Elena of Montenegro

Elena of Montenegro

Elena in 1900
Queen consort of Italy
Tenure 29 July 1900 – 9 May 1946
Empress consort of Ethiopia
Tenure 9 May 1936 – 5 May 1941
Queen consort of the Albanians
Tenure 16 April 1939 – 8 September 1943
Born (1873-01-08)8 January 1873
Cetinje, Montenegro
Died 28 November 1952(1952-11-28) (aged 79)
Montpellier, France
Burial Montpellier Municipal Cemetery, France
Spouse Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Issue Princess Yolanda, Countess di Bergolo
Mafalda, Landgravine of Hesse
Umberto II of Italy
Giovanna, Queen Mother of Bulgaria
Princess Maria Francesca
Full name
Jelena Petrović-Njegoš
House Petrović-Njegoš
Father Nicholas I of Montenegro
Mother Milena Vukotić
Religion Roman Catholic
prev. Eastern Orthodox
Styles of
Queen Elena
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Princess Elena Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro (8 January 1873 – 28 November 1952) nicknamed "Jela" 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.


Early life

She was born in Cetinje as daughter of Montenegrian Prince and future King Nicholas I and his wife Milena. At the age of 10 she went to the Institute for young ladies in Sankt Petersburg (Russia). She was very talented at painting and architecture. She designed the monument for Prince-Bishop Danilo I.


As the result of Elena's marriage to King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on 24 October 1896, she converted to Catholicism and became Queen of Italy when her husband acceded to the throne in 1900. Her mother was so distressed with the fact that Elena had changed her religion that she refused to come to the wedding ceremony in Rome.

Due to the Fascist conquest of Ethiopia in 1936 and Albania in 1939, Queen Elena briefly used the claimed titles of Empress of Ethiopia and Queen of Albania; both titles were dropped when her husband formally renounced them in 1943.

She influenced her husband to lobby Benito Mussolini, Prime Minister of Italy, for the creation of the independent Kingdom of Montenegro in 1941. In 1943 she subsequently obtained the release from a German prison of her nephew, Prince Michael of Montenegro, and his wife, Geneviève. Prince Michael had been imprisoned after refusing to become King of Montenegro under the protection of Italy.

The Queen and the wars

Elena in nurse's uniform, 1914-1918

On 29 July 1900, following his father's assassination, Victor Emmanuel ascended the Italian throne. Officially, Elena assumed her husband's whole titles: she became Queen of Italy, and with the birth of the Italian Colonial Empire she became Queen of Albania and Empress of Ethiopia.

On 28 December 1908 Messina was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Queen Elena helped with the rescuers, as some photographs show. This helped to increase her popularity within the country. During the First World War Elena worked as a nurse and, with the help of the Queen Mother, she turned Quirinal Palace and Villa Margherita into hospitals. To raise funds, she invented the "signed photograph", which was sold at the charity desks. At the end of the war, she proposed to sell the crown treasures in order to pay the war debts.

Elena was the first Inspector of the Voluntary Nurses for the Italian Red Cross from 1911 until 1921. She studied medicine and was able to obtain a laurea honoris causa. She financed charitable institutions for people with encephalitis, tubercolosis, former soldiers and poor mothers.

She was deeply involved in her fight against disease, and she promoted many efforts for the training of doctors, and for research against poliomyelitis, Parkinson's disease and cancer.

On 15 April 1937 Pope Pius XII gave her the Golden Rose of Christianity, the most important honour for a Catholic lady at the time. Pope Pius XII, in a condolence telegram sent to her son Umberto II for the queen's death, defined her a "Lady of charitable work".

In 1939, three months after the German invasion of Poland and the declaration of war by the United Kingdom and France, Elena wrote a letter to the six European queens still neutral (Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria and Queen Maria The Queen Mother of Yugoslavia) in order to avoid the great tragedy World War II would become.

On 25 July 1943 Victor Emmanuel III had Benito Mussolini arrested. The king left Rome on 9 September to flee to Brindisi with the help of the Allies and Elena followed her husband in his escape. In contrast, on 23 September their daughter Mafalda was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where she died in 1944.

Following the war, on 9 May 1946 Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in favour of his son Umberto. The former king assumed the title of Count of Pollenzo, and went into exile to Egypt with Elena.


King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Queen Elena had 5 children:

  1. Princess Yolanda Margherita Milena Elisabetta Romana Maria of Savoy (1901–1986), married to Giorgio Carlo Calvi, Count of Bergolo, (1887–1977);
  2. Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana of Savoy (1902–1944), married to Prince Philipp of Hesse (1896–1980) with issue;
  3. Prince Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont, later Umberto II, King of Italy (1904–1983) married Princess Marie José of Belgium, with issue.
  4. Princess Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria of Savoy (1907–2000), married to Boris III, King of Bulgaria;
  5. Princess Maria Francesca Anna Romana of Savoy (1914–2001), who married Prince Luigi of Bourbon-Parma (1899–1967), with issue.

Arms and Monogram

Alliance Coat of Arms of King Victor Emanuel III and Queen Helena
Royal Monogram of Queen Helena of Italy
Royal Monogram of Queen Helena of Italy

Titles and styles


National honours

Foreign honours




Media related to Elena of Montenegro at Wikimedia Commons

Elena of Montenegro
Born: 8 January 1873 Died: 28 November 1952
Italian royalty
Preceded by
Margherita of Savoy
Queen consort of Italy
29 July 1900 – 9 May 1946
Succeeded by
Marie-José of Belgium
Ethiopian royalty
Preceded by
Menen Asfaw
Empress consort of Ethiopia
(Not internationally recognised)
9 May 1936 – 5 May 1941
Succeeded by
Menen Asfaw
Albanian royalty
Preceded by
Géraldine Apponyi de Nagyappony
Queen consort of Albania
16 April 1939 – 8 September 1943
Title Abolished
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