Yvetta, Princess of Mantua

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Yvetta Princess of Mantua
Princess of Valkenbourg
200px
Spouse(s) Carlos, Baron de San Pablo (m. 1923; her death 1946)
Royal House House of Valk
Montillet
Father Grand Duke Felix II
Mother Princess Gina von Oste-Zeimar
Born 5 May 1905
Schloss Valk, Valkenbourg
Died 6 November 1946 (Aged 41)
Buried Prince's Crypt, Basilica on the Rock, Mantua

Yvetta, Princess of Mantua (born Princess Yvetta of Valkenbourg; 5 May 1905 - 6 November 1946) was the first wife of Carlos, Baron de San Pablo, former Hereditary Prince of Mantua. She was the only daughter of Grand Duke Felix II of Valkenbourg and his wife Princess Gina von Oste-Zeimar. Yvetta married Carlos in 1923. She was killed in an air crash in 1946. In 2016 she was beatified by the Autocephalous Catholic Church of Alexandria and is referred to by the faithful as Blessed Yvetta of Valkenbourg.

Early Life

She was born Yvetta Maria Xalia Benedikta Gina Margareta Theresa Anna, Princess of Valkenbourg on the 5 May 1905 at Schloss Valk. She was the only daughter and eldest child of Grand Duke Felix II of Valkenbourg and his wife, Princess Gina von Oste-Zeimar. Her younger brother Constantine succeeded her father as Grand Duke in 1940. She was especially close to her mother who had wanted a large family with many daughters but in fact only had two children. Yvetta was a skilled musician and accomplished pianist and by the age of 18, was described as "the most beautiful Princess who is surely the most eligible of any residing in the royal courts today".

Marriage & Personal Life

Yvetta first met Prince Carlos of Mantua in 1921 when she was just 16. Ten years her senior, he immediately asked permission to propose to her but Grand Duke Felix asked him to wait for a year, during which time the couple corresponded almost daily. Despite misgivings by both sets of parents, Carlos proposed to Yvetta in January 1923 just a few months short of her 18th birthday. The couple were married on 4 September 1923 at the Basilica on the Rock. The bride wore a sapphire and diamond parure given as a gift by her parents which was subsequently bequeathed upon her death to her niece, the present Grand Duchess Elena of Valkenbourg.

For the first few years of their marriage, Carlos and Yvetta enjoyed a happy marriage and began to undertake royal duties. In 1925, Carlos became Hereditary Prince following the death of his father. He did not expect to retain this position, believing that his brother would one day have a son but this was not the case. Due to strict salic law governing the succession to the Mantuan throne, Carlos' nieces had no succession rights and therefore, Carlos was expected to succeed his brother Amalio III if no legitimate male issue was produced. This provided an additional pressure on Yvetta who had yet to produce any children. If the throne passed to Carlos, it would be his children who would secure the succession. Despite rumours that circulated following her death and in subsequent biographies, Princess Yvetta did not suffer any miscarriages and is believed to have been unable to conceive. The Princess confirmed this in a letter to her sister-in-law, Grand Duchess Marie, shortly before her death in which she wrote, "There can be no doubt that I have failed in that aspect and perhaps that is why I am so disliked. What else was my marriage for but this?"

However, Yvetta may not have been referring to a public dislike but rather a personal one. An exceptionally popular bride, public affection for her rose throughout the years and many expressed a hope that Carlos would succeed his brother so that Yvetta could play a bigger public role as Princess Consort. Despite this, her personal life had begun to fracture. In 1943, Yvetta became aware of Carlos' relationship with Margarita da Silva a week after public celebrations were held to mark Carlos and Yvetta's 20th wedding anniversary. Carlos would later state in an interview, "We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary but we did so as friends who understood our differences. Not having children of our own was disappointing and placed a sadness over us". Yvetta's view of the situation was somewhat different. She felt that her marriage had broken down long before 1943 and that she had nothing left in common with her husband who was frequently absent. "I wish I could tell you that things are improving", she wrote to a confidant in 1944, "But there is little left now but animosity and when we are together, I do not compare to le petit corbeau (the little crow) so we spend most of the time in silence which is so very hard to bear".

