Friday, December 29, 2017

Etiquette and an Italian Queen

Though her father “was utterly lacking in royal etiquette” it did not preclude him from making advantageous and successful matrimonial matches for all of his Princess daughters. – Queen Elena of Italy was the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro and his wife, Milena Vukotić. As wife of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, she was Queen of Italy from 1900 until 1946 and Queen consort of the Albanians from 1939 until 1943.

We Celebrate – Italian King and Queen Seventeen Years Married 

Old King Nicholas of Montenegro is famed as a warrior, poet and playwright, and he is also entitled to rank as the world’s greatest matrimonial matchmaker. Once somebody remarked, in the presence of the Montenegrin Monarch, that the little Balkan state had no exports, “Sir," said the King, “you forget my daughters!” Through the marriages he arranged for his feminine offspring, Nicholas is related to most of the royal families of Europe. But his great coup, his matrimonial masterstroke, was when he married his daughter Elena to the King of Italy just 17 years ago today.

The alliance between Vittorio Emanuel III, ruler of a world-power, and the daughter of a petty Prince —for Nicholas has not yet proclaimed himself King —startled all the Courts of Europe. Not only was Montenegro small and unimportant, but it was hardly considered civilized. Nicholas, the Prince of “Gospodar” was utterly lacking in royal etiquette. He often held Court under a tree, acting as judge and rendering verdicts on petty quarrels of his people. He clung—and still clings—to the picturesque costume of his ancestors, consisting of gold-embroidered coat, baggy trousers, high boots and tambourine cap, with a pair of pear-handled pistols sticking from his belt. He wore such a costume to Rome when he arranged the details of the wedding. 

Europe stood aghast at the match, and yet there can found no happier wedded pair in Europe than little Victor Emmanuel and his stalwart Montenegrin wife. Like all her countrywomen, Queen Elena is “most divinely tall” and towers far above her husband. The Italian King will celebrate his seventeenth wedding anniversary today without a regret, and the Queen is the happiest of wives and most devoted of mothers. Yet, it may be stated as a fact that the King has utterly failed in living up to the three favorite Montenegrin proverbs for the government of wives. 

“He who doesn’t beat his wife is no man,” is a proverbial bit of wisdom that is still in full force in Montenegro. Another cynical saying of male Montenegrins is, “Twice in a lifetime is a man happy—once when he marries his wife, and again when he buries her.” Among Montenegrin women there is a proverb which runs, “Love me true, love me quick; pull my hair, and use the stick.” It is safe to say that Victor Emmanuel has never lived up to the latter part of this proverb. 

The youth of Queen Elena was spent in the ramshackle old Palace of her father in Cetinje, and in wandering, gun in hand, about the mountains of her native land. Like her sisters, who all married well, Elena had a French governess, and she was taught the French and Italian languages, as well as her native Serb tongue. She is a crack shot with the rifle, and if the Italian Royal family should be dismissed from the job of reigning, Elena could be depended upon to keep the larder supplied with game. King Victor and Queen Elena have had four children, one son and three daughters. The Crown Prince, now in his tenth year, has many of the physical characteristics of his mother, and promises to be a true Montenegrin in stature. – Sacramento Union, 1913

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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