Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the accession of King Umberto II and his Belgian-born wife, Queen Marie-José, to the Italian throne. On May 9, 1946, Umberto's father, King Victor Emmanuel III, discredited for his perceived compliance with the fascist regime of Mussolini, abdicated in his son's favor. Only weeks later, on June 12, 1946, the Italian monarchy would be abolished (following a plebiscite on June 2), and the House of Savoy would be on the road to exile. The brief reign of Umberto and Marie-José earned them the nicknames of "May King" and "May Queen."
Upon her accession, Marie-José was highly skeptical about the monarchy's future, but hoped, nonetheless, to be able to assist her people, emerging from the devastation of World War II. With her husband's collaboration, she prepared a moving address to the Italian women; it reveals her ideals and goals during this period. Political circumstances prevented Marie-José from delivering the address, but it shows her great love of her people and her strong sense of royal duty. I think she would have made a wonderful Queen Consort; it is a pity her reign was so brief.