Giovanna of Italy

Not to be confused with Joan of Savoy.
Giovanna of Savoy

Giovanna, 1937
Tsaritsa consort of Bulgaria
Tenure 25 October 1930 – 28 August 1943
Born (1907-11-13)13 November 1907
Rome, Italy
Died 26 February 2000(2000-02-26) (aged 92)
Estoril, Portugal
Burial Communal Cemetery of Assisi
Spouse Boris III of Bulgaria
Issue Marie Louise, Princess of Koháry
Simeon II of Bulgaria
Full name
Italian: Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria
House Savoy
Father Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Mother Elena of Montenegro
Religion Roman Catholicism

Giovanna of Italy (Bulgarian: Йоанна Савойска, Italian: Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria) (13 November 1907 – 26 February 2000) was the Tsaritsa of Bulgaria.


Princess Giovanna of Savoy as a child.

Giovanna was born in Rome, the third daughter and fourth child of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Queen Elena, former Princess of Montenegro. Upon her Roman Catholic christening, she was given the names Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria. Her older brother was the future Italian king Umberto II of Italy.

Marriage and children

Giovanna married Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria in the Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, Assisi in October 1930, in a Roman Catholic ceremony, attended by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Bulgarians deemed her a good match, partly because her mother, Elena of Montenegro, was of Slavic ethnicity. At a second ceremony in Sofia, Giovanna (who herself was daughter of a Roman Catholic father and a born Orthodox mother) was married in an Eastern Orthodox Church ceremony, bringing her into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church. Giovanna adopted the Bulgarian version of her name, Ioanna. Giovanna knew the Pope's Apostolic Visitor to Bulgaria, Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII who was able to help her. She and Boris had two children: Marie Louise of Bulgaria, born in January 1933, and then the future Simeon II of Bulgaria in 1937.

In the years prior to World War II, Tsaritsa Ioanna became heavily involved in charities, including the financing of a children's hospital. During the war she counterbalanced her husband consigning Bulgaria to the Axis by obtaining transit visas to enable a number of Jews to escape to Argentina. Tsar Boris also proved less malleable than Hitler had hoped, and following a meeting in Berlin in August 1943, the Tsar became seriously ill and died, aged 49. Stress and a heart condition were the official reasons for his death. Ioanna's son, Simeon, became the new tsar and a regency was established, led by his uncle Prince Kyril, who was considered more pliable by the Germans.

Late Years

Royal Monogram of Queen Joanna of Bulgaria
Styles of
Tsaritsa (Queen) Giovanna of the Bulgarians
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

In the dying days of the Second World War, Bulgaria was invaded by the Soviet Union. Prince Kyril was tried by a People's Court and subsequently executed. Giovanna and her son Simeon remained under house arrest at Vrana Palace, near Sofia, until 1946, when the new Communist government gave them 48 hours to leave the country. After initially fleeing to Alexandria in the Kingdom of Egypt, to join her father, King Victor Emmanuel III, they moved on to Madrid. In 1962 Simeon II married and Queen Giovanna moved to Estoril, Portugal, where she lived for the rest of her life, apart from a brief return to Bulgaria in 1993, when she visited the site of Boris's grave and was present at the reburial of his heart. During this last visit to Bulgaria she received a cordial welcome, and thousands of people went on the streets to greet her.

She is buried in the Communal Cemetery of Assisi, Italy, where she had married King Boris III in 1930.

Titles, styles and honours



National honours

Foreign honours




  • Boris III of Bulgaria 1894–1943, by Pashanko Dimitroff, London, 1986, ISBN 0-86332-140-2
  • Crown of Thorns by Stephane Groueff, Lanham MD., and London, 1987, ISBN 0-8191-5778-3
  • The Daily Telegraph, Obituary for "HM Queen Ioanna of the Bulgarians", London, 28 February 2000.


External links

Giovanna of Italy
Born: 13 November 1907 Died: 26 February 2000
Royal titles
Title last held by
Eleonore Reuss of Köstritz
Tsaritsa of Bulgaria
25 October 1930 – 28 August 1943
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