* European royalty -- Italy modern monarchy

European Royalty: Modern Italian Monarchy

The monarchial lines in Italy are very complicated because after the Fall of Rome Italy during the the medieval period broke up into a number of small kingdomes, including the Papal states, and some independent city states ruled as republics, the most important being Venice. Italy became a battle ground for more powerful kingdomes, especially France, Germany (the Holu Roman Empire), and Spain. Only in the mid-19th century did a united Italy emerge under the House of Savoy.

Medieval Italian States

The monarchial lines in Italy are very complicated because after the Fall of Rome Italy during the the medieval period broke up into a number of small kingdomes, including the Papal states, and some independent city states ruled as republics, the most important being Venice. Italy became a battle ground for more powerful kingdomes, especially France, Germany (the Holu Roman Empire), and Spain. The Italian cities and regions have fascinating histories. They covere a range of political organization including republic, monarchy, and theocracy. Many have histories far predating the Romans, othrs were founded only after the coming of the Barbarians and the collapse of Rome. Besides the Italian cities there were the offshore islands, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily.


Carlos de Borbon, brother of Ferdinand VI of Spain, conquered Naples and Sicily, and became Charles IV, King of the Two Sicilies. When he acceded to the Spanish throne as Charles III, he made his younger son King Ferdinand IV of Naples. The Emperor Napoleon I at first deposed Ferdinand, then restored him as King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In successive generations the throne passed to Francis I, Ferdinand II, and Francis II, at whose abdication (1861) the kingdom became part of the Kingdom of Italy. The youngest son of King Philip V of Spain conquered Parma, in Italy, in 1748, and became Philip, Duke of Parma (1720-65); his son was Ferdinand, Duke of Parma, and his grandson was Louis, made King of Etruria by the French in 1801. Charles Louis, son of Louis, was driven from Etruria by the French in 1807, and made Duke of Lucca in 1815 by Napoleon's conquerors, who simultaneously made Napoleon's widow, Maria Louisa, Duchess of Parma. On the latter's death in 1847 Charles Louis received Parma in exchange for Lucca. His son, Charles III, Duke of Parma, was in turn succeeded by his son, Robert, who lost the duchy upon its annexation to Italy in 1860.

The French Revolution

The Italian political and territorial picture, which at the end of the 18C seemed to have stabilized,rapidly disintegrated in the face of Napoleon Bonaparte's first military campaign across thepeninsula so as to successfully attack the Austrian Empire on its southern flank. After the Peace ofParis (May 16, 1796) reached with the neighboring kingdom of Savoy, that of Campoformio (17October 1797) marked the end of the now enfeebled Republic of Venice. The latter wasexchanged with Austria for the Duchy of Milan, which went to form the Repubblica Transpadana(November 1796). With Napoleon's entry into Italy there came also the new ideasof liberty diffused from the French Revolution and these had animmediate effect. After the French occupation of the territoryof the Papal Legations in 1796, in August of the same year theducal government of Reggio (Emilia) was overthrown and inthe following December the Repubblica Cispadana wasproclaimed. This latter included the rest of Emilia and adoptedfor the first time a flag with the present-day white, red andgreen colors. On 29 June 1797 the two republics were joinedin the new Repubblica Cisalpina and towards the end of theyear the Repubblica Ligure was formed. At the beginning of1798 the rest of the Papal States were occupied and turnedinto the Repubblica Romana, while the pope had to seekrefuge in Tuscany. The next year (in January 1799) it was the turn of Naples, where a group of intellectuals and aristocrats formed the Repubblica Partenopea, while King Ferdinando IV had to flee to Sicily. A republican government was then also established in Tuscany. But the dream of liberty seemed of brief duration. The absence of Napoleon, on the Egyptian Campaign (1798-99), favored a coalition of the great European States allied withthe Russian czar and the English monarchy. Asquickly as it had arrived the French army wasforced to withdraw from the peninsula leaving theway open to the restoration that was to beparticularly violent at Naples (June 1799). TheSecond Italian Campaign began with theresounding victory of Marengo (June 14, 1800)and ended with the Peace of Luneville (February 9, 1801) whereby France regained control over Italy. The republican ideals having been replaced by Napoleon's dynastic aspirations, the Repubblica Italiana, direct heir of the Cisalpinawith the addition of the Venetian domain, was established on December 28, 1805 and then transformed into the Kingdom of Italy on March 31, 1805. The pope's authority over part of histerritories was re-established; the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was transformed into the Kingdom ofEtruria; the territories of Piombino, Lucca, Massa and Carrara were assigned as a duchy toNapoleon's sister Eloise; the Kingdom of Naples was given (March 30, 1806) his brother Joseph; and only Sardinia and Sicily remained for the Savoys and Bourbons. Successive events furtherreinforced Napoleon's control of Italy. His brother-in-law Murat ascended the throne of Naples;the Kingdom of Italy was expanded with the Trentino and Alto Adige (the latter fiercely defendedby Andreas Hofer); and Tuscany and the Papal States were incorporated in the new French Empire (Peace of Schönbrunn, October 14, 1810). But after a brief interlude, the failure ofNapoleon's Russian Campaign and his defeats at Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815), as well asMurat's tragic end (October 1815), brought back to Italy the restoration of the old political andterritorial order under the terms of the Congress of Vienna (June 1815).

