1929-2009 Engagement of Prince Umberto and Princess Marie José

  October 24, 2009 at 4:35 am by

80 years ago the engagement was announced between HRH Prince Umberto of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, and HRH Princess Maria José of Belgium.

The union between the 25-years-old son and heir of King Vittorio Emanuele III and Queen Elena of Italy and the 23-years-old daughter of King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians was planned since the two Princes were only children – probably during the First World War, the two Courts began to think about their marriage; according to what Maria José remembered years later, she grew up thinking to marry Umberto and imagining him as the fairytale prince; on the other side, Umberto knew that if he would have married, he surely would have married Maria José, as their families had planned.

View the image at Diesis

The two Princes met for the first time in 1918 for a visit to Venice, together with their families; at that time, Umberto was 14 and Maria José 12; she was studying in Italy, in the Istituto Statale della Ss. Annunziata, a very exclusive girls’ boarding school in Florence.

In the following years they met several times, at the wedding of Prince Amedeo, Duke of Apulia and Princess Anne d’Orleans in 1927 and on vacation in Tuscany in the summer 1928. In the winter of the same year, Umberto visited Bruxelles, and he was expected to ask Maria José to marry him, but nothing happened, as well as nothing had happened between them when they met before; the main reason was that both Umberto and Maria José felt forced to marry, and in that period they didn’t want to; in particular Umberto didn’t want to marry a woman that he didn’t love and he knew only a bit.

After many insistences from King Vittorio Emanuele and the Italian Prime Minister Mussolini, Umberto decided to marry, and in September 1929 he travelled to Belgium.

The Princes got engaged privately on 7 September 1929 at the Chateau de Losange, near Bastogne, where they were guests of the Countess van den Steen de Jehay, a lady-in-waiting of Queen Elisabeth; now the castle is known to be the family seat of the Counts d’Udekem d’Acoz, the family of Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium, wife of the great-nephew of Maria José.

Umberto then returned in Bruxelles on 23 October 1929, and the official engagement was announced the following day, on 24 October (that was also the famous “Black Thursday”, the first day of the Wall Street Crash).

The ceremonies to celebrate the engagement began at 9.45am, when the cortege of cars with the Belgian Royal Family and Prince Umberto went to Place du Congres to pay homage to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; while Umberto was going to lay down a flower wreath, an Italian young man, Ferdinando de Rosa, tried to kill him by shooting.

De Rosa, who was an antifascist and wanted to kill Umberto as a symbol of the complicity of the Italian Monarchy with fascism, luckily failed and was soon arrested; meanwhile, Prince Umberto proceeded in the celebrations, keeping great courage and impassiveness; the attempt happened so quickly that maybe he didn’t perceive it, as well as Maria José. Later, when some people congratulated with Umberto for his courage, Maria José, who didn’t know what had just happened, misunderstood and, very upset, asked them if Umberto really needed so much courage for getting engaged with her.

The following morning, on 25 October, the celebrations continued with a cocktail party held by the Mayor Adolphe Max at the Bruxelles Town Hall, followed in the evening by a reception held at the Royal Palace.

Prince Umberto and Princess Maria José married less then three months later, on 8 January 1930, in Rome.

To learn more about Umberto and Maria José, please read this thread.

Filed under Belgium, Historical Royals, Italy
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