Elena of Montenegro

Queen Elena of Italy

 

Princess Elena of Montenegro, or more commonly known as Queen Elena of Italy was the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro and his wife, Milena Vukotić. Elena was wife of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Following his father's assassination, Victor Emmanuel ascended the Italian throne. Officially, Elena assumed her husband's whole titles: she became Queen of Italy, and with the birth of the Italian Colonial Empire she became Queen of Albania and Empress of Ethiopia.


On 28 December 1908 Messina was hit by a disastrous earthquake. Queen Elena helped with the rescuers, as some photographs show. This helped to increase her popularity within the country. During the First World War Elena worked as a nurse and, with the help of the Queen Mother, she turned Quirinal Palace and Villa Margherita into hospitals. To raise funds, she invented the "signed photograph", which was sold at the charity desks. At the end of the war, she proposed to sell the crown treasures in order to pay the war debts.


Elena was the first Inspector of the Voluntary Nurses for the Italian Red Cross from 1911 until 1921. She studied medicine and was able to obtain a laurea honoris causa. She financed charitable institutions for people with encephalitis, tuberculosis, former soldiers and poor mothers.


She was deeply involved in her fight against disease, and she promoted many efforts for the training of doctors, and for research against poliomyelitis, Parkinson's disease and cancer.


On 15 April 1937 Pope Pius XII gave her the Golden Rose of Christianity, the most important honour for a Catholic lady at the time. Pope Pius XII, in a condolence telegram sent to her son Umberto II for the queen's death, defined her a "Lady of charitable work".


The Regina Elena Social Club was created in honor of the Queen of Italy.