Princess Penelope was born Penelope Smyth, she gained her royal title through her marriage to Carlo Ferdinado di Borbonne, Prince of Capua. Their story reads like a fairy tale.

Penelope Smyth and Carlo Ferdinado di Borbonne, Prince of Capua
Penelope Smyth and Carlo Ferdinado di Borbonne, Prince of Capua

Penelope was born in Waterford on July 19, 1815, while her beau was six years her junior. The pair met in the mid-1830s, but the circumstances of this meeting are have been lost to time. What is known is that their romance was quick, and their love was strong. So strong in fact that on April 5, 1836, they eloped to Scotland. Unsurprisingly, this quick nuptial was met with disapproval from the Prince’s family. He had defied a royal decree that all royals required the permission of the king to marry. In this case, the king was Carlo’s brother, King Ferdinand II. The couple began their honeymoon in exile.

In an unusual turn of events, the couple remarried a month later after seeking dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury. This second marriage did not soothe his brother’s ire. The couple remained in exile until his brother’s death. They had two children, Francesco and Vittoria and remained devoted to each other until Carlo’s death in 1862. His death was soon followed by the death of their son Francesco. Princess Penelope would live for another twenty years at a villa in Lucca, Italy.

Turtle Bunbury goes into to detail of this rift in his article A SCANDALOUS AFFAIR – PRINCESS PENELOPE (1815 – 1882)

Princess Penelope’s memorial

Memorial to Penelope in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Youghal (Image: Sharon Slater)

Princess Penelope was never forgotten by those in her home country. A memorial to her memory in St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, County Cork reads:

In memoriam Her Royal Highness Penelope Caroline, Princess of Capua, daughter of Grice Smyth of Ballynatray, Co. Waterford, born 19th July 1805, died 13th December 1882. The beloved wife and faithful widow of His Royal Highness Carlo Ferdinando di Borbonne, Prince of Capua, who died 2nd April 1862. This memorial devoted to a devoted and lamented mother is erected by her loving and beloved son and daughter, His Royal Highness Prince Francesco Carlo di Borbonne and her Royal Highness Victoria Augusta Ludovica Isabella Amelia Philomina Helena Penelope did Borbonne Capua.

Memorial to Grice Smyth in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Youghal (Image: Sharon Slater)

In the same church there is a memorial to her father Grice Smyth, which reads:

Sacred to the Memory of Grice Smyth Esq of Ballinatre in the county of Waterford who having endured a most painful illness for ten years with perfect resignation to the will of God; departed this life in the City of Limerick; on the 18th Day of January ANNO DOMINI 1816, and in the 51st year of his age.

His remains are deposited near this place in the same tomb with those of his ancestors, the Earls of Cork and Burlington.

As a brother, husband, Parent and friend he was most affectionate generous and sincere.

This monument is erected to his memory by his widow Mary Broderick Smyth daughter of the late Henry Mitchell, Esquire, of Mitchells Fort, is testimony of her esteem and love.

He was also remembered in the Limerick Chronicle on the January 19, 1816

Died: This morning at his lodgings on George’s Street, after a tedious illness, Grice Smyth, Esq. of Ballinatre Co. Waterford.

Limerick Chronicle 19 Jan 1816

Penelope was only a few months old when her father Grice passed away in Limerick. It is unknown what he was doing in Limerick at the time of his death.

After Prince Carlo’s death Penelope retired to Ville Reale where she spent the rest of her life.