Margarita da Silva, Baroness de San Pablo

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Margarita Baroness de San Pablo
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Spouse(s) Henriques Azevedo (m. 1932; div. 1938)
Carlos, Baron de San Pablo (m. 1949; his death 1970)
Royal House Montillet (Disputed)
Father Guillermo da Silva
Mother Pilar Borreco
Born 25 December 1910
Planter's Bay, Costa Verde
Issue Pablo Torrantes (1934 - 2003)
Margarita de Montillet y San Pablo (b. 1950)
Died 4 March 1994 (Aged 84)
Villa Carlos, Port-Real, Alexandria
Buried Prince's Crypt, Basilica on the Rock, Mantua

Margarita, Baroness de San Pablo (born Margarita da Silva; 25 December 1910 - 4 March 1994) was the second wife of Carlos, Baron de San Pablo, former Hereditary Prince of Mantua. As their marriage violated the House Laws of the ruling Montillet family, Carlos was stripped of his rank and titles and the couple lived in voluntary exile in Port-Real. They had one daughter, Margarita de Montillet y San Pablo. Margarita died in 1994.

Birth and Parentage

Margarita's early life is subject to dispute. On her marriage certificate to first husband Henriques Azevedo, she claimed to have been born in 1914 but on her marriage certificate to second husband Carlos de Montillet she claimed to have been born in 1912. Documentation she provided to Alexandrian officials in 1986 included a copy of a birth certificate issued in Alexandria which stated her birthdate as 14 November 1912 but in 2002, her real birth certificate was found in the State Archives of the Costa Verde Colonial Service which show Margarita to have been born on 25 December 1910. On the birth certificate she provided to Alexandrian officials, and in keeping with accounts she gave both at the time of her second marriage and in her 1976 memoirs Love in Exile, she claimed to be the only daughter of Baron Pablo da Silva and his second wife Imelda Medina y Mery. Her real birth certificate shows that she was in fact the daughter of Guillermo da Silva and his wife Pilar Borreco and that she was in fact using the personal details of her cousin, Rosa-Luisa da Silva, as her own. Rosa-Luisa died in 1929 from peritonitis. Margarita had used these details at the time of her first marriage but on that certificate, did declare her real mother's name. When a copy of this certificate was produced in 1949 to obtain a license for marriage, the name of Pilar Borecco had been replaced with that of Imelda Medina y Mery.

In his biography of Margarita released in 2010, Luis Marín suggests that it was in fact her second husband who convinced her to make alterations to her documents in order improve the likelihood of permission for a marriage between the couple from Prince Amalio III but it is clear that Margarita had altered records before she met Prince Carlos. Had she been the daughter of Pablo da Silva, she would have been considered of noble birth under the House Laws governing the marriages of the princely family but would still have been unsuitable given that she was divorced.

She also claimed to have been born in a fashionable quarter of Port-Real on other documentation provided shortly before her death. In fact, she was born in Planter's Bay in the Costa Verde. Her father, Guillermo da Silva, was the youngest of five brothers born to the da Silva family who were known to be wealthy shipping merchants. However, Guillermo had been disinherited following his marriage to Pilar Borecco and as a result, he was not entitled to any of his father's private fortune which he declined to contest in the courts. Little is known about Pilar Borecco except that she was the daughter of a restauranteur and married Margarita's father in 1909. The couple had no other children. Margarita claimed to have been privately tutored but said that her education was limited. In her memoirs, she wrote "Girls of my class were raised only to be decorous wives and devoted mothers. We had no opportunities for anything else, nor did we expect our lives to run a different course to that so well established and followed by our mothers. My mother in particular spoke many languages, played the piano with great skill and was always dressed in the finest gowns but what she really wished to be was a teacher. Her duty was to support my father in his place in high society which I never felt she particularly enjoyed". Again, this account of her childhood has been proven false in recent years. There is no record of her father's occupation but records show that he tried to claim poor assistance from his parish in Planter's Bay in 1916.

