Belgium's former queen Fabiola dies aged 86: Palace

An undated file portrait of Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Belgian King Baudouin's wife. Belgium's former queen Fabiola died on Dec 5, 2014 at the age of 86. -- PHOTO: AFP
An undated file portrait of Queen Fabiola of Belgium, Belgian King Baudouin's wife. Belgium's former queen Fabiola died on Dec 5, 2014 at the age of 86. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file picture taken on Feb 19, 2013, shows Queen Fabiola of Belgium in a wheelchair during a special mass in memory of the deceased members of the Belgian Royal Family in Brussels. Belgium's former queen Fabiola died on Dec 5, 2014 at the age of 86.
A file picture taken on Feb 19, 2013, shows Queen Fabiola of Belgium in a wheelchair during a special mass in memory of the deceased members of the Belgian Royal Family in Brussels. Belgium's former queen Fabiola died on Dec 5, 2014 at the age of 86. -- PHOTO: AFP 

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgium’s former queen Fabiola, the Spanish-born widow of the popular King Baudouin, who was at the centre of a recent row over her yearly allowance, died on Friday at the age of 86, the palace said.

“Their majesties the King and Queen and members of the royal family announce with very great sadness the death of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola this evening at Stuyvenberg Castle in Brussels,” a statement from the royal palace of King Philippe said.

Born Dona Fabiola de Mora y Aragon on June 11, 1928 in Madrid to Spanish nobility, she married Baudouin in December 1960 – the same year that Congo won its independence from Belgium.

The couple never had children.

The fifth queen of the Belgians, she withdrew from the public eye after the sudden death of King Baudouin in 1993 on holiday in Spain, leaving the royal spotlight to her brother-in-law Albert, who took the throne, and Queen Paola.

In July 2013, she looked on as King Albert II passed the crown to her nephew Philippe, to whom she was close until her death.

Foreign minister Didier Reynders said all Belgians would mourn her passing.

“A page in our country’s history has turned,” he told Belgium’s RTL television.

Fabiola sparked uproar in Belgium in 2012 with the creation of a private foundation that was widely perceived as a way to avoid paying the country’s 70 per cent inheritance tax.

She later dissolved the charitable vehicle, and her annual income from the state was reduced from 1.4 million euros to around 900,000 euros (S$1.46 million).

But the Spanish-born aristocrat was admired for her devout Roman Catholicism and involvement in social causes, especially those related to mental health, children’s issues and the status of women.