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Elena of Montenegro

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Title: Elena of Montenegro  
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Subject: Marie José of Belgium, Nicholas I of Montenegro, Princess Maria Francesca of Savoy, Princess Yolanda of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Collection: 1873 Births, 1952 Deaths, Albanian Nobility, Albanian Royal Consorts, Converts to Roman Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy, Dames of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, Dames of the Order of the Starry Cross, Empresses and Imperial Consorts of Ethiopia, Female Nurses in World War I, House of Petrovic-Njegoš, Italian People of Montenegrin Descent, Italian Queens Consort, Italian Roman Catholics, Montenegrin Princesses, People from Cetinje, Princesses of Piedmont, Princesses of Savoy, Recipients of the Golden Rose, Women Inventors
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Elena of Montenegro

Elena of Montenegro
Elena in 1900
Queen consort of Italy
Tenure 29 July 1900 – 9 May 1946
Empress consort of Ethiopia
Tenure 9 May 1936 – 5 May 1941
Queen consort of Albania
Tenure 16 April 1939 – 8 September 1943
Born (1873-01-08)8 January 1873
Cetinje, Montenegro
Died 28 November 1952(1952-11-28) (aged 79)
Montpellier, France
Burial Montpellier Municipal Cemetery, France
Spouse Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Issue Yolanda, Countess of Bergolo
Mafalda, Princess Philipp of Hesse
Umberto II of Italy
Giovanna, Tsaritsa of Bulgaria
Maria Francesca, Princess Luigi of Parma
Full name
Jelena Petrović-Njegoš
House House of Savoy
House of Petrović-Njegoš
Father Nicholas I of Montenegro
Mother Milena Vukotić
Religion Roman Catholic
prev. Eastern Orthodox
Signature

Princess Elena Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro (8 January 1873 – 28 November 1952) nicknamed Jela was the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro and his wife, Milena Vukotić. As wife of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, she was Queen of Italy from 1900 until 1946.

Biography

Marriage

As the result of Elena's marriage to King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on 24 October 1896, she converted to Catholicism and became Queen of Italy when her husband acceded to the throne in 1900. Her mother was so distressed with the fact that Elena had changed her religion that she refused to come to the wedding ceremony in Rome.

Due to the Fascist conquest of Ethiopia in 1936 and Albania in 1939, Queen Elena briefly used the claimed titles of Empress of Ethiopia and Queen of Albania; both titles were dropped when her husband formally renounced them in 1943.

She influenced her husband to lobby Benito Mussolini, Prime Minister of Italy, for the creation of the independent Kingdom of Montenegro in 1941. In 1943 she subsequently obtained the release from a German prison of her nephew, Prince Michael of Montenegro, and his wife, Geneviève. Prince Michael had been imprisoned after refusing to become King of Montenegro under the protection of Italy.

The Queen and the wars

Elena in nurse's uniform, 1914-1918

On 11 August 1901, following his father's assassination, Victor Emmanuel ascended the Italian throne. Officially, Elena assumed her husband's whole titles: she became Queen of Italy, and with the birth of the Italian Colonial Empire she became Queen of Albania and Empress of Ethiopia.

On 28 December 1908 Messina was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Queen Elena helped with the rescuers, as some photographs show. This helped to increase her popularity within the country. During the First World War Elena worked as a nurse and, with the help of the Queen Mother, she turned Quirinal Palace and Villa Margherita into hospitals. To raise funds, she invented the "signed photograph", which was sold at the charity desks. At the end of the war, she proposed to sell the crown treasures in order to pay the war debts.

Elena was the first Inspector of the Voluntary Nurses for the Italian Red Cross from 1911 until 1921. She studied medicine and was able to obtain a laurea honoris causa. She financed charitable institutions for people with encephalitis, tubercolosis, former soldiers and poor mothers.

She was deeply involved in her fight against disease, and she promoted many efforts for the training of doctors, and for research against poliomyelitis, Parkinson's disease and cancer.

On 15 April 1937 Pope Pius XII gave her the Golden Rose of Christianity, the most important honour for a Catholic lady at the time. Pope Pius XII, in a condolence telegram sent to her son Umberto II for the queen's death, defined her a "Lady of charitable work".

In 1939, three months after the German invasion of Poland and the declaration of war by the United Kingdom and France, Elena wrote a letter to the six European queens still neutral (Queen Alexandrine of Denmark, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria and Queen Maria The Queen Mother of Yugoslavia) in order to avoid the great tragedy the second world war would become.

On 25 July 1943 Victor Emmanuel III had Benito Mussolini arrested. The king left Rome on 9 September to flee to Brindisi with the help of the Allies and Elena followed her husband in his escape. In contrast, on 23 September their daughter Mafalda was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, where she died in 1944.

Following the war, on 9 May 1946 Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in favour of his son Umberto. The former king assumed the title of Count of Pollenzo, and went into exile to Egypt with Elena.

Children

Coat of arms of King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Elena displayed side-by-side

King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Queen Elena

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