Margherita of Savoy

For other uses, see Margaret of Savoy.
Princess Margherita
Queen consort of Italy
Tenure 9 January 1878 29 July 1900
Born (1851-11-20)20 November 1851
Palazzo Chiablese, Turin,
Kingdom of Sardinia
Died 4 January 1926(1926-01-04) (aged 74)
Bordighera, Italy
Burial Pantheon, Rome
Spouse Umberto I of Italy
Issue Victor Emmanuel III
Full name
Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna di Savoia
House House of Savoy-Genoa (by birth)
House of Savoy (by marriage)
Father Prince Ferdinand, Duke of Genoa
Mother Princess Elisabeth of Saxony
Styles of
Queen Margherita
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Princess Margherita of Savoy (Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna; 20 November 1851 4 January 1926), was the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy by marriage to Umberto I.


Early life

Margherita was born to Prince Ferdinand, Duke of Genoa and Princess Elisabeth of Saxony. Her father died in 1855, and her mother remarried morganatically to Major Nicholas Rapallo.

She was educated by countess Clelia Monticelli di Casalrosso and her Austrian governess Rosa Arbesser. Reportedly, she was given a more advanced education than most princesses at the time, and displayed a great deal of intellectual curiosity.[1] As a person, she was described as sensitive, proud and with a strong force of will without being hard, as well as the ability to be charming when she chose to.[2] To her appearance, she was described as a tall, stately blonde, but was not regarded a beauty.[3]

Initially, she was suggested to marry prince Charles of Romania.[4] In 1867, however, the president of the royal council, L.F. Menabrea, pressed the king to arrange a marriage between Margherita and her cousin, Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, heir to the Italian throne.[5]

Crown princess

Margherita signed the wedding contract with her first cousin Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, on 21 April 1868 in the ballroom of the royal palace in Turin, followed the next day by one civilian and one religious wedding ceremony. After the wedding, the crown prince couple settled in Naples. On 11 November 1869, Margherita gave birth to Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, later Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, in Capodimonte in Naples.

The personal relationship between Margherita and Umberto was not a success in regards to personal feelings; already before their wedding, Umberto was already involved in an affair with his long term lover duchess Eugenia Attendolo Bolognini,[6] and two years after their wedding, the couple reportedly discontinued their marital relations.[7] Their son was therefore to remain their only child. However, they never made their personal separation known to the public, and their relationship was in other aspects quite amiable: Margherita and Umberto worked together harmoniously as colleagues, Umberto even relying on her politically.[8]

Margherita was raised with the idea of paternalistic monarchy with the ideal of enlightened despotism.[9] Because of the lack of a queen, Margherita became the first lady of Italy immediately following her marriage, and was given a lot of representational duties intended to make the new royal house of united Italy popular throughout the peninsula. She became a great asset in this role with her ability to say and do the right things to effectively arouse public enthusiasm and feeling in her public appearances.[10] During her representational tours through Italy, made to arouse popularity to the royal house and thereby the united nation of Italy, she was careful to wear local folk costumes and demonstrate enthusiasm for local customs, traditions and culture, a method which made her so popular that she eclipsed the popularity of her spouse.[11]

In January 1871, after the final unification of Italy and the proclamation of Rome as the capital of Italy, the crown prince and crown princess settled in Rome. In Rome, Margherita successfully continued her task by making her receptions at the royal court the center of the Roman aristocratic high society life in her effort to subdue the opposition toward unification within the Roman aristocracy, and she eventually succeed in making her salon one of the most exclusive and famous in contemporary Europe.[12]


Margherita became queen of Italy upon the succession of Umberto to the throne 9 January 1878. In the critical situation that year, with the king and the pope as well as an assassination attempt against the new king, Umberto reportedly asked Margherita of politic advise.[13]

The attempted assassination of the king by Giovanni Passannante in November 1878 reportedly made her work even more forcefully to strengthen the prestige of the crown and build of the loyalty to the institution by gathering followers and making connections.[14] As when she was a crown princess, she was actively assisted in this networking and image building by her favorite courtiers, marquis Emanuele Pes di Villamarina and marchioness Paola Pes di Villamarina, who was appointed her dama d’onore (senior lady in waiting) and cavaliere d’onore (senior lord in waiting) respectively.[15]

As queen, Margherita worked to protect the monarchy against republicans and socialists and gathered a circle of conservative intellectuals and artists known as «Circolo della regina» ('Circle of the Queen') in her famous literary salon known as «giovedì della regina» (Queen's Thursday's'), were she benefited artists and writers.[16] Among her circle of artists were G. Carducci, who famously wrote an ode to her when she became queen, and M. Minghetti, who functioned as somewhat of her guide in cultural circles as well as her confidant.[17] She founded cultural institutions, notably the Società del Quartetto, and the Casa di Dante.

