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Queen Paola of Belgium

Queen Paola of Belgium

Belgian royalty and wife of King Albert II
The basics
Date of birth Forte dei Marmi, Province of Lucca, Tuscany, Italy
Children: Philippe of Belgium Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este Prince Laurent of Belgium
Spouse: Albert II of Belgium
Mother: Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana
Father: Fulco Ruffo di Calabria
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 VIAF id Library of congress id
The details

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

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.

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 had reconciled. 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, 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 Marquesa Margherita Pallavicini Mossi. Newspapers believed that the queen suffered from a stroke during the holiday. The palace later announced Queen Paola was being treated for a Cardiac Arrhythmia.

In December 2016 & February 2017, she was hospitalized with fractures after suffering a fall.

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


Alliance Coat of Arms of King Albert II and Queen Paola.svg
Alliance Coat of Arms of King Albert II
and Queen Paola of the Belgians
Royal Monogram of Queen Paola of Belgium.svg
Royal Monogram of Queen Paola
of Belgium
Dual Cypher of King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians.svg
Dual Cypher of King Albert II and
Queen Paola of the Belgians

Titles, styles and honours


  • 11 September 1937 – 2 July 1959: Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia 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


National honours

  • 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
  • Belgium: Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold in 1994.

Foreign honours

  • 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
  • Germany: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Special Issue
  • 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
  • Sweden: Member Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Seraphim
  • Spain: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III



The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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