House of Savoy

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Feb 23, 2024

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The House of Savoy is a dynasty that ruled over the territories of Savoy and Piedmont since the High Middle Ages and provided the kings of Italy from 1861 to 1946.

At times, the ruling dynasty also ruled over parts of western Switzerland, the county of Nice and Sardinia.


The founder of the house is considered to be Humbert I Biancamano (Humbert Whitehand), a feudal lord of uncertain origin who was Count of Salmourenc in the Viennois in 1003, Count of Nyon on Lake Geneva in 1017, and Count of the Valle d'Aosta on the eastern slope of the Western Alps in 1024. In 1034 he received part of the Maurienne as a reward from Conrad the Salian for supporting his claim to the Kingdom of Burgundy. He also received the counties of Savoy, Belley, Tarentaise and Chablais.

Rise of the Counts of Savoy in the High Middle Ages

With these territories Humbert had three of the most important Alpine passes, the Mont Cenis, the Great Saint Bernard and the Small Saint Bernard. In 1046, his son Otto married Adelaide, the eldest daughter of Ulrich-Manfred, Marquis of Turin, from the Arduine family, who ruled over the counties of Turin, Auriate, Asti, Bredulo and Vercelli, among others, which together roughly correspond to the present-day region of Piedmont and part of Liguria. Humbert died in 1048 and was succeeded by his son Amadeus, after whose death the land passed to Otto. In this way Otto became ruler of territories on both sides of the Alps, a circumstance that was to have an important influence on the policy of the House of Savoy as late as 1860. After Otto's death in 1060, he was succeeded by his widow Adelaide, but before her death in 1091, his sons Peter I and after him Amadeus II became rulers of the county.

Under Humbert II (reigned 1078-1080), the first disputes arose against the Piedmontese communes, but he, his successors Amadeus III (who died on his way home from the Second Crusade) and Thomas I pursued a policy of reconciliation towards them. Thomas, who reigned until 1222, was Ghibelline and ensured a considerable increase in the importance of Savoy, since he was appointed imperial vicar and obtained important extensions of his territory namely in Bugey, in Vaud, specifically in 1240 in Payerne and Romont, in 1272 in Romainmôtier (northwest of the Alps) and Carignano, Pinerolo, Moncalieri and Vigone (southeast of the Alps). He also ruled over Geneva, Albenga, Savona and Saluzzo. After his death these territories were divided among his sons: Thomas II received Piedmont, Aimone Chablais, Peter and Philip other fiefs, and Amadeus IV, the eldest, the county of Savoy and a general "suzerainty" over the estates of his brothers. Other brothers received episcopal offices outside the ancestral lands, Boniface finally, became Archbishop of Canterbury.

Peter II traveled to England several times. One of his nieces, Eleanor de Provence, became the wife of the English King Henry III, another, Sancha de Provence, the wife of Richard of Cornwall. Henry made Peter Earl of Richmond and endowed him with a palace on the Thames, which was named Savoy Palace. Count Peter also gained additional territory in Vaud and defeated Rudolf of Habsburg at Chillon.

After Thomas II took several cities and fortresses in Piedmont, he lost them again and was temporarily imprisoned by the citizens of Turin. Of Thomas I's sons, only he left male heirs. His son Amadeus V, called "the Great", ruled from 1285 to 1323 and is considered the "unifier" of the scattered territories of the house. When Amadeus began his reign, the fiefs were divided as follows: the county of Savoy became his own territory, the principality of Piedmont went to his nephew Philip, and Vaud was given to his brother Louis. Although this division was formally confirmed in 1295, when Chambéry became the capital of Savoy, Amadeus gained supremacy over all the possessions, which also led to political unification within the country. Through conquest, purchase, and skillful negotiation, he regained fiefdoms that his predecessors had lost. In numerous campaigns he fought the Dauphins of Viennois, the Counts of Genevois, the burghers of Sion and Geneva, the Marquises of Saluzzo and Montferrat and the Barons of Faucigny. He also acted as peacemaker between France and England and accompanied Emperor Henry VII on his Italian campaign.

Amadeus V was succeeded by his sons, Edward the Liberal (1323-1329) and later Aimone the Peaceable (1329-1343). Aimone is considered one of the most capable princes of his lineage, as he succeeded in reforming the administration and the judicial and financial systems of Savoy.

His son Amadeus VI (reigned 1343-1383), called Il Conte Verde ("the green count"), succeeded him at the age of only nine. Amadeus made a reputation both as a crusader and in a campaign against the Ottomans, which he led in 1366. The Treaty of Paris of 1355 ended the tensions that had built up between him and France's royal house. The count wanted to acquire the Dauphiné, which bordered Savoy, but France had beaten him to it with a higher price and accidental inheritance. In 1356, the Savoyards became the imperial vicars of the emperor. This allowed them to establish their territorial rule through jurisdiction, i.e. to rule generally over a territory and its inhabitants and not, as in the feudal system, with individual concrete legal titles over specific groups of people. With his decision to give priority to the Italian possessions over those at the foot of the French Alps and those in western Switzerland, Amadeus VI initiated a development that was to become of great importance for the Savoy dynasty. He mediated between Milan and the House of Montferrat (1379), between the Scaliger and Visconti families, and between the republics of Venice and Genoa after the Chioggia War (all 1381). Amadeus was one of the first sovereigns to establish a system of free legal services for the poor. Actively supporting Louis of Anjou in his claim to the Kingdom of Naples, he died of the plague during the campaign in Campobasso.

His son Amadeus VII, called Il Conte Rosso ("the Red Count"), ruled from 1383 to 1391. In his youth, he took part in a campaign in Flanders alongside Charles V of France. In 1388 he succeeded in seizing the county of Nice for himself, thus giving Savoy access to the Mediterranean. In the same year, the count lost the battle of Visp against the Confederates in the Upper Valais.

