Fabiola, Princess of Mantua

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Princess Fabiola Sovereign Princess of Mantua
Reign 5 May 1978 - Present
Investiture 5 May 1979
Predecessor Amalio III
Heir Apparent Amadeo, Hereditary Prince of Mantua
Spouse Jaime, Count Zubero y Idali
Issue Amadeo, Hereditary Prince of Mantua
Princess Renata, Countess de Zubero y Idali
Princess Marina, Countess Ferrado
Royal House Montillet
Father Amalio III
Mother Sofia de Saer
Born 2 May 1935
Cavaletta Palace, Mantua

Fabiola (Fabiola Anna Maria Donata Sofia Cristina; born 2 May 1935) is the reigning Princess of Mantua. She is the daughter of Amalio III of Mantua (1893 - 1978) and his wife Sofia, Princess de Saer (1906 - 1995). She also bears the titles Duchess de San Leopoldo en la Piedra and Countess Zubero y Idali. She is the first female sovereign of Mantua and the first female head of the Princely House of Montillet.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

She was born Fabiola Anna Maria Donata Sofia Cristina de Montillet, Princess of Mantua on 2 May 1935 as the eldest daughter of Prince Amalio III and his wife Princess Sofia. Her father had succeeded her grandfather Prince Juan María in 1925 but as she was female, she was not considered to be heiress presumptive under Mantua's strict salic succession laws. She was therefore not included in the Line of Succession at the time of her birth. She was born at the Cavaletta Palace in San Leopoldo en la Piedra at 4am and as the daughter of a reigning prince, her birth was marked with an 18 Gun Salute from Princess Sofia Harbour and the ringing of the bells of the Basilica on the Rock. As with all children born to a reigning Mantuan monarch, she was baptised by the Cardinal Archbishop of San Leopoldo, Cardinal Felipe Clavijero in the Grotto of San Leopoldo in the presence of the entire Princely Family. She was also invested on the day of her birth as a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Montillet. Her godparents were her paternal aunt, Princess Fabiola of Mantua, her maternal aunt Princess Anna Maria de Saer, her paternal uncle Prince Carlos, Baron de San Pablo and her maternal uncle, Hereditary Prince Michel de Saer.

She was named for her paternal aunt (Fabiola), her maternal aunt (Anna Maria), her mother (Sofia) and her maternal grandmother (Sofia). It is traditional for all children in the Princely Family to carry the name Donata (for females) or Donato (for males). From birth, she carried the style of Her Serene Highness. She was privately tutored until the age of 13 when she became the first member of the Princely Family to attend public school at the Academia Santa Rita in San Leopoldo. She graduated in 1953. She then attended Baudrix University, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics before spending a year working incognito with the Alexandrian Red Cross under the name 'Anna Maria de Saer'.

Succession Rights[edit | edit source]

Until 1950, Fabiola had no place in the Line of Succession as females were ineligible to succeed to the Mantuan throne. Whilst many accepted that Princess Sofia would not have any more children after the birth of her second daughter Princess Elida in 1938, there had been no formal discussion among the National Council on changing the succession laws to allow Fabiola to succeed her father. Amalio's heir was his younger brother Prince Carlos, Baron de San Pablo (1895 - 1970) who had used the title of Hereditary Prince since Amalio's accession in 1925. However, in 1946 Prince Carlos lost his first wife Yvetta in an air crash and by 1949, he wished to marry again. His fiancée was of noble but was a divorcee and neither Amalio nor the National Council were willing to change the house laws to enable the marriage to take place without Prince Carlos losing his succession rights. Carlos married Margarita da Silva on 7 July 1949 in a private ceremony and was immediately expelled from the royal house. He was stripped of his princely rank, title and style but was allowed to retain his junior title of Baron de San Pablo.

Prince Amalio called an extraordinary meeting of the Royal Council and the National Council where he asked that they approve a law which would change the succession laws to adopt male-preference primogeniture which would allow Princess Fabiola to succeed him. The Succession Bill was passed in 1950 and allowed Fabiola to be declared heir apparent and to use the title 'Hereditary Princess' which had previously only been held by the consorts of Hereditary Princes. She was also allowed to inherit the Duchy of San Leopoldo which had traditionally been held by Sovereign Princes of Mantua since the late 18th century.

Marriage & Family[edit | edit source]

The Monogram used by Princess Fabiola.

In 1961, Fabiola asked for permission to marry Jaime de Zubero y Idali (b. 1934). This marriage was made possible by the marriage that same year of her younger sister Elida who had sought permission to marry Luis, 5th Count Agia. Neither Luis nor Jaime were of equal rank as the Decree on the Princely House of 1710 demanded in order for the marriage to be considered legal. Morganatic marriage had been allowed since the late 19th century but in 1960, the Decree had been amended to drop the requirement for marriages of equal rank. Permission was therefore given on 6 June 1962 and the couple married at the Basilica on the Rock on 1 April 1963. On the morning of their marriage, her husband was raised to the rank of 'Count' with the title of 'Count de Zubero y Idali' made available to any male children the couple may have. This was extended to the couple's female children by Fabiola in 1985.

