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Princess Mafalda of Savoy

Italian princess
The basics
About
Date of birth Rome, Province of Rome, Lazio, Italy
Date of death Aug 27, 1944 Buchenwald concentration camp, Weimar, Thuringia, Germany
Family
Children: Moritz, Landgrave of Hesse Prince Heinrich of Hesse-Kassel
Father: Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Brother(s): Umberto II of Italy
Spouse: Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
Mother: Elena of Montenegro
Sister(s): Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy Giovanna of Italy Princess Yolanda of Savoy
Authority ISNI id VIAF id Library of congress id
The details
Biography

Princess Mafalda of Savoy (2 November 1902 – 27 August 1944) was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Elena of Montenegro. The future King Umberto II of Italy was her younger brother.

Biography

Mafalda was born in Rome. In childhood she was close to her mother, from whom she inherited a love for music and the arts. During World War I, she accompanied her mother on her visits to Italian military hospitals.

On 23 September 1924, at Racconigi Castle, Mafalda married Prince Philipp of Hesse, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and grandson of German Emperor Frederick III. Prince Philipp and his brother Christoph, were members of the National Socialist (Nazi) party.

Prince Philipp's marriage to Princess Mafalda put him in position to act as intermediary between the National Socialist government in Germany and the Fascist government in Italy. On the evening of the 26 March 1935 she was present at an informal diplomatic dinner given by Adolf Hitler in the Reich President's House in Berlin. She sat next to Anthony Eden.

However, during World War II, Adolf Hitler believed Princess Mafalda was working against the war effort; he called her the "blackest carrion in the Italian royal house". So did Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, who called her "the worst bitch [grösste Rabenaas] in the entire Italian royal house".

Early in September 1943, Princess Mafalda travelled to Bulgaria to attend the funeral of her brother-in-law, King Boris III. While there, she was informed of Italy's surrender to the Allied Powers, that her husband was being held under house arrest in Bavaria, and that her children had been given sanctuary in the Vatican. The Gestapo ordered her arrest, and on 23 September she received a telephone call from Hauptsturmführer Karl Hass at the German High Command, who told her that he had an important message from her husband. On her arrival at the German embassy, Mafalda was arrested, ostensibly for subversive activities. Princess Mafalda was transported to Munich for questioning, then to Berlin, and finally to Buchenwald concentration camp.

On 24 August 1944, the Allies bombed an ammunition factory inside Buchenwald. Some four hundred prisoners were killed and Princess Mafalda was seriously wounded: she had been housed in a unit adjacent to the bombed factory, and when the attack occurred she was buried up to her neck in debris and suffered severe burns to her arm. The conditions of the labour camp caused her arm to become infected, and the medical staff at the facility amputated it; she bled profusely during the operation and never regained consciousness. She died during the night of 26–27 August 1944; her body was reburied after the war at Kronberg Castle in Hesse.

Eugen Kogon, author of The Theory and Practice of Hell – The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them (1950), page 131; adds more details of Mafalda's death — some of it in conflict with the previous account. After the air raid of 24 August 1944, the princess was wounded in the arm and Dr. Schiedlausky, camp medical office, performed the arm amputation, but his patient did not survive due to loss of blood. Her naked body was dumped into the crematorium, where Father Joseph Thyl, dug it out of the body heap, covered her up, and arranged for speedy cremation. Thyl cut off a lock of the princess's hair, which was smuggled out of camp to be kept in Jena, until it could be sent on to her German relatives. Her death was not confirmed until after Germany's surrender to the Allies in 1945.

In 1997, the Italian government honored Princess Mafalda with her image on a postal stamp.

Children

Princess Mafalda with sons Moritz and Heinrich in the 1930s

Princess Mafalda married Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse on 23 September 1925 (civil & religious) at Racconigi Castle near Turin. They had the following children:

  1. Married 1st on 5 April 1965 (civil) in Munich and 6 April 1965 (religious) in Trotsberg Angela Mathilde Agathe von Doering (12 Aug 1941 Goslar – 11 April 1991 Hanover). {div. 3 February 1969} No issue.
  2. Married 2nd on 28 December 1988 to Elisabeth Marga Dorothea Bönker (formerly Wittler) (31 Jan 1944 Rumburg, Czechoslovakia – 12 April 2013). {div. 1994} No issue.
  • Princess Elisabeth Margarethe Elena Johanna Maria Jolanda Polyxene (b. 8 October 1941 Villa Savoia, Rome); married 26 Feb (civil) and 28 Feb (religious) 1962 in Frankfurt am Main to Count Friedrich Karl von Oppersdorf (30 Jan 1923 Głogówek – 11 January 1985 Gravenbruch). Had issue.

Title, styles and honours

Title

  • 2 November 1902 – 23 September 1925: Her Royal Highness Princess Mafalda of Savoy
  • 23 September 1925 – 27 May 1940: Her Royal Highness Princess Mafalda of Hesse
  • 27 May 1940 – 27 August 1944: Her Royal Highness The Landgravine of Hesse

Honours

National honours

  • Kingdom of Italy House of Savoy: Knight Grand Cordon of the Royal Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
    • Sovereign Military Order of Malta: Knight Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, 3rd First Class

Ancestry

Trivia

Mafaldine, also known as Reginette (Italian for little queens), is a type of ribbon-shaped pasta, which was named in honor of the Princess.

The contents of this page are sourced from a Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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