Umberto, Umberto

Hello everyone. I’m a new guest to the message boards here at SD, and I find the Straight Dope highly entertaining and addictive. I’ll get right to the point. I have a question for Cecil Adams and his legions of helpers.

I’m a fan of coincidences. I love reading about them. Two examples are the novel “Futility” about a ship called the Titan striking an iceberg and sinking-written in 1898. The Lincoln-Kennedy connections are pretty fun to explore, too. However, I am aware that coincidences sometimes are played up to be more “eerie” than they actually are. (eg. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln, but contrary to popular coincidence belief, Lincoln did not have a secretary named Kennedy.) There is a coincidence that I have always been curious about-it involves King Umberto I of Italy.

Supposedly, on July 28, 1900 he dropped in to a restaurant called “Umberto’s” along with an aide. The owner, hearing the King of Italy was in his establishment, came out to greet him. They were astonished to see that they looked exactly like each other. They talked for a while and found out that not only did they look like each other and have the same name, but they were born on the same day in the same town; they got married on the same day to women with the same first name. King Umberto also assumed the throne the same day that Umberto opened his restaurant. The king was so amazed that he invited Umberto the Restauranter to a sporting event he was attending the next day, with the intention of introducing him to the crowd.

The next day King Umberto was there but the Other Umberto failed to show. Someone came to the king with tragic news: earlier that day, Umberto had been cleaning a gun which he didn’t know was loaded. It accidentally discharged a shot which killed him. The king was shocked, and told him “find out where the funeral is, for I wish to attend.” Almost at the exact moment, a man came forward from the crowd, pointed a pistol right at the king, and shot and killed him, thus joining the two Umbertos in a final, fatal coincidence. (The man, incidentally, was an anarchist named Gaetano Braeschi, and his act would inspire anarchist Leon Czalgosz to assassinate President William McKinley a year later).

This story seems a bit hard for me to swallow. Is there any proof at all that this other Umberto existed, and that he was a double for the king? I am thinking maybe the king met Umberto, and discovered they were born on the same day. A creative person, perhaps motivated by the plot of The Prince and the Pauper filled in the rest. Does anybody know the Straight Dope on this legend?

Hello, and welcome to the Straight Dope.

I do not think Cecil Adams has thus far dealt with this matter in any of his celebrated columns. If he has, I couldn’t find it. Furthermore, a search of the past 8 years SDMB posts reveals 210 threads containing word Umberto, none of which seem to discuss the point of the OP. I have only looked at the thread titles, so again, I might be wrong.

I am unable to find a report on the story by those well-known myth debunkers at Snopes, but they do have a message board via which someone raised the subject (amongst a few others with a similar coefficient of incredulity) and to which an Italian gentleman replied via post #3.

In response to item (5)

the Italian replies like so

which I think is an eloquent way of putting it.

Anyway, he says the story is considered true by Italian historians.

Make of it what you will. :slight_smile: