Refuting La Dolce Vita
Prince Louis Richard II de la Pau
"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you."
―Mary Tyler Moore

"Who can know the life of a hummingbird in a jeweled cage?"
―HRH Princess Adelaide of Bourbon-Parma and Hapsburg-Lorraine

People often think that women like me were raised liked orchids in hothouses, that we don't have any understanding of the world outside the carved and inlaid doors of our palaces and villas. They see us in the newsreels and magazines and they envy us, firm in their belief that real life has never touched us. They consider that the world of High Society is rarified, protected, cocooned in a luxury that protects its denizens from all ugliness and hardship.

But they've never thought of War―the way the phantoms of Chaos and Destruction can pass through the French windows, mount the marble stairs and stride unnoticed into the salons beyond filled with Old Masters and the finest antique furniture, and take up watchful poses in the shadows just beyond the silver candelabra. Those people never heard the voices of the hoi polloi raised in a hatred fired by the propaganda of Communists and Occupation forces alike. And they never saw the self-elected politicians walking towards us and calculating the value of our centuries-old homes, drawing a double line beneath the mental total as they faced us across the silver Louis XV table in the Blue Receiving Room. And those same people never heard the ultimatums, the threats, the demands made of us.

Perhaps that's how it should have been. Perhaps History needs these things to happen behind closed doors and shutters on a bright sunny day in early summer. Maybe that is the sort of Justice that the triumphant gods of the Others demand―a Justice that is not seen in process, in conferenza pubblica.

We bowed our heads to the inevitable, but we refused to recognize the legitimacy of those demands. We stood firm as we made our own futile requests for clemency, for understanding, for a consideration of the facts that we, despite our affiliations, had lived in our self-imposed exile under the ancien régime, had never supported the crimes against our own people, had never supported the desires of our subjects to take part in crimes against other innocents just across the Adriatic Sea. Unwillingly we partook of the blame and we swallowed the bitter pill, for the Word had been spoken and we were to go. The new Goddess of Democracy had cast her ballot and the scales had been tipped against us, the horny thumb of Corruption weighing heavily against us.

And we left our homes and possessions with our heads held high, our jewels gleaming, and the black limousines incandescent in the afternoon sunshine. We bade farewell to those who had so loyally served us in both our presence and our absence, not knowing if we'd meet again. And the children wore their finest white dresses: like lambs to the slaughter or First Communion they passed through the doors and down the steps to the waiting cars, while the people watched, silent now and perhaps cognizant of the enormity of their ill-directed actions. Or maybe not. Who shall understand the mind of that creature known as Mob? Does it even have a mind, or is its thinking shaped from elsewhere?

La Dolce Vita was invented for us. We shaped it over the years, fitted it to our desires and dreams and then waved the scepters that would make it real. And it was so real for such a long time that we truly couldn't imagine any other way of passing from the canopied cradle to the marble sepulcher. But we always kept a vigilant eye on that grey and brutish existence just the other side of the firelight, and the sounds it made sometimes kept us awake at night, although it never kept us from our duties and obligations, our gaming and our pleasures.

No one saw the tears forming silently behind our veils or heard the frail echo of our hearts breaking as we left our homes for the last time on that magnificently cloudless day in 1946. The clouds were inside us, bottled up, ready to pour forth their rain only after we had passed the border at Fréjus. Only then did we give way to our grief, after the last sentinels of the New Order spat upon our passports. And no one saw us, and all remembered our forbearance and we were proud of ourselves, for we hadn't brought shame upon our Dynasty or our ancestors. We kept the Name intact, untarnished and uncorroded, to shine again far away and serve as a lighthouse for those who would seek us out when the New Order stumbles and falls and the people start to search for the Truth of the past. And we shall be waiting for them. We shall wait forever, if needs be. And when the time comes, we shall return in those same ancient motorcars, the same brittle veils hiding our faces as we weep on entering that Renaissance City of Light, our beloved Florence. And we shall stand there on the balcony and we shall not remember the 'whys' and the 'hows'. We shall remember only the 'here' and the 'now' and our heads will be held high as they always have been.

Nobody will call us 'brave', for no one will realize the fear and pain we felt. And the people will continue to believe that we breathe only the most purified air free of any taint of reality, like hummingbirds in bejeweled and gilded cages. And we shall allow them to believe that, for the Truth helps no one but the priests and their worthless incantations to a blind and deaf God who cares not a damn―neither about the fall of a sparrow, nor a House that has withstood for centuries on end.
HSH Prince Louis Richard II de la Pau, a member of the Italian House of Bourbon Parma, was born in exile in Australia in 1969 and was brought up mainly in France, Egypt and the United Kingdom. He is currently living in Bulgaria, where he is a translator and writer. His non-fiction works have been published by the National Academy of Sciences in Sofia and Vienna. He has just finished writing his first semi-autobiographical novel, A Prayer for a Prince, or Valse Triste, which reveals the darkness behind the scenes in one of Italy's most important royal families. The book is under consideration for publication in the United States.   Blog