Yvetta was exceptionally close to her sister-in-law, Princess Sofia and confided in her that marriage to Carlos was now proving impossible. Private papers revealed in 2008 show that Yvetta feared that Carlos was about to divorce her in 1945. Writing to Prince Amalio III, she begged him to dissuade Carlos from divorce but said that she felt there may be grounds for annulment. If so, she would not leave Mantua, but rather she asked his permission to write to her sister-in-law Mafalda to see if she might enter the Abbey of San Leopoldo en la Piedra which Mafalda had entered in 1922. No reply to this letter exists and there is no proof that Carlos was seriously considering divorce, though he did meet with lawyers in August 1945 in Port-Real which he later explained was to change his will. No documents have ever surfaced which point to a meeting on the matter of a divorce. Carlos spent Christmas of 1945 in the Costa Verde with Margarita da Silva. Yvetta returned to Valkenbourg to spend the holiday with her own family. Whilst there, it is alleged that she had a meeting with a private investigator and a lawyer to assess the situation. According to the latter, Hans Trachter; "She was in doubt that he (Carlos) was about to begin divorce proceedings and she said she had seen documents to prove it. But she never produced copies. She wanted to know if her inheritance would still be hers and she wanted to make certain preparations but I can't reveal what those preparations were". It is generally agreed that Yvetta was not making plans to personally petition for divorce.

Yvetta last saw Carlos at their villa in Mantua on the 5 September 1946. According to Carlos, they ate dinner together and then he left to attend a theatre performance. He would always insist that he returned to the villa that night but that Yvetta was sleeping and by the next morning, she had left. This was not in fact true as Carlos did not return to the villa and instead went to the Hotel Palmeras where Da Silva was staying. The couple then left the following morning to stay at Da Silva's apartment in Port-Real. Yvetta spent the next two months practically alone save for visits from her sisters-in-law, Sofia and Fabiola. She carried out no public engagements and evidence suggests that she was making plans to leave the villa she had lived in since her marriage in 1923 with many of her possessions missing at the time of her death. The vast majority of her jewellery had been sent to her brother in Valkenbourg save for a few pieces she personally gifted to her nieces Fabiola and Elida. According to a retired housekeeper who served Carlos and Yvetta between 1930 and 1946; "When she died, she had only a few possessions left at the villa. Two dresses, a hat, a travel case, some pearls I think. She kept her bible and her rosary on her night stand always but she took those with her when she left on the morning of the accident. When the Prince dismissed us after she died, he said, 'But first you have to arrange to have Yvetta's things removed from this house' and I said, 'She did that herself Sir'. So he told me to pack my things and leave that afternoon which I did".

November 1946

At around 4.05am on 6 November 1946, Yvetta woke and dressed herself before her chauffeur took her from the Villa San Pablo to the San Leopoldo Airport where she was due to board a small light aircraft bound for Port-Real where she would transfer to a larger aircraft for her journey to Valkenbourg. She was to be accompanied by Clothilde Le Croy, her primary lady-in-waiting, who had come to Mantua with Yvetta in 1923 when she married. Whilst not especially close, Yvetta had come to depend on Le Croy who had packed two suitcases full of dresses, hats, jewels and furs as well as another filled with photograph albums. This was not unusual as according to former staff members, Yvetta always travelled with her photograph albums which she filled with early polaroid-style prints whilst visiting friends and relations.

