By Rebecca Drew
INCREDIBLE pictures have been revealed in a new book about the life of the globe-trotting princess who escaped her unhappy marriage and became a big game hunter.
The stunning black and white photographs show Princess Hélène of France, Duchess of Aosta in a canoe on the Busi River in 1909 and posing with her rifle next to a dead water buffalo at Neumann Camp. Other photographs show her meeting King Mzinga of the Warundi and dressed in an Egyptian costume.
Other photos show the princess embracing royal life, dressed for an audience with the pope whilst another shows her in a nurse uniform as Inspectress General of the Italian Red Cross Nurses.
The snaps have been revealed in the book, The Wandering Princess: Hélène de France, Duchess of Aosta (1871-1951) by Edward Hanson and is published by Fonthill Media.
“The starting point for this biography came when I purchased a small collection of postcards at the Olympia Book Fair in London. The dozen or so notes were mainly written by Hélène to her childhood friend Renée Saint Maur, daughter to Camille Dupuy, her parents’ private secretary,” said Edward in the book’s preface.
“The cards were sent from France, Italy, and Switzerland, from Egypt and Ethiopia, and even from a hospital ship off the coast of Libya, a first indication to me of the widespread travels and interests of this woman.
“In her youth, she was renowned as a beauty; when she chose to drape herself with royal jewels for special occasions or official photographs, there was no disputing her regal dignity and poise, which some chose to interpret as pride and haughtiness.
“However, Hélène was actually more comfortable in simpler garments, most especially the travelling clothes she wore during her many trips to Africa.”
Princess Hélène of France was born in 1871 in Twickenham and was raised in France. She had a brief romance with Queen Victoria’s grandson, the Duke of Clarence but they were not allowed to marry due to their different religions.
Hélène married Italian Prince Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, Duke of Aosta in June 1895. They lived in Naples where she became known for her charity work. Hélène died in January 1951.
“Hélène’s life was one of broken expectations. Her one great romance, with Queen Victoria’s grandson, was not allowed to flourish because of the difference in religion,” added Edward.
“When she did marry, it was with the hope of large inheritance from her great-uncle and godfather, the Duc d’Aumale, and the possibility that she and her husband might eventually succeed to the throne of Italy; neither happened.
“The only part of her life that never let down her expectations was that which she created for herself—a life travelling, hunting, and photographing in Africa—and a second, secret, marriage.”
The Wandering Princess: Hélène de France, Duchess of Aosta (1871-1951) by Edward Hanson and published by Fonthill Media is available to pre-order on Amazon for £30 RRP ahead of its release on May 25, 2017.