Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Annunciation Day

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, commemorating the occasion when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary to announce to her that she would give birth to the Son of God. Our Lady of the Annunciation (aside from being the patron saint of Texas) has a special significance to the House of Savoy as the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation is the highest chivalric order of knighthood of the Royal Family and the former Kingdom of Italy. It all dates back to the daring crusader Count Amadeus VI of Savoy (seen above), sometimes known as the "Green Count" who instituted the Order of the Collar in 1362, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Annunciation. The "collar" designation was to call to mind the loyalty of the dog and the slavish devotion of its members to the Holy Mother. Originally, it was limited to 15 members to mark the 15 daily masses heard by the order. Later, it was officially named the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation and was given its first written statues in 1409 by Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy who also later enlarged the order. Over the centuries, other modifications were made but it remained the preeminent order of knighthood for the House of Savoy, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia and finally the Kingdom of Italy until the fall of the monarchy in 1946. Since then it has been retained as an order of the Royal House.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Death of the King

It was on this day in 1983 that HM King Umberto II of Italy left this life for his eternal reward. On such an occasion, it is important to remember that the last Italian monarch was a King who, though forced to leave his homeland, always kept Italy, the Italian people and the House of Savoia in his heart. King Umberto II was a man of duty and responsibility and he never recognized the Italian republic, built on a fraudulent referendum, never abdicated or renounced his title and responsibilities as King of Italy and never ceased for the rest of his life to work toward putting the country to rights again. Despite some family problems, it was clear at his funeral that the monarchist community, the faithful of Italy and all the crowned heads of the world (as well as his fellow royals in exile) held the late King of Italy in the very highest regard for his firm commitment to upholding the legacy handed down to him by one of the oldest and longest-reigning dynasties in the world.

Among those who made the trip to attend his funeral were King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Constantine II of Greece, Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of the Belgians, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, a representative of Pope John Paul II and many others. It was a very sad occasion and would be the beginning of an era of hardship for loyal Italians as the Royal House lost its undisputed leader. The King had maintained a court-in-exile and had worked closely with the Unione Monarchica Italian, despite his dislike of political parties, to try to set things right again. That unity that the loyal Italian monarchists had mostly enjoyed during his lifetime would be gone and remains somewhat elusive even now. It was a sad occasion for Italy and for monarchists everywhere. On such an occasion, it is perhaps best to call to mind the last message King Umberto II gave to the Italian nation, exhorting all to never cease to keep Italy first in their hearts and to do what is best for the country:

While the Country, barely emerged from a tragic war, sees her frontiers menaced, and her own unity in peril, I believe my duty is to do all that I still can in order that further sorrow and further tears may be spared the people who have already suffered so much.
I trust that the Magistrature, whose traditions of independence and liberty are among the glories of Italy, will be able to have its free say, but not wanting to oppose force to the abuse of power, nor to render myself complicit in the illegality that the government has committed, I leave the threshold of my Country, in the hope of averting from the Italians new struggles and new sorrows. Accomplishing this sacrifice in the supreme interest of the Fatherland, I feel the duty, as an Italian and as a King, to raise my protest against the violence which has been committed, a protest in the name of the Crown and of all the people, within and without the borders, who had the right to see its destiny decided with respect for the laws, and in such a manner as to dissipate every doubt and every suspicion.
For those who still maintain fidelity to the Monarchy, for those whose spirit rebels against injustice, I record my example, and I exhort them to avoid worsening the dissensions which would threaten the unity of the Country, fruit of the faith and the sacrifice of our fathers, and which could render more severe the conditions of the peace treaty.
With a spirit full of sorrow, but with the serene consciousness of having made every effort to carry out my duties, I leave my country. Let those who have taken the oath and kept faith through the hardest trials, consider themselves released from their oath of allegiance to the King, but not from their oath of allegiance to the Country. I think of all those who have fallen in the name of Italy, and I salute all the Italians. Whatever destiny awaits our Country, she will always be able to count on me, as on the most devoted of her sons.
Long live Italy!
June 13, 1946 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

King Umberto II at the Front

Crown Prince Umberto on a troop inspection

Crown Prince Umberto reviewing defensive networks

Crown Prince Umberto in Sicily with German
Air Marshal Albert Kesselring

Crown Prince Umberto with troops for the Russian front

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blessed Umberto III

Today, March 4, is the feast day of Blessed Count Umberto III of the House of Savoy. Monarchici in Rete has a short bio on him here. Blessed Umberto III had wanted to go into a monastery rather than be a prince but the duties and responsibilities of the secular life prevented this. Putting duty to his people and the House of Savoy before his own happiness, he set aside his plans for the religious life and entered the rough-and-tumble world of Medieval European politics. It was his duty to continue the Savoy family line but he had a hard time at it. His first wife died young, his second marriage ended in divorce and at that point, Umberto III decided he had done all that he could do and retired to a Carthusian monastery. However, his subjects, his nobles and other authorities begged him to return to his secular duty and so he finally did so, marrying again but having only two daughters. Once again he wished to give up and return to the monastery but again he was prevailed upon to try again and finally, on his fourth wife (his third died) he had a son who eventually succeeded him to leadership of the House of Savoy. His was a life of sacrifice, sacrificing personal happiness for royal duty -back when that sort of thing was still appreciated.