The Dukes of Savoy in the Late Middle Ages

During the long reign of Amadeus VIII (1391-1440), son of Amadeus VII, Savoy flourished. The count was able to consolidate his territories both in the Lake Geneva region (Pays de Gex) and in Italy (Piedmont). In 1416, King Sigismund visited him in Chambéry and elevated him to duke. In 1430, Amadeus introduced the Statuta Sabaudiæ, a comprehensive code of laws that applied to the entire duchy, against the opposition of the nobility and the towns, which saw their privileges in danger. In 1434, the duke retired to the Charterhouse of Ripaille on Lake Geneva, where he continued to act and mediate in the background while leaving the day-to-day affairs to his son Louis. Although Amadeus was not a member of the clergy, he was unexpectedly elected "Holy Father" at the Council of Basel in 1439 against the incumbent Pope Eugene IV. He served as antipope under the name Felix V for ten years until he resigned, retaining only the cardinal dignity. Felix's adversary Pope Eugene IV, in a bull of 1440, demonized the Duchy of Savoy (and there especially the high valleys of Valais, Vaud, the Savoy Alps, and the Valle d'Aosta) as a haven of witches, mixing the terms witch, heretic, and Waldensian. According to historian Wolfgang Behringer, the first massive witch hunts in Europe took place in Savoy around 1428.

Amadeus' son Louis (reigned 1440-1465), the first to bear the title of Prince of Piedmont, was unable to match his father's political and diplomatic successes. In 1433, he married Anne de Lusignan from the House of Lusignan, which ruled Cyprus at the time. Louis subsequently had to endure the intrigues of his wife's Cypriot court as well as the ambitions of his French and Milanese neighbors. In 1446, he had to cede the Valentinois to the French crown. The seizure of Milan, where the Visconti dynasty had died out in the male line in 1447, failed. When Amadeus was offered the principality of Monaco by Jean I in 1448 in exchange for an annual pension, he refused for fear of enemies in Nice and Turbia. In 1452 Fribourg in Üechtland, which had spent heavily in the Old Zurich War, broke away from Habsburg and placed itself under the protection of the duke, who forgave the city all war debts. The last years of his reign were marked by conspiracies of the nobility, in which his youngest son Philip de Bresse was also involved.

Louis was succeeded by his son Amadeus IX (reigned 1465-1469), who, because of an epileptic illness, left the regency to his wife Yolande, a sister of the French king Louis XI, in 1469. This shift of power triggered a civil war in Savoy between the French and Burgundian partisans, as both the French king and the Burgundian duke Charles the Bold, who pursued an expansionist policy, tried to win Savoy as their ally. Finally, in 1475, Yolande decided against her brother and in favor of Charles; a momentous choice, because Savoy was thus dragged into the middle of the Burgundian wars. The Duke of Burgundy was in conflict with the rising Confederates and was defeated by them in several battles that also affected Savoyard territories (see Battle of the Planta). In 1476, Yolande had to cede parts of Vaud to Bern as well as give up her rights over Valais and Fribourg in Üechtland. This marked the beginning of the decline of Savoyard power in what is now western Switzerland.

Amadeus IX's designated successor was Philibert I, but he died at the age of 17 and was succeeded by his mother Yolande. It was she who, at the age of 11, married him off to the wealthy Milanese duke's daughter Bianca Maria Sforza, who would later become the third wife of the Roman-German emperor Maximilian I. The ruler of Savoy was Charles I, who was also still underage at the age of 14 (reigned 1482-1490). He was the younger brother of Philibert and had been educated at the French court. Domestically, Charles prevailed against insubordinate nobles and in 1487 he succeeded in subduing the Marquisate of Saluzzo in the Piedmont region against French opposition. Philibert died young and his successor Charles II, only 21 months old, was succeeded by his mother Bianca of Montferrat (Blanche de Montferrat), who resided in Turin and not in Chambéry. Charles died in 1496 at the age of seven in a fall from his bed. He was succeeded to the throne by his great-uncle, Philip II.

Italian Wars - Savoy under French occupation

Formally, Savoy still belonged to the Roman-German Empire; but after Amadeus VIII surprisingly withdrew in 1434 and embarked on a clerical career, the duchy fell into the dependence of France and, through it, in the long run, also into the great conflict between Habsburg and France for hegemony in Italy, which was to characterize the first half of the 16th century.

Philibert II grew up at the French court and, after numerous deaths in rapid succession within the House of Savoy, became duke (1497-1504) young and, above all, unexpectedly. After a brief marriage to his minor cousin Yolande de Savoie, who soon died, he married Margaret of Austria. She was the daughter of the Roman-German Emperor Maximilian I of the House of Habsburg and his first wife Mary of Burgundy, the only natural heiress of the Duchy of Burgundy, which had meanwhile been dissolved and divided between Habsburg and France. Margaret also acted as governor of the Burgundian Netherlands. During Philibert's reign, the French king Louis XII conquered the Duchy of Milan (see Italian Wars). Savoy was thus embraced by France in both the west and the east. The ruling constellation - marriage to an Austrian princess on the one hand and France's expansive policy in northern Italy on the other - led Savoy to turn away from France and establish friendly relations with Austria instead. Philibert II, who liked to indulge in pleasure, was strongly under the influence of his wife. He died young and without heirs in a hunting accident.

