Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies 1841-1925

Queen Maria Sophia of the Two Sicilies,Empress Sisi’s younger sister, by then an exiled Queen, suggested Sisi should holiday on the Isle of Wight in 1874. She had been betrothed to Francesco, Crown Prince of Naples in 1857, learnt Italian and married at Bari in 1859. The King of Naples wanted to ally his kingdom with Austria against Garibaldi’s liberation army. The King died, Sicily fell and soon Naples was taken.

Francesco and Maria Sophia retreated to the fortress of Gaeta where her heroic support of the defenders made her famous across Europe. When Gaeta fell they went to Rome. Here, encouraged by her sister Mathilde, she had an affair with Belgian Count Armand de Lawayss and she became pregnant. Maria Sophia gave birth secretly in an Augsburg nunnery. She could not claim Francesco was the father because he could not consummate the marriage (until an operation later). In 1870 Rome fell and they left for Bavaria. They lived in Paris and started coming to England to hunt, taking up residence in London’s Eaton Place. Francesco died in 1894 and Marie Sophia had 30 years as a widow, dying in Munich. She and Francesco are buried in Naples.

Attributed to Franz Xaver Winterhalter [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons