In the late 1950s, Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy was considered the princess most likely to marry then Infante Juan Carlos of Spain, the heir in waiting to the Spanish throne. But Maria Gabriella, daughter of the exiled King Umberto III of Italy and Princess Marie Jose of Belgium, was not interested in becoming a queen.
In an interview with the newspaper Diario de Mallorca, the Princess said "I think the monarchy will disappear sooner or later."
The Princess, whose main residence is in Switzerland, spends her vacations at Mallorca, "to regenerate" in the sun.
"In Spain, I am known as the first bride of Don Juan Carlos. I could have been the Queen. We went together, but my boyfriend was young, naive. We met in Portugal, where our families lived in exile. At the time there was not much to do but surf or go horse back riding. I had no vocation, no desire to be Queen. The Shah of Iran also asked me to marry him, but I did not accept. Fortunately."
The Princess also talked about when the royal family went into exile in 1946. "I remember it very well. The year was 1946 and we left Italy on board a warship full of cockroaches. For us children, exile meant the discovery of the world. This was really fund. The result of the referendum did not give a clear victory to the Republicans, but the King did not want a civil war in Italy, so he decided to leave."
Maria Gabriella admitted that there were tense moments in the final hours. We had to leave at night by ship from Naples to avoid a demonstration. Fortunately, Portugal welcomed us into the country. My father lived there until his death."
She added that her father "suffered a lot" during three decades of exile. We loved our country. I was very homesick."
She thinks "the monarchy will disappear sooner or later. King Juan Carlos has done very well, not to mention Queen Sofia. Being Queen is a very difficult job and it takes dedication to service."
Princess Maria Gabriella is an active and vocal supporter of her cousin, the Duke of Aosta, as head of the house of Savoy, despite the fact that she has a brother, Victor Emmanuel.
"My brother did some thing wrong in is life, and is not a good representative of the dynasty."
When asked about the Prince of Asturias, Maria Gabriella said: "I have only met her once on the day of the wedding. I think she is smart. She has a difficult role. That's why I never wanted to marry a king. No compensation."
Princess Maria Gabriella, who has a home in Ibiza, first came to Mallorca in 1966. "I live in Switzerland throughout the year and I need the sun to regenerate and continue working."
The princess was married in 1969 to Robert Zellinger de Balkany. They separated in 1976, but did not divorce until 1990. The couple have one daughter, Marie Elizabeth Zellinger de Balkany, who was born in 1972. She is married to Olivier Janssens, and they have two children, Gabriella and Tommaso.