Ex-Royals Sue Italy for $335M Crown Jewels

Children of Italy's last king say the treasure chest held at bank is rightfully theirs
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2022 10:20 AM CST
Ex-Royals Sue Italy: Give Back Our Crown Jewels
Umberto II's wife, Marie Jose of Belgium, is shown decorated in jewels in this photo from the 1940s.   (Wikimedia Commons/Ghitta Carell)

(Newser) – The children of Italy's last king are suing the Italian state to reclaim the crown jewels, including more than 6,000 diamonds and 2,000 pearls. The Guardian has the story from Rome, where the descendants of King Umberto II have been fighting to get their hands on a literal treasure chest held in a safety deposit box at the Bank of Italy since 1946, when citizens voted to dissolve the 85-year-old monarchy. Umberto II had ruled for just 34 days before he was banished into exile in Portugal along with his male heirs, who were only allowed to return to Italy in 2003, per the Telegraph. Most of the royal estate was afterward confiscated by the state—but not the jewels.

Days after the vote, Umberto II reportedly asked the minister of the Royal House to deliver a chest full of tiaras, necklaces, and brooches to Luigi Einaudi, who was then governor of the Bank of Italy and later became its president. Included with the delivery was a note saying the jewels—reportedly worth $335 million, per Business Insider—were to be "entrusted to the custody of the central cashier" and "kept at the disposal of those who have right." Umberto II's son, Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia, and three daughters, Maria Gabriella, Maria Pia, and Maria Beatrice, believe that refers only to them. "Even Russia and Yugoslavia restored private possessions to their royals," Vittorio Emanuele's son, Emanuele Filiberto, told the Telegraph last month.

"The monetary value of the jewels doesn't interest us," he added. "What is more important is the historical and sentimental value that they have for the family." Efforts to arrange a handover of the jewels with the bank and Italian government late last month failed, according to a lawyer for the so-called House of Savoy. The bank was expected to defer any decision to the government, per the Telegraph. "It will now be up to a judge to establish if the family has the [ownership] rights," family lawyer Sergio Orlandi tells the Guardian. A hearing is set for June 7. All this is playing out as the House of Savoy fights with a branch of the family in Russia over claims to the nonexistent throne, per ABC News. (Read more Italy stories.)

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