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King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

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King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:47 pm

This couple deserved better than to be blamed for the misdeeds of others and forced into exile...

I have long had a special affection for Italy's 'May Queen', the daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, two of my favorite monarchs of all time.

Here is a post about Maria Jose's visit to Padre Pio, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. She went to see him at a particularly difficult period in her life, after her much-loved father and sister-in-law, Queen Astrid of the Belgians, had died in tragic accidents.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/01/perfume-of-violets.html

Suddenly, Marie-José noticed a persistent perfume of violets mingled with incense. At the time, she was unaware of the fact that, according to many testimonies, the perfume of flowers and incense was a mark of Padre Pio's spiritual presence. Assuming there must be violets nearby, she looked around, but no flowers met her eyes. "Josephine, do you smell that perfume of violets?" she asked, turning to her niece. "Aunt, what are you saying? Are you crazy? There are no violets here!" Nor did the Princess' friend notice anything unusual. A little later, Marie-José asked a friar, who had come to meet the royal party, if he noticed the perfume. His reply that it was a grace of Our Lord rather perplexed the Princess, always somewhat skeptical of apparently supernatural phenomena.She later explained: "...I have never been particularly religious. My religiosity is of a kind I like to define as 'practical,' excluding all forms of escape from reality. Nonetheless, even today, I cannot find any rational explanation for this extraordinary fact" (Regolo, p. 172).

At last, Padre Pio emerged from the confessional. Marie-José remembered him as a man of great serenity, sweetness, simplicity and humility. His face, she recalled, was pale and marked by fatigue, but his eyes were luminous, radiating joy. He invited Marie-José and her companions into his cell, where he led them in prayer. A heart-to-heart conversation followed. "We spoke for a long time, above all, about my father and my sister-in-law, Astrid. 'They are close to the Lord,' he said, as if he could see them. I did not believe in his gifts as a seer, but his words still filled me with a sense of well-being. The serenity of that man could not leave you indifferent" (Regolo, pp. 172-173). The Princess confided to him her fears regarding the fascist dictatorship, but later forgot his exact reply. Nonetheless, the priest's unusually forceful parting words, as Marie-José kissed him farewell, remained forever engraved in her memory: "There will be war. Be ready, as everything will end soon. Very soon!" (Regolo, p. 173).
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:53 pm

Beautiful Maria Jose.


Prinzessin Marie Jose von Belgien, future Queen of Italy by Miss Mertens, on Flickr


Prinzessin Marie Jose von Belgien, future Queen of Italy by Miss Mertens, on Flickr


Kronprinzessin Marie Jose von Italien, nee Princess of Belgium by Miss Mertens, on Flickr
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Elena on Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:37 pm

Thank you, this is wonderful. What beautiful pictures. I know I have seen them on your blog but it is nice to see them all together!

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Thu Oct 27, 2011 1:24 am

She was quite handsome. Unfortunately, some of the court ladies in Italy were quite rude and called her "The Blonde Negress" because of her hair.

Video footage of Umberto and Maria José:
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Mata Hari on Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:03 pm

That's AMAZING! They had a BEAUTIFUL family! And I think her hair was lovely!

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Elena on Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:06 pm

I am haunted by Padre Pio's words to her. Thank you, Matterhorn, for all that you do to help us to get to know them all. queen

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:40 pm



A clip of an elderly Maria José, at her home in Merlingue, Switzerland, recalling her first meeting with her husband-to-be, the future King Umberto II. The encounter took place during the First World War, while the 11-year-old Belgian princess was studying at the Poggio Imperiale near Florence. One winter day, she was taken on an outing with the Italian royal family.

The romantic young Marie-José, accustomed to the fair complexions of her family, was captivated by the black hair, the beautiful black eyes of Umberto and his sisters. She was also charmed by their engaging personalities. She was impressed, too, by the grave remarks of 13-year-old Umberto. At the Piazza San Marco in Venice, he warned Marie-José against feeding the pigeons white bread, a precious commodity amidst wartime scarcity.

