1930-2010: The wedding of Prince Umberto and Princess Maria José

  January 8, 2010 at 10:37 am by

Prince Umberto of Savoy and Princess Maria José of Belgium (later King Umberto II and Queen Maria José of Italy) married in Roma on 8 January 1930, eighty years ago. The celebrations lasted 6 days, and were a glittering show of the state of well-being of Italy and of the power of the fascist government.

On 5 January the members of the Belgian Royal Family and their retinue arrived by train in Roma, welcomed by the Italian Royal Family; soon after they left the railway by coach. The impressive procession, made by 20 coaches escorted by the cuirassiers, moved through the streets of Roma, and reached Quirinal Palace, the official seat of the Italian Monarchy. Later in the evening a small party was held in Villa Savoia, the private residence of King Vittorio Emanuele and Queen Elena.

The following day, a hunt beat took place in Castelporziano in the morning, and in the afternoon the engaged couple got the official wishes from the fascist regime. Finally in the night an official reception was held in Quirinal Palace, where more then 2000 guests had been welcomed by the two Royal Families.

Maria José and Umberto on their wedding day - copyright expired

A second reception was held the night of the eve of the wedding day, again in Quirinal Palace, that hosted 50000 guests.

On Thursday 8 January the wedding ceremony took place, in the sumptuously decorated Paoline Chapel, inside Quirinal Palace; the date had been chosen by Umberto, because 8 January was the birthday of his mother, Queen Elena. The bride was accompanied to the Palace by a procession made by ten Kings and Queens, thirty-two Princes and thirty-nine Princesses, belonging to foreign Royal Families; only a little part of the numerous guests attended the wedding inside the chapel, among whom were the members of the Italian and Belgian Royal Families, the Duke of York (later King George VI of Great Britain), King Manoel II of Portugal, King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan, King Boris III of Bulgaria, Crown Princess Antonia of Bavaria, Grand Duchess Militza of Russia, Prince Kyril of Bulgaria, Princess Xenia of Montenegro, Admiral Miklos Horty von Nagybanya and the members of the Italian Government. Prince Umberto was accompanied to the Chapel by his mother, Queen Elena, while Princess Maria José arrived accompanied by her father, King Albert of the Belgians; the ceremony was celebrated by Cardinal Pietro Maffi, Archbishop of Pisa; the witnesses were the Duke of Aosta (a cousin of King Vittorio Emanuele III), the Duke of Genova (the maternal uncle of the King of Italy and godfather of Prince Umberto), Prince Leopold and Prince Charles of Belgium (the brothers of the bride).

Prince Umberto wore the uniform of colonel of the Italian army; Princess Maria José wore a long white velvet dress, decorated with ermine fur, with a 5 meters long cloak embroidered with golden threads and a lace veil presented by the lacemakers of Bruges; the dress was designed by Umberto, while the jewels belonged to House Savoy.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds were received by Pope Pius XI in the Vatican; after the visit to the Pope, the Princes hosted a lunch with their guests, and finally the day ended with their homage to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On 9 January the Belgian and Italian Royal Families attended an imposing military parade, organized by the government, in which Prince Umberto marched; the parade ended in a spectacular air show performed by 300 aeroplanes from the Italian air force.

The last day, 10 January, started in the magnificent Villa Borghese, where Princess Maria José and Prince Umberto met 30000 children who greeted the couple; in the afternoon, in Quirinal square, the Princes attended a parade of the representatives of all the Italian provinces and colonies, wearing the typical suits of their lands.

The celebrations ended in the afternoon of Friday 10 January, with the performance of the opera “La forza del destino” (“The Force of Destiny”), by Giuseppe Verdi, at the then Royal Opera House (the Rome Opera House from 1946); after that, the parents and the brothers of Princess Maria José and their retinue left for returning in Belgium.

The marriage of Prince Umberto and Princess Maria José was gladdened by the birth of four children, three daughters (Maria Pia, on 20 September 1934; Maria Gabriella, on 24 February 1940; Maria Beatrice, on 2 February 1943) and a son (Vittorio Emanuele, born on 12 February 1937), and lasted for 53 years until the death of King Umberto, on 18 March 1983.

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

Filed under Belgium, Historical Royals, Italy
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