The Ghost of Princess Borghese: 1840

Gwendoline Talbot Princess Borghese by Giovanni Piancastelli

Lady Gwendoline Talbot, Princess Borghese, Giovanni Piancastelli

GHOST OF PRINCESS BORGHESE

Leaves Its Coffin and Gives a Valuable Ring to a Poor Woman.

The approaching marriage of Don Marco Borghese with Mll. Ysabel Porges [Isabel Fanny Louise Porges], says the London Daily Chronicle, has revived interest in the famous Borghese ghost story. The lady who succeeded to the honors of the beautiful but notorious Pauline Bonaparte [married to Camillo Borghese] was Lady Gwendoline Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury. She was a very lovely woman and adored in Rome on account of her charity. She died a victim to duty during the cholera visitation of 1840, when she devoted herself in the most heroic manner to nursing the very poorest. Her funeral was made the occasion of an extraordinary demonstration, the students of the university insisting upon dragging the hearse to Santa Maria Maggiore, where the body was buried in the gorgeous family chapel built by Paul V. The Prince [Marcantonio] Borghese had himself placed a sapphire ring of great value upon his wife’s finger on her wedding day and insisted that it should be buried with her, and himself watched the soldering of the leaden coffin.

A few days after the funeral a poor woman was arrested, charged with the theft of a sapphire ring, which had evidently belonged to the Princess Borghese, since it bore on the reverse her name and the date of her marriage, 1835. The woman asserted that while she was praying in the Borghese chapel the saintly princess had appeared to her and had given her the ring.

On recognizing the ring Prince Borghese ordered the coffin to be opened in his own presence and in that of several other well-known persons who had watched its sealing up. None of the seals were broken, but the hand was slightly moved, and the ring was gone. Much struck by this strange coincidence, the prince withdrew the charge and educated the children of the accused, one of whom is still living and is well known in the Italian literary world.

Plain Dealer [Cleveland, OH] 14 April 1901: p. 20

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Princess Borghese was born Lady Gwendoline Talbot, daughter of the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. She married Don Marcantonio, Prince Borghese in 1835, and died in 1840, aged 22 or 23 of scarlet fever contracted just after the family returned to Rome from a family visit to England and France. Shortly after that, her three sons died of the measles.

The Princess was called “la Madre dei Poveri” by the Romans. Her reputation and saintly nature made such a story all too plausible. Mrs Daffodil wonders about sleight-of-hand by the solderers, or a paste ring substituted for the real one. But perhaps it is easier to simply believe that the generous Princess arose from the grave for one last act of charity.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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