Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess by Nicholas Foulkes

HSH Princess Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina zu F├╝rstenberg is the epitome of an It girl, a true socialite,  made the cover of Life magazine, when she was only 16.  This cover story was about her marriage to Prince Alfonso zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg. 

Virginia, who has always been known as Ira, was close to her cousin, Count Rudi of Sch├Ânburg-Glauchau, a close friend of Prince Alfonso (the two were major founders of the Marbella Club).  Rudi told her about Alfonso's romance with Princess Christina of Hesse, a niece of Prince Philip, and they were about to announce their engagement. 

Then the 31-year-old Alfonso met the sloe-eyed Ira, and he was smitten.  Christina was pushed aside and Alfonso and Ira became engaged.  Ira's parents, Prince Tassilo and Clara Agnelli, were divorced.  Agnelli, a member of the Fiat family, had run off with an Italian actor, leaving Ira and her two brothers, Egon and Sebastian, torn between warring parents.

The marriage between Alfonso and Ira was a social coup - but one wonders how Ira's parents allowed for their very attractive 16-year-old daughter marry a 31-year-old man.   Their honeymoon was very much a press adventure.  Ira soon became pregnant.  In November 1956, she gave birth to her first son, Christian.  A second son, Hubertus, was born in 1959. 

Ira admitted that she was not a good mother.  She found motherhood to be "isolating and lonely." This is not a surprise.  Ira was very much a part of the rich and famous, but she was not prepared to be wife or a mother.

The marriage was over within months of Hubertus' birth.  They divorced in 1960.  A year later, she ran off with a Brazilian industrialist,  Francisco "Baby" Pignatari.  Ira met Baby Pignatari while skiing in Italy in late 1959.   Alfonso filed charges of adultery against Baby and was obtained custody of the two boys.

Ira's second marriage lasted for only three years.  She  never remarried, although she has had numerous lovers.  After the death of Princess Grace, Ira became the companion of her second cousin, Prince Rainier III of Monaco (they share a common great-grandmother, Lady Mary Douglas) , and there were numerous reports that they would marry, thus making Ira the Princess of Monaco.  The reports were a bit premature. The couple remained close friends.

The very essence of her  life  has been  captured in the sumptuous Ira The Life and Times of a Princess, which a visually stunning and well laid out tome, that comes with a slip cover for easy placement on a shelf or a cocktail table.

Princess Ira is certainly a social creature who has parlayed her beauty and personality into a fulfillment of being true to herself.  She appeared in B movies in the 60s, became the It Woman for fashion designers including Karl Lagerfeld.

As a "prominent European socialite,"  Ira moved in all the right circles, knew all the right people.  London remains a favorite habitat, but Ira feels at home in numerous countries.   She never needed to marry money as she is wealthy in her own right, thanks to her mother's Agnelli inheritance.

She is a free spirit, unfettered by the norms of society.  Nicholas Foulkes describes her as a woman with "charisma, an endearing personality," with an appetite for the good life.

Ira herself says "My life is colourful... I lived on the spot.  I lived day by day. My plan was to enjoy life..."   Her life has been  a full color palette that she has fully embraced,  and no doubt, she has more to do, more life to embrace.

Princess Ira never got to be a consort, but she remains one of the elegant queens of the international jet set.

Ira The Life and Times of a Princess  was published by Harper Collins  with the support and approval of Princess Ira.  Nicholas Foulkes wrote the text.  The photos of the Princess from infancy to present day are from her own collection as well as agency photos.   A dazzling display of biographical images.

Nicholas Foulkes likes in London.


Monday, July 1, 2019

50th anniversary of the Investiture of the Prince of Wales

Embed from Getty Images 

 Here is a selection of  monographs and other items that commemorated the Investiture of the Prince of Wales on July 1, 1969.