First Marriage

Margarita left the family home in 1930 and headed to the capital of Costa Verde, Nascimento, where she became a fashion model. She claimed to have been something of a socialite in Nascimento and this may have some truth to it as she met and married Henriques Azevedo on 28 January 1932. Azevedo was a relatively wealthy owner of a department store in Nascimento and was known for his largess and his heavy drinking. Their marriage was not a happy one and within two years, Margarita had left Azevedo and was living with a musician called Juan Felipe Torrantes. The couple had a son, Pablo, in 1934. Court archives show that in order to legitimise the child, Margarita had him legally adopted by Juan Felipe's sister Isabel. Margarita then left the Costa Verde for Alexandria. It has been claimed that Margarita never filed for divorce from Azevedo as she was concerned that there would be some record of her adultery and the birth of an illegitimate child. Instead, she waited until 1938 when Azevedo divorced her in order to marry his second wife, Anna Lopero. Azevedo paid Margarita the sum of E400,000 which she accepted in place of regular alimony payments. It has also been claimed that Margarita used this money to amend her documentation by bribing a court official in Nascimento but at the time of her divorce she was already living in Port-Real.

Relationship with Prince Carlos

At a cocktail party given by mutual friends, Margarita met Prince Carlos of Mantua. He was not only a member of the Princely Family but was also first in the line of succession to the Mantuan throne. As his brother and sister-in-law had no male children, Carlos had been given the title of Hereditary Prince with a substantial allowance. It was expected that he would one day succeed his brother, Prince Amalio III. The Prince was already married to Princess Yvetta of Valkenbourg but the couple's marriage was not a happy one and according to Margarita's final television interview given in 1990, he had already been intimate with other women before he met Margarita. Carlos rented an apartment for Margarita in Port-Real and gave her an allowance. The couple's relationship was still ongoing when Carlos' first wife was killed in a plane crash in 1946. Carlos and Margarita's daughter would later allege that the Prince immediately left his private villa in Mantua and moved into her mother's suite at the Hotel Palmeras where da Silva always stayed whilst visiting the Prince in his home country. This has never been confirmed. Following Yvetta's funeral, Carlos left Mantua to live in Port-Real for two years, before returning to Mantua in 1948 at the request of his brother, Prince Amalio.

In 1949, Prince Carlos invited his brother (now Sovereign Prince) to dine with him privately at the Villa Yvetta. He asked Prince Amalio if he would be willing to grant him permission to marry Margarita. In an interview first broadcast in 1995, some 27 years after it had been recorded, Carlos said "My brother was very much aware of my relationship with the Baroness and therefore it should not have been a surprise but it did seem to leave him a little stunned". It is unclear as to whether Carlos considered his wife to be a Baroness by birth (given her insistence of her noble background) or whether he was referring to her by the title she later used as his wife. The Prince insisted that she was of a good background and that her first marriage had not in fact been legal as it had only been conducted as a religious ceremony without a civic ceremony which the law required in Mantua. Margarita seemed to adopt this reasoning herself in her memoirs, though she contradicted herself several times in her account of her marriage to Azevedo in which she claimed the pair were married in a registry office, not in a church, which would have made her marriage legal under Mantuan law. The Mantuan government examined the documents presented by Margarita to support her claims but ruled that her marriage was lawful and therefore, she was considered to have been legally married in 1932 and divorced in 1938. Permission for the couple to wed was therefore refused.

Second Marriage

Several options were being considered to find a way for Prince Carlos to retain his position and morganatically marry Margarita. The most likely solution, proposed by the Hereditary Prince, was that he would not marry Margarita until his niece, Princess Fabiola turned 21. Until this time, he would able to serve as regent if required but in the meantime, the government of Mantua could change the succession laws which would allow Fabiola to succeed her father. Prince Amalio asked his brother to wait for 6 months so that this proposal could be discussed with the Royal Council and the National Council but within two months, Carlos and Margarita had left the Hotel Palmeras for Port Real. They married on 7 July 1949 in the presence of two registry office officials as witnesses. Carlos did not return to Mantua but informed his brother by letter that he was now married to Margarita.

