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hennybenny 06-26-2009 01:36 PM

Roberto I, Duke of Parma (1848-1907)
Does anyone have any information about Robert I, Duke of Parma? I was fascinated to learn that he was married twice, resulting in 24 children. Apparently many of the children from his first marraige were mentally retarded. I'm really interested in knowing about that family, what life was like, what became of those mentally retarded children, specifically.
Are there any books about Robert that someone can recommend? Or did any of the 24 kids write a book?

Alberto2244 06-26-2009 01:54 PM

Try and get any biography on Empress Zita. There are a few in German and in French but I think one was translated into English also.

About his childhood there┤s "Baron Ward and the Dukes of Parma" by Jesse Myers

monica17 06-01-2011 06:10 AM


Originally Posted by hennybenny (Post 958413)
Does anyone have any information about Robert I, Duke of Parma? I was fascinated to learn that he was married twice, resulting in 24 children. Apparently many of the children from his first marraige were mentally retarded. I'm really interested in knowing about that family, what life was like, what became of those mentally retarded children, specifically.
Are there any books about Robert that someone can recommend? Or did any of the 24 kids write a book?

Reading this quite late but here are some information:

From another forum.....

The Bourbon-Parma family is very illustrious, descending as they do from the Kings of France, Spain, Naples and the Emperors of Austria. However, from the latter part of the 19th century into the early 20th century, it was also one of most incestuous and inbred. Many will object to the use of the word "incestuous" when referring to European royalty, BUT---

When inter-family marriages are repeated over and over again, from one generation to the next, when cousins marry cousins and nieces marry uncles, etc, it spells disaster genetically.

This was the case of the marriage of Robert of Bourbon-Parma and his first wife, Maria Pia of Bourbon-Sicily. If you examine the tangled family relationships, you'll note that they were VERY closely related and had common ancestors going back MANY generations.

Of the twelve children they had, only three were judged to possess normal intelligence: Marie Louise, Elias, and Beatrice. The other nine were definitely retarded and had to be supervised all of their lives. The two elder boys, Joseph and Henry, spent most of their lives under supervision at Villa delle Pianore, the Parma chateau near Viareggio.

Prince Elias was made acting Head of the Family under the terms of his father's last will and testament. As noted in a previous listing, Elias became "Duke of Parma" in 1950. He ensured that his retarded siblings received the supervision and care required.

All twelve of the children of Robert and Maria Antoinia, his second wife, were normal, although not particularly good-looking. The best-looking Bourbon-Parma princess from that generation, Maria Antoinia, became a nun. An existing photograph taken prior to her vows shows a stunning young woman.

Robert of Bourbon-Parma was an extremely wealthy man. Not only did he inherit a vast fortune from his uncle, the Comte de Chambord, but he was also the heir of his grandfather, Charles II of Parma, who died in the spring of 1883 (Chambord died in the fall of 1883). Charles II (known at the Comte de Villafranca) left his extremely valuable library of religious books to his grandson, for example, along with considerable lands and palaces.

Robert owned four significant properties, among others:

Chateau de Chambord in France
Chateau Schwarzau-am-Steinfeld in Austria
Villa delle Pianore in Italy
Chateau Wartegg in Switzerland

The French government confiscated Chateau de Chombard from the family but eventually paid them in return.


Oh, until Duke Robert's 24 kids came along, this royal & ducal family was quite small compared to others. 1st generation: 3 children, 2nd generation: 9 children (but only 4 survived to adulthood), 3rd generation: 2 children, 4th generation: 2 children (only 1 reached adulthood), 5th generation: 4 children.

Many members of the Bourbon Parma family were also created, or hold the courtesy title of Infante/Infanta of Spain.

As I find/remember other information, I'll post them....

Here is a link to another forum (where I got the informative posted above) where there are lots of information and pictures about Duke Robert & his family.

monica17 06-01-2011 06:48 AM

This is what happened to Duke Robert's 24 kids:

(Again from the APTM forums)

1. Maria Luisa (1870-1899) died in childbirth

2. Ferdinand (1871-1872) died aged one

3. Luisa (1872-1943) was mentally retarded

4, Enrico (1873-1939) was officially Duke of Parma from 1907 till 1939 but he too was mentally retarded!

