Taking a look at the wedding of the future King Albert II and Queen Paola

(Screenshot/Fair Use)

On 2 July 1959, the future King Albert II of Belgium, then known as the Prince of Liège, married the Italian-born Donna Paola Ruffo di Calabria. They had met in the Vatican in 1958 during the coronation of Pope John XXIII.

Albert was the younger brother of King Baudouin of Belgium, who would marry Fabiola de Mora y Aragón in 1960. This marriage remained childless, as Fabiola had several miscarriages. During this time, Albert was the heir presumptive to the throne.

Initially, Pope John XXIII was to perform the wedding in Rome personally, but this idea caused diplomatic issues. The New York Times reported, “Pope John XXIII has decided ‘in a gesture of especial solicitude toward Belgium’ that the wedding should take place here.”1 And so, the wedding was set to take place in Brussels.

The civil wedding occurred in the Empire Salon at the Royal Palace in Brussels, while the religious ceremony occurred at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula. Prince Albert wore the uniform of a naval officer, and Paola wore a white satin gown with a five-metre train and a lace veil that had belonged to her Belgian grandmother, Laura Mosselman du Chenoy. This veil was later worn by her daughter Astrid and daughters-in-law Mathilde and Claire. The designer of her gown is not known.

Instead of a tiara, Paola wore orange blossoms in her hair.

Paola and Albert went on to have three children together, but the marriage was not without its difficulties. In 1968, Albert’s illegitimate daughter, Delphine, was born. The couple was on the brink of a divorce but came together again. Albert became King of the Belgians upon the death of his brother in 1993. He abdicated in 2013.


  1. The New York Times

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