The Resoration

The great powers divided Italy following Napoleon's defeats in 1814-15 into the Papal States, Austrian duchies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Sardinia and France in 1859 expelled the Austrians from all of northern Italy except Venice.

House of Savoy

The Svoy dynasty ruled Savoy and Piedmont (northern Italy) from the 11th centtury, Sicily (1713-20), Sardinia (1720-1861), and after 1861 a unified Italy until 1946). The dynasty was founded by an 11th century count who held lands in Savoy and Piedmont. Through successful marriage policies and diplomacy his successors expanded their holdings in France, Switzerland, and Italy. Amadeus VIII acquired a ducal title in 1416. Savoy lost its Swiss possessions in 1536 and the French King Francis I seized the rest of the duchy. Duke Emmanuel Philibert in 1559 arranged for the restoration of his duchy in 1559 and made Turin in northern Italy his capital. His grandson Victor Ameadeus II became (1713) king of Sicily for his role inthe War of the Spanish Succession. Sicily was exchanged (1720) with Spain for Sardinia, and the statebecame known as the kingdom of Sardinia. In 1831Charles Albert, of the cadet line of Savoy-Carignano,became king. He committed Sardinia in theRisorgimento, and his son, Victor Emmanuel II, became (1861) King of Italy. Victor Emmanuel II's son, Humbert I (r.1878-1900), was assassinated. Humbert's son and successor, VictorEmmanuel III, abdicated after World War II. His son, Humbert II, reigned briefly (1946) before Italy became arepublic. Victor Emmanuel I (1759-1824), King of Sardinia (1802-21), received Sardinia's mainland Itlalian territories in the restoratiion following Napoleon's fall (1814-15). His reactionary rule led to a poplar uprising, and he was forced to abdicate.

The Risorgimento: The Advent of the Monarchy

But the seeds of Italian national sentiment and the ideals of liberty had been sown in Italy as a result of the French invasion which brought with it the ideals of the French Revolution. The First Napoleonic Campaign was a major event in generating a feeling of national identity and unity whuch were aroused by the establishment of first republican structures and then the Kingdom of Italy. These, united to the administrative and judicial reformsextended from France into Italy (especially the introduction of the Code Napoléon), began totake root despite the restoration. Support came from the intellectual and middle-classes in all theItalian States and from numerous patriotic associations, often working in secret (as the `YoungItaly', of Giuseppe Mazzini) but profoundly influencing society. The demand for freer and moredemocratic institutions, the frequency of episodes of insurrection stretching from Piedmont toSicily but above all the concession of the Spanish constitution forced the Italian rulers (from CarloAlberto to Leopoldo II and from Ferdinando II to Pius IX) to follow suit also during 1848. A year that was rich in events and innovations not only for Italy but also for the rest of Europe with the revolutions in Paris and Vienna. Encouraged by the uprisings of Milan and Venice, the king of Sardinia Carlo Alberto intervenedin 1848 against Austria with the help of volunteers from various parts of Italy and the regulararmies of the pope and Naples. But the sudden defection of the latter two destroyed at birth whathad seemed an aspiration already realized. A second attempt by the same Carlo Alberto failedthe following year at Novara and he was forced to abdicate in favour of Vittorio Emanuele II.Meanwhile Rome was living with Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi a short republican season, likeTuscany, Sicily and Venice, before the French and Austrian troops intervened to restore thedeposed rulers who reacted by revoking the constitutions conceded the previous year.