In 1504 Charles III, half-brother of Philibert II, followed. He changed his alliance partner several times: once he was allied with his nephew, the King of France Francis I, then again with his brother-in-law, the Emperor of the Roman-German Empire and King of Spain Charles V. These two parties waged a bitter war against each other for supremacy in northern Italy. Francis I also claimed the Savoyard territories of Bresse and Faucigny as an inheritance for his mother Luise of Savoy. In Geneva, the burghers rose up against the nobility. They pursued the goal of uniting their city with parts of Genevois and the Pays de Gex and forming this entity into a republic. The so-called League of Spoons, an alliance of nobles loyal to the duke whose concern was to maintain the power of Savoy in Bresse, Faucigny and Geneva, was left to its own devices at the crucial moment and received no support from the duke. Thus, in 1536, French troops overran the western border of Savoy and the two main towns of the duchy, Chambéry and Turin, were taken. Almost at the same time, Bernese troops under Hans Franz Nägeli, with the help of their allies from Fribourg and Valais, drove the followers of the League of Spoons out of Geneva and Vaud, for it was in Geneva that Duke Charles III had made many enemies by his haughty and imprudent behavior. The patricians of Geneva blamed the Savoy for the economic decline of the city: the once so profitable Geneva fairs had sunk to a regional market because the city lacked the necessary protection. This could only mean that Geneva would have to seek its salvation by aligning itself with Bern. In the end, Charles had no choice but to flee to Vercelli in Piedmont. There he remained - in exile, so to speak - until his death in 1553. Between 1536 and 1559, large parts of the duchy were occupied by France and parts of the Upper Rhone Valley, including the city of Geneva, were effectively lost to the Confederates.

His son and successor Emanuel Philibert (reigned 1553-1580) made determined efforts to regain the duchy, which he finally succeeded in doing. Already as hereditary prince, Emanuel Philibert, who had been driven out by the French, became one of the most important commanders of the Roman-German Emperor. In 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War, he served Charles V, who appointed him governor of the Habsburg Netherlands in 1556. When the Italian war under the Spanish king Philip II spilled over into the border region between France and Flanders, the French were crushed by the Spaniards led by Emanuel Philibert at the Battle of Saint-Quentin in 1557. Thanks to this triumph, the duke secured a place at the conference table during the peace negotiations. In 1559, in the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, he was able to assert the independence of Savoy and he regained possession of most of his ancestral territories. The concurrently arranged marriage between the duke and Margaret of France, daughter of the late King Francis I and sister of the reigning French monarch Henry II, also contributed to the settlement of the conflict between France and Savoy. In 1561, Emanuel Philibert signed the Edict of Rivoli, which replaced Latin as the official language in his domain with French (northwest of the Alps) or Italian (southeast of the Alps). In 1563, Emanuel Philibert moved the capital of the duchy from Chambéry to Turin. In 1565, the politically isolated Bern was forced to return the Pays de Gex and the Chablais to Savoy. Geneva, on the other hand, remained lost to the duchy. Emanuel Philibert's attempt to succeed his late uncle Henry I of Portugal in 1580 quickly proved to be a hopeless endeavor; ultimately, the Portuguese crown went to Philip II.

The House of Savoy shifts its center of gravity to Piedmont

In 1559 the battles between Austria

Emanuel Philibert had created a respectable army, which was further developed by his successors and established Savoy's relative strength until the 19th century. With the exception of Venice, the other Italian states were henceforth militarily insignificant and for this reason alone could no longer play a role on the international stage. Spanish absolutism, which dominated Italy, was static. It guaranteed peace on the peninsula and protected it from Turks and barbarians, but, unlike Western European absolutism, it prevented economic modernization and civic activity on a larger scale.

Emanuel Philibert was succeeded by the eighteen-year-old Charles Emmanuel I (reigned 1580-1630), also called the Great, who grew up to be an ambitious and self-confident regent. In 1585 he married Catalina of Spain, the second daughter of the Spanish King Philip II. Charles Emmanuel took advantage of the weakening of France while it was busy at home with the Huguenot wars and in 1588 conquered the Marquisate of Saluzzo in Piedmont. In 1601, in the Treaty of Lyon, France recognized the Savoyard dominion over Saluzzo, but in exchange received the territories of Valromey, Bugey, Bresse and the Pays de Gex. The reconquest of the Calvinist "heretic's nest" of Geneva was a high priority for the duke during his long reign, indeed it became a veritable obsession. In 1602, Charles Emmanuel sent his mercenaries to Geneva in the so-called Escalade de Genève, but the capture of the city failed thoroughly. In the Peace of Saint-Julien in 1603, the duke recognized the independence of the Rhone city, which had long been fought for political as well as religious reasons. The Treaty of Bruzolo, concluded in 1610 with the French King Henry IV, which had a French-Savoyard alliance against the Habsburg-Spanish domination of Upper Italy as its theme, did not come into force for the time being, as the king was assassinated shortly afterwards. However, when his successor Louis XIII came of age, the duke received French support in the reconquest of Alba in Piedmont in 1617, and his son Victor Amadeus was married to Louis's sister Christina in 1619. The ambitious and risk-taking Charles Emmanuel I waged war between 1613 and 1617 to win the Duchy of Mantua, or at least the Marquisate of Montferrat, but encountered resistance from Spain, Austria, and Venice, and in the end had to be glad that he achieved peace without territorial losses. In the meantime, the Thirty Years' War had broken out, in which the inheritance dispute over the Duchy of Mantua (1628-1631) was a secondary theater of war. In this dispute Charles Emmanuel showed himself to be an unreliable partner: first he allied himself with Spain, but soon after with France, and a little later he declared himself neutral. In 1630, Cardinal Richelieu put an end to the duke's tactics and had Savoy-Piedmont captured by a French army. Charles Emmanuel died unexpectedly of acute fever in the same year.