According to Margarita, several members of the Prince's family wrote to her congratulating her on her marriage but no such letters have ever been produced and Prince Carlos' siblings never received her during his lifetime. Carlos was expelled from the royal house on 10 July 1949 by his brother in a move endorsed by the Mantuan government. In a proclamation issued from the Cavaletta Palace, Prince Amalio made no comment on the situation other than to issue 'A Decree on the Status of Carlos de Montillet'. The Decree stripped Carlos of his title 'Prince of Mantua' and the style of 'Serene Highness'. The decree made only one reference to the Prince's new wife in so far as to deprive her of any royal rank or title but this did not apply to the Barony of San Pablo which Carlos was allowed to keep and could share with his wife. For the time being, the decree said, Carlos was forbidden from using the name of the princely house, neither were any children born to the marriage entitled to use the name 'Montillet'. His Mantuan orders were also removed. Whilst not formally exiled (as Amalio could have insisted upon), Carlos agreed to go into exile voluntarily. He bought an apartment in Port Real and was allowed to remove his share of the inheritance paid to him upon the death of his father though he was no longer entitled to any appanage from the state. In 1950, the house laws were amended to allow for female succession and in 1978, Princess Fabiola succeeded her father as Head of the House of Montillet.

Margarita styled herself as 'Her Excellency, The Baroness de San Pablo' though her use of the style of 'Excellency' was incorrect. This style had been extended to her husband in the Decree issued by Prince Amalio III but clearly deprived Margarita of any additional honours other than the courtesy title of Baroness. She also frequently used the surname 'de Montillet' whereas her husband used 'de San Pablo'. In 1950, Margarita gave birth a daughter named Margarita. She was registered in Alexandria by her father with the surname 'da Silva'. There was no contact between Carlos and his family in Mantua between 1950 and 1967. A reunion was affected in 1968 when Carlos' sister Princess Mafalda died and Carlos was allowed to return to Mantua for the funeral mass. Margarita did not attend.

Later Life and Death

In 1970, Carlos died at the age of 75 after suffering a stroke and contracting pneumonia. Margarita was received by the Princely Family for the first time at his funeral. According to his will, Carlos left his entire fortune to his daughter but did not make provision for his wife. Margarita was therefore left without any private income and could not afford to pay the rent on their apartment in Port-Real. Her daughter bought her a small villa in 1971 where Margarita lived for the rest of her life. In 1972, she auctioned the majority of her late husband's possessions and most of her jewellery in a private sale which raised E2.3m. She used this money to fund court action against the Princely Family in order to gain assurance that she could be buried alongside her husband in the Prince's Crypt at the Basilica on the Rock. If that assurance wasn't given, she said that her intention was to exhume the Prince for burial in Alexandria. The case was dismissed. She wrote her memoirs in 1976 but they were not well received and were later removed from circulation after claims of plagiarism. Margarita was the subject of intrigue again when in 1982, she was sued by a fashion house for keeping items which had been loaned to her but which had never been returned. She was forced to pay E70,000 in damages.

After almost a decade of living a reclusive life at the Villa Carlos, Margarita agreed to give an interview to a television network in 1994. She claimed that she was now bankrupt and that despite several pleas for financial assistance from the Princely Family, her letters had been ignored. Her daughter initially supported her mother's claims but in 2005 said that this wasn't the case and that her father had ensured that his daughter would provide for his wife in his will. Two months after the interview was recorded, Margarita was admitted to hospital with suspected blood poisoning. She died three days later on 4 March 1994 at the age of 84. Probate records later showed that she had a private fortune of around E4m which she left to her daughter, Margarita.

