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Italy

The Marchioness of Serristori didn’t want to leave her Palace

Benedetta is a grand lady and a dear friend of mine who lives in Florence. Her grandmother, the Marchioness of Serristori, was one of the most important figures in Florentine society. The Marchioness owned a splendid palace which was filled with works of art. She loved her home and devoted all her time and energy…

The Fontanelle cemetery and the skulls that grant wishes

Ciro Palladino is a taxi-driver in Naples. He also happens to be an extraordinarily erudite man. He is familiar with every historic monument in the city, every legend, every story, and every noble family. He is the most unusual guide I have ever met, and it was he who introduced me to the skulls of…

Zucco or the Mafia’s Wine

A distant uncle, Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, inherited a fine estate about 50 kilometres from Palermo from his mother, The Queen of the french,Maria Amalia of the two Sicilers.  The property was called Zucco, and included vineyard which produced a highly-reputed sweet wine. In my youth, I sampled several bottles of it, all etched…

San Gennaro

One of France’s most fervent opponents during the Revolution was Maria Carolina of Austria. The wife of Ferdinand, King of Naples, known as « Il Re Nasone »  or « king big-nose », she was a sophisticated and cultivated woman with strong political convictions. She hated the revolutionaries who had killed her sister, Marie-Antoinette. When General Championnet’s revolutionary army…

The Ruby Ring

One evening in May 1945, a launch from the Italian fleet set off from the shore through the waves and sped towards a cruiser named the Duke of the Abruzzi which was anchored out to sea. On board, a tall lady was sitting next to her tiny husband on a bench at the rear. She…

Italy

King Victor Emmanuel II, head of the House of the Dukes of Savoy. It was in great part due to his intelligent minister, Cavour, and the Freemasons, to which he belonged, that Italy was unified under the royal scepter. A larger than life character, and a ladies’ man, he was loved by Queen Victoria, who…

King Ferdinand’s Infidelities

Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies, had a poor reputation. Nicknamed the Nose King, owing to his formidable nasal appendage, he was seen as an ultra-conservative, and both cruel and stupid. He wasn’t properly educated by his private tutor the Duke of San Nicandro, as such he only spoke the Neapolitan dialect. He also…

Fascist Italy 4

In Morocco, where the Duke and Duchess of Guise lived during the war. Pictured is their son Henry, the future Count of Paris, and his Cousin, Amedeo, the future Duke of Aosta.   Amedeo of Savoy, the Duke of Aosta, was a committed athlete. He is pictured here in a bathing suit in front of…

Fascist Italy III

The Santa Chiara Church in Naples, the day after it was bombed. Helen, the old Duchess of Aosta, was called in to gather and clean up the bones of the former Kings of Naples, whose tombs had burst open during the bombing.   Umberto, the Prince of Piedmont, the second from the left, with the…

Fascist Italy II

The two Duchesses of Aosta, the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law, the aunt and the niece. Helen of France, the Dowager, gives a rather fascist looking salute, while her daughter-in-law, Anne of France, salutes more discretely, like her opinions.   Photograph signed by King Victor Emmanuel III. He is posing on the terrace of one of…