Italy’s former royal family have demanded the return of their crown jewels, believed to be worth £250million, that were taken away from them when the country abolished its monarchy.
The royals, who were exiled from Italy after the Second World War until 2002, want their collection of tiaras, necklaces, brooches and earrings returned to them from a vault in the Bank of Italy in Rome.
The royal House of Savoy’s collection, comprising of 6,000 diamonds and 2,000 pearls, was taken away when Italians voted to abolish the monarchy after the war, with the then King Umberto II fleeing to Portugal.
The Italians were punishing the royal family for first collaborating with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and then fleeing Rome in 1944 to avoid an invading German army.
Ever since, the jewels have been kept by the Bank of Italy and reports suggest they are worth up to £250 million (€300 million).
But now, the former royal family are calling for the jewels, which were worn by Italian queens and princesses, to be returned to them 78 years later.
‘Italy should do what is right and fitting and restore the jewels to my family,’ Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, 49, told the Telegraph.
Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, 49, (pictured with Princess Clotilde Courau in 2014) is calling for the jewels to be returned to his family
Crown Prince Umberto of Italy with his bride Princess Marie Jose of Belgium, in 1930
Queen Marie Jose’s diamond and pearl tiara inherited from Empress Charlotte of Mexico
He added: ‘The monetary value of the jewels doesn’t interest us. What is more important is the historical and sentimental value that they have for the family.
‘Italy is about the only republic in the world where the private property of the ex-royal family is still in the hands of the State. It’s shameful. Even Russia and Yugoslavia restored private possessions to their royals.
‘The jewellery has been hidden away in a chest for more than 70 years. Unlike the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, these have never ever been on display to the public.
‘It is about time that they were returned to the heirs of the royal family.’
A mediation meeting was held between lawyers for the Savoys and representatives of the Bank of England on Tuesday – but the meeting was inconclusive, the newspaper reported.
Italian Queen Marie-Jose’s emerald and diamond necklace, made by Van Cleef and Arpels
Italian Queen Marie-Jose’s antique diamond tiara, made by Faberge around 1895
The process will be long and it is believed that the Bank, which was given the ‘custody’ of the jewels, will have to defer the decision to Italy’s government.
Sergio Orlandi, the family’s lawyer, told the Corriere della Sera newpaper: ‘The Savoy family will get the jewels back.’
Asked if his family would display the jewellery collection in a museum, Prince Filiberto said: ‘We have to take this step by step. First, the Bank of Italy must return them and then the heirs of the royal family will decide what to do with them.’
Prince Filiberto is well-known in Italy, where he now lives in Milan.
He now runs a catering business called Prince of Venice and has lead a colourful life in the public eye, claiming to have undergone a six-month affair with Kate Moss and starring on Ballando Con Le Stelle, Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Prince Filiberto is also known as the ‘Pasta Prince’, due to his career running food trucks in LA.
Prince Filiberto is also known as the ‘Pasta Prince’, due to his career running food trucks in LA
After the Second World War, the men of the once illustrious House of Savoy were sent into exile when Italians voted to end the monarchy.
The then King Umberto II fled to Portugal and never set foot in Italy again. He died aged 78 in 1983 in Geneva, where he was being treated for cancer.
The royal family returned from 56 years in exile in 2002, with Prince Vittorio Emanuele, the son of Italy’s last king, his wife Marina Doria and their son Filiberto arriving back into Rome from their home in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 23 2002.
The Italian government had ruled in October of that year that the royal family could return back to Italy after parliament voted to end the exile imposed on male heirs of the family.
The then King Umberto II (pictured with his wife Maria Jose in 1930 on their wedding day) fled to Portugal and never set foot in Italy again. He died aged 78 in 1983 in Geneva, where he was being treated for cancer