA test in 2019.

The result was finally released in January, and the saga could have been over -- but the former king continued to show his daughter the cold shoulder.

In a statement, Albert’s lawyers said “the scientific conclusions indicate that he is the biological father of Mrs Delphine Boel”. But they added that his legal paternity was not the same as being a father and noted that he had made no “familial, social or educational decisions” in Boel’s upbringing.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2020