Someone Remarkable…

I knew immediately she was someone remarkable. Something played off her that gave her a kind of illumination.” Carlo Ponti.

It was an unlikely match.  But then, the great ones usually are.

Born to a single mother in the charity ward of a Roman hospital, Sofia Villani Scicolone started out with little chance of success.

Her father, a construction engineer of noble descent refused to marry her mother.  One would think that would have ended the relationship in 1934, but, alas no.  Sofia would have a sister, Maria four years later.

Fascist Italy was the target of Allied bombing in World War II, and Sofia was injured running for shelter during a bombing raid.  The family abruptly moved to Naples.  When that didn’t work out, they headed to Pozzuoli where her mother opened a cantina in their living room.  Mamma played the piano, Maria sang, and Sofia waited tables and did the dishes.

The place was very popular with American GIs once Italy was occupied.

Beautiful, young Sofia told stories later on of advances and her successful efforts to fight them off.

In 1950, fate played a different hand.  Carlo Ponti an already famous Italian film producer with more than 20 films to his credit subbed as a judge at the Miss Eleganza beauty contest in Rome.

From the moment he saw her, he was done.  He couldn’t take his eyes off her.  Millions of men over time would feel the same way.

Sofia admitted to an unlikely attraction as well.  He was older, he wasn’t handsome, but there was something there.

And there was something in the way.

Ponti was still married to his first wife.

For Sofia, the role of the other woman was out of the question.  Her strict and conservative upbringing wouldn’t allow her to break the rules she’d learned at her grandmother’s knee.

Ponti didn’t give UP.

Realizing that even without a “relationship,” Sofia was movie gold, Carlo took her under his wing, changed her name to Sofia Loren, and launched a career we’ve all enjoyed.

After casting Loren in Anna and other films, Ponti went to Mexico, got a divorce and married Loren by proxy.

Ponti had married Giuliana Fiastri in 1946 and the couple had two children.  They were separated but still married as divorce was out of the question in Italy.

He was warned not to return to Italy as he would be charged with bigamy and Loren would be charge with concubinage.

Really, I was stunned too!

The church threw the book at them.  Threatened with excommunication and everlasting fire, Loren was devastated. “I had fallen in love with a man whose own marriage had ended long before.  I wanted to be his wife and have his children.  We had done the best the law would allow…but they were calling us public sinners.  We should have been taking a honeymoon, but all I remember is weeping for hours,” Loren told the sea of reporters who followed her everywhere!

After having their Mexican marriage annulled to keep from going to an Italian jail, the couple moved to France taking along the first Mrs. Ponti.

All three became French citizens, Giuliana divorced Carlo, Carlo married Sofia, after which the couple moved to Switzerland.

It was 1966, and it had taken 16 years for Carlo to make Sofia Mrs. Carlo Ponti.

In 2007, after 50 years together, Carlo, at the age of 94, and after a 10 day struggle during which Sofia never left his side, quietly died.

The unlikely match of someone remarkable and the Italian film producer is the stuff Hollywood is made of.  Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?

Best In Show

It hurt Helmut not to win.

Losing had never happened before.

Time and time again he’d worn the blue ribbon, they carried home the trophy, and he was the star of the show.

But now, big dogs were always the star.

The flowing hair, the graceful stride; no one was interested in his broad chest and well muscled body.

He longed for the day when Dachshunds ruled the Kennel Club, and he was second to none.

Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. Click on the link right here to find out more and link your own post. While you’re there, click on the blue frog button to find more stories from some wonderful storytellers.

This week’s prompt was second.

No Happily Ever After

The first time HRH Princess Margaret of the United Kingdom met Peter Townsend, he said she was, “as unremarkable as one would expect of a 14 year old girl.”

He was at the Palace applying for a position as equerry to King George VI, the princess’ father.

Their romance would not begin for another eight years when Margaret was 22 and after the King’s death the same year.

Townsend, 16 years her senior had served in the Indian Civil Service and upon returning to the UK, married one Miss Cecil Rosemary Pawle after a brief engagement.  Two sons followed, and shortly after that, an affair.

