Isabelle Wybo was an open secret in Belgium. Everyone knew who she was, but she remained out of the public view for nearly her entire life. She was seen on the arm of her first cousin once removed, Prince Laurent, who escorted her to the new exhibition "Princess Marie José: Between Belgium and Italy: a Royal Wardrobe" on October 3.
The 73-year-old Belgian woman is the natural daughter of Prince Charles of Belgium and Jacqueline Wehrli, the daughter of a Brussels baker. Although Prince Charles never openly unacknowledged his daughter, his mother, Queen Elisabeth, and his sister, Princess Marie-José, took an active interest in Isabelle's life.
Charles could not marry Jacqueline because she was a commoner. When Isabelle was four years old, Queen Elisabeth and Princess Marie-José arranged for Jacqueline to marry Arthur Wybo, a former palace officer, who was ill and living in a nursing home.
Isabelle was born on October 8, 1938 in Strasburg, France
Jacqueline died when Isabelle was eight years old. She went to live with maternal relatives. Prince Charles maintained contact with his daughter, who kept in contact with other members of the Belgian royal family, as well.
Belgian royal expert Reinout Goddyn was surprised by Isabelle's public appearance. "That the court so openly welcomed her is truly remarkable. It does look like that she has been received with open arms at the palace. She is not a stranger to the family."
Information about Isabelle was first published in 2003 in a biography of the late Prince Charles.
For some years, Isabelle Wybo-Wehrli, was employed by the Générale de Banque in Brussels. She has lived quietly in Brussels and has never married.
One wonders how Delphine Boel feels about Isabelle's acceptance as family by members of the Belgian royal family. In 1999, an unauthorized biography on Queen Paola included details on King Albert II's natural daughter, Delphine, who was born in 1968. Both Albert and Paola had affairs during their marriage.
Albert has never officially acknowledged Delphine's paternity, although it is largely accepted that she is Albert's daughter. In his 1999 Christmas speech, King Albert said: "This Christmas feast is also the occasion for each of us to think to one's own family, to one's happy periods but also to one's difficult moments. The Queen and I have remembered very happy periods but also the crisis that our couple have experienced more than 30 years ago. Together we could, very longtime ago already, surpass those difficulties and find back a deep understanding and love. This period have been recalled to us short ago. We don't wish to dwell on that subject which belongs to our private lives."