Maria Pia of Savoy – The penultimate Queen of Portugal (Part four)




maria pia savoy
(public domain)

Read part three here.

Maria Pia spent much of the year 1888 scouring Europe to find a wife for her second son Afonso. However, he was quite against marriage, and the long trip eventually became a source of ridicule. She returned home without a new daughter-in-law and to a sick husband. When she attended the theatre shortly after her return, she was booed by the public, who felt it was inappropriate for her to be there while Luis was ill. However, their marriage was nothing but a shell now, and she felt no inclination to return to him. In fact, she wanted to go to Italy to live with her sister Clotilde. In February 1889, Maria Pia ended her relationship with Thomas de Sousa Rosa, but it was hard for her. Luis’s health was clearly deteriorating now, and she would remain with him until the end, even if that meant sacrificing her personal happiness once more.

While Luis’s health was failing, so was the health of his only surviving brother Augusto. The brothers decided to move to Sintra to avoid the heat in Lisbon. Maria Pia joined them there as well. Luis initially showed some signs of improvement, but he had long suffered from syphilis, and he eventually became paralyzed from the waist down. Luis suddenly decided he wanted to go to Cascais on the seaside, and on 23 September, the family set out for Cascais. There he could enjoy a view of the sea from the terrace of the Citadel. Maria Pia never left his side and slept behind a screen set up in his room so she could hear him if he called for her. Her devoted care for her dying husband was also good for her image, and her popularity with the public was promptly restored.

Augusto was the first to die on 26 September 1889. He had been moved to the Necissadades Palace a few days before his death. The death of Augusto was kept from Luis as long as possible, and on the day of Augusto’s funeral, Luis underwent an operation to remove gangrene from his legs. It would not help. Luis died on 19 October 1889 at 11.05 in the morning. Maria Pia announced the death of her husband to the waiting ministers herself with the words, “The King is dead. Long live the King” before telling her eldest son, “May you be as good a king as you have been a son.”1

Just two months after Luis’s death, Maria Pia welcomed a second grandson into the world as Amélie gave birth to Manuel. Maria Pia was there as he was born. Although it should have been a happy time for them, it was around this time that the Braganzas of Brazil were being deposed, and they now had to play hosts to their exiled relatives as well. Little did they know that the end of the Portuguese monarchy was also coming. During the years of Maria Pia’s widowhood, the political climate in Portugal worsened, and Maria Pia wrote to Antonia that she feared that Portugal would become a republic as well.

As Maria Pia emerged from her mourning, she also returned to spending extravagantly, although she never forgot about her charities in that spending either. She also remained politically active, which then led to more rivalry with her daughter-in-law, who resented being kept out of the political affairs by her husband. In fact, Carlos and Amélie’s marriage was deteriorating, and he wanted to have her only do ceremonial duties.

On 29 July 1900, Maria Pia’s brother King Umberto I of Italy was assassinated by an anarchist. Maria Pia and Afonso were one of the first relatives to arrive after his death as they had been staying nearby. He had been her only remaining brother, and she was devastated by his death. It was a horrible foreboding of things to come for her own son.

It happened on 1 February 1908. Carlos, Amélie, Luis Filipe and Manuel were returning to Lisbon in an open carriage. Their carriage was followed by several other carriages as it passed through the streets by crowds of onlookers. The first assassin Manuel Buíça emerged from the crowd with a rifle and aimed for Carlos. His shot went through Carlos’s spine and killed him instantly. A second assassin, Alfredo Costa, shot twice more at Carlos. Amélie and Luis Filipe both stood up with Luis Filipe pulling out a revolver. Costa aimed at Luis Filipe and shot him in the chest, but Luis Filipe also managed to fire four rounds into his assassin – killing him. Luis Filipe was then shot in the face by Manuel Buíça. During the confusion, Manuel and the coachman were also injured, but the coachman still managed to drive the carriage away from the scene. Luis Filipe died a few moments later in the carriage.

Maria Pia was initially only informed that Carlos was injured but learned while en route that he had died. Upon arrival, she threw herself on his body, crying, “My son has been murdered!”2 To this, Amélie responded, “And mine too!”3 Then Maria Pia noticed the body of Luis Filipe, and she fainted. Amélie had remained unharmed while Manuel had been shot in the arm and was being attended to. The remaining family members returned to the Necessidades Palace later that day, where Maria Pia remained in stoic grief. Diarist Raul Brandou wrote, “The old Queen sat in a chair, without a word, without a tear, her glassy eyes fixed on the wall. And in this manner she stayed for hours, as unmoving as a rock.”4

After the deaths of her son and grandson, Maria Pia suffered a mental breakdown. She began to talk to herself, saw blood spatters in her rooms, did not sleep and had to be forced to eat. Along with her mental breakdown, her physical health also suffered. There was even some talk of having her committed to an insane asylum. The reign of her grandson Manuel was to be short – he was deposed on 5 October 1910. Maria Pia joined Manuel and Amélie as they left for exile, but she did not want to go to England with them, preferring to return to her native Italy. On 18 October 1910, her nephew King Victor Emmanuel III escorted her from her ship onto Italian soil. She stayed with them for some time before visiting her sister Clotilde and finally going to Naples, where she intended to settle. On 2 December, she was joined there by her second son Afonso whom she embraced, crying tears of joy.

In June 1911, Maria Pia hurried to be by her sister’s side as she lay dying at Moncalieri. As she died on 25 June, Maria Pia kissed her forehead and said, “Clotilde, I will soon follow.”5 She managed to return to her apartments at the Stupinigi Palace, where she had several uremic attacks. On 5 July 1911 at 3.15 in the afternoon, Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal, died in the arms of Queen Margherita, her sister-in-law, with her face turned towards Portugal as requested. Margherita later wrote, “She had suffered too many horrific wounds to withstand this last sorrow6.”7

She was interred in the Savoy family vault at The Basilica of Superga. Her wish to be returned to Portugal has remained unfulfilled.

  1. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.99
  2. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.99
  3. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.99
  4. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.123
  5. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.135
  6. The death of her sister Clotilde
  7. Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal by Sabrina Pollock p.136






About Moniek Bloks 2357 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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