His son Victor Amadeus I (reigned 1630-1637), who had spent most of his youth at the Spanish court in Madrid, inherited him in little more than the title of duke. His father's policies had led to a breakdown in relations with both France and Habsburg. In 1631, as the defeated duke, he was forced to sign the Treaty of Cherasco, which ended the Mantuan War of Succession, and under the directive of Cardinal Richelieu, the Treaty of Rivoli came about in 1635, obliging Victor Amadeus to form an anti-Habsburg coalition in northern Italy. There he achieved two victories: in 1636 at the Battle of Tornavento and at the Battle of Mombaldone. In the same year Victor Amadeus died in Turin.

After the death of Victor Amadeus I, his wife Christina of France (de facto reign 1637-1663), sister of the French king Louis XIII, assumed guardianship of their two sons Francis Hyacinth (1632-1638) and Charles Emmanuel II (1634-1675) and thus the regency of Savoy-Piedmont. The two younger brothers of the predecessor Victor Amadeus I and his wife Catherine Michaela of Spain Moritz of Savoy and Thomas of Savoy then embroiled the dowager in a four-year war of succession. They feared that the French crown would retain and expand its dominance over Savoy-Piedmont. In 1638, Thomas petitioned Madrid for help for his and his brother's ambitions, but the Spanish were reluctant to respond and eventually the plot was exposed by the French. Cardinal Richelieu issued a warrant for Thomas' arrest in 1639, but he returned to Piedmont not as a private citizen as expected, but accompanied by a mercenary force supported by Spain. This was the trigger for the Piedmontese Civil War, in which Christina, with French help, finally prevailed. In the peace agreement of 1642, she forced her fifty-year-old brother-in-law Moritz to renounce the cardinalate and marry her daughter Ludovica Cristina of Savoy, who was only fourteen years old. Later, however, it became clear that in all this Christina was very much concerned to contain the influence of France on Savoy-Piedmont.

Charles Emmanuel II (de facto reign 1663-1675) took over the reign only at the age of twenty-nine after the death of his mother. As hereditary prince, he rigorously persecuted the Piedmontese Waldensians, which resulted in a massacre of dissenters in 1665. The brutal action in this matter attracted the attention of the English regent Oliver Cromwell, who sent his negotiator Samuel Morland to Upper Italy to assist the Waldensians. 1672

Savoy Piedmont defies the hegemony of France

He was succeeded by his only son Victor Amadeus II (effective reign 1684-1730). His minority was bridged by the regency of his capable but imperious mother Maria Johanna of Savoy, called Madame Royale (effective reign 1675-1684). At her instigation and that of the French King Louis XIV, Victor Amadeus married Anne Marie d'Orléans, a niece of the "Sun King" in 1684. That same year, the eighteen-year-old duke urged his mother to resign in order to take the fate of Savoy-Piedmont into his own hands. Louis XIV, who treated his nephew Victor Amadeus almost as a vassal - this despite the fact that the duchy was actually part of the Holy Roman Empire - obliged the duke to persecute his Waldensian subjects, many finding refuge in (Reformed) Switzerland. In 1690, at the beginning of the War of the Palatinate Succession, Victor Amadeus joined the League of Augsburg (a defensive alliance of Austria, Spain and the Republic of Venice against the hegemony of France),. In the same year, the Duke was defeated in the bloody Battle of Staffarda by General Nicolas de Catinat. As a result, the French army overran large parts of Savoy-Piedmont; however, the capital Turin remained under the Duke's control. In 1692, Victor Amadeus invaded the Dauphiné in retaliation, devastating vast areas. In 1693 the Savoy army was again defeated by the French at the Battle of Marsaglia, and as a result the duke was forced to withdraw from the League of Augsburg. In 1696 he had to come to an agreement with France in the Treaty of Turin and the Treaty of Vigevano. The War of the Palatinate Succession ended in 1697 with the Peace of Rijswijk. In 1701 the War of the Spanish Succession followed, in which the duke first sided with France and Spain. However, the House of Savoy had been tired of French tutelage for a long time and could not have expected any benefits from France and Spain in case of victory. This led Victor Amadeus to join Austria in 1703, but in doing so he exposed himself to a two-front war pushed by both France and the Spanish Duchy of Milan. In 1706 the siege of Turin began, but in the Battle of Turin, unquestionably fateful for the House of Savoy, Victor Amadeus prevailed, especially thanks to the military support of his cousin Eugene of Savoy, who was in the service of Austria. The French suffered heavy losses in this battle and were driven out of the country. In 1708, Victor Amadeus conquered the Marquisate of Montferrat, thus gaining access to the sea in Liguria, which he had long sought. From 1709 the duke declared himself neutral. At the Peace of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, Savoy-Piedmont was one of the beneficiaries of the European upheavals: The duchy received

Kings of Sardinia

With the Treaty of Utrecht, the so-called tributary lands of the Spanish were divided up in 1713. In the process, Savoy-Piedmont received not only the western fringes of the Duchy of Milan, but above all the Kingdom of Sicily. In keeping with the spirit of the times, the monarch, who was crowned in Palermo, ruled over his expanded kingdom in an absolutist manner. Sicily, however, could not be maintained: in the Treaty of The Hague of 1720, Charles VI of Habsburg and Victor Amadeus agreed to exchange Sicily and Sardinia (see War of the Quadruple Alliance). From then on, the rulers of the House of Savoy bore the title Kings of Sardinia until the establishment of the Italian Kingdom. Victor Amadeus resigned in 1730 in favor of his son Charles Emmanuel III and retired to his castle at Saint-Alban-Leysse near Chambéry. Mentally deranged in old age, he tried once again to regain the crown, but his son had him arrested. In 1732 he died as a prisoner in the monastery of San Giuseppe di Carignano. During his reign were built, among others, the Castle of Stupinigi and the Basilica of Superga.

