here's some more info from the site of the Belgian monarchy.
Queen Paola was born Princess Ruffo di Calabria, on 11 September 1937, at Forte del Marmi in Italy. She is the youngest of seven children of Prince Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, a First World War flying ace, and Countess Luisa Gazelli. Her grandmother on her father's side, Laure Mosselman du Chenoy, was Belgian.
The Queen spent her entire youth in Rome, where she completed her classical secondary education in Latin and Greek.
She married Prince Albert
of Belgium on 2 July 1959. The couple have three children: Prince Philippe
(born on 15 April 1960), Princess Astrid
(born on 5 June 1962) and Prince Laurent
(born on 19 October 1963).
The Constitution did not provide for any particular official role for the Queen. Nevertheless, Belgian queens have always played a role in the public life of the country. So the Queen assists the King in carrying out his functions as Head of State: many visits to institutions, contacts with the population, ceremonies in Belgium and abroad, State visits, audiences with representatives of various groups in society and many cultural and social activities.
Apart from her activities in the company of the King, the Queen also devotes time to topics that are close to her heart, mainly in the social and cultural sphere.
Through her Social Secretariat and the Queen's Charities
, she aids citizens in distress, who appeal to her as a last resort. The Social Secretariat of the Queen answers the many letters from people in difficulties.
On her own initiative or by invitation, she regularly visits social institutions or medical centres throughout the country. Through these contacts, she remains informed about the needs and concerns of the population.
In the social sphere, the Queen pays particular attention to improving the living conditions of children and young people. The Queen Paola Foundation
, which was founded in 1992, provides practical assistance to young people in distress. In April 2002, the Queen was made Honorary President of Child Focus, the charity which searches for children who have disappeared, combats sexual abuse and helps the parents concerned. The Queen provides practical support to the activities of these organisations, including via her international contacts.
Queen Paola has a particular interest in education. The Queen Paola Foundation decided to support interesting initiatives in this field, by awarding the Queen Paola Education Prize each year. The Queen regularly visits schools of every level and every orientation, throughout the country.
In the cultural sphere, the Queen is particularly interested in the protection and conservation of our cultural heritage, the development and preservation of crafts and all forms of contemporary art.
The Queen takes an interest in new and traditional crafts. She pays regular visits to artisans and encourages the exercise and teaching of craft professions. She takes a keen interest in the alteration and restoration of royal residences and the design and upkeep of their grounds.
The Queen is in constant contact with artistic circles and regularly supports major exhibitions or artistic performances both in Belgium and abroad by her presence or via High Patronage. On the initiative of the Queen, contemporary artists have had the opportunity to design and make original works within the Palace of Brussels.
The Queen especially loves nature and takes a personal interest in the arrangement of the gardens of the royal estates. Apart from gardening, the Queen likes to spend her leisure time with her children and grandchildren. Interior decoration, reading, music, long walks in the forest with the King, skiing and yachting all provide greatly appreciated opportunities to relax.