September 23, 2014 / 10:44 AM / 3 years ago

Belgian artist asks court to rule on whether former king is her father

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Belgian artist Delphine Boel, who says she is the illegitimate daughter of Belgian King Albert II, presents her book "Cutting the Cord" in Brussels, in which she recounts her life and show examples of her art, April 9, 2008.Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A Belgian artist who says she is the daughter of Belgium's former king asked a court on Tuesday to establish the identity of her biological father, a ruling that could put her fifteenth in line to the throne.

Delphine Boel, 46, has fought for more than a decade to gain the royal family's acceptance and end what she says is prejudice against her because of the question over her paternity.

Boel's lawyer, Alain De Jonge, told Belgian newspaper De Morgen that Boel was not motivated by money, saying that financially she would be better off as a Boel, a Belgian industrial family worth about $1 billion.

"If the royal family got in a plane together and had an accident or, as in Nepal, were killed by a mad man, then she could be queen. But her ambitions do not stretch that far. It is more about the ending of a stigma," De Jonge said.

"She is hoping no longer to be branded as the likely illegitimate daughter, but wishes to be recognized as a child."

Boel and her lawyer arrived at a civil court in Brussels on Tuesday morning without commenting. An attorney for the former king said little, beyond that he was optimistic. The hearing was conducted behind closed doors, as is usual in family law suits.

De Jonge has said that the court would initially examine whether her legal father, Jacques Boel, is a biological parent and that a recently conducted paternity test showed he was not.

Media have reported that Boel has disinherited his daughter because of the shame the scandal had brought to his family.

Under Belgian law a man cannot be forced to take a paternity test, but a judge could take his refusal to do so into account.

Boel's case came to light in 1999 with the publication of a biography of Queen Paolo, Albert's Italian wife. It said Albert had formed an extra-marital relationship resulting in the birth of a daughter in the 1960s, when his brother Baudouin was king.

He has never commented on the possible existence of such a daughter but did refer in his 1999 Christmas message to a crisis in his marriage 30 years earlier, the time of Boel's birth.

Albert II, 80, abdicated last year, citing health reasons, and was succeeded by his 54-year-old son Philippe.

Boel's mother Sybille de Selys Longchamps, a baroness, has recounted in interviews her time with Albert and her decision to move to London after the end of their relationship. She and Boel divorced in 1978.

She is likely to be a crucial witness in the case. Albert is not expected to appear in person.

The monarchy has been regarded as one of the few things uniting Belgium, a country beset by divisions between a richer Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south viewed by separatist northerners as welfare-dependent.

However, the royals have faced criticism, especially when it emerged that Queen Fabiola, the widow of Baudouin, had planned to pass on an estate in Spain using a trust to avoid paying tax.

The reports caused the Belgian government to reform the system of allowances and taxation for members of the monarchy.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Louise Ireland

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