Princess Mafalda of Savoy

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Mafalda
Landgravine of Hesse
Princess Mafalda of Italy.jpg
Princess Mafalda as a young girl.
Spouse Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
Issue Prince Moritz
Prince Heinrich
Prince Otto
Princess Elisabeth
Full name
Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana
House House of Hesse-Kassel
House of Savoy
Father Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Mother Elena of Montenegro
Born (1902-11-02)2 November 1902
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Died 27 August 1944(1944-08-27) (aged 41)
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, Nazi Germany
Burial Kronberg Castle, Hesse
Religion Roman Catholic

Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana of Savoy (English: Matilda Maria Elisabeth Anna Romana) (2 November 1902 – 27 August 1944) was the second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and his wife Jelena of Montenegro. The future King Umberto II of Italy was her younger brother.

Biography[edit]

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 1925, 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. 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".[1]

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; the Hauptsturmführer told Mafalda 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. After the bombing of 24 August, the dying Mafalda said to two other Italian inmates of the camp, "Remember me not as an Italian princess, but as an Italian sister[2]". Mafalda died during the night of 26–27 August 1944; her body was reburied after the war at Kronberg Castle in Hesse.[3]

Eugen Kogon, author of "The Theory and Practice of Hell - The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them" 1950, pp 131; adds more details of Princess Mafalda's death—some of it in conflict with the previous account. After the air raid of August 24, 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 crematory 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.

The Hessian royal family were not notified of her death although rumors began to circulate towards the end of 1944. Her death was not confirmed until after Germany had surrendered to the invading Allied armies in 1945.

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

Children[edit]

Princess Mafalda married Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse on 23 Sept 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 1940 Goslar – 11 April 1991 Hanover). {div. 3 February 1969} No issue.
  2. Married 2nd on 28 Dec 1988 to Elisabeth Marga Dorothea Bönker[4] (formerly Wittler)[5] (31 Jan 1944 Rumburg, Czechoslovakia - 12 Apr 2013). {div. 1994} No issue.

Ancestry[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 1902-1925: Her Royal Highness Princess Mafalda of Italy
  • 1925-1940: Her Royal Highness The Hereditary Princess of Hesse, Princess of Italy
  • 1940-1944: Her Royal Highness The Landgravine of Hesse, Princess of Italy

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Goebbels Diaries, entry of September 11, 1943.
  2. ^ From an italian website[Ricordatemi non come una principessa ma come una vostra sorella italiana ]
  3. ^ Princess Mafalda at forum.alexanderpalace.org
  4. ^ http://dinastias.forogeneral.es/pequeno-gotha-t1181-112.html
  5. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20091028120246/http://www.geocities.com/henrivanoene/genprussia06a.html#moritzofhesse