The Unification of Italy

The following decade coincides with the presence of Count Camillo Benso Cavour in thegovernment of Piedmont and his able and patient pursual of a policy that succeeded in insertingthe small State of Savoy within the schemes and alliances of the great European powers, as wellas ensuring the friendship of neighbouring France. Results were not slow in arriving. At theCongress of Paris (1856) concluding the Crimean War, fought by the army of Piedmont in acoalition with France and England against Russia and Turkey (in the Battle of the Cernaia the newcorps of the Bersaglieri, founded by General La Marmora, distinguished itself), Cavour managedto raise the Italian question although without obtaining immediate territorial advantages. Thesewere to come three years later in 1859. Following the speech from the throne at the beginning ofthe year by Vittorio Emanuele II on the support of Piedmont for Italians with nationalisticaspirations, Austria, having failed in her request for the disarmament of Piedmont, declared waron the Kingdom of Sardinia. This was the occasion for which Cavour had long waited. The intervention of France under Napoleon III with the bloody victories of Solferino and San Martinoforced Austria to the armistice of Villafranca and the cession of Lombardy. At the same time allCentral Italy and Romagna rebelled, overturning the old regimes. Following the plebiscite thatvoted in favour of annexation to Piedmont (1860), there then began the construction, togetherwith the territory of Southern Italy that had been taken by Garibaldi's expedition of `The Thousand', of the United Kingdom of Italy.

The Modern Italian Kingdom

The Kingdom of Italy was formed in 1861, encompassing the entire peninsula except for Rome, Venice, and San Marino. The Kingdom was to be proclaimed at Turin on March 17, 1861, though the acquisition of Rome and Venice were still outstanding. King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia became king of Italy, thus founding the modern Italian monarchy. Rome was added to the Kingdom 5 years later (1866) following an unfortunate conflict with Austria, which was resolved in Italy'sfavour thanks to the intervention of Prussia. The King's Army seized Rome by force from the Papacy on September 20, 1870, on the fall of Napoleon III. French policy had been to opose the creation of powerul, united nation states in neighboring Italy and Germany. Napoleon III's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War ended the last oposition to a unified Italy and Germany. Rome was made the capital of Italy the following in 1871. With these events the territorial unity of the Italian nation was almost complete and it was nownecessary to construct its own social, economic and cultural image.

Italian Monarchs

Italy only forned a unified state in the mid-19th century. As a result, like Germany, there are only a small number of monarchs before the monarchy was abloished in the aftermath of World war II. There were four kings, although the last Umberto II served only a short period.

Victor Emmanuel II (1861-78)

Victor Emmanuel II (1820-78), King of Sardinia (1849-61), was the first king of a united Italy (1861-78). He was the son of Charles Albert, King of Sardinia. He was born in Turin. He asended to the throne as a result of the defeat of the Piedmontese Army by the Austrians at Novara. Aided by his brilliant minister, the Conte di Cavour, and Garabaldi, he continued the wars of the Risorgmento and in 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed. Venice joined the Kingdom in 1866 and Rome in 1871.

Umberto I (1878-1900)

Umberto (Hubert) I (r.1878-1900) Victor Emmanuel II's son, was assassinated. His son, Victor Emmanuel III, ascended the throne in 1900.

Figure 1.--This is the family of Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena. Umberto and his sister are wearing white sailor suits. The fourth child has not been born.

