Monday, August 10, 2009

Romantic Marie-José

I came across some excerpts from the youthful journal of Marie-José, daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. She kept a special "diary of the heart" under lock and key where she recorded her innermost thoughts and emotions. At 18, under the title "Impression," she spoke of her longing for her future husband, Prince Umberto ("Beppo") of Savoy. Marie-José and Umberto are often described as a couple united merely by reasons of state, completely opposed in character. Yet, they had alot in common- inner dignity, concern for social justice, sympathy for art and literature. Raised to love Umberto, Marie-José came to view him as the perfection of a young man...As she confided to her diary:
I do not know why life sometimes seems boring, tiring, empty. Yet there are so many things that are interesting, beautiful, entertaining, good and useful. We meet so many people who are intelligent, good and sincere. But, in spite of this, we are always seeking something else. How stupid we are. Beppo, it's you I want, perhaps this is why everything seems boring, when you are not here. Come, come to me, and let me come to you, and let's always remain together. I don't want to live without you, I cannot, I love you. There's the reason for all my ill-humor. Only you can give me the true joy of this world.

When I see black eyes in the street, an impulse of some sort, an inexplicable energy passes through me. A second's excitement. There's an elegant man walking swiftly by, and I gaze at him. All this because of a distant resemblance to Beppo. I will never love anyone as I love you.

(cited in Italian by Luciano Regolo in Il re signore, 1998, p. 126)

What a romantic young lady! Sadly, she was rarely able to find the conjugal intimacy and happiness she desired, but that's a story for another day...


MadMonarchist said...

It would seem like the texts of a great romance were one ignorant of how things ended. I can sympathize with the poor princess. Pictures of Umberto in his younger days show a man who looked like every girl's ideal of "Prince Charming". A great many people were shocked to find out about his "interests".

May said...

Well, I'm not sure how much of what was said about him was true. I have read in more than one biography that there is really no hard evidence of him being promiscuous or bisexual as was rumored. Some of the stories seem to have been fomented by the fascist regime to discredit the monarchy, which was actually more of a rival to Mussolini than might be thought given the relative compliance of Victor-Emmanuel III. But MJ felt constricted and unhappy in the Savoy court, partly because of the strict etiquette and of course, even more so because of the surveillance of the fascists (when she first arrived in Italy, as she later admitted, she didn't understand the nature of the regime, but it quickly began to dawn on her). She rarely felt she could get emotionally close to Umberto who often seemed withdrawn and depressed. The whole problem became worse and worse until it finally exploded after the family's downfall and exile. But I have seen plenty of evidence presented that a strong mutual affection and respect endured between them even after their separation. Too much for a comment, but I'll have to post on this later when I have more time.

Jorge said...

I am always intrigued when I read of princes who decide to settle down and find "suitable" wives (equal royals). Many times, despite they don't marry for love, their marriages work and they live happily, probably because they put effort to build a good relationship. Other times the consequences are bad or disastrous. It's surprising (for me) that many arranged marriages turn out well, but we have to take in account that in the old times royals lived in such bubbles that their visions and notions of life were incredibly rigid and narrow-minded, and they couldn't imagine themselves marrying people below their rank.
Part of my interest in royalty, rather than titles and all the pomp, is that they are just different kind of human beings. Their conception of life (at least in the old times) was very different from that of the common people, and that fascinates me.
We commoners really do not appreciate enough the fact of being free to do whatever we want and remain annonymous.

May said...

Good points, Jorge.