Italy's former royal family seeks return of crown jewels

Savoia family back in the news in Italy as they take legal action to reclaim crown jewels after 75 years.

Descendants of Italy's former royal family are suing the Italian state in an attempt to reclaim the crown jewels which have been kept in a bank vault in Rome since 5 June 1946, three days after the referendum in which Italians voted to abolish the monarchy.

The Savoia, or Savoy family, are seeking the return "within 10 days" of the treasures which include tiaras, earrings, brooches and necklaces, studded with 6,732 diamonds and 2,000 pearls.

The lawsuit is being taken by Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, 84, and his sisters the princesses Maria Pia, 87, Maria Gabriella, 81, and Maria Beatrice, 78, who claim: "Those jewels are ours and, as personal assets, we have the right to have them back."

The Savoys are to sue Italy's prime minister, the ministry of economy and the Bank of Italy for the return of the crown jewels, after more than 75 years, following the state's rejection of a mediation attempt on Tuesday.

Italy's premier Mario Draghi and finance minister Daniele Franco did not attend the 40-minute meeting in Rome, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The elderly former royals taking legal action are the children of Italy's last king Umberto II who ruled for only 34 days before going into exile in Portugal, never setting foot in Italy again. He died in Geneva, aged 78, in 1983.

Umberto's father, King Victor Emmanuel III, reigned from 1900 until May 1946 when he abdicated in favour of his son after being discredited by his support for Mussolini during world war two. He died in exile in Egypt, aged 78, in 1947.

The Savoy family was represented at Tuesday's meeting by Vittorio Emanuele's 49-year-old son Emanuele Filiberto - grandson of Italy's last king - who was born and raised in Switzerland.

The prince first set foot on Italian soil in 2002 when an amendment was made to the Italian constitution lifting the ban that had prohibited male descendants of the House of Savoy entering Italy.

"That the jewels remained locked in a Bank of Italy vault is ridiculous" - Emanuele Filiberto told Corriere della Sera on Tuesday - "If we get them back, we will have them exhibited."

Sergio Orlandi, the family's lawyer, told Italian news agency ANSA: "Unlike the other assets, the [crown jewels] have never been confiscated and have remained pending. Therefore they must be returned.”

No official valuation has ever been made of the jewels whose worth has been estimated in the past to range from a few million up to €500 million, according to Corriere della Sera.

Italy's Festa della Repubblica, held each year on 2 June, commemorates the day in 1946 when Italians voted in favour of a republic and against the monarchy.

Photo Il Fatto Quotidiano