Maria Pia
Maria Pia of Italy.jpg
Reign 23 February, 1942 - present
Coronation 2 May, 1946
Predecessor Victor Emmanuel IV
Heir Apparent Vittorio Emmanuele, Prince of Piedmont
Regent Benito Mussolini (1942 - 1952)
Spouse Simeon II of Bulgaria (m. 1965)
Vittorio Emmanuele, Prince of Piedmont
Princess Maria Giuseppa
Princess Elena Maria
Full name
Maria Pia Elena Elisabetta Margherita Milena Mafalda Ludovica Tecla Gennara
House House of Savoy
Father Umberto II
Mother Marie-José of Belgium
Born 24 September, 1934
Naples, Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946)
Religion Roman Catholicism

Maria Pia of Italy (born 24 September 1934) is, and has been since her appointment at the age of seven, the reigning Monarch of Italy. She is the eldest child of former King Umberto II and his wife, Marie-José of Belgium, as well as older sister of former King Victor Emmanuel IV, who also became Italy's head-of-state at a young age after the assassination of their father.

Maria Pia became the Queen of Italy after the invasion of Italy by Germany during World War II and the assassination of her brother and then-King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel IV. She was evacuated to Rome by Italian partisans and was hidden in the Palazzo di Venezia along with the surviving members of the House of Savoy. With the line of succession completely butchered by the Germans, Italian Duce Benito Mussolini used his power and influence to change the rules of succession and named Maria Pia Queen of Italy during a speech on the balcony of the palace. Benito Mussolini then adopted Maria Pia, the sole survivor of her family, with the Duce acting as her regent due to her young age.

Maria Pia's reign is a very memorable one, the Queen proving herself to be strong and proud even at a young age. One of the most significant events in her life was her speech before a crowd in Rome just days before the Germans attacked the city. This event has been widely regarded as the driving force behind the exhausted Italian defenders' successful counterattack after days under siege. She also partook in many state visits to various Allied nations and was present at several notable meetings such as the Tehran Conference, Yalta Conference and Potsdam Conference, all of which were highly publicized and raised Maria Pia's popularity to unprecedented heights.

Maria Pia served as the Empress of Italy during the days of the Italian Empire, who was at the forefront of the Cold War. Maria Pia was a unique head of state; she voiced her objection of Communism but also spoke ill of the western powers, especially the United States, and implored Italy to seek a "Third Way" and remain independent of both sides' influence. She made state visits to many nations, including one to the Soviet Union in 1952. She had reigned over three different Italian governments; the first Kingdom of Italy, the Italian Empire and the current Kingdom of Italy. She has reigned through all wars and conflicts fought by Italy since the Second World War.

One of the most significant and perhaps the most famous moments of her reign was her courtship and marriage of Simeon II, the former Tsar of Bulgaria. The Tsar and Empress had both known each other since childhood; both were young monarchs with their positions thrust upon them while their nations were embroiled in a war. When the two announced their intention to marry, it created a serious problem in regards to their duties as monarchs of separate countries and what it would mean for the House of Savoy and the Bulgarian royal family. The resulting pressure forced the two to break their engagement, but the two re-engaged and married in 1965 after Simeon abdicated in favour of his uncle, Prince Kiril, in order to be allowed to marry Maria Pia. She had three children as a result of the marriage; Vittorio Emmanuele, the Prince of Piedmont, Princess Maria Giuseppa and Princess Elena Maria.

Early life

Maria Pia Elena Elisabetta Margherita Milena Mafalda Ludovica Tecla Gennara di Savoia was the first-born child of the Prince and Princess of Piedmont, born in Naples, Italy in 1934, shortly after her father, Umberto II, ascended to the throne amidst the assassination of Victor Emmanuel III. Her father was assassinated on Martyr's Day, 1939 and her brother, Victor Emmanuel IV, now technically the King of Italy, was severely wounded. As a result of these attacks, Maria Pia and her family were moved to the newly erected Royal Palace of Ajaccio in Corsica in late 1940. Maria Pia narrowly escaped the Invasion of Ajaccio by the German SS, an attack which killed her mother, brother, grandmother and several members of the House of Savoy. She was smuggled off the island by Corsican partisans and the remaining Royal Guards. She was placed in the direct care of Clara Petacci, Benito Mussolini's mistress, and spent her time in Palazzo Venezia. Having no surviving family members, Maria Pia looked to Petacci and Mussolini as mother and father-figures respectively.


Ascension to the throne

Being both a girl and very young, Maria Pia was not even thought of as a possible claimant to the throne after the extermination of the direct line of succession. However, Benito Mussolini proclaimed that being the last of her family and being the only direct relative of the deceased Kings, she should be made Queen of Italy. Although the royals were outraged at the prospect of Maria Pia being coronated as the Queen, Mussolini threatened each and every one of them with death should they speak out against her coronation, making an example of an outraged prince who dared to call Mussolini's bluff, executing the man on the spot.

Maria Pia was proclaimed Queen of Italy by Mussolini at a state address on the balcony of Palazzo Venezia on February 23, 1942 at the young age of seven. She was not coronated as Mussolini wanted her coronation to be a large, national event that could be witnessed by everybody in Italy, which was impossible while the nation was being invaded. Instead, her coronation would be moved to a post-war date. Although incredibly young, she took her duties as Queen very seriously. Her residence remained Palazzo Venezia and Benito Mussolini legally adopted her as his daughter. Her first duty as Queen was a radio address to the citizens of Italy, where she implored them to stay positive in the face of the German invasion.

Marriage and family

Maria Pia met her future husband, Simeon II, when she and Benito Mussolini made a state visit to Bulgaria in 1947. Simeon had been Tsar of Bulgaria at the time, with a similar story to Maria Pia's; Simeon had ascended to the throne during the war after the death of his father, Boris III, and was represented by a regent within the Bulgarian government. The two connected quite well, with them becoming close friends. Even though Bulgaria was an Italian puppet state at the time, it was still de jure an independent nation with a sovereign monarch, so when the two young monarchs announced their engagement on June 4, 1957, it caused quite the stir within their two countries.

As Simeon was Tsar of Bulgaria and Maria Pia was Empress of Italy, it would be difficult for the two to be married and retain their civil duties. In addition, neither was willing to abdicate their thrones. Even though public opinion was in favour of the marriage, the pressure from their families resulted in Maria Pia and Simeon breaking off their engagement on August 8, 1957. Maria Pia later became engaged to Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia. However, during their wedding ceremony in 1964, Simeon objected to the marriage and proclaimed that he would abdicate his throne should Maria Pia agree to marry him. She accepted and the two became re-engaged.

The pair married on July 17, 1965 in a large ceremony in Savoy. Simeon abdicated his throne several months earlier in favour of his uncle, Prince Kiril, and moved to Italy permanently. The pair continues to live in the Royal Palace of Turin. Maria Pia gave birth to her first child and heir to the throne, Vittorio Emmanuele, on February 8, 1967. Her two daughters, Princesses Maria Giuseppa and Elena Marina, were born on January 9, 1969 and March 14, 1971 respectively.

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