In the interview, Marie-José also discusses her parents' efforts to prepare her for her future role. With her father, King Albert I, she studied, in depth, the history of Italy and the Savoys. A true daughter of Albert and Elisabeth, known for their concern with social problems, her ideal of queenship was to aid the less fortunate. At the age of eight, she wrote that, if she became Queen of Italy, she wanted to have the names of all the country's poor, in order to be able to give something to each one.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2010/07/little-nostalgia.html
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Elena on Fri Oct 28, 2011 8:09 am

I had no idea she lived to such a great age. Thank you. sunny

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:17 pm

Yes, she was blessed with a long life, unlike certain other members of her family...

In her memoirs, she talks about a letter her father wrote to her at one point, thanking her for a kind note she herself had sent him. Albert jokingly added that she was sure to live to be a hundred years old, since she honored her parents, and God promised a long life to those who did so. Well, she almost did live to be a hundred...
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:05 am

Here is an article about Maria José's later years in Cuernavaca. Like her great-aunt, Empress Carlota, she loved the city.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/05/cuernavaca.html

Reinvigorated by the climate and the energy of the place, touched by the warmth of the people, she regained her humor, curiosity, fighting spirit and love of life. (She said that her beloved old dog, Alaska, was also restored by his new environment). She spent four culturally active, sociable years, in a modest, welcoming, single-storey villa, at 1005 Palmira Avenue, becoming increasingly close to Maria Beatrice and her husband, before before returning to Switzerland to live with her son, Victor Emmanuel, and his wife, Marina Doria. According to Luciano Regolo, Maria José's home in Cuernavaca clearly reflected her spirit: her reserved, but constant sentiments, her cult of history and art, her preference for lively colors and her cheerful irony. She was assisted by a small, but loyal and affectionate entourage: a talkative lady-in-waiting, Madame Claudine Estrayer, a French-speaking secretary, Monsieur Dominique Voghel, who kept the Queen in contact with the courts and cultural institutions of Europe, a Spanish teacher, and medical, security and household staff, including the Queen's majordomo, Juan, and her housekeeper, Zenaida Isabel. Many distinguished visitors, ranging from Mexican ministers to European ambassadors, as well as her own nephew and niece, King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians, came to pay their respects to Maria José in Cuernavaca.
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Mata Hari on Sat Nov 12, 2011 9:36 pm

What went wrong with Maria José's marriage? scratch As you know, there are so many rumors that she had lovers, the most ridiculous one being that she had an affair with Mussolini. affraid Suspect scratch

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Mon Nov 14, 2011 12:38 am

I wrote about that awful Mussolini rumor here:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2011/09/marie-jose-and-mussolini-lovers.html

As a young bride, she suffered from all sorts of nasty gossip, including accusations that her children were not Umberto's or that they were conceived using artificial insemination, since she could not have children for four years....But I don't think there is any real evidence of any of this, although she loved to make friends with all sorts of interesting, intellectual and artistic people, and her unconventional ways, like those of her Wittelsbach mother, Elisabeth of Belgium, probably fostered gossip. I think she and Umberto were just basically incompatible. The marriage was mostly arranged by the two royal families to bring Belgium and Italy, which had already fought on the same side in World War I, closer together. Marie-José was raised by her mother to see Umberto as the perfect prince charming, leading to expectations of a great love which were later sadly disappointed.

Umberto and Marie-José had deep admiration, respect and affection for one another, but Umberto had trouble relating to his wife in a romantic way. ( I think he loved her, but was not in love with her- apparently he was actually attracted to an Orléans princess, but his father insisted he marry Marie-José instead). He was concerned and solicitous for his wife, but tended to be reserved and distant towards her.

After the end of the monarchy in Italy, M-J found Cascais, where the royal family were living in exile, too gloomy. Meanwhile, Umberto tended to hide his deep feelings of sorrow and humiliation, to withdraw into silence, while M-J was much more open and demonstrative and felt the need to talk about the past. She had trouble relating to her husband on a daily basis and thought he needed space to live on his own. She also preferred to live in Switzerland, where she felt more cheerful and could get better medical care (she had terrible eye problems and went blind at one point). But the royal couple always kept up cordial relations. Umberto helped M-J with her award-winning historical research on the House of Savoy, and wrote her beautiful letters. He sent her a bouquet of red roses every month with an affectionate note. When Umberto was dying of cancer, his wife was at his side and they spent many tender hours together, holding hands and remembering Italy.