Not him, her.

Peter filed for divorce in 1952 and his status as a divorcee made it impossible for the Princess to marry him.

It was a double whammy.  The Parliament was against the match, and the Church of England had a rule or two about marriage being forever.

Something in the Bible, I’m sure.

So, what was the attraction?

Upon meeting her again in the year of my birth, Peter said, “She was a girl of unusual, intense beauty, confined as it was in her short, slender figure and centered about large purple-blue eyes, generous, sensitive lips, and a complexion as smooth as a peach.  She could make you bend double with laughing and also touch you deeply in your heart.”

Rumors of the romance were rampant, but the couple and the Palace went with the usual routine.

Deny, deny, deny.

When Margaret’s big sister, Queen Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey, Townsend as a royal hanger on was invited.  The Princess flicked a piece of lint off his uniform while waiting outside.

The small gesture “confirmed” to the press that the relationship was true.  Papers worldwide carried the story.

The pesky Royal Marriages Act was getting in the way of romance.  You see, for the royal family, the reigning monarch, in this case, Margaret’s big sister, Queen Elizabeth II had to give her consent.

It wasn’t going to happen

Townsend was divorced, and at the time, the Church of England frowned upon divorce.

With the Queen and the government of Prime Minister Winston Churchill against them, the couple had no choice but to call it quits.

Just to make sure, Townsend was reassigned as an air attaché for the British Embassy in Brussels.

Rumor had it they were seeing one another on the sly.

In 1955, after a two year separation, they were briefly reunited.

One story tells it this way, Margaret realizing true love doesn’t always find a way, came to grips with the fact that the new PM, Anthony Eden (who was divorced) decided that should they marry, Margaret would lose her royal privileges and would be dropped from the civil list.

In other words, there would be no bowing and scraping and no income from the government.

But, documents came to light after Margaret’s death showing the Queen and Eden drew UP a plan in 1955 which would allow the Princess to marry her true love and remain a Princess, keeping her royal titles, status, income, and continue with her public duties.

Eden wrote in a letter, “…Her Majesty would not wish to stand in the way of her sister’s happiness.”

She must have remembered her Uncle David, the man who once was king.  And history has shown that Her Majesty was extremely fond of Margaret.  But, before this was made public, and with or without Margaret’s knowledge of it, she issued a statement on Halloween:

 “I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.  I have been aware that, subject to my renouncing my rights of succession, it might have been possible for me to contract a civil marriage. But, mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth, I have decided to put these considerations before any others.”

She was heartbroken.

She moved on.

She drank a bit.

So did he.

In 1960, Margaret married magazine photographer, Anthony Armstrong-Jones.  It was big doings at Westminster Abbey.  Prior to their divorce 18 years later, they had two children.

As to the jilted Captain, well Peter moved to France, married a woman from Belgium who was said to be a doppelganger for the Princess.

The former lovers did meet again briefly in 1993.

No one knows what transpired in that brief conversation.

Margaret died in February 2002 due to complications from years of alcohol and tobacco abuse.

Peter had gone on seven years before.

His opinion may have changed from “as unremarkable as one would expect” to “a girl of unusual, intense beauty,” yet, there was no happily ever after.

An Unusual Love Story

This is a guest post and love story written by my sister-in-law, Diane Burns Brads.  She and my brother, Charlie, will have been married 49 years this June.  They’ve been a couple for as long as I can remember…here is her contribution to the month of love…
An Unusual Love Story
My great-uncle Walter Roberts was born in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky on June 10, 1888 in the area of Little Bullskin Creek,Clay County. He was one of thirteen children, not all of whom survived. The family lived by a creek and he enjoyed playing with his brothers in the fields, skipping rocks in the water and fishing. He worked the farm with his father and brothers until he got the wanderlust and decided to join the Army. After one calm enlistment period, he joined up again and this time saw action in WWI. He returned to his mountain home after the war but something had happened. Unexpectedly, he had fallen in love.

