Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Interview with Princess Maria Gabriella
Here is an interesting interview (in Italian) of their second daughter, charming Princess Maria Gabriella, the historian of the family. After the exile of the house of Savoy, in 1946, and their move to Portugal, Maria Gabriella's parents separated; their three daughters remained in Cascais with their father, while their son lived in Switzerland with his mother. The princesses only visited the Queen about once a year! An affectionate and attentive parent, the King raised his daughters with the help of an Irish governess. Maria Gabriella absorbed her father's humanitarianism, his concern for the poor and the needy, along with her mother's intellectualism, her love of beauty and culture. The King and Queen had different approaches to their faith. Umberto was a deeply observant Roman Catholic. Maria José, although a sincere Christian, also felt the need to explore other religions and philosophies. (In this respect, she reminds me of her mother, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium). She was interested in yoga. Maria Gabriella, however, followed her father's example, always remaining traditional in her spirituality. Her devotion to her faith would prevent her from accepting the hand of the Shah of Iran, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, who proposed marriage to the Italian princess during her youth, on condition that she publicly abjure Catholicism and convert to Islam. Although assured that she could continue to practice her Catholic faith privately after her marriage, Maria Gabriella declined the Shah's proposal. (Thank goodness, as she would otherwise have been swept up in the Iranian Revolution!) The Savoys, however, remained on friendly terms with Reza Pahlavi. Like her mother, Queen Maria José, Maria Gabriella has since devoted her life to researching and illuminating the history of her family, becoming a guardian of the memory of the house of Savoy.