Learn about Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria, the Italian beauty who became Queen of the Belgians.Embed from Getty Images
Italian Beauty Donna Paola
Queen Paola was born as Donna Paola Margherita Giuseppina Maria Consiglia Ruffo di Calabria on 11 September 1937 in Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany, Italy.
Her parents were Italian flying ace Fulco VIII, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda (1884–1946) and Donna Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896–1989). Paola’s father died when she was eight years old.Embed from Getty Images
She attended Rome’s Istituto Villa Pacis, Istituto Sant’Angela Merici and Liceo Caterina Volpicelli, where she completed her Greco-Latin studies. Paola speaks Italian, English, French and a little Dutch.
Donna Paola was hailed as one of the leading beauties of Europe in her youth. Part of Queen Paola’s ancestors are from the Netherlands and Belgium.Embed from Getty Images
In 1958, Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria met Prince Albert of Belgium, Prince of Liège (younger brother of King Baudouin of the Belgians) in a reception at the Belgian Embassy in Rome around the coronation of Pope John XXIII. At the time Donna Paola was 21-year-old and Belgian Prince Albert was 24-year-old.Embed from Getty Images
Donna Paola Ruffi di Calabria Wedding
The engagement of the Prince of Liège and Donna Paola was announced at the Chateau of Laeken in 1959. The Chateau is the official residence of the King of the Belgians and the royal family.
Prince Albert of Belgium, later King Albert II of Belgium greeted his fiancé Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria (later Queen Paola of Belgium) on her arrival at Brussels Airport in 1959.Embed from Getty Images
King Baudouin (1930 – 1993), Princess Lilian (1916 – 2002) with Princess Marie-Christine and Princess Maria-Esmeralda, Donna Luisa Ruffo di Calabria, King Leopold III (1901 – 1983), Donna Paola, Prince Albert and Prince Alexander of Belgium (1942 - 2009).Embed from Getty Images
Prince Albert and Donna Paola.Embed from Getty Images
Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria and Albert, Prince of Liège married at St. Goedele Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Brussels on 2 July 1959.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
The bride wore a veil in needle lace from her Belgian grandmother, Laura Mosselman du Chenoy (1854-1925). The bridal veil that her grandmother wore in 1877 was also worn in 1919 by Paola’s mother Donna Luisa.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Official photo of the wedding from left to right Princess Lilian (1916 – 2002), Prince Albert, Donna Paola, Donna Luisa Ruffo di Calabria, King Leopold III (1901 – 1983) and Princess Marie-Christine of Belgium.
After her wedding Donna Paola was known as Her Royal Highness The Princess of Liège.
The newlyweds Prince and Princess of Liège moved to the Belvédère Castle in Laeken, a residential suburb in north-west Brussels in Belgium
Princess Paola of Liège’s Children
Paola and Albert have three children, two sons and a daughter:
- Philippe, King of the Belgians (born 15 April 1960), who married Countess Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz in 1999 and has 4 children.
- Princess Astrid (born 5 June 1962), who married Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este in 1984 and has 5 children.
- Prince Laurent (born 19 October 1963), who married Claire Louise Coombs in 2003 and has 3 children.
All three of the royal couple’s children were born and raised in Belvédère.Embed from Getty Images
Princess Paola and children Philippe, Astrid and Laurent.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Princess Paola in 1969.Embed from Getty Images
Prince Albert And Princess Paola of Belgium in 1977.Embed from Getty Images
The Family in 1980.
Queen Paola of Belgium
On 31 July 1993, Prince Albert’s brother King Baudouin died. Since The King and his wife, Queen Fabiola, had no children, the crown passed to his younger brother, Prince Albert.
Paola, Princess of Liège become Queen of the Belgians after the accession to the throne of her husband King Albert II. She was 56 years.Embed from Getty Images
Queen Paola, King Albert II and Queen Fabiola at the funeral of King Baudouin.Embed from Getty Images
After the couple became the monarchs of Belgium, they stayed at the Belvédère Castle instead of moving to the Royal Palace.
Paola was Queen of the Belgians from 1993 until the abdication of her husband King Albert II in favour of their son King Philippe in 2013.
She holds the title of Queen but is no longer the First Lady of Belgium.Embed from Getty Images
Queen Paola of Belgium departs the concert held ahead of Belgium abdication & coronation on July 20, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium.
Queen Paola has twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.Embed from Getty Images
Queen Paola and grandchildren.Embed from Getty Images
In 2018 during a visit to Italy, she had a slight stroke and was admitted to the hospital. The Queen recovered successfully.
On 27 January, 2020, Queen Paola’s husband, King Albert, confirmed Belgian artist Delphine Boël as his daughter.
Albert and Paola continue to live in Belvédère Castle.
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