5. Inmacolatta (1874-1914) was also mentally retarded and was (possibly, need to verify this) deaf and mute.

6. Giuseppe (1875-1950) officially Duke of Parma from 1939 till his death, he was also mentally retarded!

7. Maria Teresa (1876-1959) was also retarded!

8. Pia (1877-1915) also retarded!

9. Beatrice (1879-1946) was absolutely normal and married.

10.Elias (1880-1959) Duke of Parma since 1950 and head of the family since his father's death in 1907.Married Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria

11.Anastasia (1881-1881) Died aged a few days, she might have been (this is an hypothesis) also retarded or suffered some illness. She might have just died young like many children at the time.

12. Augusto (1882-1882) Same as previous....

13. Adelaida became a nun in 1909 in Soresmes.

14. Sixto (see Sixtus Affair) married Hedwige de la Rochefoucauld

15. Xavier (see Carlists) married Madeleine de Bourbon-Busset

16. Francesca, a nun in Soresmes in 1915

17, Zita, married Charles of Austria and became Empress of Austria

18. Felix, married Charlotte of Luxembourg

19. RenÚ, married Princess Margrethe of Denmark

20. Antonia, also a nun in Soresmes in 1921

21. Isabella, died unmarried

22. Luigi, married Princess Francesca of Savoy

23. Enrichetta died unmarried.

24. Gaetano married Princess Margaret of Thurn and Taxis


Princess Zita got a considerable dowry from her father when she married then Archduke Charles of Austria. There was a dispute among the brothers regarding their father's wealth. I remember reading that the younger sons felt they were entitled to more, while their older brother (the heir) got more than half of their father's assets.

MAfan 06-01-2011 10:45 AM

I have read something in a biography on Empress Zita about the inheritance dispute; if I recall correctly, in his will Duke Roberto appointed his brother-in-law Infante Alfonso Carlos of Spain (husband of Duchess Maria Antonia's oldest sister) as guardian of his retarded children born from his first marriage to Maria Pia; and as guardians of his children born from his second marriage (who were all minors) he appointed his widow Duchess Maria Antonia and their brother-in-law Duke Karl Theodor in Bavaria (husband of Maria Antonia's sister Maria JosÚ). When Duke Karl Theodor died in 1909, Infante Alfonso Carlos became guardian also of Roberto and Maria Antonia's children (but jointly with Maria Antonia).
Prince Elias and Princess Beatrice were Roberto's only children not to need a guardian, because they were both adults and "normal" (and however Beatrice was already married at the time of her father's death).
The aim of these provisions of Roberto's will was to grant all his children the same means.
In his will, Roberto also stated that his eldest son Enrico would become Duke of Parma, but due to his mental issues Prince Elias would act as regent.

The problems were caused by the bad relationship between Duchess Maria Antonia and Prince Elias, and started when Duke Roberto was still alive. After marrying Roberto, Maria Antonia became mother of 12 children and also carefully took care of Roberto's other children. Elias, instead, simply didn't care neither of his siblings and of his half siblings.
Things worsened after Elias' marriage to Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria-Teschen, because of the strong loathing of Maria Anna's mother, Archduchess Isabella, to the Bourbon-Parmas.
When Duke Roberto died in 1907, Elias started to manage the Ducal Family's wealth without caring of his stepmother, siblings, and half-siblings; as he was the acting Head of the Family, he claimed larger and larger shares of his family's asset, and this exacerbated his relationship with Duchess Maria Antonia.

Eventually, after long years of fights, an attempted agreement and some court cases Elias got the better of his stepmother and half-siblings and he was given half of the whole inheritance of Duke Roberto (included Chambord Castle).


