“I think he was influenced at some point—someone saying, ‘Look, you have to cut ties with your daughter, and say it never happened,’” says Delphine. “I think there were some unfortunate human beings there that didn’t like the idea of my existence. So they thought it was better to get rid of me, which doesn’t work, unfortunately, in life. You can’t just get rid of a child once you’ve had them.”
For years, Delphine attempted to privately reconcile with her father—confused and heartbroken over the parental rejection. When she had two children with O’Hare, Joséphine and Oskar, the confusion and hurt only deepened—how could any parent so coldly reject their own blood? Delphine also grew frustrated by the effect her status as an illegitimate child of the king had on her life and career—art shows of hers were mysteriously canceled, and invitations were rescinded by people who were worried about upsetting the king, according to the documentary. Delphine says she even discovered that she and her young children had been marked “dirty” on a list of “politically exposed people”—meaning that some banks refused to do business with them. Disturbed and frustrated, Delphine launched what would become a seven-year legal battle to be officially recognized as Albert’s daughter.
In 2013, the year that Albert abdicated the throne to his son—losing his legal immunity—Delphine filed her lawsuit. The legal saga fueled Belgian tabloids and culminated with the court ordering Albert to submit a DNA test. Though he initially refused to cooperate, Albert eventually complied, and later acknowledged, in January 2020, that he was indeed Delphine’s biological father. In the 2020 interview with V.F., Danneels pointed out that Delphine was never after financial gain—the man she initially believed to be her father, Jacques Boël, who passed away earlier this year, came from a family worth a reported $1 billion—“far, far more than what Albert is worth.” For her, the battle was just for rightful recognition.
Throughout those decades of secrecy, Delphine looked to art as her salvation and therapeutic outlet. When she was still in touch with Albert but unable to reveal she was his daughter, Delphine says, “I started making thrones, and frogs with crowns on their heads, and [channeled it into] my art because it is a very difficult thing to keep a secret.” When her face was plastered across newspapers after the publication of Danneels’s book, she created a piece featuring a washing machine with her face inside—her interpretation of being the royal family’s dirty laundry. Before she sued her father, she painted a piece emblazoned with the words “Bla, bla, bla, bla, bla.” It was titled My Duty to Remain Silent. Says Delphine, “The titles are very important. They say a lot.”
“My art is a lot about text,” explains Delphine. “I write on my canvases and often it’s the same word over and over again. In the past, I did years of ‘bla, bla, bla,’ which was about gossip. It was very therapeutic.” During the court case, she began working with the word love as a way to “brainwash myself.” She explains that the years battling her father in the courtroom could have turned her bitter, but she wanted to open herself up “and love myself more.” Even though the court case is over, she confesses that some days, “I need to still brainwash myself: Delphine, keep loving life. You must love life. And make the most of every single second of it. That’s what’s helping me to heal.” It’s been so effective that she has even begun printing her designs on silk scarves, dresses, and ponchos to create wearable art. “These words are so powerful. I thought, Wouldn’t it be nice if people could actually wear these words and wrap themselves in them?”
The October after the 2020 judgment, Delphine reunited with Albert and met Paola at Belvédère Castle in Brussels. “I didn’t know how important it was for me to actually see him again, physically, and for him too,” Delphine says of the face-to-face meeting. “You can feel a great relief. It was a very, very difficult time journey, but it was definitely worth it.”