Sunday, July 4, 2010
A Little Nostalgia...
Here is an interview with the exiled Queen of Italy, Marie-José, at her home in Merlingue, Switzerland. Among other reminiscences, she recalls 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.
In future posts, I would like to discuss Marie-José's marriage and political role in greater detail. Sadly, in both cases, despite her best efforts, she was frustrated and disappointed. Neither her dreams of an ideal love match, nor her hopes of a great, enlightened, fruitful reign came true. Yet, I am impressed by the fact that she never comes across as a bitter or gloomy figure. Despite many tragedies, she never lost her kindness, her sense of humor, or her joie de vivre. Even here, in this brief clip, these qualities appear clearly.