Do you ever wonder what events inspired the Princess fairytales we all know so well? Is there any truth in the Prince marrying his true love? Well, I have found real life Princess story, and one that starts in Ireland.
In December we visited St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, Co Cork. One of the main reasons for our visit was to find out a bit more about ”Princess Lots of Names” - as she has become known in this house.
On a previous visit to the church I had spotted a monument on the wall inside the main door. It was dedicated to “Her Highness Penelope Carolina Princess of Capua“. The girls were amazed by her daughter’s name “Her Royal Highness Vittoria Augusta Ludovica Isabella Amalia Felomina Helena Penelope Di Borbone Capua“. Yep, that is her whole entire name. Or you may call her Princess Lots of Names for short.
I didn’t note down the names on our first visit, and I failed to remember them accurately, so my trawling through Google came to nothing when I was trying to find out who these mysterious princesses were. (This was how we ended up with ‘Princess Lots of Names’ because we couldn’t remember them!) This time I actually used my head and photographed the monument so I could find out more about this Italian connection to a small town on the south coast of Ireland.
It turns out Penelope Caroline Smyth was a local girl, born in the early 1800s, to a well-to-do family just over the border in Co Waterford. St Mary’s would have been her place of worship. She is reported to have been a stunning beauty and she caused a scandal in 1836 when she eloped with Carlo Prince of Capua whilst travelling in Europe. They married in Greta Green in Scotland. In fact there are records of a total of 4 wedding ceremonies for the couple at various locations because Carlo wanted to ensure that they were legally married. He feared his family would not accept his marriage to a mere commoner.
His fears were realised. Prince Carlo was given the choice of his land and titles or his wife. He chose his wife and the couple were banished, spending their married life with their two children, in exile in Malta. It wasn’t such a bad life though, as they lived in luxurious surroundings, but they were not accepted as part of the royal family until years later in 1860. Unfortunately this was just after Carlo had passed away. However, acceptance by his family meant that Princess Penelope could finally leave Malta and move to Tuscany with her children.
After Princess Penelope died, her children had the monument erected to her memory, on the wall of her local church, in her homeland. And I’m glad they did because it means I found a real life Princess story to tell my girls.