Charles Emmanuel III (reigned 1730-1773) took part in the War of the Polish Succession against Austria on the side of France. For his victory at Guastalla in 1734, he was rewarded with the Duchy of Milan, which he was forced to relinquish in the Preliminary Peace of Vienna in 1736, although he was allowed to retain the cities of Novara and Tortona. In the War of the Austrian Succession he took sides with Maria Theresa of Austria in 1742. After France had temporarily conquered Savoy and the County of Nice, he managed to decisively defeat the French in the Battle of Assietta in 1747. With the Peace of Aachen in 1748, which followed the defeat of France, he gained an increase in territory in the Po Valley, including the town of Vigevano. He refrained from taking part in the Seven Years' War, preferring instead to push ahead with domestic reforms, with the newly acquired Sardinia in particular having some catching up to do. There he relaunched the universities of Sassari and Cagliari. In Chambéry, he established an office that developed one of the first cadastral plans of its time, the so-called Mappe Sarde; Jean-Jacques Rousseau worked briefly for this office. Charles Emanuel's state, the Kingdom of Sardinia, unofficially also called Sardinia-Piedmont (in France also États de Savoie), continued to be governed from Turin in Piedmont.

He was succeeded by his son Victor Amadeus III (reigned 1773-1796), who is described as conservative and deeply religious. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, he took sides with the royalists and thus came into conflict with the French Republic. In 1792, even before the Napoleonic campaigns, the revolutionary government - invoking the principle of "natural boundaries" - claimed Savoy as the 84th department of France and provisionally assigned it the name Mont Blanc (now the departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie). Victor Amadeus then declared war on France. Savoy and the county of Nice were quickly occupied by the French revolutionary army. In 1793, after a referendum, the county of Nice became the French department of Alpes-Maritimes. East of the Alps, on the other hand, the Piedmontese - militarily supported by Austria - were able to hold their own against Napoleon's Italian army for four years. In 1793, the king had donated the Italian Medal of Valor (Medaglia d'oro al Valore Militare). Then, in 1796, three battles were lost in quick succession, namely the Battle of Montenotte, the Battle of Millesimo and the Battle of Mondovì; France then proclaimed the short-lived Republic of Alba in Piedmont. With the Armistice of Cherasco of 1796, the Italian lands reverted to Victor Amadeus; however, the Sardinian king was forced to withdraw from the first coalition. In the same year, Victor Amadeus III died of a stroke. He left behind a kingdom with an empty treasury, and the two important lands of Savoy and the County of Nice were annexed by France and, moreover, ravaged by war.

His son and successor Charles Emmanuel IV (reigned 1796-1802) had to flee to Cagliari in Sardinia because the French under Joubert had occupied Piedmont again in 1798. The Piedmontese Republic was proclaimed in Turin on December 10, 1798. While Napoleon was on the Egyptian campaign and the Austro-Russian armies were making up ground in upper Italy in 1799 (see Second Coalition), Charles Emmanuel IV landed at Livorno in the hope of regaining at least part of his mainland possessions. But Napoleon returned and, with a brilliant victory at the Battle of Marengo in 1800, reasserted his position in Italy and established the Subalpine Republic, which remained under French military administration until it was annexed to the French Republic on September 11, 1802, divided into the departments of Doire, Marengo, Pô, Sésia, Simplon, and Stura. Charles Emmanuel abdicated in 1802 in favor of his brother Victor Emmanuel I, not least because of the death that year of his wife, Clotilde de Bourbon, a sister of the now guillotined French King Louis XVI. The couple had no children. In 1815, Charles Emmanuel joined the Jesuits and lived in Rome until his death.

Victor Emmanuel I (reigned 1802-1821) got back his lands on the mainland after the fall of Napoleon in 1814 and in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna he also got the Republic of Genoa, which was annexed to the Sardinian Kingdom as the Duchy of Genoa. The city of Genoa became the seat of the fleet. In 1816, with the Treaty of Turin, the Kingdom of Sardinia ceded some municipalities in the province of Carouge to the Swiss Canton of Geneva. This made the agreement of 1754 in this regard obsolete. Victor Emmanuel acted entirely in the spirit of the Restoration: he revoked the Code Napoléon in his country, restored to both the nobility and the clergy their ancestral privileges and lands, and resumed the persecution of the Waldensians and Jews. His anger at the ignominy inflicted on the House of Savoy during the Revolutionary turmoil was so strong that he ordered a bridge over the Po and a road over Mont Cenis, both built under French occupation, to be torn down. However, the king's reactionary attitude was increasingly displeasing to the people, and a revolt in Piedmont was orchestrated by the Carbonari secret society. Thus isolated, Victor Emmanuel was forced to abdicate in 1821 in favor of his brother Charles Felix.

However, the designated King Charles Felix (reigned 1821-1831) was staying in Modena at the same time. The masses therefore urged Prince Charles Albert, nephew of Victor Amadeus I, to take over as head of state for the time being. Only after many entreaties did he agree to do so and, holding the Italian tricolore (il tricolore) in his hand, proclaimed the acceptance of the Spanish Constitution. With the support of 20,000 Austrian soldiers, Charles Felix then marched toward Turin and crushed the uprising in Piedmont. Under the protection of the Habsburg soldiers, who remained in the country until 1823, the full reaction now began. The Waldensians were forced to sell their lands and emigrate by 1827. A royal edict of 1825 allowed reading and writing only to those who had a fortune of 1500 lire and granted permission for study only to those who could show an income of more than 1500 lire. In 1824, Charles Felix acquired from the consul Bernardino Drovetti a large collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, which form the basis of the Museo Egizio in Turin. With Charles Felix's death in 1831, the main line of the House of Savoy also died out.

