Félix-Emmanuel de Lavaÿsse, King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, King Umberto I of Italy, Maria Sophie in Bavaria, Princess Maria Cristina Pia of the Two-Sicilies, Queen of the Two-Sicilies
While in exile in Rome, Marie Sophie became pregnant with an illegitimate child. In order to avoid a public scandal, she gave health reasons to urgently visit her parents’ house in Possenhofen. It was decided in a family council that Marie Sophie should retire to the Ursuline Convent in Augsburg, where on November 24, 1862 she gave birth to a daughter who was named Mathilde Marie Sophie Henriette Elisabeth Louise, but commonly known as Daisy.
The child was immediately given to foster parents, the Count and Countess de Gineste, who raised her at Castle Garrevaques in Département Tarn. However, Maria Sophie was able to keep in touch with her daughter until she died in January 1886 and even attended her funeral in Paris. This story was revealed by a great-great-grandniece of the Ginestes in a book published in 2021.
Countess Marie Larisch von Moennich, niece of Marie Sophie, had spread the story that the child’s father was a Belgian officer of the papal guard named Count Armand de Lavaÿss.
Although Countess Larisch’s biographer Brigitte Sokop refuted this assertion and speculated that a possible father of the child would be the Spanish diplomat Salvador Bermúdez de Castro (later Duke of Ripalda and Santa Lucía), who was often to be seen in the company of the Neapolitan royal couple and who was also said to have had an affair (and also an illegitimate daughter) with Marie Sophie’s sister Mathilde, Countess of Trani, Lorraine Kaltenbach in her 2021 biography of Marie Sophie established that the father of her illegitimate daughter was indeed a certain Félix-Emmanuel de Lavaÿsse, a pontifical zouave, whom officially recognized Daisy as his daughter on May 16, 1867 shortly before his death on April 18, 1868 aged 32.
A year later, on the advice of her family, Marie Sophie decided to confess the affair to her husband. Afterwards, the relationship between the two improved for a time. Francis submitted to an operation which allowed him to consummate the marriage, and Marie Sophie became pregnant a second time, this time by her husband.
Both were overjoyed at the turn of events and full of hope. On December 24, 1869, after ten years of marriage, Marie Sophie gave birth to a daughter, Maria Cristina Pia. Cristina was born on the birthday of her aunt, Empress Elisabeth, who became her godmother. Unfortunately, the baby lived only three months and died on March 28, 1870. Marie Sophie and her husband never had another child.
In 1870, Rome fell to the forces of Italy and the King and Queen fled to Bavaria. The king died in 1894. Marie Sophie spent time in Munich, and then moved to Paris where she presided over somewhat of an informal Bourbon court-in-exile.
It was rumored she was involved in the anarchist assassination of King Umberto I in 1900 in hopes of destabilizing the new nation-state of Italy. Recent historians have resurrected that rumor based on the apparent credence given to this conspiracy theory by the then Prime Minister of Italy, Giovanni Giolitti. Others regard it as anecdotal. In any event, the case against Marie Sophie is circumstantial.
During World War I, Marie Sophie was actively on the side of the German Empire and Austria-Hungary in their war with the Kingdom of Italy. Again, the rumors claimed she was involved in sabotage and espionage against Italy in the hope that an Italian defeat would tear the nation apart and that the kingdom of Naples would be restored.
During her life, she generated an almost cult-like air of admiration even among her political enemies. Gabriele d’Annunzio called her the “stern little Bavarian eagle” and Marcel Proust spoke of the “soldier queen on the ramparts of Gaeta”. She and her sister Elisabeth were considered amongst the great beauties of their age.
Maria Sophie died in Munich in 1925. Since 1984 her remains now rest with those of her husband and their daughter in the Church of Santa Chiara in Naples.