The mystery of the Crown Jewels from the House of Savoy to Bankitalia-

by time news
from Enrica Roddolo

The Savoy and the question of the family’s jewels. The jewelry expert speaks to whom the family of the former kings of Italy asked to track down crowns, necklaces and brooches

Seventy-five years after the end of the monarchy in Italy, the crown jewels of the House of Savoy are locked in the vault of the Bank of Italy. Maria Gabriella di Savoia, interviewed for the Courier service he told me “that those jewels were actually private assets of the Savoy, because they are largely reconstituted by Queen Margherita … since much of the treasure of joys ended up being Napoleonic booty, it was Queen Margherita’s taste that made them redesign, rethink from the great jewelers of the time “.

(Here the Dataroom of Milena Gabanelli and Andrea Ducci on the case)

Maria Gabriella said she “never saw them, I asked to be able to photograph them, years ago – told the princess to Courier service – for a book on jewelry, but it was not possible. It’s been a long time, now they could at least expose themselves ». The same desire that the other members of the family have expressed to us on several occasions: starting with Vittorio Emanuele and his son Emanuele Filiberto: «They should at least be put on display, for the benefit of the Italian public».

I also asked Prince Michel of Yugoslavia,

son of Maria Pia, eldest daughter of the last king of Italy Umberto II and Queen Maria José: «Savoia jewels? The fact that they are in the Bank of Italy is in the light of day, at the Quirinale I remember seeing all the papers on display that document their presence, and with my mother and my brother Serge we often discussed them ». Michel from his father Alessandro Karađorđević, former royal family in the Balkans, at the fall of Slobodan Milosevic asked for the restitution of the properties lost in the Balkans, and so «5 years ago we returned to possession of the ancestral palace in Belgrade». Prince Aimone of Savoy also confirmed his desire for the joys of the House of Savoy to come back to light and be exhibited. Nobody claims ownership. This is a point that – curiously – finds the always disagreeing Savoy cousins ​​agree.

“Yeah, maybe it would be time for them to get back into the sun,” he says Courier service Stefano
Papi, the jewelry expert, “historical memory” of the mystery of the Savoy treasure who accepts, exclusively, to share memories and first-hand testimonies to retrace the path, from 1946 up to now, of the mystery of the Crown jewels. The mystery of diamonds, necklaces and crowns of the Umberto Biancamano family who reunified Italy in the 19th century and led the country until the 1946 Monarchy-Republic referendum.

«My grandmother Giulia was very close to the sister of Countess Cao di San Marco. And the count was the first to save those jewels while Italy was crossed by the winds of war. In short, my grandparents knew very well who hid the Crown treasure initially in the Quirinale long sleeve – explains the jewelry expert who worked for years in London for Sotheby’s, for a season also at Christie’s, and studied the treasure for a lifetime. Savoy -. And it all began in 1943, two days before 8 September when Vittorio Emanuele III was ready to flee to ».

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What exactly happened? «The king summoned Count Vitale Cao di San to Villa Savoia

Marco and asked him to keep them safe, in his absence, in the vaults of the Bank of Italy. In reality, when the Germans occupied the Eternal City, the count understood that the underground dating back to the sixteenth-seventeenth century that connected the ministry of the Royal House with the church of Sant’Andrea del Quirinale could be a safer hiding place: it is the tunnel built to connect Barberini palace at the Quirinale. Thus, in the middle of the night by candlelight, with the help of a loyal worker in the Savoy family, the jewels were walled up in that hiding place », says Papi.

Then on the return to the capital of the son of Vittorio Emanuele III, Umberto, as Lieutenant of the Kingdom, diamonds and precious stones of the Crown returned to his possession. Is that so? «Yes, on returning to Rome, Umberto had the precious items removed and thus returned to his availability. Until that June 1946: while the outcome of the referendum between the Monarchy and the Republic was taking place, Umberto, before leaving for exile on June 13 aboard a Savoia Marchetti, entrusted them again to the Minister of the Royal House, Falcone Lucifero who he handed them over to the then governor of the Bank of Italy, Luigi Einaudi ».

The fate of the jewels was thus linked, in that June 75 years ago, with the secret and safe rooms in via Nazionale in Rome. They were entrusted to Einaudi, later president of the republic, with the words “to whom by right”. A phrase that over the decades has raised questions, “in reality it simply indicated that since they are Crown jewels they should belong to those who in the future had the right, as sovereign of Italy”.

But in a country that has now become a republic, that phrase “to whom by right” ended up generating
a situation of suspension over time of the fate of the Crown jewels of the House of Savoy. Over the years, speaking with various members of the House of Savoy, more than claims of those jewels, voices have been raised that wished for their exposure to the public. As is already the case with the Windsor jewels or those of the royals of Denmark.

