Margherita di Savoia

Queen Margherita of Savoy

The first queen of Italy was born in Turin on November 20th, 1851. Eldest daughter of Ferdinand of Savoy Duke of Genoa, younger brother of King Vittorio Emanuele II, and Mary Elizabeth, Princess of Saxony. On April 22nd 1868 she married the future king, Umberto I of Savoy, his first cousin. The wedding gift from the King to the newlyweds: the Royal Villa of Monza, former summer residence of the Habsburg Archduke.

The honeymoon had clear political intentions, conceived as a grand promotional tour throughout the peninsula, in order to strengthen the unity of Italy and present the future sovereign. Settled in Naples, in the residence of Capodimonte, in 1869 she gave birth to her only son, Vittorio Emanuele III.

On January 9 1878, Umberto takes the throne and Margherita became the first queen of Italy. They went to live in the Quirinal Palace in Rome, but also frequently resided in the Royal Villa of Monza, their favorite summer residence. The marriage was unhappy because of the constant infidelities of her husband, who had already started a relationship with an exponent of the Milanese aristocracy, the Duchess Eugenia Attendolo Bolognini in Litta Visconti Arese. Nevertheless Margherita remained with dignity at his side, supporting him politically.

Smart, stylish and sensible to the arts, she was a very popular queen loved by her people. Equipped with political intuition she gave a decisive contribution to the construction of national identity of the ruling house, gaining appreciation also from the republican Carducci, who dedicated the poem Alla Regina d’Italia (To the queen of Italy). A cult of the queen began; the life at court was brilliant and the so-called "Marguerite style" extended to all aspects of life, from food to clothing.

The 29th July 1900 Umberto and Margherita were visiting Monza, invited by the sports club Forti e Liberi to reward various athletes. At 22.30 of that day, at the end of an athletic event, the king was killed by the anarchic Gaetano Bresci, just in front of the Villa. On the 11th of August 1900, the throne passed to her son, who became King Vittorio Emanuele III, and Margherita discreetly adapted to the queen mother's role, passing the scene to the daughter in law, Elena.

She died in Bordighera in 1926 and is buried in the Pantheon.