My parents were living in Rome when I was born in January of 1939. In January of the following year my father died, and my mother decided to move to Greece, owing to the wishes of my father that I be raised Greek. But she received word from Greece that the situation was much too serious for us to come and live there at the moment.
In May of 1940, four months before the ultimatum, King George II sent a letter to my mother, imploring her to leave Italy because Mussolini was preparing to attack Greece. If we were in Italy when this happened, we would have been considered enemy subjects and sent to an internment camp. Clearly, the ultimatum was not much of a surprise if the King of Greece was expecting it. Now the question was where to go? Morocco of course.
In the early 20th century, my French grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Guise, newly married, were living with their children on a vast estate in the north of France. The Chateau of Nouvion was a gloomy and dreary home, the region lacked resources, and my grandmother was bored to death. One day she decided she needed an adventure, so she took her reticent husband and her enchanted children to Tangiers. From there they traveled south down the Moroccan coast by horse. This was before the arrival of French and Spanish colonizers. Morocco belonged to the Sultan, who gave land to foreigners who came to cultivate it. And so my grandparents received a vast property.
Later, my grandfather became the head of the House of France, and my grandmother had many important political responsibilities, yet they never abandoned Morocco. My grandmother returned annually for long trips. This home was the perfect place of exile for us. We embarked with a chambermaid, a nanny, and trunks on the Rex, the famous Italian cruise ship. A young boy of 14 or 15 saw the enormous ship brilliantly illuminated passing by from the beach where he was walking. He read the name Rex. It was Federico Fellini, and the scene was just as he describe in his autobiographical film “Amarcord.” The only time I met him, I told him that if he saw the ship, I was on board.
In Morocco, we disembarked in Tangiers and took a car to the small city of Larache where my grandmother welcomed us. We were not alone, my aunt Isabelle was there with her children as well as my uncle, the Count of Paris, who brought his progeny from Belgium. Soon, the home resembled a true tower of Babel.
Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith