Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Death of Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy, Princess of Bourbon-Parma who died on this day in 2001! The eldest daughter of wartime King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Princess Maria Francesca married a Bourbon-Parma Prince and lived in France after a harrowing experience in a Nazi Concentration Camp during the Second World War, so to mark the anniversary, we are featuring Princess Maria Francesca’s spectacular Petochi Diamond Tiara!
But first lets learn about Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy, Princess of Bourbon-Parma! The youngest child of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Princess Elena of Montenegro, she was the sister of of King Umberto II of Italy, Princess Yolanda, Countess of Bergolo, Princess Mafalda, Landgravine of Hesse, and Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria, growing up at the spectacular Quirinal Palace in Rome. In 1939, she married Prince Luigi of Bourbon-Parma, the son of Robert I, the Duke of Parma and Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal. The couple moved Cannes and had four children, Prince Guy, Prince Rémy, Princess Chantal, and Prince Jean, before being interned by the Nazis during WWII, and returning to France to live at Mandelieu-la-Napoule, near Cannes. Later in life, her grandchildren tried to persuade her to write her biography, but she always rejected the proposal: she never wanted to talk about the terrible suffering experienced during the years spent in the Nazi Concentration Camp (her sister Princess Mafalda passed away in a Concentration Camp). Prince Luigi passed away in 1967, while Princess Maria Francesca died on this day in 2001.
Made by the Italian Jeweller Petochi in the late 1930s using diamonds that belonged to the Italian Royal Family, the Tiara, which can be divided into seven brooches, was the wedding gift to Princess Maria Francesca from her parents, King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena of Italy, and one of the brooches was likely worn on her Wedding Day in 1939, to secure the ‘long lace veil held in place by a diamond clasp’. King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena also gave a Petochi Diamond Tiara to their elder daughter, Princess Yolanda, while Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Landgravine of Hesse got an Ears of Wheat Tiara, and Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria got a Pearl Tiara.
The Tiara survived the family’s harrowing years in the Concentration Camp and Princess Maria Francesca was notably pictured wearing her Petochi Diamond Tiara at the Wedding Gala of Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and her niece, Princess Maria Pia of Savoy, at the Palace Hotel of Estoril in Portugal 1955.
In 1964, the Petochi Diamond Tiara was worn by Brigite Peu-Duvallon when she married Prince Guy of Bourbon-Parma, the elder son of Princess Maria Francesca and Prince Luigi, in Cannes, which seems to be its last public appearance.
Like Princess Yolanda’s Tiara, at some point in recent years, Princess Maria Francesca’s children have sold the Petochi Diamond Tiara, which seems to have been acquired by the Al Thani Collection Exhibition, belonging to the Qatar Royal Family, being exhibited with the Orléans Emerald Necklace at the Château de Fontainebleau in 2018.