Paola Ruffo di Calabria (11 September, 1937, Forte dei Marmi, Italy) was an icon of beauty and elegance just as Grace Kelly and Caroline of Monaco were at the time and Kate Middleton, Princess Mary of Denmark and Charlotte Casiraghi are now.
Blessed with an irresistible charm, she began writing her own life story after her marriage to Albert of Belgium, with whom she had three children: Prince Philippe, born on 15 April, 1960, Princess Astrid, born 5 June, 1962, and Prince Laurent, born on 19 October, 1963.
Her power of seduction made her front cover of many magazines and she marked fashion trends around the world.
Now that Albert II of Belgium has announced that he will abdicate on 21 July in favour of his eldest son, Prince Philippe, HELLO! Online remembers the golden years of the glamorous and beautiful Queen Paola.
The Belgian Constitution demands that the Queen, as Consort, attends official engagements. However, she has also developed an important role in Belgian public life over the years. She has always supported the King in his duties as Head of State, accompanying him on official visits in and outside of Belgium.Photo: © Getty Images
The Queen has always been a strong advocate of Belgian cultural heritage as well as a promoter of contemporary art in Belgium, organising avant-garde art exhibits in the Palace of Brussels. Blessed with irresistible charm, she began writing her own memoirs after her marriage to Albert of Belgium, in 1959.Photo: © Getty Images
Queen Paola is the youngest of seven children of Prince Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, an Italian aviation hero from World War I, and the Countess Luisa Gazelli. Her paternal grandmother was Belgian, Laure Mosselman du Chenoy. In this photo she is seen on her wedding day to Prince Albert of BelgiumPhoto: © Getty Images
Queen Paola takes her family on holiday to her hometown on the beach at Forte dei Marmi, Italy in August 1964.Photo: © Getty Images
One role Paola took to with ease and dedication was that of a being a mother. She has had three children with King Albert: Prince Philippe, born on 15 April, 1960, Princess Astrid, born 5 June, 1962, and Prince Laurent, born on 19 October, 1963.Photo: © Getty Images
Queen Paola has always been very active in everything related to her two great passions: society and culture. The Sovereign launched the Queen's Relief Fund, a charity designed to assist citizens with economic problems. She also established the Queen Paola Foundation in 1992, which is aimed at the reintegration of young people in society.Photo: © Getty Images
Queen Paola was one of the most beautiful princesses of her time in Europe. She was born on 11 September, 1937 in Forte dei Marmi (Lucca), Italy. The Queen spent her youth in Rome, where she studied Humanities, specialising in Latin and Greek.Photo: © Getty Images
53 years ago a salvo of guns announced the birth of the firstborn son of Albert II and Paola of Belgium. Prince Philippe of Belgium, Duke of Brabant was born on 15 April, 1960 in Brussels and grew up surrounded by his parents and two siblings, Astrid and Laurent.Photo: © Getty Images
The Queen captured in a tender picture with her daughter Astrid, who was born on 5 June, 1962, just two years after Prince Philippe.Photo: © Getty Images