Marina, Princess Consort of Mantua

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Marina Princess Consort of Mantua
Duchess of San Leopoldo en la Piedra
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Tenure 2 January 1911 - 22 October 1925
Predecessor Elisabeth del Viretta
Successor Sofia, Princess de Saer
Spouse Prince Juan María
Issue Amalio III, Prince of Mantua
Carlos, Baron de San Pablo
Mafalda, Princess of Mantua
Prince Nicolás, 1st Baron de Ourenca
Princess Fabiola, Baroness Debarros
Royal House Montillet
Father Prince Alfonso XI del Viretta
Mother Maria Theresa of Ravaria
Born 12 November 1870
Ducal Palace, Valzburg, Ravaria
Died 29 March 1959 (Aged 89)
The Cavaletta Palace, Mantua
Buried Prince's Crypt, Basilica on the Rock, Mantua

Marina, Princess Consort of Mantua (born Marina Elisabeta Xaviera Ella, Princess del Viretta, 12 November 1870, Ducal Palace, Valzburg, Ravaria; died 19 March 1959, The Cavaletta Palace, Mantua) was a daughter of Prince Alfonso XI del Viretta and Maria Theresa, Duchess in Ravaria who married Prince Juan María of Mantua and served as his consort between 1911 and 1925. She was the mother of Prince Amalio III and paternal grandmother to the incumbent Sovereign Princess of Mantua, Princess Fabiola. She was the sister of Elisabeth of Ravaria who was married to her brother in law Prince Fabio IV and who served as Princess Consort directly before Marina. Princess Marina died in 1959 aged 89.

Early Life

She was born Princess Marina del Viretta on 12 November 1870 at the Ducal Palace in Valzburg, Ravaria, the home of her maternal grandparents Duke Karl Victor II of Ravaria and Maria Louisa von Hohenau. Her father was Prince Alfonso IX del Viretta and her mother was Maria Theresa, Duchess in Ravaria. Whilst the family had royal heritage and good connections, Alfonso had inherited very little from his father and was forced to sell the family's estates in the Costa Verde to pay debtors. The family had therefore moved to Ravaria where they were forced to live on the generosity of Maria Theresa's parents who were only considered to be modestly wealthy by royal standards. Marina later said, "We were a family of Dukes and Princes and none of us had two cents to bless ourselves with. As far as royalty goes, we came from the other side of the tracks".

Marina was one of five children born to Prince Alfonso and Princess Maria Theresa. Her elder brother Karl Louis succeeded her grandfather as Duke of Ravaria (later King) in 1893 which restored the family fortune but his reign was not a popular one and many were resentful of the fact that his father was a foreigner. Karl Louis had succeeded in disastrous circumstances when his uncle shot himself after being refused permission to marry a Ravarian ballerina leaving no male heirs in the immediate line. Of their six children, only Maria Theresa had given birth to a son and so Karl Louis was removed from the family at a young age to be raised as his grandfather's successor. A further parting came when Marina's elder sisters married. Louisa married the Comte de Farelles and rarely visited her family whilst her elder sister Elisabeth married Prince Fabio IV of Mantua in 1888 causing another separation.

Marina turned to her religion as a comfort and even considered becoming a nun. She had a sparse education but was a talent linguist, teaching herself to speak Classical Latin and Greek by the age of 15. Following her sister's marriage in 1888 and her father's death in 1890, Marina and her mother settled in Mantua but were not allowed to live in any of the royal residences. In reduced circumstances, the pair lived at a suite in the Hotel Palmeras surviving on handouts from relatives.

Marriage and Family

Marina was initially reluctant when Prince Juan María of Mantua (1861 - 1911) proposed marriage in 1891. Whilst she admitted that she had fallen in love with the Prince, she was concerned that as her sister and brother-in-law had produced no children it may fall to Juan María to reign as Sovereign Prince. Marina did not feel qualified to take on the role of Princess Consort and worried that it may cause a rift between the two sisters. With encouragement from Princess Elisabeth and Princess Maria Theresa, Marina accepted Juan María. The couple were married at the Basilica on the Rock on 26 April 1892. They had 5 children:-

Because of their reduced circumstances, none of Marina's siblings in Ravaria attended her wedding. They were concerned that they would not be able to afford the lavish gowns, jewels and gifts shown by other royal guests and preferred to stay away instead.

Princess Consort

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Princess Marina pictured before her death in 1959.

Marina became Princess Consort on the 2 January 1911 upon the death of her brother-in-law, Fabio IV. According to custom, the Dowager Princess was required to leave the Cavaletta Palace immediately and not return unless specifically invited by her successor. Traditionally, all rooms were sealed with ribbon and wax which were cut open by the Sovereign's successor. When Marina arrived at the palace following the inauguration almost a year later, she found a letter from her sister in the Princess Consort's Salon which read; "With my sincerest hopes that your days here will be as happy as mine have been, your ever loving sister, Ella". Marina invited Elisabeth to move into a suite of rooms at the palace but Elisabeth declined and moved into a smaller residence, the White Palace.

Marina served as Princess Consort for 14 years. During that time, she became a popular figure in Mantua. Documents have since revealed that much of her appanage was sent to her brother King Karl Louis in Ravaria who had quickly become penniless. When he was deposed, Marina fought to allow him to come to Mantua to live in exile but the King never arrived. Instead, he took the large sum Marina had wired him for the journey and used it to rent a hotel room on the island of Kailos where he took his own life two weeks later. Marina never recovered from the shock of her brother's death and increasingly retreated from public life. Following her husband's death in 1925, she took up residence in the White Palace with her sister where the pair lived out the rest of their days (in the words of a confidant) "sharing their money and their grief".

Death

Unlike her sister, Princess Marina continued to carry out a small schedule of royal duties after her widowhood. These amounted to around 30 a year and she was always received with warmth by the Mantuan people. She died on the 29 March 1959 at the age of 89 and was buried beside her husband in the Prince's Crypt, at the Basilica on the Rock. According to her wishes, her mother's body was exhumed from it's resting place in a vault in the Chapel of the Sacred Blood and buried between the graves of Princess Elisabeth and Princess Marina.

Recognition of Louisa Jensen

In 1927, Marina was asked to receive Louisa Jensen, a young woman of no fixed nationality who claimed that she was the illegitimate daughter of King Karl Louis and his mistress, Yolande von Shenck. Princess Elisabeth rejected the idea and forbad a meeting but Marina insisted that the sisters had a responsibility to meet the young girl, if only to clear their brother's name. After three meetings, Marina and Elisabeth were left in no doubt that Jensen was their niece and made provision for her in their wills. They took a keen interest in the young woman who visited the sisters annually with her husband and three children. This recognition was opposed by Karl Louis' legitimate daughters who claimed that Jensen was an imposter and that she was trying to extort money from their father's estate. "As the poor dear died with as little money as he had sense", wrote Princess Elisabeth by way of response, "I very much doubt financial gain is the foremost priority in Miss Jensen's mind". Jensen later used certificates of recognition signed by the two Princesses to claim a third of a legacy later discovered in a Mantuan bank deposited by Karl Louis without his sisters' knowledge.