There have been many rumors that Umberto was unfaithful, or even bisexual, but I don't know what to believe as many of these stories seem to have been fomented by the fascists, who saw the handsome, popular young prince, and the royal family in general, as a threat and rival to Mussolini. It is also known that Umberto was deeply religious and M-J praised him in the highest terms, after his death, as a man of great moral rectitude and personal virtue.

Here is a good article on Umberto, in Italian, by biographer Cristina Siccardi:

http://www.cartantica.it/pages/collaborazioniUmberto.asp

I can also recommend the biographies of Umberto and Maria José by Luciano Regolo.
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Mata Hari on Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:08 am

Thank you for the moving explanation. I really feel that I am getting to know the lovely May Queen. Of course, the rumors about Mussolini are disgusting in the extreme. affraid

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:26 pm

In 1971, Queen Marie-José of Italy, daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, published her memoirs. In this work, entitled Albert et Elisabeth de Belgique, mes parents, she discusses her childhood and youth in Belgium prior to her marriage with Prince Umberto of Savoy in 1930. She focuses on her parents, beginning with their engagement in 1900 and ending with Albert's death in 1934. The style is clear, concise, sober, and sensitive. The book is a tribute to Albert and Elisabeth, widely admired for their heroism in World War I, and considered by their daughter to be model sovereigns. But it is also a fascinating portrayal of a lost time, and of a wide range of modern political, cultural, and scientific figures. The memoirs have been translated into Italian as La Giovinezza di una Regina (Youth of a Queen).

Throughout the book, Marie-José emphasizes that her parents' mutual love and complementary qualities enabled them to support and assist each other in their difficult roles as King and Queen. Both are portrayed as highly intelligent and sensitive, but with contrasting temperaments; Albert, thoughtful, reflective, reserved, steady, philosophic ; Elisabeth, lively, energetic, spontaneous, imaginative, impulsive, artistic. Yet, Marie-José shows, they strove to forge a strong union, enabling their characters to complement one another in an exceptionally harmonious manner. It would be rare, Marie-José asserts, to find two people collaborating so felicitously for the good of their country, "and even, if one may say so, for the good of mankind."

This is how Marie-José describes her parents' marriage:

Entre Albert de Belgique et Elisabeth en Bavière un amour profond forma des liens d'une qualité exceptionnelle, liens qui ne firent que se renforcer aussi bien dans les années heureuses et paisibles que dans celles qui seront tragiques et douloureuses. Je ne crois pas commettre d'indiscrétion en publiant des extraits de [leur] correspondance. Je pense, au contraire, qu'ils contribueront à illustrer la profondeur et la pureté de leur amour.

Between Albert of Belgium and Elisabeth in Bavaria, a deep love formed a bond of an exceptional quality, a bond which only grew stronger, as much in the years that were happy and peaceful as in those which would be tragic and painful. I do not consider that I am committing an indiscretion by publishing extracts from [their] correspondence. I think, on the contrary, that they will contribute to illustrating the depth and purity of their love.

The letters are, indeed, very touching, and I would like to cite a few here.

The day after the engagement of Marie-José's parents in Neuilly, Albert, who had been obliged to leave Elisabeth for Brussels, wrote to her:

" ... Puisses-tu être heureuse comme je le souhaite. Tu pourras en tout cas compter sur mon amour le plus entier et sur ma loyauté absolue. Après t'avoir quittée ... tout me paraissait si vide que mêmes les rues encombrées de Paris me semblaient un désert ... "

"... May you be as happy as I wish. You will always be able to count on my infinite love, and my absolute loyalty. After leaving you ... everything seemed so empty to me that even the crowded streets of Paris seemed to me to be a desert... "


Elisabeth immediately replied:

"Il est 11 h 3/4 du soir, je me sens si seule et triste sans toi. Dans ces quelques jours où j'étais avec toi, j'ai appris à t'aimer de tout mon coeur! Vraiment je t'aime tant! Comme je n'aurais jamais cru pouvoir aimer quelqu'un. Tu es si bon et gentil pour moi que cela me touche et me rend heureuse. Tu sais que je ne peux pas bien exprimer ce que je ressens pour toi, mais je crois que tu me comprends... "

"It is 11.45 in the evening, and I feel so alone and so sad without you. In the few days I have been with you, I have come to love you with all my heart! Truly, I love you so much! In a way that I never would have believed I could love someone. You are so good and kind towards me, that it touches me and makes me happy. You know that I cannot express well what I feel for you, but I think you understand me..."

