This was the time that the Duke of Angouleme and the Duke of Berry, who were refugees in Turin and close to the King, their grandfather, came to visit the College of Nobles, accompanied by His Grace the Duke of Sorrent, their tutor. Eugene was presented to them, and the princes were invited to enter his little room as being the neatest in the whole dormitory. His Grace the Duke of Berry wanted to measure his height against Eugene’s, who, although younger by four years, was taller than he, which the prince remarked on with astonishment.

Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI p. 29-30

The two Dukes were the sons of the future King Charles X of France. Eugene was to have more contact with the Duke de Berry in Palermo. Eugene was 17 years old at the time:

I owed to this intimate liaison with the Vintimilles the honour and pleasure of spending practically every evening of my stay in Palermo in a measure of familiarity, respectful on my part, with the hapless Duke de Berry. The Prince, to relax after the day’s formality, used to come every evening to take tea at the Princess de Vintimille’s, accompanied by the Chevalier de Sourdis, his aide-de-camp. I was alone in being admitted into that élite group along with the Prince de Vintimille and the Countess his mother-in-law: Madame de Vérac had not yet arrived in Palermo. We used to go occasionally as a group for a walk in the outskirts of the town. On Saturdays, the Duke would laughingly give me an appointment for his revue the next day. It was the official reception he accorded on Sundays to all the French colony. He had come to Palermo to seek the hand of one of the princesses, the daughters of the King of Naples…
I fear that anything I might say further, following the notes that still remain to me about my stay in Sicily, lose their interest after the account I have just given of my relations with the heir apparent to the throne of France, this hapless Duke de Berry, who fell to the parricidal blade of the conspirators who were hoping by assassinating him, plunging the dagger into his heart, to cut short with him all his line.
Why indeed tell how one fine morning, July 7, on my way to Arenella to spend the day at the mansion of the Prince de Vintimille, I fell in with this Prince as he made his way towards the sea where his boat was awaiting him. He pressed me to go swimming with him. Once out at sea, he dived into the water before me. I dived in after him, but whether my foot slipped or for some other want of agility, I fell horizontally rather than cleaving into the water as one ought. The fact is that I put out my shoulder without even suspecting it. I did certainly feel a very bad pain that stopped me using my arm to swim, but I put it down to a very bad cramp. I was undeceived only when I arrived at the grotto we were heading for, and when I was getting out of the water, it was the Prince who exclaimed: “You have put out your shoulder.” A rueful smile came to my lips, I remember, at what had happened, when I saw the dislocated limb. The exertion I had had to expend had clearly aggravated the dislocation: my arm was completely twisted around. Great care was needed to get me dressed. It had to suffice just to cover the injured part, and the Prince’s boat brought me as far as the town gateway, called the Marina, where I got into a carriage, not to go home as my father and uncles would have been quite terrified to see me in that state, but to my adopted home, the Cannizzaro’s where everything possible was done for me on the spot… They immediately sent out for a young apprentice from the neighbouring hospital. They chose a good one, he was a colossus; with a single blow of his powerful hand, he got the bone back into its cavity and I no longer felt any pain. They nursed me, and I carried my arm in a sling for quite a long time, which did not stop me feeling it again over a period of more than thirty years, whenever my arm got a little tired.

 Diary of the Exile in Italy, EO XVI p.86-88


“In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do.”    Gianni Versace

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  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    This morning’s writings offer glimpses of what was very simply a part of how Eugene lived and grew up. It was a part of who he was, his friends, men destined to become kings. Is it any wonder that when he returned to France he set about trying to make a good marriage to a young woman with lots of money. It makes his giving of himself to God and the Church all the greater for he turned from a life of privilege to a life of giving his all to God and people, and not just regular people but to the poor, the poor who for a variety of reasons remained untouched by the structures of the church. We talk about our comfort zones and moving out of them; today I see in a new way how Eugene moved out of his. It is clear that he moved out of his being, out of his giving his all to God. I am reminded for a moment of ‘being in order to do’, the one comes out of the other.

    I know little about royalty, except for that which appears on the evening news or I see in the tabloids. What keeps coming to mind though is a phrase from the Bible: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2). Eugene most certainly did this, keeping company with a royal priesthood.

    Who was I born to be? Who am I keeping company with? How do I announce the praises of my God who brought me into the light?

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