Unification of Italy

Charles Albert from the collateral line Savoy-Carignan, which had emerged from Thomas, the youngest son of Charles Emmanuel I, temporarily ruled the Kingdom of Sardinia for a short time as early as 1821. The exponent of the House of Savoy-Carignan, who had grown up in an intellectual atmosphere in Dresden, Geneva and Paris and was basically liberal-minded, took over the affairs of state again in 1831. For the time being, he relied on continuity and continued the conservative policies of his predecessor. He suppressed the liberals and entered into a military alliance with Austria. Gradually, however, and under pressure from the strengthened bourgeoisie, he resumed the liberal course he had cultivated in his youth. In 1837 he introduced a civil code based on the Code civil and revised the criminal law. After the February Revolution of 1848, he issued the so-called Statuto Albertino on March 4, 1848, and appointed Cesare Balbo as his prime minister. Thus the Kingdom of Sardinia became a constitutional monarchy, with the succession to the throne based on the Lex Salica. This constitution remained in force in principle until 1946, thus surviving the transformation of the Sardinian Kingdom into the Italian Kingdom. As such, the Statuto Albertino was only moderately liberal, with very limited parliamentary participation rights and monarchical-executive powers. The Waldensian minority obtained religious freedom, full civil rights and equality before the law with the lettere patenti of March 18, 1848; many of their members played a major role in the kingdom's liberal bourgeoisie in the years that followed.

Popular uprisings against the restoration of absolutism also spread in other parts of Europe in 1848 and 1849. In Italy and in other territories ruled by the Austrian Empire, national self-determination was also at stake. A revolution broke out in the Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia, and uprisings also occurred in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. The independent Kingdom of Sardinia was then called upon from many quarters in Italy to take the lead in the unification movement (Risorgimento) and seize the moment to end Austrian rule in northern Italy. In response, Charles Albert, influenced by Cavour, declared war on the Danube monarchy. The Piedmontese army was joined by 7,000 men from Tuscany, 10,000 soldiers were provided by the Papal States, and 16,000 by the Kingdom of Naples. After initial successes at the Battle of Pastrengo and the Battle of Goito, however, conservative forces regained the upper hand, and Sardinia was defeated by Austria at the Battle of Custozza in 1848 and at the Battle of Novara in 1849, ending the first Italian War of Independence. A huge war indemnity was imposed on Sardinia-Piedmont to permanently cripple it. Charles Albert then abdicated in favor of his son Victor Emmanuel II and went into exile in Portugal, where he died on July 28, 1849, at the age of 50.

Charles Albert supported art and science. Under his reign, the textile industry (raw silk, cotton, wool in Biella) and the chemical industry in Turin took off. From 1848, one of the first railroad lines in Italy connected the two cities of Turin and Moncalieri. In 1838, the population of the Kingdom of Sardinia was 4,650,368, of which 524,633 lived on the island.

Under Victor Emmanuel II (also called Padre della Patria "Father of the Fatherland"), eldest son of Charles Albert, the unification of Italy succeeded. He was supported by his Prime Minister Cavour and by the French Emperor Napoleon III.

After the Sardinian defeat at the Battle of Novara, the king committed himself to paying a war indemnity of 75 million French francs to Austria in the Armistice Agreement of Vignale in 1849. By this time, however, Victor Emmanuel had already become a symbol of the Risorgimento. From 1853 to 1856, he took part in the Crimean War on the side of France, Great Britain, and the Ottoman Empire against Russia, and was thus able to present and prove himself in the round of the great European powers. Moreover, domestically, the trend toward liberalization and modernization continued; under the prime ministers Massimo d'Azeglio and Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, the separation of church and state was introduced, church property was nationalized, and the influence of Catholic orders, such as the Jesuits, was limited.

In the secret treaty of Plombières-les-Bains in 1858, Cavour secured the help of Napoleon III in the event of an Austrian attack on Sardinia-Piedmont. France was to support Victor Emmanuel in obtaining the crown of Italy at the price of the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice, and it was also agreed that Sardinia-Piedmont would bear the costs of the war. To achieve this goal, Austria was to be provoked into a military first strike in northern Italy, which would give Napoleon III a convenient pretext to intervene on the side of Sardinia. On January 1, 1859, at the New Year's reception of foreign diplomats, the French emperor addressed the following words to the Austrian ambassador: "I regret that my government's relations with Austria's are not as good as they used to be, but I beg you to tell your emperor that my personal sentiments for him have not changed." In the language of diplomacy at the time, this was a declaration of war, which was immediately met with a general stock market plunge. Victor Emmanuel was even more explicit when, on January 10 of the same year, he opened the session of the Sardinian Parliament with the following words: "The horizon on which the new year rises is not entirely serene. We are not insensitive to the cry of pain that resounds to us from so many parts of Italy."

The elaborate plan came true: on April 29, 1859, under the supreme command of Count Gyulay, the Austrian invasion of Piedmont took place in three places. On June 24, 1859, in the bloody battles of Solferino and San Martino, the Austrian army was defeated by France and Sardinia. The Peace of Zurich on November 10, 1859 ended the Sardinian war. Austria was obliged to cede Lombardy to France, and Napoleon III handed the province to Sardinia. The House of Habsburg also had to accept the loss of other Italian possessions: Both Grand Duke Leopold II of Tuscany and Duke Francis V of Modena were deposed by plebiscites the following year, and Italy was unified into a nation-state. Veneto, however, remained with Austria, to Cavour's disappointment. In the Treaty of Turin in 1860, Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel completed the annexation of the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice to France. Switzerland, which claimed the High Savoyard territories of Chablais and Faucigny from France, went away empty-handed in the so-called Savoy trade. Finally, on March 17, 1861, Victor Emmanuel was officially proclaimed King of Italy.

