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American Princess: 1922

American Princess: 1922

March 31, 1922. Washington, D.C. "Princess Andrea Boncompagni." Who before marrying her Prince in 1916 was Miss Margaret Preston Draper, "richest heiress in New England." A few months after this picture was taken, the Prince went to the Vatican to have their union annulled. National Photo Co. View full size.


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Margaret was my aunt

There are a LOT of nasty comments here. My grandmother, Grace Draper Gallaway, was a good friend of Aunt Margaret so I'll pass on some inside scoop.

The Prince brought his mistress with him on their honeymoon, she of course was shocked. Why would anyone consummate a marriage under such conditions?

Margaret never had children of her own, but was exceedingly generous with her money. I know she put my father and at least one of his brothers through boarding school and college. She lived near my parents in Washington and would often take them out to dinner or share a table at a charity event with them. She gave a Christmas gift to all her nieces & nephews, (and she had 6 step siblings, so that was a fair amount), and was always very giving with what she had. I have never heard anything negative said about her, only that she was very kind, and again, very generous.

Margaret Preston Draper

There's an article about Margaret, with photos, in the book "Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes and Dukes." It can be ordered from

U.S. nobility

So she couldn't even recall the date of her wedding? How embarrassing. Embarrassing also to admit your marriage had never been consummated. Or maybe that was a plus back then?

The US Constitution prohibits the government from awarding titles of nobility, and prohibits anyone in service to the government from accepting a title from a foreign power without Congressional approval, but private citizens may take on all the titles they can bear.

Mockumentary filmmaker Christopher Guest would be another example of an American with a European title, a barony inherited from his British father.

[Margaret's title was Italian. She and the prince lived in Italy. - Dave]


Do you realize that half a million dollars then would be $6,511,398.81 today? Boy do I wish I were her, or at least had lived in the "Roaring Twenties."

Sordid details--revealed!

According to one site--family lore posted by the g-granddaughter of the Princess' half-sister Edith, it would appear that the reason was the ol' Prince had a little something on the side (see excerpt below). Another site claims similar, but not the same story (see here--the second wife claims she was always the true love of said prince!) In either case, the official reason for the annulment was non-consummation (see document in Italian, here).

At age 25, Margaret Preston Draper married 32-year-old Italian "Papal" Prince Andrea Boncompagni. According to family lore, the elder Prince Boncompangni had little money so he pawned a cherished tapestry to William Franklin Draper, the American ambassador to Italy. He regretted this and wanted to get the tapestry back, so he arranged for his son to marry the ambassador's daughter Margaret. He was devoted to his mistress and their children, however, and the marriage was annulled, apparently never having been consummated. The cherished tapestry was returned, and Margaret was allowed to continue using the name Princess Margaret Boncompagni.

Hopedale and Draper

I grew up right near Hopedale, and I had never heard this history. Lots of the towns in the area have old empty mills, but I guess I never realized how much money these mills made. I was wondering if this family also had something to do with Draper Labs at MIT, but it doesn't look like they're related.

Speaking Tubes

I've never seen speaking tubes in a car, but the Chicago 2-flat in which I grew up had speaking tubes for visitors at the front door. Located in the hallway next to the kitchen, you could check on who was at the door and buzz them in. My father took the tubes out of service for some reason. (The building was built in the mid-thirties.)

And by the way, Margaret is obviously closing the door, not opening it!


I don't know about the dual citizenship/royalty issue, but for what its worth, there is a Oct 8, 1938 news piece about Margaret Draper regarding repatriation:

Driven from Europe by gathering war clouds, the Princess Boncompagni, former Washington girl, will seek repatriation, it was learned yesterday. The Italian princess, once Miss Margaret Preston Draper, has asked her bank to search the files of the District Building to ascertain the exact date of her marriage to Prince Andrea Boncompagni.

Now, the definition of repatriation suggests that it can mean either a return to the home country or a restoration of citizenship. The search for documents suggests that she was seeking to reestablish a legal status.


Does anybody want to point out that one can not be a Princess or any other "royalty" or representative of another government and still retain U.S. Citizenship?

Was anything made of this at the time?

[Why would you think that? Grace Kelly, even after marrying Prince Rainier and becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, retained her American citizenship. - Dave]

An Illustrious Family
here is the genealogy of the family Boncompagni Ludovisi. Margaret died in 1973, Andrea in 1948. In Rome there is a Museum Boncompagni Ludovisi. In via Boncompagni Ludovisi there is a side entrance of the American embassy which is located in the former residence of the queen mother of Italy.


Bravo -- Wish I'd said that.

Poor dead fox

I'm looking at this hideous coat with the three-ball pattern and the horrifically ugly dress with the basketweave and the crooked hem and I can only conclude that the fox died of embarrassment.

