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Friday, May 11, 2012
The May Queen
Here are pictures of Italy's last queen, the only daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, as a thoughtful young girl, a glamorous princess and a loving mother. In some respects, she reminds me of her great-aunt Carlota, the doomed empress of Mexico. 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.