Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Blackest Carrion in the Italian Royal House: Princess Mafalda

Beautiful and cultivated, Princess Mafalda was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife, Elena.

She married Prince Phillip of Hesse against the wishes of his parents. They had four children. Prince Phillip worked for the Nazis and became an intermediary between the Nazis and Mussolini. He apparently had a high position in the Nazi party. However, he also helped some wealthy Jewish friends escape to Holland.

Princess Mafalda annoyed Hitler by speaking out on behalf of the Jews especially when he wanted Mussolini to crack down on them. When Italy surrendered to the Allies, Hitler decided to take his revenge. He arrested Prince Phillip and imprisoned the Princess in Buchenwald. When the Allies bombed an ammunitions factory in Buchenwald, the poor Princess's arm was badly burned. She died during an operation to amputate the arm.

You can see a photo of the Princess here: Princess Mafalda NB: It's a fair way down the page.

Mafaldine Pasta

Mafaldine pasta was apparently named after the Princess. You can read more about that here: mafaldine pasta

Friday, February 20, 2009

The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Todayto acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance.

A very warm thank you to Ms.Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine for nominating me for this award! Here are my seven nominees:

Edwardian Emporium This blog is all about the 'Golden Age' - Edwardian times. This is my very favourite era so I like to visit here and be transported back!

The Royal Representative This royal blog is full of the latest gossip, anecdotes and articles about British royalty. I also like August Annotations, Mandy's reviews of books about royalty.

The Lotus Notebooks Here you will find sensitive and well-written posts about books and poetry. I especially enjoyed the post about Emily Dickinson. I like the well-dressed section too - lovely photos.

Romancing the Tome This features articles about book adaptations and the actors in them. I always enjoy reading the latest posts here.

Coffee and Oranges This is a well-written blog all about artists and paintings. I also like Meg Nola's articles at Suite 101.

Reading Adventures An excellent Australian blog all about books. I especially like the challenges and memes!

I'm going to cheat and have a tie!


Random Jottings of a Book and Opera Lover vie for seventh place! ART and ARCHITECTURE, MAINLY has very interesting articles about Australian history, art and associated topics. Elaine at Random Jottings writes excellent reviews and has similar tastes in books! It's also her birthday today. Happy Birthday, Elaine!

Recipients, please claim your award by copying the HTML code of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award badge, posting it on your blog, listing the name of the person who nominated you, and linking to their blog. Then nominate seven (7) other blogs that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. Nominees may place the Excessively Diverting badge in their side bar and enjoy the appreciation of their fellow blogger for recognition of their talent.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Doctor and the Princess: Axel Munthe and Princess Victoria of Sweden

"You are the woman of my heart," Axel Munthe wrote to Princess Victoria of Sweden. This may seem cliched now, but these words only made the unhappy princess fall more in love with the young doctor.

Axel Munthe, who later wrote the wonderful book, The Story of San Michele, completed his medical studies in quick time and became famous after a long struggle to become successful. He acquired friends in high places and a beautiful villa on the sun-lit Italian island of Capri, where he was recommended by the Swedish ambassador as a personal physician to the sickly princess.

Princess Victoria was unhappily married to Prince Gustaf of Sweden and Norway when she met Axel Munthe. They travelled to romantic Venice where they probably began their long affair. The princess didn't have much in common with Prince Gustaf was fairly dull and uncultured - his main interest seems to have been hunting. She and Axel both enjoyed music - she was a very accomplished pianist, apparently. He had a good tenor voice so they gave evening concerts. She was also an excellent photographer and artist. They both also loved animals. She liked dogs and Munthe famously saved many birds on Capri from being hunted and killed in a very cruel manner.

In those days, being a little too close to one's doctor, wasn't seen as unethical apparently, and the princess's family approved of her relationship with Munthe. They found it difficult to cope with Princess Victoria's very bad health and probably thought that Italy's pleasant Mediterranean climate would rejuvenate her.

Princess Victoria travelled to Capri often in the winters, sometimes with her husband, and bought a two-story farmhouse called Casa Caprile. She made quite an impression on the locals in her elegant clothes of 'Capri wool'. She loved leaving the harsh Swedish winters, and attributed her better health to Italy, writing that:
“I flee the snow like the swallows,” the Queen wrote, adding, “If I couldn’t spend the winter on Capri, I would die.” According to an article in Capri Review Magazine : "Every autumn she seemed reborn, rediscovering enthusiasm and a zest for life."

Munthe was divorced and could easily have remarried. He complained about being pestered by hysterical women who followed him about in The Story of San Michele. It sounds very vain but it was quite true! Some of the women that fell in love with him were quite impressive. The wealthy American, Charlotte Payne-Townshend, for example, was very cultured and Munthe was taken by her desire to help the poor. However, Jangfeldt, Munthe's biographer thinks that he was too much in love with the princess to consider anyone else as a wife. Charlotte became Mrs.Bernard Shaw.

After many years and when he was quite old, Munthe suddenly decided to marry. He probably felt that his relationship with the princess was one of friendship by this time. It wasn't a love-match but he was very rich and may have wanted children to inherit his money. He married a much younger English woman and had two sons.

The marriage wasn't happy. Hilda, his wife, didn't like staying on Capri and became very jealous of Victoria and even Munthe's maids. They eventually divorced.

Victoria became Queen shortly after this marriage and didn't stay at Capri as often.
She and Munthe fell out somewhat over her strongly pro-German feelings during the First World War (he was an Anglophile). However, she was really the love of his life and he was with her when she died in 1930 in Sweden.

Munthe dedicated The Story of San Michele to Queen Victoria shortly before she died:

Protector of oppressed animals
Friend of all dogs.

Victoria of Baden, Queen of Sweden in 1910

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Site Of The Week: The Royal Representative

The Royal Representative focuses on the British monarchy and is chock-full of news, articles, history, opinions and links.

Many is an American Monarchist, which seems very strange, but her arguments are well-expressed. She is a big fan of the Queen, thinks that British-American relations are very important, and she loves history. Her site never fails to be interesting!

She also creates excellent podcasts and has a blog of book reviews.
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