Fairy tale ending for Italian Princess locked in legal battle

An Italian Princess is poised to secure half of an £800 million prized estate following the results of a DNA test.

Princess Dialta Orlandi has fought a bitter legal battle for 25 years to prove her claim to the slice of the estate. It includes the Villa La Pietra in Florence and the 6,000-piece collection of treasured art and objects decorating its 60 rooms. The estate belonged to Arthur Acton, a British architect, art collector and dealer. For years, Dialta has claimed her mother, Florentine hotelier Liani Beacci, was the secret love child of Arthur and his secretary Ersilia. DNA results have now confirmed that Dialta is in fact Arthur’s granddaughter.

The test results bolster Dialta’s claim against New York University (NYU), which inherited the Acton collection when Arthur’s son, Sir Harold Acton, died in 1999. Harold, who is believed to have inspired the character of Anthony Blanche in Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’, died childless in 1994. He left the bulk of the collection including Villa La Pietra to NYU and the British Institute in Florence. One year after his death, Liana submitted her claim to half of the collection as his half-sister. When Liana died in 2000, her daughter Dialta continued the legal battle out of “principle”.

On 18 July, Florence’s civil court ruled that Liana was in fact the love of child of Arthur Acton. “Finally, the respect and consequent rights that are owed to my mother for much too long have been given to her”, Dialta told Page Six reporters. The Princess’ case was buttressed by reforms to Italian inheritance laws in 2013, which prohibit discrimination against children born out of wedlock. With the paternity issue resolved, Dialta’s inheritance claim will proceed before Italy’s Supreme Court.

Spokesman for NYU, John Beckman, stated that the university was deciding whether to appeal the Florentine court’s ruling.

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