Monday, January 10, 2022

HI & RH Archduchess Margherita of Austria, Princess of Savoy-Aosta (1930-2022)

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HI & RH Archduchess Margherita of Austria died today in Basel, Switzerland.  She was 91 years.  She was the mother of Archduke Lorenz, who is married to Princess Astrid of Belgium, the only daughter of King Albert II and Queen Paola.

Margherita was born HRH Princess Margherita Isabella Maria Vittoria Emanuella Elena Gennara of Savoy Aosta in Royal Palace at Capodimonte, Italy on April 7, 1930.   She was the elder of two daughters of HRH Prince Amedeo Umberto Isabella Luigi Filippo Giuseppe, Duke of Aosta (1898-1942) and HRH Princess Anne d'Orleans (1906-1986).  

The infant princess's names were entered into the special register for "princes of the blood royal" on April 8 in the presence of the Duchess of Guise and former Queen Amelie of Portugal.  Her baptism took place in Capodimonte's chapel on May 28.   Princess Helene, Duchess of Aosta, the baby's paternal grandmother, held Margherita as Cardinal Acalesi performed the baptismal rite.  The Duchess of Aosta stood in as the proxy for her sister, the Duchess of Guise.  King Vittorio Emanuele was the godfather and he attended the ceremony with his wife, Queen Elena,  and their daughter Princess Mafalda and her husband, Prince Philipp of Hesse.

The Duke and Duchess of Aosta  Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

Amedeo and Anne were first cousins, as Amedeo's mother, HRH Princess Helene of Orleans, and Anne's father, Prince Jean, Duke of Guise were siblings. 

Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

In September 1937, the Duke of Aosta and his mother paid a private visit to England, where the duke, as commander of the Aquila Air Force, visited several RAF bases.  Helene visited Queen Mary at Marlborough House, once the home of her "dear friend," Queen Alexandra,  the mother of the Duke of Clarence, who was in love with Helene and wanted to marry her.    After her son left London, Helene remained at Almond's Hotel with seven-year-old Margherita.  The Dowager Duchess and her granddaughter spent three weeks together in London before returning to Naples on board the Orcades.

She and her younger sister, Princess Maria Cristina spent their childhood at Miramar Castle and at Caserta.  In 1937, the Duke of Aosta was appointed Viceroy of Ethiopia and he and Anne spent three years there until the Duke was taken as a prisoner of war by the British and taken to Nairobi.

Margherita and Cristina remained in Italy with their grandmother.  Their favorite moments with Helene were at the seaside, especially in warm weather.   Christmas 1939 was spent at Capodimonte.   The two young princesses stayed in Queen Amelie's apartment.  Helene also made sure that Margherita and Cristina wrote letters to their parents.

The Duchess of Aosta was back in Italy with her two daughters, when her husband, was arrested by the British and sent to a Nairobi prison, where died on March 3, 1942.  Italy's capitulation in September 1943 to the Allies set in motion a German plan to "order the arrest and deportation" of members of the Italian royal family.  The king's youngest daughter, Princess Maria, and her husband, Prince Luigi of Bourbon-Parma were arrested and with their young children were taken to Oldenburg.  One week after Maria's arrest,  her older sister, Princess Mafalda returned home for the funeral of her brother-in-law, King Boris III of Bulgaria who had died under mysterious circumstances on August 28.  She and her children took refuge in the Vatican, but the Princess left the safety of the Vatican after receiving a message that her husband wanted to meet her at the German embassy. It was a ruse  Mafalda was arrested and sent to Buchenwald.  

Other members of the Italian royal family gathered in Brindisi.  Margherita's aunt, HRH Princess Irene of Greece, who married Prince Aimone of Savoy-Aosta in 1939, was living in Turin and expecting her first child.  Aimone had succeeded as the Duke of Aosta after Amedeo's death.   Turin was being bombed by the Allies.  The 39-year-old Duchess of Aosta gave birth three weeks early on September 27, 1943, to a son, who was named Amedeo after his late uncle.

Helene had remained in Naples when the Allies landed, but the Germans still controlled half of Italy.  After the Allies had liberated Rome,  the two Duchesses of Aosta (Anne and Irene) and their children fled to Pavia, where the SS wanted to arrest Irene and send her and her infant son to Germany as hostages.  Anne, who was trying to care for two frightened young girls, managed to persuade the Nazis to let them stay together. On July 26, 1944,  two SS men arrived with orders for the two women and their children to be ready an hour.  With great courage, Anne pressed the men to produce a warrant, which they did not have, and which allowed the women several hours to prepare for the journey to the Hotel Regina in Milan, "a waiting station for those destined for Nazi prisons or concentration camps."

    From Milan they were driven to Innsbruck, Austria, and placed under arrest at a hotel near the train station, often bombed by the Allies.  Several days later,  as "diplomatic internees," the two women and the three children were taken to the Hotel Ifen in Hirschberg, Austria, about 50 miles from Lake Constance.  