Queen Margherita also gathered loyalty toward the monarchy by social and charitable work.[18] She frequently visited and acted as the benefactor of hospitals, schools and institutions for children and the blind, founded the first library for the blind in Florence (1892).[19] Her work was effective and already during the 1880s, she had became the center of a personal cult as a popular symbol of the Italian monarchy and celebrated by poets, authors as well as by the press as a symbol of moral reform.[20]

King Umberto, in parallel, had love affairs with the so-called "contessa fatale" Vincenza Publicola-Santacroce, contessa di Santa Fiora beside duchessa Litta, whom he reportedly also asked for political advise, which exposed the court to scandal.[21] The queen, however, was close to her son and strengthen her relation to him even further after his wedding. Queen Margherita was also involved in state affairs: viewing democracy as a potential threat to the monarchy, she supported F. Crispi against in parliament.[22] As a nationalist, she did not hesitate to support First Italo-Ethiopian War in 1896, in contrast to Umberto, who was hesitant.[23] As a center figure of the conservative forces, she supported the repressive actions toward the rioters in Milan in 1898, which lead to the Bava-Beccaris massacre.[24]

On 18 August 1893, in the company of various guides, porters, Alpini, politicians and aristocrats, Margherita climbed the Punta Gnifetti (or Signalkuppe), a peak of the Monte Rosa massif on the Swiss-Italian border, for the inauguration of the mountain hut named after her.[25] At 4,554 metres the Capanna Regina Margherita, remains the highest hut in Europe. Margherita later accepted the position of Honorary President of the Ladies' Alpine Club.[26]

Queen dowager

On 29 July 1900 Umberto I, after the attempted murders by anarchists Giovanni Passannante and Pietro Acciarito, was killed by another anarchist, Gaetano Bresci. Margherita was met with an enormous amount of sympathy as the widow of an assassinated monarch, which created a veritable myth around her as the mourning widow.[27] She was aware of this mythology and acted accordingly in this part to benefit the prestige of the monarchy.[28]

As queen dowager, Margherita did accept to take a step back and allow her daughter-in-law to take precedence, as this was a part of the monarchical system which was her ideal.[29] However, this did not mean that she retired from public life, and she remained a dominant public figure, performing what she regarded her dynastic duties by making official visits to hospitals and churches until her death.

She disliked her son the king's tolerance for democracy, which she viewed as a form of socialistic monarchy, and worked to ensure the monarchical traditions as much as she could against democratic tendencies.[30] Her son did not wish to allow her any influence in state affairs, but she remained involved in politics through her connections and remained a political figure.[31] In contrast to most nationalists, however, Margherita opposed World War I. During the war, she made one of her residences in to a hospital and engaged actively within the Red Cross.[32]

After the end of the World War I, Margherita feared a Socialist Revolution and the end of the monarchy and this, combined with her nationalism, social conservatism and anti parliamentarianism,[33] led her to support Fascism under Benito Mussolini, for which she felt a personal regard,[34] though she never explicitly expressed her support.[35] In October 1922 the quadrumvirs (Emilio De Bono, Italo Balbo, Michele Bianchi and Cesare Maria de Vecchi) visited her at Bordighera to pay their respects prior to the March on Rome.


In 1879, the town of Margherita di Savoia, in Apulia, Italy, near Barletta, was named after her. In 1881, the mining town of Margherita in Assam, India was named after her.

Also in 1881 a large glass-window was made of her by Studio Moretti Caselli in Perugia, which was then shown around Italy and Europe before returning.[36][37]

According to legend, in 1889, the Margherita pizza, whose red tomatoes, green basil, and white cheese represent the Italian flag, was named after her.[38]

In 1906, the Queen mother’s nephew Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi made the first ascent of the highest summit of Mount Stanley (the third highest mountain in Africa) and named it Margherita Peak in her honour.[39]

In 2011, some of the Queen's jewellery was auctioned at Christies.[40]

Arms and Monogram

Alliance Coat of Arms of King Victor Emanuel III and Queen Helena
Royal Monogram of Queen Margherita of Italy



  1. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  2. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  3. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  4. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  5. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  6. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  7. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  8. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  9. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  10. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  11. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  12. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  13. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  14. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  15. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  16. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  17. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  18. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  19. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  20. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  21. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  22. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  23. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  24. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  25. ‘Rifugio Regina Margherita alla Punta Gnifetti’, The official opening ceremony took place a fortnight later on 4 September.
  26. David Doughan, Peter Gordon, Women, Clubs and Associations in Britain (2007), p. 111
  27. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  28. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  29. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  30. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  31. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  32. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  33. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  34. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  35. Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 70 (2008)
  36. "Studio Moretti Caselli in Perugia: a marriage of color and light - Italian Ways".
  38. "Classic dishes named after people". Daily Telegraph.
  39. Peter Bridges, ‘A Prince of Climbers’, Virginia Quarterly Review, 76-1 (Winter 2000), 38–51.
  40. "A collection of antique tortoiseshell jewels". Christies.

Media related to Margherita of Savoy at Wikimedia Commons

Margherita of Savoy
Born: 20 November 1851 Died: 4 January 1926
Italian royalty
Title last held by
Marie Louise of Austria
Queen consort of Italy
9 January 1878 – 29 July 1900
Succeeded by
Elena of Montenegro
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