As many in my home country continued, on Monday, to exult over the birth of Princess Charlotte, 1,257 miles away, in Pozzallo, attention was focused on a very different kind of birth that had taken place: On Sunday night, during a migrant rescue operation in the Mediterranean, Italian naval personnel found that a woman on one of the migrant boats was in labour. Transferred to the naval ship Bettica, the mother was safely delivered of a baby girl by a medical team which included volunteers and helped, of course, by the military.
The sailors gave the little girl the name Francesca Marina - Francesca for Pope Francis and St Francis of Assisi [who is also the patron saint of Italy] and Marina for the Marina Militare [Italian Navy]. Following their arrival at Pozzallo, Francesca and her Nigerian mother were brought to the Maggiore Hospital in Modica, where both are said to be doing well. The doctor who delivered her said in a radio interview that Francesca is a calm, smiling baby and that the whole experience had been very emotional for all concerned. Today it has been revealed that her mother wants to call the baby "Gift" but will also keep her daughter's two Italian names.
I am not the first person to point out the contrasts between the two births today and several Italian newspapers have published pictures of the princess and Gift side by side but I do want to say this: I do not often make a plea, but I would like to ask anyone who is considering, for the best of reasons, sending a present to the little princess, to think of Gift Francesca Marina, and others like her, first.
It is estimated that over 7,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean in Italian-led operations over the weekend and on Monday and at least 50 migrants have died.