Monday, April 1, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: Prince Scarpia of Urbino

A favorite cousin of Queen Mary, Prince Scarpia of Urbino was a beloved figure throughout Italy of the 1930s.  His square head and joyous pout were marveled and said to have curative powers.  Clerics of all sorts made many a pilgrimage to the steps of his palace where they would leave cellophane-wrapped baskets of offerings.

This rare photo of Prince Scarpia, collected by Queen Mary and placed in this handsome frame by Viktor Aarne, remains in the Royal Collection and depicts one of the moments when the young prince received the offerings he so loved.

Not much is known about Prince Scarpia's adult life.  It is said that an envious courtier told the young prince of mysterious "Cocoa Ladies" who lived in the Tuscan Hills.  These women, it was said, traveled the lands with large thermoses, distributing cocoa to lost princes.  Scarpia, it is believed, went in search of the "Cocoa Ladies" never to return.


This photo, from 1952, is of my father as a boy on Easter morning.

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