After the third Italian War of Independence in 1866, Italy was granted Veneto. On March 26, 1860, Victor Emmanuel and all his descendants were excommunicated by Pope Pius IX. When Napoleon III, who had gained power in France not least thanks to the support of the Catholic Church, withdrew his protective troops from Lazio as a result of the start of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the Italian military marched into Rome almost without a fight. The Vatican responded with a policy of isolation from all things secular. As a result, the new Italian state was in conflict with the influential Catholic Church for decades, until the Lateran Treaties of 1929. Victor Emmanuel II died in Rome in 1878.

Kings of Italy

After Victor Emanuel's death, his eldest son Umberto I (Humbert I) became king in 1878. He underwent military training and took part in the Battle of Solferino in 1859 and in the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866. After the conquest of Rome in September 1870, he was given command of the military divisions there as a lieutenant general. Because of the revolts against numerous dynasties of Italy, which had brought about the unification of Italy, and because of the poor relations of the House of Savoy with the Pope, few princely houses were willing to establish relations with the newly created Kingdom of Italy. At least Umberto joined the Triple Alliance in 1882, and he also tried to break free from his foreign policy isolation with regular visits to Vienna and Berlin, but many Italians observed this with skepticism, since Austria still retained Italian-speaking territories (Trentino, Istria, and Trieste) that were claimed as "unredeemed" Italian territories by the young nation-state in the context of irredentism.

When Umberto made a tour of Italy in 1878, the year of his coronation, he was the target of an assassination attempt in Naples. However, because he was able to parry the blow directed at him with his saber, he was only slightly wounded by the attacker, the anarchist Giovanni Passannante.

Italy's colonial expansion began under Umberto. His forces occupied Massaua in 1885 as the first place in Eritrea, which became the capital of the colony of Eritrea. Since Umberto also took military action in Somalia in 1889, the Italian king was said to be seeking to establish a large empire in northeast Africa. In any case, the disastrous defeat of the Italian invasion forces at the Battle of Adua in Abyssinia in 1896 dampened his ambitions in this regard. In the summer of 1900, the Italian navy took part in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in Imperial China within the Eight Nations Alliance. This resulted in a trade concession for Italy in the Chinese city of Tianjin.

During the colonial wars, numerous riots broke out in Italy because of the high price of bread, including one in Milan in 1898. The northern Italian metropolis was then placed under military control. Its commander, Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris, fired widely on demonstrators with the devastating result that, depending on the information, between 82 and 300 people were killed and numerous injured. For his efforts, the commander was later decorated with the Savoyard Cross of Merit. Umberto was assassinated by the Italian-American anarchist Gaetano Bresci in Monza on July 29, 1900, with several revolver shots. According to the assassin's own statements, he wanted to avenge the "Bava-Beccaris Massacre" in Milan.

Umberto I was succeeded by his only son, Victor Emmanuel III. Born in Naples, he was called the Little Prince of Naples during his father's lifetime. Even in adulthood, Victor Emmanuel was conspicuously short, measuring a mere 1 meter 53. Although his government survived two world wars - although it should be noted that he had hardly any political weight between 1923 and 1943 - his "imperial dreams" failed in the face of reality and his passive and opportunistic attitude toward Mussolini ultimately led to the dissolution of the monarchy in Italy and thus also to the end of the House of Savoy as a ruling dynasty.

In 1915, Italy entered World War I on the side of the Entente. In a daily order to the troops, Victor Emmanuel shared the optimism of his chief of staff, Luigi Cadorna. The latter believed he could conquer Trieste with his troops within a month and then be in a good position to overrun Vienna. As a result, in the White War, the Alpini became embroiled in crazy battles, often fought at an altitude of over 3,000 meters.

Although Italy was awarded South Tyrol and Trentino in the Treaty of Saint-Germain, at the end of the First World War Italy was dissatisfied with what had been achieved and felt that it had not been taken seriously enough by the great powers; this is why people spoke of a "mutilated victory" (vittoria mutilata). Italy's participation in the victory of the "Great War" was all too dearly paid for with around 680,000 casualties, with economic and financial bankruptcy, and with excessive nationalism.

Italy experienced one parliamentary crisis after another from 1919 onward. In the "biennio rosso" and "biennio nero" of the early 1920s, domestic political struggles between the Marxist-minded "Reds" and the fascist-minded "Blackshirts" led to civil war-like conditions. In this crisis, Victor Emmanuel conferred with his Chief of Staff, Armando Diaz, the latter saying to the king, "Your Majesty, the army will do its duty, but it would be best not to put it to the test." As a result, in 1922 Victor Emmanuel refused to sign the emergency decree drawn up by his Prime Minister Luigi Facta, with which the latter wanted to counter the march on Rome organized by Mussolini's fascists. As a result, the king appointed Mussolini head of government on October 30, 1922. From then on, "the Duce" could count not only on the support of the military, the right-wing extremists with their racial laws, and big business, but also on the acquiescence of the Italian king. This also manifested itself in the months following Matteotti's assassination, whereupon Mussolini effectively completely disempowered Parliament and issued a very dubious pardon to Victor Emmanuel.

In the years 1935

On June 10, 1940, when the German victory in the Battle of France had become foreseeable, Italy, although poorly equipped, officially entered the Second World War on the side of the Axis powers. Victor Emmanuel acknowledged Mussolini's declaration to that effect, though perhaps only half-heartedly. The Allied invasion of Italy led to Mussolini's overthrow on July 25, 1943, whereupon Viktor Emanuel had the "Duce" arrested and assumed supreme command of the Italian forces. To avoid possible capture by the Wehrmacht advancing in northern Italy, he fled to Brindisi.

