- The first major in-depth examination of her life based upon newly discovered archives
- Little-known Italian history explored
- The First World War from a front-line royal perspective
- The royal courts of Europe in a time of great transition
Hélène was a strong-willed princess, raised in France but closely connected with the court of Queen Victoria. After the premature end to a romance with that monarch’s grandson, she married in the royal family of Italy. However, escaping from an unhappy marriage and the boredom of court life, Hélène began extended adventuresome trips into Africa where she became a big game hunter, explorer and travel writer.
Travels took her around the world, but her sense of royal duty brought her back to nurse aboard a hospital ship in Libyan waters, then to an important role as head of the Italian Red Cross nurses during the First World War while her husband headed Italy’s Third Army: one son served in the Artillery while the other was in the Navy. Afterwards, her strong Italian nationalism made her an ally to Gabriele d’Annunzio and Benito Mussolini, but the disastrous Second World War saw her grandchildren interned in Austria and her older son die as a British prisoner of war while she continued her charitable work in Naples.
When the country voted to become a republic in 1946, Hélène was the only member of the royal family allowed to remain in Italy with her second ‘secret’ husband.
Edward Hanson trained and worked as an historian in his native Boston, Massachusetts, before moving to England, ordination in the Church of England and parish life. Now retired and living in London, he has returned to his historical work while continuing to help with church services, both locally and on the Continent.
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
Extent: 464 pages
Illustrations: 34 black-and-white photographs