    Margherita arrived at the hotel without shoes or socks.  A priest gave her a pair of his shoes and a pair of stockings was loaned by André Francois--Poncet, the former French ambassador to Germany, who was also an internee.

    A few weeks later, a truck arrived with drunks and suitcases filled with clothes and other items that the Germans had packed after the two duchesses had been taken to Milan.  The truck also included flour and oil, and "soaps, chocolates, and handkerchiefs" which Anne gave as gifts to other prisoners.  The prisoners were finally liberated in early May 1945.   Anne and Irene and the children arrived in Switzerland on May 6 and stayed with their uncle, Prince Vittorio Emanuele, Count of Turin, the only member of the Italian royal family who had not embraced fascism. 

Finally, on July 7, the family was able to return to Italy. They drove to Milan and then were flown by an American plane to Naples where Helene and the Duke of Aosta were waiting.  The family stayed in Naples for the rest of the summer, and in October, Anne and her two daughters returned to their apartment in the Pitti Palace in Florence.

They remained in Italy for less than a year.  On May 9, 1946, King Vittorio Emanuele abdicated and he and Queen Elena went into exile.  Their only son, Umberto succeeded to the throne, but his reign was brief as Italian citizens voted on June 2 to abolish the monarchy and the rest of the Royal family, with the exception of the Dowager Duchess of Aosta, also went into exile.

Anne and her daughters and the Count of Turin flew to Belgium, where the count died a few months later.   The duchess and the two princesses, now in their late teens, lived in Belgium for more than a year before moving to Switzerland.

                                                    Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection

In 1952, the Princess was reported to be on the verge of an engagement with King Baudouin of the Belgians.  The Associated Press reported on May 29 that members of both families were already in Rome for a "preliminary 'get-acquainted' gathering."  An engagement announcement was expected to follow.

The king was expected to meet Princess Margherita at the "walled-secluded Villa Sparta," outside Florence, the home of the former Queen Helen of Romania.    He left in "semi-secret" by train.  Although his destination was said to be Rome, the Belgian Embassy stated: "He is definitely not coming to Rome," but acknowledged "somewhere else in Italy.

The embassy spokesman would not confirm if the king's destination was Florence.

Princess Margherita and her younger sister, Princess Maria Cristina arrived in Rome the night before.

It only took 24 hours for the engagement reports to be denied.  It was on May 30, 1953, that the Belgian ambassador to Italy, Baron Joseph von der Elst "declared that the King was too young to think about marriage yet."

The Grand Marshal of the Belgian court released a statement that the King was not engaged to Princess Margherita of Savoy-Aosta.

A  family friend, who spoke with the princess before she left Rome today,  "After all this public attention, of course, there won't be any announcement.  Just the same the King did not come to Italy sightseeing," the friend told the Associated Press.

Princess Margherita would soon meet her future husband, HI & RH Archduke Robert Karl Ludwig Maximilian Michael Maria Anton  Franz Ferdinand Joseph Otto Hubert Georg Pius Johannes of Austria (1915-1996) third child and second son of Emperor Karl I of Austria and HRH Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma.

Their civil marriage in Bourg-en-Bresse, France on December 28, 1953, was followed a day later by the Roman Catholic wedding at Brou, France.  

The civil marriage, required by French law, took place at City Hall. The bride and groom and their witnesses sat in a "semi-circle on Louis XV chairs" before the mayor.   Archduke Robert's witnesses were his two brothers, Archduke Karl Ludwig and Archduke Rudolf, both of whom traveled from the United States where they work.   

The princess's two witnesses were her cousins,. HRH Prince Filiberto, Duke of Genoa, and HRH Prince Adalberto, Duke of Bergamo.

No reigning royal families were present for the religious service although "many of Europe's displaced royalty attended the wedding, including the groom's mother, former Empress Zita and the bride's cousin, former King Umberto and his wife, Queen Marie-José of Italy.   

The Italian queen was born a princess of Belgium and was the aunt of King Baudouin, Margherita's putative suitor.

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 The couple had five children: Archduchess Maria Beatrix, Countess von Arco-Zinneberg (1954),  Archduke Lorenz (HRH Prince Lorenz of Belgium (1955),  Archduke Gerhard (1957),  Archduke Martin (1959) and Archduchess Isabella (1960).

Archduchess Margherita with her son, Archduke Martin, and 2 of her Arco-Zinneberg granddaughters at the wedding of Prince Jean, now the Count of Paris, and Philomena de Tornos y Steinhart in 2009  @Ulrike Bartsch

The Archduchess is survived by her five children, nineteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.  She is also survived by her sister, HRH Princess Maria Cristina (Princess Casimir of Bourbon-Two Sicilies), and two nephews and nieces 

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