princess mafalda of savoy

Mafalda (1934). Leonard Campbell Taylor (British, 1874-1969). Oil on canvas. Bradford Museums and Galleries.

Princess Mafalda of Savoy was married to Queen Victoria’s Great Grandson and was the daughter of the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III. During WW II, Adolf Hitler believed she was working against the war effort; he called her the “blackest carrion in the Italian royal house.” She was imprisoned and died at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

The Hesse family wedding tiara.  The sheaves of wheat were originally on a gown in the trousseau of Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia.  Her dowry became part of the Hesse inheritance after her premature death in 1844, and her husband’s second wife, Landgravine Anna of Hesse (née Princess Anna of Prussia) commissioned the tiara.  It was first worn by Princess Mafalda of Savoy when she married Prince Philipp of Hesse in 1925, and it was most recently worn by Laetitia Bechtolf when she married Prince Philipp of Hesse in 2006.

The most shocking treatment was reserved of Philipp’s beloved wife, Princess Mafalda, a daughter of the King of Italy. Hitler blamed the Italian royal family for the coup against Mussolini and in his eyes she became ‘a bitch’ and 'a traitor’. Having fled for refuge to the Vatican in Rome, she was lured out again into Nazi captivity on the promise of receiving a message from her husband. It was a cruel trick. She was flown back to Germany, her royal status far from being an asset, now a death sentence. In Buchenwald concentration camp she was kept in the Isolation Barracks along with other high-ranking prisoners. Her cell was located in the most dangerous part of the camp, close to an armaments factory that was an Allied target, the fear of bombing adding to the inmates’ torment.
—  Princes At War, Deborah Cadbury