Princess Elida, Dowager Countess Agia

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Elida Princess of Mantua
Dowager Countess Agia
200px
Princess Elida with husband Luis, 2010.
Spouse Luis, 5th Count Agia (m. 1961; his death 2015)
Royal House Montillet
Father Amalio III
Mother Sofia de Saer
Issue Amalio, 6th Count Agia
Elena de Agia y Montillet
Paola de Agia y Montillet
Born 29 November 1938
Cavaletta Palace, Mantua

Princess Elida, Dowager Countess Agia (Elida Maria Sofia Antoinetta Donata Richenda; born 29 November 1938) is a Princess of Mantua and a member of the Princely House of Montillet. She is the younger sister and only sibling of the reigning Sovereign Princess Fabiola and was second in line to the Mantuan throne from 1950 until 1965. She married Count Luis Agia in 1961 and the couple had three children. He died in 2015. The Princess retired from public life the following year and currently resides at the Cavaletta Palace.

Early Life

She was born Elida Maria Sofia Antoinetta Donata Richenda de Montillet, Princess of Mantua on 29 November 1938, the youngest 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 in the line of succession to the Mantuan throne under Mantua's strict succession laws. She was born at the Cavaletta Palace in San Leopoldo en la Piedra at 2.30am 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 maternal aunt Princess Gina de Saer, her maternal grandmother Princess Marina del Viretta, her paternal uncle Prince Nicolás of Mantua and Cardinal Clavijero who baptised her.

From birth, she carried the style of Her Serene Highness. She was privately tutored until the age of 13 when she attended public school at the Academia Santa Rita in San Leopoldo. She graduated in 1956. Unlike her elder sister, she did not attend university but did complete a year working with the Alexandrian Red Cross under the name 'Antoinetta de Saer'. In 1950, succession laws were changed in Mantua to allow females to enter the line of succession. This made Elida second in line to the throne until the birth of her nephew in 1965.

Marriage & Family

On 24 June 1960, Elida formally sought permission to marry Luis, 5th Count Agia (1930 - 2015). However, at the time Luis did not meet the requirements of the Decree on the Princely House of 1710 which required marriages contracted by members of the princely house to be "equal". Though he was born of nobility, the Agia family had no links to a princely or royal ducal house and Elida would have been required to have made a morganatic marriage which would have taken her children out of the line of succession. As her elder sister was not yet married and had no heir, her father Prince Amalio asked the National Council to approve changes to the Decree which dropped the requirement for equal marriage as long as the Sovereign Prince gave his permission for the wedding to take place. This change was approved in September 1960 and the formal engagement of Luis and Elida was announced on the 1 December 1960. The couple married on the 11 June 1961 at the Basilica on the Rock.

File:ElidaMono.png
Princess Elida's Monogram.

The couple had three children together:

  • Don Amalio, 6th Count Agia (b. 1963), married Lia Andrieux-Guepy (b. 1970) on 8 February 1998. Had issue: Doña Désirée de Agia y Montillet (b. 2002) and Don Juan Luis de Agia y Montillet, Baron Palagena (b. 2005).
  • Doña Elena de Agia y Montillet (b. 1970), married firstly Richard Borge (b. 1967) on 20 October 1996. Had issue: Amalio Borge (b. 1998). Divorced in 2003. Married secondly Florian van der Veen (b. 1971) on 1 May 2008. Had issue, twin daughters born in 2010, Elise and Elida.
  • Doña Paola de Agia y Montillet (b. 1972). Unmarried. No issue.

Princess Elida was known to have a tense relationship with her sister in the early 1960s. Letters were made public between the two in which Elida raised concerns that her children were to be denied royal status. Under a Decree issued by Prince Amalio in 1963, it was made clear that Elida's children would not be entitled to the rank of Prince/Princess but privately he had communicated that Elida's children would also be denied any appanage. They would also not be expected to perform any royal duties but it was promised that Elida's children would retain all rights and privileges as the grandchildren of a sovereign in terms of a place in the line of succession. Amalio also promised his daughter that he would make arrangements for other titles to be made available to them if she so wished. The letters between Fabiola and Elida caused a minor scandal when they were released shortly before Princess Fabiola's accession to the throne. In the letters, Princess Elida wrote "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".

When Elida's first child Amalio was born, his grandfather noted that he would inherit the title Count Agia from his father but granted a courtesy title to Princess Elida's husband Luis of Baron Palegena which could be used by Amalio until such a time as he inherited his fathers title. Titles were not created or made available to Princess Elida's daughters which the Princess has since confirmed was according to their own wishes, however as daughters of a Count they are entitled to the honorific style of Doña.

Since the publication of the Elida Letters in 1976, the relationship between Princess Elida and her sister has improved. Both sisters have spoken publicly about their relationship since that time and Princess Elida has said that she considers the matter closed. "All siblings fight", she said, "But our disagreements were made public in a very intrusive and very mean spirited way. But we are older, wiser and now we find that we do not like to be apart for too long. We really are very close indeed".

Public Life

Princess Elida carried out public engagements until her retirement in 2016. She was Patron of the Mantuan International Aid Society between 1958 and 2016 and established the Princess Elida Foundation for the Arts in 1985 which awards sponsorships to young performers. She served as President of the Prince Amalio III Trust and Patron of the Mantuan Philharmonic Orchestra between 1980 and 2016. A keen musician and talented pianist, she regularly performed in public at recitals given at the Princess Sofia Conservatory of Music until 1995. She was awarded the National Medal for the Arts & Sciences in 2000.

In 2015, Princess Elida's husband Count Luis died at the age of 85. It was announced that the Princess would move into a suite of rooms at the Cavaletta Palace and that she would no longer perform public duties. In January 2017 however, she announced that she would serve as Honorary President of the Agia Foundation, a charity founded in her late husband's name which raises money for cancer research.

Titles, Styles and Honours

  • 29 November 1938 - 11 June 1961: Her Serene Highness Princess Elida of Mantua
  • 11 June 1961 - 27 April 2015: Her Serene Highness Princess Elida of Mantua, Countess Agia
  • 27 April 2015 - Present: Her Serene Highness Princess Elida, Dowager Countess Agia
National Honours

Arms

As a Princess of Mantua, Elida uses a coat of arms which impales the main of coat of arms of her father to the dexter (with an ermine division in the upper left quadrant to signify that she is a Princess in her own right) and the arms of her late husband Count Agia. The Count's arms featured three lilies gules on a background of Or. Her arms are mounted on the collar of the Royal House of Montillet and her coronet features the traditional three white feathers, the feminine form of coronets used in Mantuan Heraldry. The Princess was awarded her coat of arms on the day of her marriage however only Princess Elida herself is entitled to use them. Her husband retained the use of his own coat of arms as Count Agia. The lower left quadrant features the green parrot of Mantua, collared and chained.