Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, with Marina Doria a 70-year love story

The civil wedding in Las Vegas in 1970 despite the opposition of Umberto II, who was against the prince’s marriage to a bourgeois woman

His father Umberto II was so against it that just to make the bourgeois forget Marina Doria to the son Victor Emmanuel of Savoy – who died today at the age of 86 – tried to get him engaged to several descendants of Italian and European nobility. But the last king of Italy, from his exile in Portugal, finally had to throw in the towel, due to the stubbornness of his heir. Because his son was determined to marry only Marina Doria (two years older), with whom he was madly in love and in order to live his love with her he made his royal parent understand that he was even ready to renounce the throne. And, in fact, she got married even without royal assent.

The civil wedding in Las Vegas in ’70, the religious wedding in Tehran

It was the first days of June 1967 when the gossip columns of Italian newspapers announced the engagement of Vittorio Emanuele with Marie Antoinette of Württemberg, daughter of an Austrian duke descendant of the Habsburg-Lorraine branch and his fourth cousin. At the end of June, however, the designated girlfriend had changed: she was Princess Isabella of Savoy-Genoa and second cousin.

In the end Vittorio Emanuele prevailed and married the girlfriend he had chosen himself. The marriage to Marina Ricolfi Doria took place in a civil ceremony on 11 January 1970 in Las Vegas and in a religious ceremony on 7 October 1971 in Tehran. From their union a son was born, Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, who was born in Geneva on 22 June 1972.

Marina Doria, the bourgeois duchess

Born in Geneva on 12 February 1935 (Vittorio Emanuele was also born on the same day and month but in 1937), Marina Doria was the daughter of René Italo Ricolfi Doria, a Swiss industrialist of Italian origin, with Genoese ancestry, indirectly linked to the ancient noble family Doria who made the history of the Maritime Republic of Genoa, and of Iris Amalia Benvenuti. Marina Doria had no royal lineage and therefore Umberto II was fiercely against it: it was not possible for the crown prince to marry a bourgeois woman.

When they met for the first time in 1954 Marina Ricolfi Doria was a water skiing champion: she had won the first world championship in 1953, repeating the feat in 1955 and again in 1957. She was the first Swiss citizen to win a title world championship in this sport. Together they began to frequent the jet-set, to travel the world, to be photographed in mountain resorts, on the ski slopes of the Swiss Alps, in exotic destinations.

As the self-proclaimed king of Italy – without a throne or a nation to rule – Vittorio Emanuele granted Marina Doria the title of Duchess of Sant’Anna di Valdieri. Their bond lasted exactly 70 years and together they have always faced everything, starting from the strenuous aversion of the royal family. Marina Doria never left her husband alone in the various legal events involving Vittorio Emanuele, from which he was always ultimately exonerated.

(Of Paolo Martini)