A Royal Love Match - A Tragic Disappointment - How the Present King of Italy Overcame His Ill-health - His Wooing and Marriage - A Beautiful and Accomplished Queen - Some Motoring and Mountaineering Experiences - King Humbert's Practical Joke - The Honourable Economy of the Italian Court
It was owing to the unscrupulousness of Court scandalmongers and gossipers that the world was led to believe, when the late King Humbert of Italy married, in 1868, his cousin, Princess Margherita of Savoy, daughter of the Duke of Genoa, that, like many other Royal marriages, it was a manage de convenance.
This unworthy assertion is entirely without foundation. It was a genuine love match in every sense of the term. In the words of one who, for many years, was on terms of the closest intimacy with both Queen Margherita and King Humbert, "the family life of the late King was a model of conjugal relationship."
A Delicate Prince
The birth of their only child, the present King of Italy, was a source of keen disappointment to both Queen Margherita and King Humbert, because, physically, the little Prince seemed too delicate for the exalted but arduous position which he would one day be called upon to fill. He was almost a hunchback, and his health was so frail that it was never thought for one moment he would outlive his boyhood. In the end, however, he triumphed over his infirmities, thanks to the unremitting care and attention of his mother, as well as to the "English system" of training future monarchs, which, although somewhat Spartan in principle, worked wonders in the case of the heir to the throne of Italy. Cold baths, open windows, riding in hail, rain, and snow, strenuous gymnastics - such was the course of training to which the present King of Italy was subjected, and which ultimately transformed him from a delicate youth into a fairly strong man. A Just Ruler
As everyone knows, he met and fell in love with the Princess Helene of Montenegro, and the result of that happy union has been the birth of four of the most charming Royal children in Europe, whose life, and that of their parents, has been described on page 2039, Vol. 3, of Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.
King Emmanuel, as a young man, soon showed that he was possessed of a strong capacity for understanding the responsibilities of his position, and a determination to carry out his ideas and principles at all costs. When his father was assassinated, he declined to make the crime an excuse for declaring martial law and adopting the sternest of measures for stamping out anarchy.
It is said that Queen Margherita disapproved of his leniency, and of the spot chosen for her husband's burial. She wished his body to lie at Turin in the tomb of the House of Savoy, for fear of wounding the susceptibilities of the Papal party, which is very sensitive about the presence of the Italian Kings in Rome. It is said that she was in her boudoir with the Duke of Aosta, heir to the throne while Victor Emmanuel III. had no son. The young King, pale and tired, entered the room.
" It is all arranged," he exclaimed; "my father is to have a fitting burial place in the Pantheon!"
"Victor," cried his mother, "I see you want to break my heart! You offend my religion as well as my affection."
" I am sorry, mother," he said gently. And then added sternly : "A religion which is offended at a martyr being buried in his own capital needs radical changes." And the young King had his way, as he usually does.
The Story of a Great Sorrow
There is no doubt that the beauty and many accomplishments of Queen Margherita won for her extreme popularity throughout Italy. A brilliant linguist, a skilled musician, and a clever painter, she has done much to encourage the arts in the "land of sunny skies." She knows well both German and Italian literature, and has always been very fond of the society of men of thought and letters. Indeed, at her intimate afternoon teas some of the leading men of the land could be met, who dropped in to chat away an hour without ceremony. Among those whom the Queen loved to receive was the late Minister Minghetti, a simple, gentle, yet manly burgher who was well versed in matters of art and letters.
The Queen is an ardent motorist, but it is sad to reflect, however, that Queen Margherita's love of motoring is really due to the fact that this is the only kind of recreation which can banish from her mind the dreadful scene when the lifeless body of her husband, King Humbert, was brought to her on the fateful day in July, 1900. After she had somewhat recovered from the terrible shock of that day, Queen Margherita found that the rapid motion and the frequent change of scene possible to the motorist were the only means she knew of curing her of her sad re-flections. "There is no doubt," she once re-marked, "that the motor-car is the best cure I have ever experienced. It is only when I am motoring that the vision of my husband, as they brought him home dead leaves me. When in my beloved motor-car, I am a normal woman."
The Queen has pursued her recreation in spite of many adven-tures and several narrow escapes from serious injury. During a tour she once took in Switzerland she had an exciting adventure. As her car approached a roadside inn a number of men came out and placed a huge beam of wood across the roadway, thus barring further progress. In spite of entreaties, they absolutely refused to remove it until gendarmes had been summoned. Meanwhile the Queen and her companions were exposed to insulting remarks from the men. On another occasion she was pelted with missiles by the country people near the French frontier, and had to be preceded by a police pilot-car, so great was popular dislike to the motor. On several occasions she has been held up and fined, while once, when returning from the mountains, she was thrown violently out of her car, escaping death only by a miracle.