The couple have three children:-

Relationship with Princess Elida[edit | edit source]

Shortly before her accession, letters written between Princess Fabiola and her sister Princess Elida were stolen from the Cavaletta Palace and excerpts published in a gossip magazine in Alexandria. The letters revealed tensions between the two sisters written in the early 1960s, most notably that Prince Amalio III and his eldest daughter had made an agreement that Princess Elida's children would not be entitled to an appanage after the Prince's death. Princess Elida considered this to be unacceptable and threatened to leave Mantua with her family. In a letter written by Fabiola, Elida was promised that her children would retain all rights and privileges as the grandchildren of a sovereign but that they would not be asked to perform royal duties nor would they be eligible for an appanage as a result. "For a family as small as ours, this seems so unnecessary and avoidable", Elida wrote, "And I do not understand why you, who shall have so much, could deny this to my children who will be as much a part of this family as I have been. Though perhaps this troubles you, as you have never been kind to me and I have never felt welcome in your home or homes we shared as children". The Prince's Palace Office sued the magazine which was forced to print an apology and pay E3.4m in compensation to the Princely Family but the two sisters were rarely seen together following their publication. In a 1980 interview, Princess Fabiola said "All families have such problems at one time or another but we were younger then and now, we have a good friendship". Whilst Fabiola did not allow her nieces and nephews an appanage, she did allow Princess Elida and her family to move into the White Palace, a smaller mansion which had been vacant following the death of Princess Fabiola's aunt, the Baroness Debarros, in 1998. This seemed to heal the rift between the two sisters who are now said to enjoy a warm relationship.

In 2015, Princess Elida moved into a suite of rooms at the Cavaletta Palace following the death of her husband.

Accession and Investiture[edit | edit source]

The Wedding of Princess Fabiola and Jamie Zubero y Idali, 1963.

Following the death of her father in 1978, Princess Fabiola succeeded him as sovereign. She was the first female to reign in Mantua and the first female to head the princely house. As is traditional, her investiture was held a year to the day after Prince Amalio's death (5 May 1979). Investiture Day had been held on the 26 October every year since 1926 but as Investiture Day fell so close to Fabiola's birthday on the 2 May, a new public holiday was created for the 4 May which today celebrates both occasions and is known as 'Princess Day'. Fabiola's investiture was held at the Palacio del Concilio and was remarkable as it did not include the traditional presentation of a sword to the new Sovereign by the Princely Guard, the only regiment allowed under the terms of the Treaties of San Leopoldo. Instead, the Princess was presented with a tiara made from diamonds and emeralds as a gift from the regiment, the Royal Council and the National Council. As Head of the House of Montillet, Fabiola also became Grand Master of the Mantuan Orders, though she had never been invested with the highest ranking order - that of the Grand Order of San Leopoldo.

Powers[edit | edit source]

Under the terms of the 1990 Constitution, the Princess has very clearly defined powers. No act of the National Council is valid without her signature and she may veto bills she does not agree with but she is conventionally required to address the council and explain her reasons for doing so. This has happened four times in her reign and mostly concerned bills which affected the Princely Family. She may also temporarily vacate the throne for a set period if she feels she cannot morally agree to a bill which allows changes to law without her approval but this has only been used once since she came to the throne in 1978. This is known as 'Petty Abdication' and has been a reserve power available to every sovereign prince since 1886, though it is rarely used.

Official Portrait of HSH Princess Fabiola, 2012.

Until 1990, the Princess could still exile people from Mantua without the approval of the two councils. This had not been used for nearly 240 years and was abolished formally when the Mantuan Constitution was redrafted. She does retain the right however, to refuse entry to Mantua via the harbour - though not arrivals by air. The Princess has the right to be consulted by her government, to advise her ministers and to appoint government ministers upon the recommendation of the National Council but her position is largely formal. As Mantua does not determine it's own foreign policy or defence budget, not much of Fabiola's time is taken up with matters of government. According to the Constitution, her role is limited to the "arbitration and moderation of the functions of government".

Finances[edit | edit source]

Princess Fabiola as Head of State receives an annual stipend from the National Council but the exact figure of how much is given has never been publicly declared. The Palace Press Office has resisted calls for the details of this payment to be made public and says that the sum is "a reasonable amount to cover expenses accrued by Her Serene Highness in the course of her duties as Head of State". Motions to force the publication of the salaries paid to members of the Princely Family have been defeated in the National Council consistently during Fabiola's reign. Her personal wealth is rumoured to be around E64.2m.

In 2003, a small fire broke out at the Cavaletta Palace due to faulty wiring. The Princess paid for the renovation of the palace personally.

Titles and Styles from Birth[edit | edit source]

  • 2 May 1935 - 8 November 1950: Her Serene Highness Princess Fabiola of Mantua
  • 8 November 1950 - 1 April 1963: Her Serene Highness The Hereditary Princess of Mantua
  • 1 April 1963 - 5 May 1978: Her Serene Highness The Hereditary Princess of Mantua, Countess Zubero y Idali
  • 5 May 1978 - Present: Her Serene Highness The Sovereign Princess of Mantua

Princess Fabiola's full official title is:

Her Serene Highness Fabiola, Sovereign Princess of Mantua, Duchess of San Leopoldo en la Piedra and Countess Zubero y Idali, Grand Master of the Orders of Mantua, Commander and Protector of the Sovereign Isle of Mantua.

Fabiola, Princess of Mantua
Born: 2 May 1935
Preceded by
Amalio III
Sovereign Princess of Mantua
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Amalio III
Duchess de San Leopoldo en la Piedra
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Carlos, Baron de San Pablo
Hereditary Princess of Mantua
Succeeded by