Walter is the last boy on the right.

Walter’s sweetheart was Mary Agnes Flanagan, who was born December 25, 1889 in the area of Springfield, Massachusetts. He had met Mary at a dance when he returned from Europe and the Great War.  Mary’s father had immigrated to the USA from Ireland with his family when he was a young child.  He started out as a child laborer working in mills in Chicopee, Massachusetts but his story was that of the classic American dream. Mr. Flanagan was listed as the president of a brewery in the 1910 census, the Springfield Brewery. Mary was counted in the census that year but she was not at home. She was an art student in Switzerland. She attended a convent school, where she sharpened her artistic skills and learned French. She toured Europe and no doubt worshiped in elaborate, historic cathedrals. She viewed masterpieces of art in great museums and even attended a World’s Fair.
I know about these stories because I knew Aunt Mary. I was a schoolgirl and she was an elderly widow, living alone. We both lived in the same small town and I frequently stopped by to see her on my walk home from school. I was enthralled by her stories of living in a family of 9 brothers and no sisters. I was thrilled when she showed me her sketchbooks and her writing exercises in French. I could barely imagine her leaving her family and going to school in Europe. At some point as I grew older, I realized that now she lived in one side of a small double home and that the only fancy things that I saw were figurines in a china cabinet.
I know nothing of the courtship of Walter and Mary after they met but they married in April 1920 in Springfield, Massachusetts. As luck would have it, the home in which Mary lived at the time of her marriage is still standing in downtown Springfield, surrounded by modern office buildings. It is a large home of great beauty. I can picture the interior with lovely woodwork, lace curtains, fine art and an elegant staircase. Her status as the only daughter was no doubt privileged. She would have had the most stylish of clothing, hats and jewelry. Mary’s family was devoutly Catholic and worshiped at the stately St. Michael’s, a large and historic church.
What could have drawn these two together? In contrast to Mary’s lovely home in the city, Walter grew up in a log cabin on a creek. If he went to church, it would have been Baptist, and the building would have been a humble log one with wooden benches for seats, oil lamps for light and a country preacher spreading the Word. Other than his service in the Army, all that Walter knew was farming. He, like Mary, had traveled to Europe, but as a soldier in a grim war. She traveled as an elite child of wealth.
Nevertheless they married, against the wishes of Mary’s brothers. Mary and Walter were both about 30 years old and could make their own decisions. Her father could not object as he was deceased, but the citizens of Springfield must have wondered about the disturbance at St. Michael’s Cemetery when he turned over in his grave.
The newlyweds suffered a sorrow in their first year of marriage as they lost their first daughter on the day of her birth. They were living in Dayton, Ohio, away from all family. In the following years they were blessed with 2 healthy daughters.In the 1930 and 1940 census records, they are shown as living in Preble County, Ohio and Walter was a poultry farmer.
I will close by repeating the tale that Aunt Mary told me personally about the young family’s first and only trip to visit Walter’s parents. The trip was about 3 years into their marriage with their first baby daughter. They took the train as far as they could, from Dayton to possibly London,Ky. Then they traveled by wagon, presumably pulled by mules, on rutted “roads” , at best, and miry and muddy, at worst. When they arrived at Walter’s home place, Mary told me that her mother-in-law was chewing tobacco and spitting it off of the porch. Culture shock was a mild description.
Since I knew Aunt Mary as a child, I could only have a child’s perspective. Other family members have told me that Aunt Mary was an unhappy person. I can see that her plunge from wealth to being a farmer’s wife could have been very difficult. She probably knew nothing about cooking, keeping house, and doing laundry as her family of birth had servants. Their baby daughter who visited Kentucky had an accident as a young child and suffered brain damage that rendered her ineducable in that day and age. The parents and younger sister cared for her at home. I hope that the love that drew Mary and Walter together sustained them through their marriage. In her later years, Mary seemed to be very lonely. I hope that my visits brought as much pleasure to her as they did to me. Those visits allowed me to know about an unusual love.