Jacques Boël, once presumed to be the father of Princess Delphine, illegitimate daughter of former king Albert, has died at the age of 92.
Delphine was ruled by a court to be the daughter of Albert, the result of an affair with the wife of Boël. Delphine herself fought a court battle, ultimately successful, to be recognised as a princess of Belgian royal line. The court case first involved her denying in public what was until then Boël legal paternity.
According to Belga, Boël spent his career as an industrial investor, latterly as director of his own investment concern. He was also known as a lover of the hunt, an admirer of the French province of Brittany and a fan of modern art.
Boël was the scion of four generations of Walloon entrepreneurs, based in the area of La Louvière. A graduate in civil engineering, he came to the head of his family’s steel company, before moving on to the family’s finance company.
Other than that, little is known of the man himself. He was an art lover, as are many scions of rich families. However there is little evidence of notable participation in art projects or substantial acquisitions.
A court ruling in 2019, however, confirmed his place in Belgian royal history, when the court of appeal ruled Delphine was indeed the daughter of Albert.
Jacques was the son of the family of Gustave Boël, who in the 1850s worked for the Forges, Fonderies et Maminoirs in La Louvière, a steel foundry. The business ran into financial difficulties in 1860, when Boël offered his own savings to keep things going.
He was rewarded 20 years later when the entire concern passed into his hands on the death of the owner, setting him up as one of Wallonia’s major industrialists.
The success was only the beginning, and the Boël family went from acquisition to acquisition, up to 1997 and the acquisition of the French group Fafer, which made Boël €125 million in one blow.
Boël was born in 1929, and in 1962 married noblewoman Sybille de Selys Longchamps, 12 years his junior. The marriage was not a success, especially after rumours emerged about an affair with the playboy Prince Albert.
Despite the rumours, Boël acknowledged Delphine as his offspring when she was born in 1968. The link lasted until 1999, when journalist Mario Danneels revealed the royal adultery, perhaps the biggest scandal to have faced the Belgian monarchy.
To add insult to injury, Delphine sought official recognition as a princess of Belgium, and ultimately won, with the expected effect on the man who had helped bring her up as a child to believe he was her father.
In December last year, the last of several DNA tests finally showed that Delphine and Boël were not parent and child, although the situation had been clear for longer. Delphine was forced to renounce any claim to the Boël estate, which at the time stood at an estimated €1.7 billion.
DNA testing has shown, however, that Delphine is not the daughter of Jacques, and therefore has no claim on the Boël fortune.