‘Elizabeth II the Italian Queen’, the long love story between the Windsors and our country

Journalist Ilaria Grillini dedicated an interesting book to the English sovereign on her 96th birthday

Elizabeth II loved Italy very much and our country reciprocated her affection and devotion. A few days after her 96th birthday, the precious work of the journalist Ilaria Grillini, ‘Elisabetta, comes out. The Italian Queen ‘(Rai Libri) which reconstructs the privileged relationships that the Windsors had with Italy, from George V to the Queen Mother, from Charles and Diana, to the young Harry with his wife Meghan Markle. An unpublished chapter in the history of the English royal family between anecdotes and curiosities and some lesser-known gaffe of the Duke of Edinburgh thanks to the memories of nobles, politicians, institutional representatives, entrepreneurs, but also ordinary people. Numerous testimonies collected such as those of Anna Maria Cossiga, Maria Pia and Lillio Ruspoli, Arrigo Cipriani, Stefano Andreotti, of Princess Stefania Raffadali, of Gloria Vanni Calvello and of Duchess Maria Grazia Salviati, of Maestro Roberto Capucci, of the former Prime Minister and several times minister Giuliano Amato, of the former mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli.

“Of all the Italian regions loved by the queen, Sicily undoubtedly plays a leading role – writes Ilaria Grillini – Almost a tradition for the English royal family, whose love for this island is truly lost in the mists of time. In January 1816 it was the then barely twenty-year-old Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick and future wife of Leopoldo of Saxony – Coburg, to arrive in Catania “. The first official trip of a member of the English royal family, in the middle of the twentieth century, is that of Princess Margareth not yet nineteen in 1949, a long tour made in Italy between Capri, Sorrento, Venice, the Cathedral of Monreale with its splendid mosaics and the Palatine Chapel of Palermo, Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, guest of the princes Borromeo and Genoa visiting the Marquise Cattaneo Adorno in his Durazzo Pallavicini palace.

However, it will be necessary to wait until 1951 to cut the ribbon of the first public release in Italy of Elizabeth II accompanied (always three steps behind) by Prince Philip. First stop in the capital (visit to Pope Pius XII, subsequently in private conversation with the then President of the Republic Luigi Einaudi) to then reach Villa Sparta on the hill of Fiesole, owned by Elena of Romania. In the capital there was no shortage of parties and receptions in honor of the royal couple, dances (like the unforgettable one organized at Palazzo Colonna). Over the years, official trips and more have followed one another. Among the favorite destinations are the cities of Naples, Florence, Turin, the countryside of Barumini, in Sardinia, to visit the splendid Nuraghe of Su Nuraxi, but also the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands, where, Ilaria Grillini recalls “for breakfast they were received at the hotel Les Sables Noires by the owner Marquise Mirta Capomazza di Campolattaro. Rich, tasty and dietetic the menu based on spaghetti, eggplant Parmigiana and the immaculate cassata, all dipped in Etna wine and Malvasia delle Lipari “.

The book scrolls through the menus of the gala dinners, the description of the dresses and some curiosities

The book also scrolls through the menus of gala dinners and lunches (lobster mousse, Montglas-style veal loin, Torcelain-style risotto, fried scampi, porcini mushrooms and artichokes …), the description of the clothes worn during official meetings ( ‘the queen, very chic with a blond mink stole hugging her shoulders, elbow-length gloves and the inevitable ton sur ton hat ….), the gifts received (a silver bull weighing over 2 kilos from the city of Turin), the memories of an inevitable participation in the International Horse Show in Piazza di Siena. Ilaria Grillini remembers ‘the mad cheers’ and also cites the English newspapers, in particular, the Daily Mail after a trip to Turin (‘thousands of people, with children hanging from the trees, greeted the Queen and Prince Philip’).

A rich set of interviews and testimonies. And some curiosities. With Queen Elizabeth at the table, garlic, spicy dishes and spaghetti are banned, but also berries (‘they could stay in your teeth’, a risk even considered by the Times), but she loves Dubonnet liqueur. Explicit request arrived at La Scala in Milan from London by fax, among the drinks that had to be present in the dressing room of maestro Riccardo Muti where the queen would go after the concert. Unforgettable are the memories of Princess Gloria Vanni Calvello Mantegna of the princes of San Vincenzo before the royal couple’s breakfast at Palazzo Gangi in Palermo, the ‘set’ of the great Leopard ball by Luchino Visconti. “The Hall of Mirrors – he says – had been set up with round tables, half set, so as not to turn your back to the queen … And one of the rules of court ceremonial was to start eating after the queen. and to stop when the queen would stop … ”

“Filippo was very nice and cordial – remembers Gloria Vanni Calvello Mantegna of the princes of San Vincenzo – even if every now and then he forgot to stay a step behind the sovereign and then, as soon as he realized it, he returned to settle behind her. She was perfect. in her role, not cold, but not too expansive “. For the occasion, the timbale of ‘Gattopardo’ was prepared, swordfish and melon gelo and marsala doc.

The wreath of flowers on the site of the attack of the Capaci massacre, the meditation and prayer of the English sovereign

In Ilaria Grillini’s book also the memories of Queen Elizabeth’s trip to Palermo shortly after the Capaci massacre and that apparently simple and moving gesture of “placing a wreath of flowers on the site of the attack next to that of President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, gathering in prayer for about ten minutes. A small bow of respect for the victims and then set off in the direction of the port of the Sicilian capital “.

Italy again in 2000. At the reception organized in his honor at the Salone delle Feste del Quirinale there is also maestro Roberto Capucci, personally invited by the first lady Franca Ciampi. Interviewed by the author, the famous tailor confesses that he imagined the queen “taller and the dress she was wearing was not beautiful and she also had a bad zipper on her back … if I could make her a dress – confesses to Ilaria Grillini – it would be cobalt blue , which goes very well with white, dark ruby ​​red or bright green hair, always in Caravaggesque tones, a little dark “.

The last (lightning) visit to Italy in 2014 while, bitterly and prophetically, Ilaria Grillini concludes: “in the future there will still be numerous trips to Italy by the less young and the youngest exponents of the British royal family. But who will not cross the more the Alps will be she, Elizabeth II, by now too old to travel outside the real borders. She has always loved and always will love our country. This love has been and still is more than reciprocated. Queen Elizabeth – he continues – it is and will always remain in everyone’s heart for a story that has been telling us for the past 70 years and which at least for the moment has not yet seen the end “.