|Raffaella Argentero di Bersezio (1770-1828)|
Celestino Ferrero della Marmora.
Raffaella was born in 1770 at Villafranca d’Asti of Nicolò Amedeo Argentero di Bersezio and Luigia Morozzo. At the age of sixteen she married Marquess Celestino Ferrrero della Marmora to whom she gave sixteen children, most of whom were included in the large painting by Pietro Ayres in 1828.
She was a woman of strong and determined character. After the death of her husband in 1805 she took firm control of the reins of the family and prepared to look for whatever support was necessary in order to further her son’s careers.
In 1796 the troops of Republican France conquered Piedmont under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. During the occupation even the La Marmora family were obliged to make compromises with the Republicans . Celestino made a very deliberate choice with a view to maintaining the long-standing connection between the La Marmora and Savoy families. He arranged for his brother Tommaso to accompany the royal couple during their exile as queen’s equerry. Tommaso represented the loyalty of the La Marmora family until the death of Carlo Emanuele IV.
Between the end of December 1807 and January 1808 Raffaella asked Napoleon for an audience in order to obtain a secure future for her sons: the sacrifice made by the family with Tommaso’s mission made her feel free to act boldly. Raffaella pleaded the cause of her family with Napoleon and managed to ensure that her sons Carlo Emanuele and Alberto, who already held positions in the imperial army thanks to measures taken by her husband Celestino just before he died, were able to continue in the careers they had embarked upon. Thanks to the prestige which she subsequently acquired she was able to arrange advantageous marriages for her daughters Cristina and Elisabetta.
In straitened circumstances she conducted the administration of the family estate shrewdly and firmly and, unable to afford more than one tutor, she took responsibility for the education of her children, organizing a system whereby the eldest children taught the youngest. She was only 36 when she was widowed, after having given birth to 16 children of whom three, Polissena (1789), Michele (1794) and Giuseppa (1797) died a few days after birth; those who survived were Maria Cristina (1787-1851), Carlo Emanuele (1788-1854), Alberto (1789-1863), Maria Elisabetta (1790-1871), Chiara (1791-1816), Enrichetta (1793-1847), Barbara (1795-1832), Alessandro (1799-1855), Edoardo (1800-1875), Ferdinando (1802-1874), Paolo Emilio (1803-1830), Alfonso (1804-1878), Ottavio (1806-1868).
After the Restoration Raffaella had no qualms about taking advantage of her brother-in-law Tommaso’s support, since he was an example of their loyalty to the Savoy family, in order to reintegrate her sons into the army of the Savoy kingdom .This time too her initiative met with success. She was profoundly saddened by the news of the condemnation of her son Alberto for the riots of 1821 which she considered a “disgrace” that would cast shame on the entire lineage. In her old age she was looked after by her daughter Barbara and she died in 1828. Her body was taken to San Sebastiano in Biella in 1830.