In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy, wife of King Umberto I, was bored with French gourmet food, the traditional royal fare of Europe at the time while staying in Naples’ Capodimonte Palace. She saw many of the local people eating large flatbread and grew curious. The queen found it to be delicious.
According to legend, Queen Margherita summoned the most famous pizza-maker in Naples, Raffaele Esposito, to bake a variety of pizzas. Her favorite was the one with tomatoes, mozzarella slices, and basil, which perhaps, was made in her honor and so contained the colors of the Italian flag.
The queen loved it so much that she sent a letter of compliments. Esposito was so proud that he named the pizza after her.
And the Margherita Pizza was born!
Queen Margherita was the wife of King Umberto I, who reigned from 1878 until his assassination in 1900. She was born Princess Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna of Savoy just after midnight on November 20, 1851, at the Palazzo Chiablese, part of the Royal Palace of Turin. Margherita was the daughter of Prince Ferdinando of Savoy, Duke of Genoa, and Princess Elisabeth of Saxony.
On January 9, 1878, Margherita became the first Queen of Italy when her husband ascended to the throne following his father’s death. Immensely popular with the Italian people, Queen Margherita was very active with many cultural organizations, promoting the arts, and working extensively with the Red Cross. She is credited with introducing chamber music in Italy and often helped up-and-coming musicians with their education. These included Giacomo Puccini, who was able to study at the Conservatory of Milan thanks to a scholarship granted to him by The Queen.
Always possessing an adventurous spirit, in 1893 she climbed the Punta Gnifetti for a ceremony in which a mountain hut – the Capanna Regina Margherita – was named in her honor. She later became President of the Ladies’ Alpine Club.
Margherita was widowed on July 29, 1900. While visiting the city of Monza, King Umberto I was shot and killed by an anarchist who was avenging the deaths in the Bava-Beccaris massacre. The throne passed to the couple’s son, Vittorio Emanuele III, and Margherita settled into her new role as Queen Mother. She devoted herself to her charity work and the advancement of the arts in Italy. She maintained her official residence at the Palazzo Margherita in Rome and also lived in the Stupinigi Hunting Lodge.
Queen Margherita died at Villa Margherita on January 4, 1926. She is buried beside her husband in the Pantheon in Rome.