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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 11:07 GMT
Italian baby princess baptised

By David Willey
BBC Rome Correspondent

A princess from the royal family that once ruled southern Italy has been baptised in a service in the palace of Caserta outside Naples.

The baby girl - called Maria Carolina - is the first child of the House of Bourbon Two Sicilies to be born on Italian soil for more than 150 years.

Princess Camilla and Prince Charles at gala dinner in Naples
In Naples I think they have a special love for the Bourbon family and all over the south of Italy
Princess Camilla
The four-month old Bourbon princess was baptised in the royal chapel by a Vatican cardinal.

Italy is a republic, and noble titles are not formally recognised, but many in the south still regard the Bourbons as their royal family.

The baby girl is the daughter of Prince Charles of Bourbon, the heir to the Bourbons of Naples, who ruled southern Italy until 1861, when they were displaced during the unification of Italy.

The family lived in exile until 1943.

About 600 guests feted this return of the Bourbons for a single night to the gigantic palace that their ancestors built more than two centuries ago.

Royal celebration

For the past half-century Italy has been a republic but unlike the Savoy royals, whose male descendents were banned from returning to Italy until very recently, the Bourbons have always been free to come and go as they pleased.

Princess Camilla/giant cake at gala dinner
Chefs created a giant cake in the shape of Mount Vesuvius
The parents of the new Princess, Charles and Camilla, live in Rome, where their new baby was born.

"In Naples I think they have a special love for the Bourbon family and all over the south of Italy," said Princess Camilla the Duchess of Calabria.

"The Bourbon family never had to leave Italy, like the Savoys. There's never been the same thing."

Although this Bourbon family celebration seemed to leave most people rather indifferent, monarchist supporters may be laying down a marker showing that the Italian monarchy is not extinct.

Although at present the Bourbons concentrate on working for charity, they might conceivably have political ambitions one day in the future.

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