Victor Emmanuel III (1900-46)

Victor Emmanuel III (1869-1947) was the grandson of Victor Emmanuel II. He was born in Naples. I have no details on his childhood or the clothes he wore as a boy. I alsob have no details on Victor Emmauel's family. He mairred Princess Elena, daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro. The image here suggests that he had three children. The eldest was Umberto. His sons appear to have worn sailor suits as boys, but no other information is available. He became king of Italy in 1900 on the assassination of his father, King Umberto I. He reigned as King of Italy from 1900 until 1946. Italy acquired Libya in 1912 after a war with the Ottoman Empire. Although it was allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy entered World War I on the side of the Allies in 1915. He decided in 1915 to join the Allies in World War I. Benito Mussolini became prime minister of Italy in 1922 and rapidly assumed dictatorial powers. Following the collapse of parliamentary government, Victor Emmanuel accepted the Fascist regime ofBenito Mussolini. During Mussolini's Fascist regime Victor Emmanuel was king in name only. Necertheless, the King's role in Mussolini's Government was to eventually doom the monarchy in Italy. The Lateran Treaty normalized relations between Italy and the Vatican in 1929. although he gained the titles Emperor of Ethiopia (1936) and King of Albania (1939). Italy entered World War II having previously formed an alliance with Germany. The War was a disaster for Italy and Italian forces recorded a steady series of defeats in North Africa, Ethiopia, Albania, Greece, and Sicily. Italian units were desimated on the Eastern Front by the Soviets. Italy surrendered to invading Allied forces in 1943, but Germany took control of the country and fought the Allies until the end of the war. After the fall of Rome in 1944, the king withdrew from public life and abdicated in favor of his son, Crown Prince Umberto in 1946 after World War II.

Figure 2.--The future Queen of Itay, Princess Marie Jose, is pictured here in Belgium before World War I with her fashionably dressed brothers.

Umberto II

Umberto (Humbert) II, Victor Emmanuel III's son, reigned briefly (1946)after his father abdicated. Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in May 1946 and Italy became a republic. For decades, the Italian Republic banned the return of the Savoys. In exile, Umberto II and his wife Marie-José separated. He settled in Cascais, Portugal; she in Switzerland. Umberto never again set foot in Italy. mberto maried Marie-Jose of Belgium in 1930. Her parents were King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. She was born in 1906. Marie-Jose had a flair for music and history. Queen Marie-José is recognized as one of the world's leading specialists in the history of the House of Savoy. She has published several works on her husband's family and is currently writing a biography of Prince Emmanuel-Philibert, ancestor of her children. The marriage was not a happy one, for neither royal spouse was much interested in the other. The first four years of marriage were filled with constant bickering and a growing separation between Umberto and Marie-José. Their children caused the royal couple several headaches during much of the 1960's. One of thher grandsons died in mysterious circumstances by falling off a window just a few years ago. Marie-José's father died tragically as a result of a climbing accident. One of her sisters-in-law, Princess Mafalda of Hesse, died while in a German concentration camp. Another sister-in-law, Queen Astrid of Belgium, died in a car accident. Marie-José remained close to her royal nephews in Belgium. She never abandoned her Belgian roots. In 1993 she attended the funeral of King Baudouin I in Brussels. She has been visited by her other nephew, King Albert II, while in Cuernavaca, Mexico where in the 1990s she has resided. From the announcment of the engagement, Princess Marie-Jos� did not share the enthusiasm of both families and the populace in general. Still, as a daughter of kings and a royal princess, she felt obligated to fulfill her public duties. In 1930 she married the Italian royal heir and became the Princess of Piedmont. The first years of marriage were a challenge to the vastly divergent couple. At times it seemed that their union was close to reaching a complete collapse. Umberto was a playboy with peculiar tastes. Marie-Jos� was a tremendously talented young woman with deep artistic and intellectual inclinations.

Victor Emmanuel

As a result of the Italian law of exile, Umberto II amd Marie-Jose's son Victor-Emmanuel and his son, Emmanuel-Philibert, grew up in exile. The law of exile was abolished (October 23, 2002). Emmanuel-Philibert is now a popular anchorman on Italian television.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site royal pages:
[Return to the Main Italian monarchy page]
[Main royal pages]
[Austria] [Belgium] [Denmark] [France] [Germany] [Luxemburg] [Monaco] [Netherlands] [Norway] [Romania] [Russia] [Spain] [United Kingdom]

Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 3:14 PM 2/13/2011