Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Delphine Boël, Art and Scandal

Belgian Pearls, the blog of interior decorator Greet Lefèvre, is displaying some of the work of Belgian papier maché artist Delphine Boël. Delphine herself is a very pretty lady, but, despite the many rave reviews, I regret to say that I find her work hideously garish. I am sure that part of the reason for all the attention she receives is not her artistic merits but the sensation surrounding her claim to be the illegitimate daughter of Belgium's reigning king, Albert II.

I find it extremely unfortunate that Delphine not only made these public claims, but poured fuel on the flames of scandal by bitterly denouncing the King, asserting that he simply wanted to wash his hands of her and bury the embarrassing issue. If she really is his daughter, I can understand her desire for recognition, and feelings of rejection, but, at the risk of sounding harsh, there are more important things than hurt feelings. I believe that the dignity and prestige of the monarchy ought to take precedence. Even when royals have acted less than admirably, their position is deserving of respect. Not that they should be immune to criticism, but lurid scandal-mongering and vitriolic public attacks are out of place. This is all the more so in a place like Belgium, where the monarchy is so vital to the country's fragile national unity.

As for Delphine's paternity allegation in itself, I cannot say whether it is true or false. There would be nothing impossible or improbable about Albert II having a child out of wedlock. Although they were thankfully reconciled at the beginning of the 1980's, it is certainly true that the royal couple's marriage has known painful times. The King himself admitted it in his Christmas Speech, in 1999. Whether Delphine is his daughter, however, is another matter altogether, and I would like to note that her claim has never been formally verified. Therefore, the Belgian press' continued references to her as the "King's love child," as if it were a confirmed fact, are out of place. I also find it unnecessary that many chose to make such a cause celebre out of Delphine's case in particular. Leopold I, Leopold II, and Prince Charles of Belgium all had natural children, and it is hardly an extraordinary phenomenon among royalty in general.

(Image: Delphine Boël at a book-signing, by Luc van Braekel. Some rights reserved.)


MadMonarchist said...

I'm glad you mentioned this (unfortunate though it is). All I had ever read about this woman, as you say, presented it as an established fact that she was the King's daughter. I do think there is much to be said for not going wild over incidents of personal failure which damage the monarchy and by extension the country. It may also be for the best that the King not recognize her as that might only encourage others to take advantage and come forward with more paternity claims -probably untrue but damaging and tiresome nontheless.

May said...

Yes, there could be an endless stream of people dredging up rumors and making claims, with all of it being chronicled and sensationalised with great glee by the press, and doubtless by republican and separatist circles.

I think of the contrast between Delphine's behavior and that of Isabelle Wybo, who does seem to be the daughter of Prince Charles of Belgium (the mother being a baker's daughter Charles was not allowed to marry). Isabelle, although reportedly a difficult character (like Charles) has always lived discreetly and I think that is the better course.

MadMonarchist said...

I can't help but think of Prince Albert II and his "issues" in this area (pardon the pun). You have one mother who has been much more discreet and another who seems to miss no opportunity to publicize herself. However, once these children were accepted as the Prince's there was a number of other women (mostly of ill-repute) who came forward with similar stories. None were true -obviously as the mother's would certainly have pressed their claims in court if they were, but merely efforts to gain 15 minutes of fame. The difference is, Monaco is not Belgium. In one case the monarch has considerably more authority than the other and whereas in Monaco the country more or less *is* the monarchy, in Belgium the monarchy is often the only thing holding the country together and I think if King Albert II had to go through similar ordeals it could be devestating for the nation. Of course all of these problems could be avoided if individuals could exercise a little more self-control (sigh).

May said...

Good points. As to your last remark, I have often thought that, far from it being a trivial, excusable matter for Kings to have affairs, it is actually far more serious for them than for others. It has been common throughout history, and so is often viewed almost as part and parcel of their role, but I think it is actually extremely damaging, both to them and their countries.

MadMonarchist said...

That is very true. I try to keep in mind that people in such a position have far greater temptations than an ordinary person but I still hate to see it happen. From a purely practical standpoint as a monarchist I hate to see any scandal happen that will give ammunition to the 'forces of evil' (similar I suppose to Church scandals). There are times when I would like to scream at certain individuals -do you realize what you're risking?! Don't give them an excuse! Just avoid making big moral mistakes and you will be loved and respected! Especially with modern times such as they are I think this is true. I've heard it innumerable times from British republicans that they know they are thwarted simply because the Queen 'has never put a foot wrong' as they say. It doesn't seem like it should be very hard, but I suppose sometimes it is.

May said...

I hate it, too. And I am sure there are those who deliberately try to corrupt the morals of kings, princes etc. in order to weaken the monarchy. Not that these people are not responsible for their own actions, but I am sure there are alot of influences that work to tempt them, on purpose.