Items have been in storage since 1946, when Umberto II was banished as Italians voted to abolish monarchy

Descendants of the last king of Italy have made their first formal request to reclaim the crown jewels, which for almost 76 years have been stashed in a treasure chest in a safety deposit box at the Bank of Italy amid a long-running mystery over their ownership, the Guardian reports.

The bank took delivery of the jewels, comprising more than 6,000 diamonds and 2,000 pearls mounted on brooches and necklaces worn by various queens and princesses, on 5 June 1946, three days after Italians voted to abolish the monarchy and nine days before King Umberto II, who ruled for just 34 days, was banished into exile along with his male heirs.

Umberto II had tasked Falcone Lucifero, the minister of the Royal House, to bring the jewels to Luigi Einaudi, the then governor of Bank of Italy who later became president, for safekeeping.

The jewels are said to have been the only part of the royal estate that were not confiscated by the Italian state after the monarchy was scrapped, an element that might help the descendants of the House of Savoy, including Umberto II’s son, Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia, and three daughters, Maria Gabriella, Maria Pia and Maria Beatrice, win back possession.

The family is also hoping that a cryptic note delivered alongside the treasure chest, which said the “precious” crown jewels must be “entrusted to the custody of the central cashier” and “kept at the disposal of those who have right”, will help determine that the jewels belong to them and not the state.

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