Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Landgravine of Hesse

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Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the death of Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Landgravine of Hesse, who died in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp on this day in 1944. The second daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Princess Elena of Montenegro, Princess Mafalda was born in Rome and inherited a love for music and the arts from her mother, accompanying her on visits to Italian military hospitals during the First World War. In 1925, she married Prince Philipp, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, with whom she had four children. Prince Philipp’s marriage to the Princess made him an intermediary between the Nazi government in Germany and the Fascist government in Italy, however, Hitler believed she was working against the War effort during the Second World War, and called her the ‘blackest carrion in the Italian royal house’. In 1943, Princess Mafalda travelled to Bulgaria to attend the funeral of her brother-in-law, Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria (quite likely poisoned by the Nazis), when Italy surrendered to the Allies. She learned that her husband was under house arrest and her children had been given sanctuary in the Vatican. Meanwhile, Princess Mafalda was called to the German High Command, to receive a message from her husband, where she was arrested by the Gestapo for subversive activities, being transported to Munich for questioning, then to Berlin, and finally to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. On 24 August 1944, the Allies bombed an ammunition factory inside Buchenwald, when she was seriously wounded, and her arm became infected before it was amputated. Princess Mafalda bled profusely during the operation and never regained consciousness, dying during the night of August 26–27. One account says that her body was dumped into the crematorium, where a Priest dug it out of the body heap, covered her up, and arranged for speedy cremation, cutting off a lock of the Princess’s hair, which was smuggled out of camp until it could be sent on to her relatives. Another account says that Princess Mafalda’s body was reburied after the war at Kronberg Castle in Hesse.

Click HERE to learn about the Hesse Ears of Wheat Tiara!

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