Whilst Margarita had requested to be cremated and her ashes interned into the Prince's Crypt, this was refused by the Cardinal Archbishop of San Leopoldo who stated that cremated remains were not allowed into the Prince's Crypt. She was therefore buried next to her husband in a private funeral service on 15 March 1994. Of the Princely family, only Princess Fabiola and her sister Princess Elida attended. Margarita's tombstone simply reads "Margarita, 1910 - 1994" however since her death, her name has been included in prayers recited at the annual Memorial Mass held in honour of deceased members of the Princely Family.

Legacy and Legal Status

Margarita remains a controversial character of public interest and many television documentaries have been made about the Baroness' life. In particular, these focus on her background and have investigated claims which have come to light since her death about her parentage. In 2009, the documentary Margarita: A Woman of Mystery made public details of Margarita's relationship with Juan Felipe Torrantes. The documentary revealed that Margarita had consistently sent cheques to the adoptive parents of her son Pablo but that she never met the child. Pablo died in 2003. His daughter confirmed that he had never been told who his real mother was but that he had been very happy with his adoptive family. Elena Torrantes later attempted to sue Margarita's daughter, the 2nd Baroness de San Pablo, for a share of the fortune left by Margarita when she died in 1994. She was not successful. The documentary alleged that Prince Carlos had discovered his wife's background by accident in 1952. It claimed that they had mostly lived apart and that he had disinherited his wife because she had not been honest with him at the time of their marriage. The couple's daughter rejects this and insists that her parents marriage was a happy one.

In 2012, Carlos and Margarita's daughter brought court action to determine whether or not she was a member of the Princely Family and therefore entitled to an appanage. A 1968 Decree allowed Carlos to use the surname of Montillet if he so wished. This was also extended to his daughter but not to his wife. The Decree explained that this was in order to avoid confusion as to whether or not Margarita was Carlos' legitimate daughter however it made clear that this did not reverse the Decree of 1949 which expelled Carlos from the Princely House. In 1985, a change in the law allowed Margarita to inherit the Barony of San Pablo which her father had been granted in 1923 and she now claimed that her surname and title indicated that she had been rehabilitated into the Princely House. The High Court of Mantua ruled that this was not the case and that whilst Margarita was entitled to use the surname of Montillet, neither she nor her mother had ever been members of the Princely House. She now uses the surname 'de Montillet y San Pablo', a surname also used by her parents whilst travelling after 1968.

Names, Titles and Styles from Birth to Death

  • 25 December 1910 - 28 January 1932: Señorita Margarita da Silva
  • 28 January 1932 - 20 May 1938: Señora Margarita Azevedo
  • 20 May 1938 - 7 July 1949: Señorita Margarita da Silva
  • 7 July 1949 - 10 July 1949: Her Serene Highness Princess Carlos of Mantua, Baroness de San Pablo 1
  • 10 July 1949 - 10 September 1970: The Baroness de San Pablo
  • 10 September 1970 - 4 March 1994: Margarita, Dowager Baroness de San Pablo 2

1. During the three days in which she was legally married to Carlos and in which time he remained a member of the Princely House, Margarita was entitled to use the female variants of his titles and styles as a courtesy extended to royal consorts but she was not entitled to use her own name as she was not of royal birth. This has custom has now changed but nonetheless, Margarita was not entitled to the use of these titles after the July 10 Decree, neither did she make an attempt to use them.

2. Margarita de Montillet y San Pablo inherited her father's title in 1985 and styles herself as the 2nd Baroness de San Pablo. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is customary in Mantua for a daughter who inherits a peerage to use the consecutive numeral to that of her predecessor regardless of the gender of the title. Secondly, Margarita (Carlos' wife) had often used the title 1st Baroness de Pablo following her husband's death in 1970. This was incorrect and she ceased using the title in 1985 when her daughter inherited the Barony de San Pablo. Nonetheless, her use of '1st Baroness' is not officially recognised as she was not a peeress in her own right. Legally, she was known as 'Dowager Baroness de San Pablo' from 1970 until her death in 1994, a title she began to adopt for herself socially in 1985.