European Royalty - House of Savoy Wedding Presentation Gift, 1930
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Length: 10cm (4in)
Provenance: Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium,
Silver gilt and enamel. Ovoid form box with blue enamelled lid overlaid with filigree work foliage centred on the crowned conjoined arms of the Royal Houses of Savoy and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to mark the marriage of the Prince of Piedmont, heir apparent to King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and Princess Marie-José of Belgium, youngest child of King Albert I of the Belgians. The sides cast and chased with a continuous rope twist border of Savoy knots; the base with rayed engine turned decoration and inscribed ‘Roma 8 Gennaio 1930’ (8 January 1930). Maker’s mark of Musy of Torino to the inside of the lid. Contained in its original fitted silk-covered box of Musy Padre e Figlio of Torino, the hinged lid applied with a gilt crown, the base bearing a manuscript label inscribed ‘Succession Grande-Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte de Luxembourg’.
Prince of Piedmont afterwards Umberto II, last King of Italy (1904-1983) married Princess Marie-José of Belgium (1906–2001) in the Pauline Chapel at the Quirinal Palace at a ceremony attended by Mussolini. Royal Guests included the Crown Prince Leopold and Crown Princess Astrid of Belgium, Duke of York (later King George VI), King Manuel II of Portugal, Queen Sophie of Greece, King Amanullah Khan and Queen Soraya 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, Prince Kyril and Princess Eudoxia of Brazil, Prince and Princess Paul of Yugoslavia, and Infante Don Ferdinando.
UMBERTO AND MARIE-JOSÉ IN 1930
While Umberto and his father appeared oblivious the danger Mussolini posed to the both Italy and the monarchy, Princess Marie-José found herself increasingly at odds with Il Duce, initially by declining to sign the wedding register in the name of the more Italian sounding ‘Maria Giuseppina’ as he advised. After Nazi Germany invaded Belgium in 1940, she demanded an audience with the Hitler hoping secure better treatment of her brother, King Leopold III, who was confined to one of his castles, and his people, who were starving. The Fuhrer refused to see her but, taken with her looks offered up the weird compliment that she had eyes ‘the colour of the German sky’.
Thereafter Princess Marie-José began to plot against Mussolini, attempting to negotiate a peace with U.S. officials behind the backs of her in-laws through a meeting with the future Pope Paul VI, and meeting regularly with anti-facist intellectuals. At the fall of Mussolini in 1943 Umberto became the de facto head of state; Victor Emmanuel abdicated in favour of Umberto in May 1946 but a referendum of 2 June voted for abolition. King Umberto and Queen Marie-José reigned for just 35 days. Sent into exile, they first settled in Portugal, but soon separated, with Marie-José taking their children with her to Switzerland.
Princess Joséphine-Charlotte of Belgium (1927-2005), was niece to Princess Marie-José and being three years of age at the time of her aunt’s wedding presumably inherited the present box or was gifted it as a momento of an important dynastic occasion. She later became Grand Duchess consort of Luxembourg as the wife of Grand Duke Jean. She was the first child of King Leopold III of Belgium, and sister of the late King Baudouin and former King Albert II and aunt of King Philippe. She was also the first cousin of King Harald V of Norway.