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Belgium's ex-King Albert receives daughter after bitter two-decade paternity fight

The long-running royal scandal that has riveted Belgium and damaged those involved has achieved a new milestone after former King Albert II reunited with the daughter he fathered out of wedlock more than half a century ago — and stubbornly refused to recognise.

Delphine Boel, right, now Belgium's Delphine de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, meets her biological father King Albert II, centre, and Queen Paola, left, during an informal meeting in Brussels. Source: Associated Press

Capping a momentous few weeks, the ex-king and his wife Queen Paola received the former Delphine Boel at their residence, the 18th Century Belvedere Castle outside Brussels. Boel, a 52-year-old artist, last month won recognition as Her Royal Highness Princess Delphine following a bitter two-decade paternity fight.

“After the tumult, the suffering and the hurt, it is time for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation," the three said in a joint statement issued by the Royal Palace today, two days after the meeting.

“Together, we decided to take this new path. It will require patience and effort, but we are determined," they said.

In September a Belgian court ruled in Princess Delphine’s favour and officially recognised her as the daughter of King Albert II, something the aging monarch had fought tooth and nail to avoid ever since paternity rumors became public in 1998.

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Princess Delphine is an artist known for her quirky, sometimes outrageous, statues that could even have references to her royal father. Albert II, 86, was king until 2013.

The gathering Monday was soon followed by a reportedly warm meeting with her half-brother, the reigning King Phillipe, at the royal palace.

Rumors about Albert and Princess Delphine’s mother, the aristocratic wife of a wealthy industrialist, had been around for years but Albert long refused to recognise her.

Princess Delphine said going to court was all about getting family recognition and the love of a father who had for too long cold-shouldered her and fought her in court. She said it made her life “most painful."

Monday's photo of the encounter showed the three in front of a fireplace with cookies, untouched, on the table. All three sat apart and their smiles were restrained, yet it was a watershed moment for Belgium's royal house.

“During our encounter at the Belvedere Castle, each of us, with empathy and in serenity, was able to express their feelings and experiences," the statement said. “A new chapter had opened, rich in emotions, peace of mind, understanding and hope."