Why does no one want to uncover jewels? “Because it is never the right historical moment to reopen the debate on the fate of those jewels,” by right “of those who lead the country … but I believe that precisely because the republic is now 75 years old, that treasure can become an attraction tourist. If not on display in the rooms of the Quirinale, once the Savoy palace, now the residence of the president of the republic, at the Quirinale stables? ».

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The jewelry expert for years, in secret, has followed the fate of crowns, brooches and bracelets that represented the symbols of the power of the House of Savoy. «My father, the notary Vincenzo Papi, knew well the then governor of the Bank of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi: we met every summer in Santa Severa where our two families had houses by the sea – explains Papi -. So I asked Ciampi to be able to see the jewels, and the governor assured me that he would let me have some photos and… maybe we could also see the treasures of the House of Savoy. But then he realized that to avoid letting loose ends, it was wise to leave those valuables behind closed doors. Years later, the three daughters and the heir of the last king delegated me as their trusted expert to go and see in what condition those precious were after a long time: after all, the last time they had been seen by the president of the goldsmiths of Rome , Roberto Vespasiani who subjected them to an appraisal and inventoried them ».

Even the jeweler Gianni Bulgari in the 70s was able to see them and at the time in fact, an estimate was made of their value which was decidedly penalizing for the ancient cut of diamonds. It was said that the old-fashioned cut of gems was of little value. «In reality, just looking at the record figures reached in recent months by secular jewels sent up for auction, the opposite is true: the historical and actual value of jewels increases over the centuries. Not to mention the tiara of the House of Savoy sold at Sotheby’s in the spring ». Yes, the sumptuous tiara that belonged to the House of Savoy for 150 years was auctioned for a record $ 1.6 million: one of the highest prices ever raised by a tiara at auction. Awarded by Sotheby’s “to an Asian private buyer: there is a growing interest from Asian collectors interested in jewels with a long history, better if they belonged to the real European Gotha”, as explained by Geneva to Courier service, Benoit Repellin, head of the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels project. A family tiara in that case, however, not of the Crown like those kept in the Bank of Italy.

Because the distinction must be made between jewels endowed with the Crown of the Kingdom of Italy

and family bijoux of the House of Savoy. The first, the precious treasure locked up in the Bank of Italy, are crowns, necklaces and other precious items handed down from sovereign to sovereign as elements of royal power as well as for the jewels of the British crown or other royal dynasties.

The London example. The jewels that Her Majesty Elizabeth II owns “in title”, or rather as the current reigning sovereign, they are kept in the Tower of London, but open to visitors. As well as those of Denmark are kept in the Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen: in the basement of the fortress, once a castle, furnished with Renaissance taste by King Christian IV and today a veritable treasure trove of crowns and scepters, swords, diadems, necklaces and earrings preserved here over the centuries. There you can admire the emeralds given by Christian IV to Queen Sophie Magdalene of Denmark and the crown of Christian IV. “To some of these jewels, in recent times, the current queen Margrethe wanted to make small changes dictated by security measures – explained Axel Harms, head of the Royal Danish Collection Archives in Roseborg and Amalienborg palace -. For example, closures for the most important earrings, for fear of losing them ».

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In the case of reigning monarchies, the Crown Jewels play a role current: so for example every year – and most recently also on 11 May for the Opening of the Parliament in London – the Imperial state crown British preceded the queen’s entrance on a purple cushion (and Elizabeth once wore it on her head). In the case of the crown jewels of the House of Savoy, the jewels, on the other hand, have a mere historical value.

But what, in more detail, is kept under lock and key? What, someday maybe, will Italians be able to admire on display if the jewels will ever be brought to light? «The great diadem that belonged to Queen Margherita, the most elegant sovereign of the Savoy family who appeared in the theater in Vienna, dressed in red and sparkling with diamonds and pearls – explains Papi -. Then there are diamonds and teardrop pearls. And brooches, two large bracelets, a chocker, a large one riviera of diamonds, and a large chain with final tassels and five large precious bows that the sovereign often wore: all pieces made by the jeweler Musy that over the years were worn by Queen Margherita and Queen Elena, never by Maria José the last queen ».

The famous pearls of Queen Margherita? “No, not Margherita pearls … which were divided among various members of the family ». To monitor the state of conservation, years later there was a new attempt to bring to light or at least be able to ascertain the condition of conservation of the jewels: “Through the tailor Roberto Capucci, in contact with family members of the then governor of Bank of Italy, the current premier, I had made a new attempt. But even in that case nothing came of it. ”

King Umberto II, in exile in Portugal at Villa Italia, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, he repeated that “monarchies are like dreams of the night: either they immediately come to mind or never again”. Who knows if it will also be the fate of the jewels, to reappear in the sunlight (sooner or later). Or never again.

November 24, 2021 (change November 24, 2021 | 14:00)

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