|Queen consort of the Belgians|
|Tenure||9 August 1993 - present|
|Spouse||Albert II of Belgium|
|Donna Paola dei Principi Ruffo di Calabria|
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (by marriage)
Ruffo di Calabria (noble family; by birth)
|Father||Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria|
|Mother||Luisa Gazelli dei Conti di Rossana|
|Born||(1937-09-11) 11 September 1937 (age 74)Villa Claudia, Forte dei Marmi, Italy|
|Belgian Royal Family|
Extended royal family
Paola, Queen of the Belgians (née Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria; born 11 September 1937) is the queen consort of Albert II of Belgium.
She was born in Forte dei Marmi, Tuscany, Italy, the seventh and youngest child of the World War I Italian flying ace Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda (1884–1946). Her mother was Luisa Gazelli dei Conti Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896–1989), a matrilineal descendant of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. She is of Italian and Belgian ancestry and was hailed as one of the leading beauties of Europe in her youth.
Queen Paola is fluent in Italian, French and English. Less fluent, and the cause of occasional criticism, is her Dutch, the mother tongue of nearly 60% of Belgians.
Ademarus Rufus, who died in 1049, held the title of Comes in southern Italy and Siggerio Ruffo became Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II's grand marshal of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1235. The family divided into two branches after the 14th century: the Ruffo di Calabria and the Ruffo di Scaletta, to the former of which the Queen belongs. Her siblings are:
- Maria Cristina Ruffo di Calabria (1920-2003)
- Laura Ruffo di Calabria(1921-1972)
- Fabrizio Ruffo di Calabria (6-12-1922 - 11-10-2005),
- Augusto Ruffo di Calabria (1925 -1943), died during the seabattle of Pescara. They never found his body.
- Giovannella Ruffo di Calabria(1927-1941), died because of a food poisoning
- Antonello Ruffo di Calabria 1930
- Paola Ruffo di Calabria 1937
Queen Paola's brother, Don Fabrizio Ruffo di Calabria-Santipau (1922-2005), head of the entire family from 1975, was historical heir to the titles of Prince of Scilla, Prince of Palazzolo, Patrician of Naples, Duke of Guardia Lombarda, Count of Sinopoli, Marquis of Licodia Eubea, Count of Nicotera, Baron of Calanna and of Crispano.
Queen Paola is related to historically eminent Roman and southern Italian noble families, including the Colonna, Orsini, Pallavicini, Alliata and Rospigliosi. Among her distinguished ancestors of the French aristocracy were the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of American Independence, and the Dukes of Noailles.
Since the fall of the Italian monarchy in 1947 the Princes Ruffo di Calabria have become connected by marriage to such formerly reigning dynasties as the Orléans, the Savoys, the Bonapartes >
Marriage and familyEdit
In 1958, Prince Albert of Liege went to the Vatican to witness the inauguration of Pope John XXIII. At a reception at the Belgian embassy, the prince met Italian Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria. “We were both shy, so we only talked a little,” Paola said later about their first meeting.Shy but smitten, Prince Albert proposed marriage to Paola, and she accepted. The Prince wanted to marry in Rome by the Pope, but when that didn’t work out, the couple were married at St. Goedele Cathedral in Brussels. Upon arriving in Brussels for the first time before her wedding, Princess Paola won over the Belgian media immediately.”The charm and beauty of the blond princess from the south quickly captured the hearts of the Belgians,” wrote the newspapers back then.
Donna Paola married HRH Prince Albert, Prince of Liège, in Brussels, Belgium, on 2 July 1959. The couple have three children:
- Philippe, Duke of Brabant who married Countess Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz
- Astrid who married Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este;
- Laurent, who married Claire Louise Coombs.
By the late 1960′s, things were going wrong for Albert and Paola. Both were allegedly having affairs, and lived apart for a long while. There were even rumors of divorce plans. But by the early 1980′s, things had improved well for Albert and Paola. It is said the Prince’s brother, King Baudouin, acted a mediator between the two. Even their daughter, Princess Astrid’s devout Roman Catholic faith might have played a role. In the end, Albert and Paola chose to stay together.
For her 70th birthday interview, Paola, now Queen of the Belgians, said, “we’ve had our problems, but now we both say that we were meant for each other. We are very happy now.”
- Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia Ruffo di Calabria (1937-1959)(Although The Belgian Monarchy website attributes the title of "Princess" to Queen Paola prior to her marriage, Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, La Descendance de Marie-Thérèse de Habsburg and Le Petit Gotha, among others, accord only the noble prefix of Donna to she and her sisters, reserving the title Principessa for the wife of the head of the family, her father having received the title of prince in the Italian nobility in 1928 from King Victor Emmanuel III, heritable according to masculine primogeniture.
- Her Royal Highness The Princess of Liège (1959–1993)
- Her Majesty The Queen of the Belgians (1993–present)
- Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
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- Bulgaria: Grand Cross of the Order of Stara Planina (2003) - (Photo)
- Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant - (Photo)
- Estonia: 1st Class of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (2008) -  (Photo)
- Finland : Grand Cross of the Order of the White Rose (2004) - (Photo)
- Germany : Gr. Cross, Special Cl., of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic - (Photo)
- Holy See : Dame of the Collar of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (1995) - (website)
- Italy: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic - (Orders website)
- Japan: Dame 1st class of the Order of the Precious Crown
- Latvia: Commander Grand Cross of the Order of Three Stars - (recipents list (.doc file))
- Lithuania: Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great - (official news)
- Luxembourg: Knight of the Order of the Gold Lion of the House of Nassau - (Photo)
- Morocco: Special Class of the Order of the Mohammediya
- Netherlands: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion - (Photo)
- Norway : Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Olav (2003) - (Photo)
- Poland: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle - (Photo)
- Portugal : Grand Cross of the Order of Christ (2005) - (Photo 1, Photo 2)
- Romania : Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania (2009) -  (Recipients table)
- Sweden : Knight of the Order of the Seraphim