After a visit to Elisabeth's family in Bavaria during their engagement, Albert wrote to his future bride:

"Pendant ce si agréable mais trop court séjour à Possenhofen, j'ai appris à te connaître encore mieux, et surtout, si je puis te l'avouer, j'ai pu apprécier toutes les qualités de coeur, d'esprit, et de gentillesse dont ma chère Lisa est remplie et dont les apparences m'avaient conquis dès le premier jour que je l'avais vue. Tu sais, moi, je n'ai pas beaucoup de qualités, mais je puis te promettre en toute sincerité d'en avoir une: celle de tâcher de te plaire toujours et aussi de mériter d'avoir une femme telle que toi ..."

"During this visit to Possenhofen, so pleasant but too brief, I have come to know you even better, and, above all, if I may confess it to you, I have been able to appreciate all the qualities of heart, intelligence, and kindness, with which my dear Lisa is filled, and which had conquered me from the first day I had seen her. You know that I, myself, do not have many qualities, but I can promise you, in all sincerity, to have one: that of trying to please you always and also of trying to deserve to have a wife such as you ..."


To which Elisabeth responded:

"Quand viendra le temps où il n'y aura plus de ces terribles séparations? J'étais si heureuse d'avoir été avec toi. Chaque heur que nous passons ensemble, est pour moi le plus grand plaisir qui existe ... Chaque fois que je te revois, je t'aime encore plus. Comme je serais heureuse le jour où je ne devrai plus te quitter."

"When will the time come when there will be no more of these terrible separations? I was so happy to have been with you. Every hour we pass together is, for me, the greatest pleasure that exists ... Every time I see you again, I love you even more. How happy I will be the day I no longer have to leave you."


Albert and Elisabeth seem to have taken the motto of Belgium, "L'union fait la force," or "union makes for strength," as the motto of their marriage. As Albert wrote to Elisabeth:

"Il faut que mari et femme trouvent le plus grand bonheur à rester ensemble. Ce doit être la meilleure compagnie recherchée aussi bien pour l'un que pour l'autre ... "

"Dans la vie, il y a beaucoup de difficultés, toujours, partout, et pour tous, mais si l'on est bien unis dans un menage par un solide amour réciproque, on ne le craint pas et l'on est certain de trouver chez soi le vrai bonheur d'ici-bas ..."

"Husband and wife must find the greatest happiness in being together. It must be the best company that is sought out, and equally so for the one and for the other..."

"In life, there are many difficulties, always, everywhere, and for everyone, but if one is firmly united in a family by a strong mutual love, one does not fear them and one is sure to find, at home, the true happiness of this earth ..."

Many years after Albert's untimely death in an apparent climbing accident, Elisabeth confided to Marie-José: "Ever since the cruel separation from your father, I have not been able to live a single day during which his memory has not been present to me, and, everything I have done, I have done out of fidelity to his memory."

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/01/marie-joss-memoirs.html
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:44 pm


Prinzessin Marie Jose von Belgien, Princess of Belgium by Miss Mertens, on Flickr


Prinzessin Marie Josè von Belgien , future Queen of Italy as angel of hope! by Miss Mertens, on Flickr


Prinzessin Marie Jose von Belgien, future Queen of Italy by Miss Mertens, on Flickr


Kronprinzessin Marie Jose von Itaien mit Sohn by Miss Mertens, on Flickr
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:01 am


Queen Maria José with her four children. Her youngest daughter, Maria Beatrice, had this to say about her mother (her comments are quoted in Luciano Regolo's biography of the May Queen):

Di mia madre ammiro molte cose: il suo spirito indipendente, l'amore per la cultura, l'abilità con cui, anche avanti negli anni, ha continuato a condurre le sue ricerche storiche. Ma sopratutto ne ho sempre apprezzato la capacità di astrarsi, ossia di andare oltre le gioie e i dispiaceri, i luoghi e le situazioni, per essere sempre se stessa.

