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“I didn’t do it for the money” says Princess Delphine

HRH Princess Delphine of Belgium won her court case to be recognised as King Albert’s daughter and will now inherit from the old king.  The Belgian artist says that it’s never been about a title or the money.  She just wanted to be treated on the same footing as siblings Filip, Astrid and Alexander. Does she have a point?

Delphine of Belgium is the daughter of Sybille de Selys Longchamps, a Belgian aristocrat, who until 1978 was married to the Belgian industrialist Jacques Boël.  Boël, a squire, the lowest rank within the Belgian nobility, accepted her as his daughter, reportedly out of commercial concerns, but Princess Delphine, Delphine Boël, as she then was, had to get Jacques Boël to disinherit her in order to pursue her efforts to get King Albert to recognise her as his daughter through the courts.

As a result the chance that Delphine of Belgium will inherit from her former father, Jacques Boël, is rather small.  This is rather a shame because the Boël Family fortune is estimated at 1.6 billion euros. The family fortune is ranked as the 16th largest in Belgium.

It was Gustave Boël, a lowly accountant and the son of Walloon peasants, who first came into money inheriting a steel plant from Ernest Boucquéau, who died without issue in 1880 and becoming an important Belgian industrialist in his own right.  

In 1997 the Boëls sell up for 125 million euros, which they invest wisely in companies like Colruyt.  “Today they own stakes in digital companies like Zalando and Amazon” says financial journalist Ludwig Verduyn.

In contrast the royal palace only values poor King Albert’s fortune at a mere 12.5 million euros.  “Earlier historic estimates speak of between 300 and 600 million euros” says Ludwig Verduyn. King Albert came into money following the untimely death of King Boudewijn, King Albert’s brother.  This inheritance was settled in the US.  King Boudewijn had reportedly taken his fortune abroad prior to the 1982 devaluation of 8.5% compared to the EMS basket of European currencies. “It’s unclear how much of King Boudewijn’s wealth ended up with King Albert” says Verduyn.

Under Belgian law Princess Delphine is guaranteed half of a quarter – an eighth in other words - of King Albert’s fortune on his passing.   “That’s the reserved inheritance” says our financial colleague and King Albert can’t do anything about that! However, if a report in the daily De Tijd is to be believed King Albert and Queen Paola have changed their marriage contract and as a result the queen would inherit most of the king’s wealth in the event of his death and before it passes on to the children born in wedlock.

Princess Delphine could have a point, when she says it wasn’t about the money.

Belga

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