Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy

Maria Gabriella di Savoia

Maria Gabriella of Savoy in 1960
Born (1940-02-24) 24 February 1940
Naples, Italy
Spouse Robert Zellinger de Balkany
(m. 1969; div. 1990)
Issue Marie Elizabeth Zellinger de Balkany
Full name
Maria Gabriella Giuseppa Aldegonda Adelaide Ludovica Felicità Gennara di Savoia
House Savoy
Father Umberto II of Italy
Mother Princess Marie-José of Belgium
Italian Royal Family

HRH The Prince of Naples
HRH The Princess of Naples

HRH Princess Maria Pia
HRH Princess Maria Gabriella
HRH Princess Maria Beatrice

Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy (Maria Gabriella Giuseppa Aldegonda Adelaide Ludovica Felicita Gennara; born 24 February 1940) is a Savoyard princess and noted historian of Italy. She is the middle daughter of Italy's last king, Umberto II, and Marie José of Belgium, the "May Queen", and a sister of Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples; Princess Maria Pia of Parma; and Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy.


Maria Gabriella di Savoia was the third child of the Prince and Princess of Piedmont, born in Naples, Italy in 1940. Her older siblings were Princess Maria Pia and Prince Vittorio Emanuele. Her parents, married since 1930, were unhappy together, as her mother confessed in an interview many years later (On n'a jamais été heureux, "We were never happy"), and separated after the Italian monarchy was abolished by referendum on 2 June 1946. Exiled, the family gathered briefly in Portugal, and she and her three siblings (including Princess Maria Beatrice "Titti", born three years after her) soon went with their mother to Switzerland while their father remained in Portugal. Being devout Catholics, her parents never divorced.

Maria Gabriella was educated in languages and is a noted historian, especially on Italian issues. She has authored a number of books, including Jewellery of the House of Savoy (2007), written with Stefano Papi.

Relationship with the Shah of Iran

In the 1950s, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, then divorced from his second wife, indicated his interest in marrying Princess Maria Gabriella. Pope John XXIII reportedly vetoed the suggestion. In an editorial about the rumors surrounding the marriage of "a Muslim sovereign and a Catholic princess", the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, considered the match "a grave danger,"[1] especially considering that under the 1917 Code of Canon Law a Roman Catholic who attempted to contract a marriage with a divorced person could incur the penalty of excommunication.

Marriage and child

She married Robert Zellinger de Balkany (4 August 1931 in Ichlod, Romania - 19 September 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland) on 12 February 1969 in Sainte-Mesme. The religious wedding was celebrated later on 21 June 1969 at Eze-sur-Mer. The couple separated in 1976 and divorced in November 1990. They had one child:

Published works



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  1. Paul Hofmann, "Pope Bans Marriage of Princess to Shah", New York Times, 24 February 1959, p. 1.
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