Self-recognizing that he had been too close to the fascist regime, Victor Emmanuel handed over most of the affairs of state to his son and Crown Prince Umberto II in April 1944. Nevertheless, the Italian people, initiated by the U.S. occupation forces, forced a referendum within the next year to abolish the monarchy. With his official abdication on May 9, 1946, in favor of Umberto, Victor Emmanuel tried to influence the upcoming vote in this regard. But it did not help: the plebiscite was accepted with 53% of the votes and Viktor Emanuel went into exile to Alexandria in the same year, where he was received by the Egyptian King Faruq. In 1947 he died in Alexandria, in 2017 he was reburied in the Basilica of Vicoforte.

Crown Prince Umberto II, son of Victor Emmanuel III, was born in 1904. He received a military-oriented education. In 1929, on the very day he was about to officially announce his engagement to Belgian Princess Marie José of Belgium, he was the victim of an assassination attempt in Brussels, but was unhurt as the pistol shot missed the target. The perpetrator, Fernando de Rosa, was an anti-fascist and an avowed member of the Socialist International.

On May 9, 1946, Umberto took over the affairs of state from his father, but for only a little over a month. With the announcement of the result of the referendum on June 18, Umberto II was officially deemed deposed and the monarchy in Italy ended. Umberto went into exile in Cascais, Portugal, refusing to recognize the defeat of the monarchy.

The Republican Constitution of Italy, which came into force on January 1, 1948, forbade the King, the male descendants of the House of Savoy and their wives to return to Italy. Their property fell to the state. In 1983 Umberto became seriously ill, and President Sandro Pertini wanted to allow him to enter Italy so that he could have died in his homeland. Ultimately, Umberto traveled to Geneva that same year, where he died. No Italian government representative attended the funeral.

In November 2002, the Italian Parliament amended the Constitution: the Savoy family was allowed to return to Italy. Victor Emanuel (* 1937 in Naples), the only son of Umberto II, lives with his wife Marina in Vésenaz near Geneva. Before his retirement, he worked as a banker and military aircraft dealer and was on a list of members of the secret lodge P2. Until July 7, 2006, he was the head of the House of Savoy, but was then replaced against his will by his cousin Amadeus of Savoy, officially because his marriage was not in keeping with his rank. The real reason for the change, however, may have been that Victor Emmanuel was repeatedly involved in incidents that did not help his reputation.

In 1979, 19-year-old Dirk Hamer died after being seriously injured by a gunshot during a vacation in Corsica in 1978. The shot had been fired by Viktor Emanuel, who was chasing an alleged boat thief, hitting the uninvolved Dirk, who was asleep on a ship's deck. The exact sequence of events in the accident could only be inadequately clarified later by the police and the court. After a series of trials that lasted thirteen years, Viktor Emanuel was acquitted of most of the charges against him, among other things because Ryke Geerd Hamer had his son transferred to Germany in a critical condition against the advice of the doctors treating him, so that the death could no longer be clearly attributed to the gunshot wound alone. Thus, the offense of illegal possession of weapons still remained, which resulted in a sentence of six months' imprisonment on probation for Viktor Emanuel.

On June 16, 2006, the Court of Potenza indicted Viktor Emanuel. He was charged with pandering and corruption, coupled with bribery in connection with gambling, committed in the Campione d'Italia casino. As a result, he was placed under house arrest for approximately thirty days. On September 22, 2010, he was acquitted in this case on the grounds that "because the facts charged against the accused did not meet the elements of the cited legal provision."

Viktor Emanuel's son Emanuele Filiberto (* 1972 in Geneva), active as a hedge fund manager, and his wife Clotilde Courau, active as a theater and film actress, have two daughters: Vittoria (* 2003) and Luisa (* 2006).

The titles of King of Armenia, King of Cyprus, and King of Jerusalem came from the marriage of Louis of Savoy to Anne de Lusignan, Princess of Cyprus.

Self-explanatory, the accumulation of titles was greatest after the incorporation of numerous small Italian states into the Kingdom of Italy, but already Victor Amadeus III of Savoy bore a handsome number of titles in the 18th century:

Unlike usual, as in the case of Emperor Franz II.

The Jacobite title King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland (1807-1824

The ancestral coat of arms shows a silver cross on a red background. On the helmet with red and silver covers a natural colored leopard head (later a golden lion head) without lower jaw between a silver (later golden) flight.


  1. House of Savoy
  2. Haus Savoyen
  3. Thomas Maissen: Geschichte der Schweiz, S. 17. hier + jetzt Verlag, Baden 2010.
  4. ^ Il 2 giugno 1946 l'Italia votò per il referendum istituzionale tra monarchia e repubblica, nel quale vinse la repubblica. Il 13 giugno successivo il re Umberto II di Savoia, senza mai abdicare, lasciò l'Italia e il 18 dello stesso mese venne ufficialmente proclamata la Repubblica Italiana.
  5. ^ «Con Corrado Agusta, ed il suo segretario Franco Chiesa, in un negozio abbiamo comprato due fedi, in un altro un bouquet preconfezionato, poi siamo andati davanti ad un giudice di pace, il quale ci ha sposato. Era l'11 gennaio del 1970, a Las Vegas, Nevada, Usa. Matrimonio civile di cui non informai nessuno, neanche i miei genitori», tratto da Lampi di vita, storia di un principe in esilio, di Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia, Rizzoli, pagina 187.
  6. ^ Queen consort.
  7. Guardian Newspaper,2763,1227375,00.html
  8. «The Prince and the prostitutes». Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο στις 24 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015. Ανακτήθηκε στις 24 Μαρτίου 2012.

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