Thursday, April 4, 2019

The May Queen

In 1930, her marriage was arranged to the Italian Crown Prince, Umberto. It was a political marriage that produced four children and had apparently good chances of success. The luminously beautiful young woman and the handsome Prince Umberto were fairy tale material, but it was not to be. However, Marie José was born to do her royal duty, and soon after the wedding, she served for a while with the Red Cross in Libya, showing an outstanding devotion to her work. With the arrival of the second world war, she was the first – and only – member of the Italian royal family who realised Mussolini was leading the country to disaster. 
Her free-thinking and artistic personality was suffocated by the royal court in Rome, so she started to create her own entourage made up by some anti-fascist intellectuals. This poisoned the relationship with her difficult father-in-law, King Victor Emmanuel III. “You know, I don’t have much to do with the House of Savoy,” she confided to a journalist in 1940. “It’s not a family; it’s a fridge.”. 
Marie José had a contradictory relationship with Mussolini. She hated the fascist ideology but felt attracted to the charismatic Italian leader. Some sources even mentioned that they had a brief affair in the 1940s, although there is no clear confirmation of such a relation. When she gave an interview years later, in 1993, and she was asked about this rumour, she replied: “He was a lion. I, too, am a lion. And we both feared one another.” (Read more.)

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