In my mother, I admire many things: her independent spirit, her love of culture, the ability with which, even in her later years, she continued to conduct her historical research. But, above all, I have always appreciated her capacity to abstract herself, to go beyond joys and sorrows, places and situations, to be always herself.
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:24 pm

I am really enjoying this series of posts! Thank you!

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Fri May 11, 2012 5:53 pm

Thank you, dear Mata Hari!

I always think of Maria José in May...especially right now, as the anniversary of her husband's accession to the throne occurred just two days ago.

Maria José reminds me, in some ways, of her great-aunt Carlota of Mexico, although M-J was a much more stable personality.

Both women were beautiful, brilliant Belgian princesses who wholeheartedly embraced the causes of their adopted countries. Each cherished idealistic hopes for the future, aspiring to do good, on a grand scale, for her subjects. Alongside her liberal and romantic husband, Maximilian I, Carlota wished to usher in a new era of enlightened rule in Mexico. Maria José, inspired by her parents' example, hoped to be a close collaborator of her husband, Umberto II, and to promote cultural and humanitarian projects in Italy as her mother had done so magnificently in Belgium. Like Carlota, Maria José was thwarted, betrayed, dethroned and forced into exile. In her last years, by a strange coincidence, she moved for some time to the Mexican city of Cuernavaca, once beloved by Carlota. She was fascinated by the sad life of her forebear. Fortunately, however, Maria José's family survived the disaster in Italy, in contrast to the murder of Maximilian. The Italian queen was also much better able to cope emotionally with her tragedies. Both Carlota and Maria José, however, certainly deserved a kinder fate.

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2012/05/may-queen.html
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A Wartime Childhood

Post  May on Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:00 pm

On August 4, 1914, the eighth birthday of Princess Marie-José, Germany invaded her native Belgium. Marie-José and her siblings were sent to England to safety. Later, the little princess, who had previously been studying in an Ursuline convent, was transferred to the Collegio della Santissima Annunziata near Florence. She was being introduced to Italy and ultimately prepared for her future role as Umberto's consort.
http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/03/wartime-childhood.html
On April 8, 1915, King Albert's birthday, Queen Elisabeth arranged for a surprise visit of Marie-José to La Panne, where the royal couple were living. In her old age, Marie-José continued to keep, as a precious souvenir, an album of drawings she had given her father on this occasion. The album was dedicated as follows: À mon papa chéri. Marie-José. La Panne, le 8 avril 1915. It contained a whole series of drawings representing the war, often using animal characters. The Belgian and British soldiers appeared as rabbits and frogs, with innocent, kind expressions; the Germans, by contrast, as devils! Her brothers were shown as heroic figures, carrying the Belgian standard, weapons in hand. King Albert was the noble "Lion of Flanders," with a huge crown. Beside him, Marie-José had placed his allies, the King of England and the Tsar, with the caption: Vive papa, vive la Belgique.

During her visits to La Panne, Marie-José assisted the staff at the Océan field hospital, where her mother worked as a nurse. For instance, during the final Allied offensive, in 1918, the 12-year-old princess prepared bandages for the surgeons. She would later recall these experiences, in poignant terms...

During her years at the Santissima Annunziata, Marie-José transmitted all her enthusiasm for her father to her friends. Whenever she spoke of her life in Belgium, she would repeat: "Mio padre e tanto bello!" She never forgot her emotion at finding that a number of her classmates kept pictures of King Albert among their prized possessions. This widespread admiration for his heroism touched her deeply.
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  Elena on Sat Aug 04, 2012 6:59 pm

Precious little girl. sunny

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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Sat Aug 04, 2012 7:10 pm

She was, a little lion-cub. sunny
I like this picture of Maria José with her mother and daughter:
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

Post  May on Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:15 pm

Today was the 30th anniversary of Umberto's death. Here is a clip of his funeral- his widow looks SO sad under her black veil...
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Re: King Umberto II (1904-1983) and Queen Maria José (1906-2001)

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