"Queen Paola suffered a stroke"

Queen Paola of the Belgians is being brought back to Belgium today amid a report that she suffered a stroke.

The 81-year-old queen is being flown from Italy to Melsbroek military airport outside Brussels after the Francophone broadcaster RTBF reported that the queen had suffered a stroke.  Queen Paola had been spending the summer in her native Italy as has become her custom.

The queen's condition is described as "non-life threatening".  She can walk and speak and isn't at all paralysed.  King Filip is expected to visit her soon.

The queen's health has been going downhill for several years.  Three years ago she was told to take it easy after arrhythmia was diagnosed.  Subsequently she suffered two nasty falls sustaining vertebral and hip fractures and needing surgery.

Queen Paola was last seen in public officially last January when she attended a talk as part of the Catholic Conferences in Brussels.

Last April King Albert, her husband, underwent surgery on an aortic valve.

Laurie Dieffembacq