Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Queen Elena dead

November 28, 1952

Queen Elena of Italy died today at her villa in Montpellier, France, reports the Associated Press.   She was 79 years old.

The former queen of Italy was the widow of King Vittorio Emanuele III and the mother of King Umberto II.  She had been undergoing treatment for cancer for three years.

Queen Elena had been living in exile since the abdication of her husband in 1946.  The Italian monarchy came to an end on June 18, 1946, following a vote for a republic by the Italians.

Although Elena's marriage to Vittorio Emanuele was seen as a "love match," it also had "political advantages" for Italy.   Italy now had an opportunity to extend its influence in the Balkans and "introducing in the Italian royal strain the rugged qualities of the Montenegrin people."

Princess Elena, daughter of Prince Nicholas of Montenegro, was born on June 8, 1873.  She married the then Prince of Naples on October 24, 1896.  Three weeks before her marriage,  Princess Elena was received into the Roman Catholic faith from the Orthodox church.

When her husband succeeded to the throne in 1900, following the assassination of his father, Umberto I, Queen Elena was "hailed as the most beautiful" sovereign in all of Europe.

Queen Elena was known for her "years of devotion to good works," especially to the "promotion and welfare of underprivileged children."  She believed it was important -- her divine right -- "to nurse and raise her own children."

She and her husband were the parents of five children: Princess Jolanda (1901), Princess Mafalda (1903), Prince Umberto (1904), Princess Giovanna (1907) and Princess Maria in 1914. 

"I really love them," Queen Elena once said her children.

She founded the first nursing school in Italy, and studied nursing so she "might raise the profession of nursing."

The first years of her marriage were difficult due to the cool reception she had received from the Italian people.  A male heir was not born until ten years after her marriage.  It was her love for children that eventually endeared her to the Italian people.

Her husband abdicated on May 9, 1946.  They settled first in Alexandria, Egypt.  Vittorio Emanuel died on December 28, 1947.  It was only after his death, did the public learn of Queen Elena's poor health.  She had suffered a stroke after learning of her daughter, Princess Mafalda's death in a German concentration camp in August 1944. 

She also became blind in one eye.  During the American occupation of Italy,  Queen Elena received treatment by United States specialists at the 300th General Hospital in Naples.

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