|AKA||Paola Ruffo di Calabria, Paola, Queen of the Belgians|
|Date of birth||Forte dei Marmi, Province of Lucca, Tuscany, Italy|
|Awards||Order of the White Eagle, Order of the White Rose of Finland, Order of the Three Stars, Order of the Star of Romania|
|Authority||Library of congress id VIAF id|
Queen Paola of Belgium (born Donna 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 son King Philippe.
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). 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. 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.
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.
Marriage and family
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. 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:
- Philippe, King of the Belgians (b. 15 April 1960), who married Countess Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz in 1999 and has 4 children.
- Princess Astrid (b. 5 June 1962), who married Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este in 1984 and has 5 children.
- Prince Laurent (b. 19 October 1963), who married Claire Louise Coombs in 2003 and has 3 children.
In 2015, the court announced Queen Paola was taking "a period of total rest" following doctors' orders. They also 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 Marchioness Margherita Pallavicini Mossi. Newspapers believed that the Queen suffered from a stroke during the holiday. The palace later announced she was being treated for a cardiac arrhythmia.
Apart from her activities in the company of King Albert II, Queen Paola devotes her time to issues that are close to her heart, mainly in the social and cultural sphere.
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. She has often met with such artists as Luc Tuymans and Dirk Braeckman.
She takes a keen interest in the protection and preservation of Belgium's heritage. She makes numerous visits to cultural sites, from Beguine convents to early 19th century industrial facilities.
Queen Paola is interested in both new and traditional crafts, and takes every opportunity to encourage the exercise and teaching of craft professions.
Queen Paola keeps abreast of contemporary art and regularly supports major exhibitions and artistic performances both in Belgium and abroad. On the initiative of Queen Paola, contemporary artists have had the opportunity to design and make original works within the Palace of Brussels.
In 1992, Queen Paola set up the Queen Paola Foundation, which focus on integration and training for young people. The Queen Paola Foundation's activities are geared towards social integration, support for teachers at all levels of the education system and schools in socio-economically disadvantaged areas.
Queen Paola is Honorary Chairman of the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel and of Missing Children Europe.
Titles, styles and honours
- 11 September 1937 – 2 July 1959: Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria
- 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
- Italy: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
- Vatican: Dame Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
- Holy See: Dame of the Decoration of Honour
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta: Dame Grand Cross of Obedience of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, 1st Class
- Vatican: Dame Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre
- Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold in 1994.
- Austria: Grand Star of the Order for Services to the Republic of Austria
- Bulgaria: Grand Cross of the Order of the Balkan Mountains
- Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant
- Estonia: 1st Class of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana
- Finland: Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose
- France: Grand Cross of the Order of National Merit
- Germany: Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Japan: Paulownia Dame Grand Cordon of the Order of the Precious Crown
- Latvia: Commander Grand Cross of the Order of the Three Stars
- Lithuania: Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great
- Luxembourg: Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau
- Morocco: Dame with Collar of the Order of Muhammad
- Netherlands: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
- Netherlands: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the House of Orange
- Netherlands: Recipient of the Wedding Medal of Princess Beatrix, Princess of Orange and Claus Van Amsberg
- Norway: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav
- Poland: Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle
- Portugal: Grand Cross of the Order of Christ
- Romania: Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania
- Spain: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III
- Sweden: Member of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
- Sweden: Recipient of the King Carl XVI Gustaf's Jubilee Commemorative Medal for the 50th Birthday
|Ancestors of Queen Paola of Belgium|