Benito Mussolini had an affair with Italy's last queen, a secret letter written by his son has revealed. The fascist dictator was married to his wife Rachele for 30 years and had five children with her, but he also had a string of lovers with women attracted by his power. News that he had an affair with Maria Jose di Savoia (of Savoy) emerged in a 40-year-old letter published by Italian weekly magazine Oggi. It had been written in 1971 by Mussolini's son Romano, who died five years ago, to the then editor of the leading Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Antonio Terzi. In it, Romano wrote: 'I can confirm in good faith that often in our house we spoke of both the political and sentimental dealings of my father with Maria Jose. 'I can tell you sincerely that with regard to this, my mother with regard to this, was always very explicit: between my father and the then Princess of Piedmont (Maria Jose di Savoia) there was a brief period when they had a sentimental relationship. 'I believe that it was later ended by my father.' Rumours that the couple had a secret relationship have circulated for years as Maria Jose herself once said in an interview of her marriage to Prince Umberto: 'We were never happy.' She had married Umberto in 1930 who at the time was Crown Prince of Italy - taking the title Princess of Piedmont and she was even asked to change her name to the more Italian sounding Maria Giuseppa but refused. The couple went on to have four children and during World War II when Mussolini was in power and fighting the Allies, she remained a conduit for communications between Italy and the rest of Europe. One British diplomat in Rome wrote of her: 'The Princess of Piedmont is the only member of the Italian Royals with a good political judgement.' The rest of the family supported Mussolini. While a refugee in Switzerland she made it clear she supported the partisans who were fighting the occupying Nazi troops in Italy and helped arrange supplies of arms, money and food to them. At the end of the war she became Queen of Italy for a month but when a referendum in 1946 ruled for the monarchy to be abolished she and her husband went into exile in Portugal where they separated but never divorced. She eventually returned to Italy in 1983 after her husband had died and she herself died in 2001 in a Geneva clinic aged 94 after falling ill with cancer. Her death paved the way for male members of the royal family to return to Italy. The affair between her and Mussolini is thought to have taken place in the days leading up to World War II. In the dying days of the conflict he was executed with his mistress Clara Petacci and hung upside down in a Milan square. In her diaries Petacci wrote how Mussolini had told her that Maria Jose had tried to seduce him - flirting open and once swimming naked with him in front of his mistress. Professor Christopher Duggan, a Mussolini expert who teaches at Reading University, said: 'There have been references to a relationship between Maria Jose and Mussolini but nothing has ever been confirmed. 'In her diaries Petacci wrote how Maria Jose had quite openly flirted with Mussolini and had tried it on with him and he in turn had turned her down but he probably found it something to brag about. 'Women would fall over themselves to try and meet him and he had a reputation as a womaniser - they were attracted to him because of his power but he wasn't Italy's most handsome man. 'He was married for 30 years but had many, many lovers - at one point 14 - they would queue up to meet him because he had this allure and he was very open about his womanising to his wife and mistresses.' Maria Scicolone, Romano's wife and the sister of screen legend Sophia Loren, said: 'My mother in law accepted the relationship between Mussolini and Maria Jose. 'She talked about it quite openly and was not at all fazed by the fact she had the (Italian royal) surname Savoia. 'For her she was just a woman, one of many lovers her husband had.' (The Mail)