Princess Mafalda of Savoy

Origin: Portuguese, Italian
Gender: Female
Meaning: "Mighty in battle"
Pronunciation: muh-FAHL-duh (I think)
Other forms: Matilda, Matilde

The name Mafalda is the Portuguese and Italian form of Matilda. It might have come from the Medieval French name, Mahaut which means "might, strength". Matilda comes from the German Mahthildis, which comes from the elements maht, which means, you guessed it, "might, strength", and hild, which means "battle".

Mafalda might be vaguely familiar to some, it is the name of a minor character, Mafalda Hopkirk, in the Harry Potter books. She is the head of the Use of Improper Magic department. Mafalda was the name of the first Queen of Portugual, she is known more commonly as Maud, or Matilda though.

There is also Princess Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana of Savoy, who was born in Rome in 1902. She was the second oldest of five children. The children in order were Yolanda, Mafalda, Umberto, Giovanna, and Maria. Mafalda was very close to her mother, Elena, and enjoyed the arts and music. She married Prince Philipp of Hesse, who was a loyal member of the Nazi party. His brother, Christoph, was part of the hierarchy of the party, and married to Princess Sophie of Denmark and Greece, sister to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the future husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England.

Mafalda had four children with Philipp: Prince Moritz, Prince Heinrich, Prince Otto, and Princess Elisabeth. Mafalda was not liked by Hitler, who believed she was against the Nazi movement. He once called her the "blackest carrion in the Italian royal house." In 1943, Mafalda was attending a funeral for her brother-in-law, King Boris III, in Bavaria. While she was there, she got news that Italy had surrendered to the Allied Powers   and that her husband was under house arrest in Bavaria and her children were safe in the Vatican. Mafalda received a phone call telling her that they had an important message from her husband for her. When she arrived at the German embassy she was arrested by the Gestapo for subversive activities, but it is generally believed she was going to be used as a hostage so her father would not oppose the Germans. She eventually ended up in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Their ammunition building was bombed, and Mafalda, along with others, were being housed in a building next to it. She was buried up to her neck in debris and sustained burns on her arms. Because of the conditions of the camp, they became infected, and the doctors there amputated her arm. She lost too much blood and never woke up from the surgery.

Her family were not able to confirm her death until 1945, when Germany surrendered.


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