Monday, 16 July 2018

At the road’s end: Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma (1926-2018), war hero and businessman

Prince Michel of Bourbon-Parma, who died on 7 July, aged 92, was a close relative of many of Europe’s royal families and a decorated hero of the Second World War.
Born in Paris on 4 March 1926, he was the son of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma (son of the last reigning Duke of Parma) and Princess Margrethe of Denmark (daughter of Prince Valdemar). His mother was a first cousin of Kings Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway, George V of Britain and Konstantinos I of the Hellenes, while his father’s 23 (!) siblings included Empress Zita of Austria-Hungary and Félix, the consort of Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg. His sister, Anne, married ex-King Mihai I of Romania, while his second wife, Maria Pia, was the daughter of the last King of Italy, Umberto II.
During the Second World War, the family fled to the USA, where Princess Margrethe ran a hat store in New York (and was a close friend and companion of the exiled Crown Princess Märtha of Norway). Aged 17, Prince Michel joined the US army and trained to become a paratrooper. He took part in the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and thereafter in the Pacific war, where he was taken captive by the Vietcong and held for a year before escaping. He detailed his wartime deeds in the memoir Faldskærmsjæger: Fra den franske maquis til Indo-Kinas jungle, which was published in Danish and Norwegian in 1949. (A French edition, Un prince dans la tourmente, appeared in 2001).
In recognition of his wartime service, France awarded Prince Michel the Legion of Honour and the War Cross, as well as a funeral with military honours, which was held at Les Invalides in Paris last Friday. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg was among the mourners.
In 1951, Prince Michel married Princess Yolande de Broglie-Revel, who bore him five children. The couple divorced in 1999, and five years later, Prince Michel married his long-time partner, Princess Maria Pia of Savoy.