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About Jane Campbell Bourbon del Monte
The Formidable "Princess Jane:" America's Own "Eccentric Princess Of The Lido!"
Jane Allen Campbell Princess di San Faustino
Jane Allen Campbell, who was born on June 25, 1865 in Montclair New York, was the daughter of George W. Campbell of New York City and his wife Virginia, née Watson. In 1895, she accompanied her widowed mother and maternal aunt, Baroness de Westenberg on a grand tour of Europe. Mrs. Campbell and her sister the baroness were famous for their good looks and were known as the “beautiful Watson sisters from Florida.” Jane’s aunt, Baroness de Westenberg was first married to a certain Mr. Birkhead and sadly stood helplessly on the beach at Westhampton, unable to assist, watching her only child, a son, drown before her eyes. Sadly, a Mr. Post also perished while trying to save the little boy. After she was widowed, she married the Baron de Westenberg, who was the Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States before assuming the same post in Rome. There his wife and, later his widow, assumed an important social position and was particularly favored by Queen Margherita. She settled her large inheritance on her niece and introduced Jane to the Italian court. The beautiful young woman married in Geneva on June 7, 1897 to Carlo Bourbon del Monte, 3rd Principe di San Faustino, Marquis del Monte Santa Maria. Her groom who was four years her junior was a descendant of an old Roman noble family, who succeeded his father in the family titles in 1892.
In 1902, she was accused by a maid of having beaten her so badly that she needed ten days to heal. Jane put herself in danger in 1908 when during student riots outside the Austrian embassy in Rome, she and a friend stepped onto the balcony of the embassy and laughed at the rioting students below.
Jane was well known for shocking society for more than forty years in Rome by ignoring established social traditions. At one of her first functions as hostess in Rome, she discovered just before the guests were to arrive that the punch to be served was lemonade instead of the champagne which she desired. Her husband refused to give her the keys to the wine cellar and she had insufficient cash to purchase champagne. She immediately pawned an heirloom gold necklace and the guests were served champagne. At one of her dinners, she had a Foreign Office expert arrange seating according to rank. When the guests arrived she had mistakenly reversed left from right and all the guests were seated incorrectly. Sir Oswald Mosley wrote of her salon as “a university of charm, where a young man could encounter a refinement of sophistication whose acquisition could be some permanent passport in a varied and variable world. If he could stand up to the salon of Princess Jane, he could face much.”
She was particularly helpful to the young Barbara Hutton in establishing social connections in Venice. In fact, of all the social connections that Barbara established in Venice, none was to prove more valuable that her friendship with the Princess Jane, by this time a seventyish widow. One of Hutton’s biographers C. David Heymann, however, adjudged Princess Jane’s influence in Venice “as the first and last word on who rated and who did not, and her judgments in such matters were not only final but frequently cruel.” At first Barbara found the princess an almost frightening apparition. “She would sit in her cabana and play backgammon for hours on end, sipping Amaretto and cream, talking a mile a minute about any subject that popped into her mind, interrupting herself to screech at servants and complain that the Italians were the slowest, dumbest, laziest people on earth. A moment later, she would proclaim the Italians the true master race, the greatest artists the most noble civilization."
Hutton wrote in her own diary that Princess Jane “was a wonderful juggler!" "She could keep numerous activities going at once, planning a dinner party while listening to a conversation, while playing backgammon, while reading a book, while knitting a sweater, while berating the cabana boy, while recounting the latest gossip…and in the middle of it all she insisted that Barbara tell her life story and ‘don’t leave out any intimate details.’She loved unsavory details, loved dirt. If you paused, she grew impatient. ‘Go on go on, I am listening!’ The instant she picked up on the thread, she returned to her torrid pace of activity. But she took it all in, because when we were alone she asked pertinent questions about certain very minor details I had mentioned in passing. When I asked how she did it, she said she had peripheral hearing and more than a one track mind.”
A rumored great beauty in her younger days, Princess Jane wore deep mourning after her husband’s death, always in white or black, for more than twenty years. Persistent rumors of their impending divorce were met with strong denials although she admitted later in life that, had her husband been American, she probably would have divorced him soon after their marriage. The “Widow Bourbon Del Monte” is remembered variously by other observers of the Roman expatriate social scene in the 1920’s but never as a wallflower. “She was an absolute terror,” although “very charming,” according to Flora Tower, who met her on a visit to her friend Katherine Sage, Jane’s first daughter-in-law. “I can remember her wearing black and with a black head garment, like Mary, Queen of Scots, that came down to a point on her forehead, above but between her eyes, and bordered by a white piece underneath. It was really an incredible outfit. She was very formidable, very imposing.”
Her granddaughter, Susanna Agnelli, seems to have been amused and horrified, in about equal portions. In her 1975 memoir, We Always Wore Sailor Suits, as a child, Agnelli recalled that her grandmother, whom she called, “'Princess Jane', adored people and parties and gossip and the strange mix ups of life. She said atrocious things at which people trembled, but she could make anyone’s life fun if she decided to look after them.”
Acclaimed historical biographer Hugo Vickers, wrote that Jane was “noted for her boundless hospitality, wit and humor,” while the Duchess of Sermoneta said that she “collects human beings as others collect postage stamps or moths.” In 1929 she received the Red Cross Gold Medal for her charitable work for a sun cure colony for tubercular children. At the time it was the highest award ever given to a woman for such work in Italy.
Just before her death, she wrote her memoirs that were published serially in a weekly newspaper. She and her husband had a son, Don Ranieri, and a daughter Donna Virginia. The son succeeded as the 4th Principe di San Faustino, like his father before him he married brides from America, Catherine Sage and Lydia Bodrero Macy. His son by his second wife is the current title holder.
Virginia, daughter of Jane and the prince, married Edoardo Agnelli, an heir to the Fiat fortune, and was the mother of famed playboy Gianni Agnelli, the eventual Chairman of Fiat.
Jane died of pneumonia in Rome on June 23, 1938.
Jane Campbell Bourbon del Monte's Timeline
Montclair, NJ, USA
February 27, 1901
Rome, Lazio, Italy