Some more informations about some of Roberto's children:
Maria Luisa married in 1893 to Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria, with whom she had four children; one of them was King Boris III (husband of Princess Giovanna of Savoy).
Enrico and Giuseppe were indeed mentally retarded, but strangely the one was an expert of numismatics and the other knew all the names, model and serial number of all the locomotives of the Austro-Hungarian railways.
Beatrice married in 1906 to Count Pietro Lucchesi Palli, with whom she had four children; she and her family later took care of her sisters Maria Teresa and Luisa in her estate in Brunnsee.
Elias married in 1903 to Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria-Teschen, and they had one son, Roberto (who succeeded his father as Duke in 1959 till his own death in 1974), and seven daughters; only one married, Alice, in 1936 to Infante Alfonso of Spain, Duke of Calabria (she still alive, aged 94).
Adelaide, Francesca and Antonia all became nuns at St. Cecile convent in Solesmes.
Sixte married in 1919 to Hedwige de la Rochefoucauld, daughter of the Duke of Doudeauville; they had a daughter, Princess Isabelle. Sixte died in 1934.
Xavier became Duke of Parma in 1974, at his half-nephew Roberto II's death; he married to Countess Madeleine of Bourbon-Busset, and was the father of Duke Carlos Hugo.
RenÚ married in 1921 to Princess Margaretha of Denmark, and they were the parents of Prince Michel (husband of Princess Maria Pia of Savoy) and of Queen Anne of Romania; they had two more sons.
Luigi married in 1939 to Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy, the younger sister of Giovanna, the wife of Luigi's half-nephew Boris III of Bulgaria; previously in the early 1930s an attempt to arrange a marriage between Maria Francesca to Luigi's nephew, Archduke Otto of Austria (son of his sister Zita) was made by Empress Zita, but it failed. Louis and Maria had four children together.
Henriette was the only of Roberto and Maria Antonia's children to have health issues, as she became deaf and mute after a fall when she was a child; however, she quietly spent her life in Italy, where she died in 1987.
Gaetano, the last child, was married from 1931 to 1955 to Princess Margarete von Thurn und Taxis, with whom he had a daughter, Princess Diane. He died in 1958 in a car crash.

monica17 06-04-2011 06:19 AM

Thank you very much, MAfan! It's always a pleasure for me to read about the Bourbon Parma family (any generation). :smile:

Back to Duke Robert and his children, I know dividing the family wealth can lead to arguments but it seems that he didn't follow the usual rule where the eldest son got the lion's share. Obviously, in this generation,there were much more of them to share, unlike in the previous generations where they were 4 (surviving) children at most.

MAfan 06-04-2011 07:32 AM

As for Roberto's inheritance, I think one of the reasons of his decision to leave equal shares to all his children was that many of his properties were located in France, and French law mandated equal division between siblings.

As I mentioned in my previous post, in 1910 Duke Elias and his half siblings came to an arrangement: Elias, as (acting) Head of the Family, got half of Roberto's assets, while the other half was to be shared between the half siblings; included in Elias' half was the castle of Chambord.
Then the World War came, and since Elias was an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, the French government expropriated the Castle; after the war, Elias was given a money compensation for the expropriation of Chambord Castle.
In the 1920s Princes Sixte and Xavier sued Elias in a French court, claiming to be entitled to larger shares of their father's assets on the grounds that the 1910 agreement wasn't valid, because it contravened the French inheritance law. The court in first instance gave them reason; then in appeal the decision was overturned, and finally the Court of Cassation decided that, despite being contrasting with the law, the 1910 pact was valid because Sixte and Xavier freely agreed to unequally share with Elias their father's assets.

monica17 06-04-2011 09:41 AM

Thank you for this information again.:smile: What you said makes perfect sense, if many of the family properties were in France, it's logical to follow French laws on it.

Biri 01-11-2014 07:40 AM


Originally Posted by MAfan (Post 1261007)
Enrico and Giuseppe were indeed mentally retarded, but strangely the one was an expert of numismatics and the other knew all the names, model and serial number of all the locomotives of the Austro-Hungarian railways.

Maybe they had Asperger's Syndrome?:ermm:

Curryong 08-04-2015 10:44 AM

It's more likely to be a case of 'idiot savantism'. Such unfortunate people were characterised, in very politically incorrect terms for nowadays, as idiot savants, that is having serious developmental mental issues except in one area of brilliance, such as playing a musical instrument perfectly and playing music by ear, knowledge of geography, transport, etc. In all other areas of their lives they require supervision.

CyrilVladisla 10-10-2016 10:11 PM

Roberto I received an endowment (both financial and territorial) from his uncle the Comte de Chambord, which included large properties in France and the Austrian empire.

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