No Spouse; No House

A curse indeed. Just a week before this photograph, Margaret sold the family's mansion in Washington. Contrary to the following story, the mansion was not razed immediately: there are news reports in 1931 of the mansion's ballroom being converted to an exclusive supper club: Club Montmarte.

While the Washington Post's society pages are filled with hundreds of references to Miss Draper's days as debutante, there are, not surprisingly, scant details of her later annulment.

Famous Mansion Sold to Masonic Insurance Company For Stores and Offices.

Announcement was made yesterday of the sale of the Draper home, at the northeast corner of Connecticut avenue and K street, northwest, for Princess Boncompagni, of Italy, formerly Miss Margaret Draper, of this city, to the Masonic Mutual Life Insurance Company of the District of Columbia. The new owners propose to tear down the house and erect and eleven-story office building on the property.

This sale marks the passing of one of Washington's most noted residences into the hands of business interests. The old mansion, famous as the scene of a wedding of international importance, and as the home at various times of Washington McLean, of Alexander R. Shepherd, governor of the District of Columbia, and of William F. Draper, United States Ambassador to Italy, has been held for $250,000, it is understood.
In the great ballroom of the house Miss Margaret Draper and Prince Boncompagni were married shortly before the world war. An unusual feature of the ceremony was the fact that Cardinal Gibbons came from Baltimore especially to pronounce the vows for the couple, being permitted to do this by reason of the fact that the bridegroom was of royal blood.

The house has been unoccupied since Mrs. Draper and the prince took up their residences in Italy.

Washington Post, Mar 25, 1922

Former Miss Draper Reported in Romance

(Special Cable Dispatch)

Paris, Jun 22 - Society is humming with reports that Princess Boncompagni, formerly Miss Margaret Draper, of Boston and Washington, and heiress to a $6,000,000 estate from her father, the late Gen. William F. Draper, formerly the American Ambassador in Rome, will soon marry again. Her marriage to Prince Andrea Boncompagni was recently annulled. The princess is seen constantly in Paris social affairs accompanied by Prince Ottoboni, a handsome Italian.

Washington Post, Jun 23, 1924

Former Miss Draper Is Sojourning Here For Few Weeks.

Princess Margaret Boncompagni, whose return to Washington for a few weeks each winter is a most welcome event, entertained at a luncheon yesterday at the Mayflower for a distinguished company of guests. A daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. William F. Draper, Princess Margaret, as Miss Margaret Draper, made her debut in the old Draper Mansion, now given over to business establishments, and, after a year or two as a reigning belle, was married there to Prince Andrea Boncompagni-Ludovici, scion of a family which had given two Popes to the Church of Rome. Since they separated she has lived much abroad, but the princess always comes to Washington at least once a year.

Washington Post, Feb 5, 1930

Poor lady

Was she actually forced by reduced circumstances to open the car door ALL BY HERSELF!?? Oh, the humanity!!

Hard worker

All that wealth and she has to open the door!

The Prince

He realized that he could do better.

Sordid Details

I would love to know more about her and what exactly caused her marriage to end. The link that Gooberpea listed was all I could really find too, and qu'un désordre! Too bad Us Weekly wasn't around back then. Or, perhaps too bad it is around today?

Out there

All that money and her marriage was annulled. Maybe I'll give her a call.

Cursed Princess

Wonder why she looks so glum? Consider this:

Princess Andrea Boncompagni was born Margaret Preston Draper to socially prominent and wealthy parents in Hopedale, Mass. Both of her grandfathers were Civil War Generals - one Confederate, one Union - and her father was a cotton mill owner and diplomat. Her debut in Washington DC prompted her to wear a string of pearls valued at a half-million dollars (1922 dollars!), reportedly the world's most valuable string of pearls.

Margret Draper met the dashing young Prince Boncompagni at a social event in Washington and was charmed by the wounded war hero. They were soon married.

That's where the trouble started. The "curse" came into being when Gregory Boncompagni married Ippolita Ludovisi, sister of the last Prince of Piombino, in 1680. Boncompagni tricked his young bride into marraige by lying about her current fiancee, who hanged himslef in grief and shame. The young man's mother cursed the Boncompagni family to "never hold wealth." The tale is replete with ghosts and financial ruin.

The ghost was said to be the spirit of the wife of the first Duke of Zagarola, a nephew of Alessandro Ludovisi, who was elected Pope under the name of Gregory XV, in 1621.

I won't spoil the story for you - you can read a vivid account of it here.

There are dozens of photos and a well-researched Draper family history. A very nice web site run by "Dan in Hopedale".

So, do the evil geniuses behind know of these thrilling backstories when they post the photos, or do they just pick a photo from a pile - come what may?

[Comme ci, comme ca. - Dave]

Home, James

Is that an actual speaking tube in the chauffeur's compartment? I've never seen one of these outside of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

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