After arriving at the airport at 5.01am, the Princess and her lady-in-waiting were informed that their take-off would be delayed owing to a light fog which the pilot and co-pilot had agreed would reduce visibility beyond acceptable standards. The Princess therefore asked to leave her baggage on the plane and then left the airport with Le Croy, taking a taxi cab to a nearby beachside restaurant 'Taldas' where the two ordered breakfast. By this time, the chauffeur had been informed and drove to the restaurant to collect the Princess and return her to the villa. The new departure time set by the airport staff was 4pm but Yvetta refused to leave the restaurant, asking the Chauffeur to return to the airport to see if there was any possible way she could leave earlier. "Her Royal Highness told me that she was expected in Valkenbourg early afternoon and she needed time to change and dress for a gala dinner being given for her sister-in-law. She said that she needed to leave as soon as possible and I drove to the airport and asked them what could be arranged", he said. It was agreed that the plane could depart at 10.40am if it took off from the new (as yet unopened and untested by commercial flights) runway along the Bay of Mantua.

Upon returning to the airport, the Princess stopped to greet passengers bound for the 11.20am flight to Port-Real. "For all our troubles this morning, we should have joined you!", she joked. One eyewitness said that the Princess was in good spirits and when she walked across the tarmac to her private plane, she waved from the steps to applause from the crowd. The plane began it's take off procedure at around 10.38am. 23 seconds into the air, the plane's second engine ignited causing a massive explosion which sent the plane into a nose dive into the runway below. All on board were killed immediately. At the subsequent inquest it was determined that recent repairs to a faulty engine had not been carried out to a high standard and that had not been sufficiently tested since the repairs were carried out. The choice to use the new runway was not a factor in the accident.

The Princess' body was recovered from the crash site almost immediately. A state funeral was held for Yvetta with record crowds attending. The funerals of Clothilde Le Croy and the two pilots were not held until a month later and took place in Valkenbourg and Alexandria respectively. Princess Sofia felt the death of Yvetta very hard indeed and thereafter, refused ever to meet with Carlos. She is quoted as saying "Yvetta will go to heaven. Lucky for her, she'll never have to see Carlos again". The Princess' funeral was attended by a large gathering of world leaders and foreign royalty. Whilst the Valkenbourgish Royal Family wished for her to be repatriated, she was instead buried in the Prince's Crypt in Mantua according to her own wishes. When her husband Carlos died in 1970, he was not buried next to his former wife but was relegated to a side chapel within the crypt.

Legacy

Yvetta has been the subject of many books and TV documentaries since her death. In 2008 she was the subject of the controversial documentary Yvetta: The Untold Story. Conspiracist Jorge Macros claimed that the Princess had been killed to prevent a divorce, thus allowing Carlos to retain his position as Hereditary Prince. Macros suggests that Prince Carlos had not planned to marry Margarita da Silva until he was Sovereign Prince when he could have made changes to the House Laws but this is widely regarded as conjecture. The claims also do not explain why Carlos married Margarita in 1949 thus giving up any claims he had to the throne. There is also no evidence that the Princess wished to divorce Carlos or that proceedings for such a divorce had been arranged. The Mantuan Princely Family and the Valkenbourgish Royal Family issued statements condemning the documentary which was not shown on Mantuan television.

In 2015, Yvetta was declared 'Of Blessed Virtue' by the Autocephalous Catholic Church of Alexandria following petitions by the Mantuan clergy. Her beatification ceremony was held on the 6 November 2016, 70 years after her death. If her cause for Sainthood continues, she may be canonised as a Saint as early as 2020.

Titles, Styles, Honours & Arms

  • 5 May 1905 - 4 September 1923: Her Royal Highness Princess Yvetta of Valkenbourg
  • 4 September 1923 - 6 November 1946: Her Royal Highness Princess Yvetta of Mantua, Baroness de San Pablo

As Yvetta held the higher style of Royal Highness prior to her marriage, she was entitled to retain it even though her husband held the junior style of Serene Highness. She was the only member of the Princely Family in the last 300 years to hold this style with other royal brides choosing to drop their pre-marital styles even if they were of higher rank.

Honours