House of Savoy
Great coat of arms of the king of italy (1890-1946)
Country Italy, Somalia, Ethiopia, Albania, Croatia, France, Spain
Titles * Count of Savoy
  • Duke of Savoy
  • King of Sicily
  • King of Sardinia
  • King of Italy
  • Emperor of Ethiopia
  • King of the Albanians
  • King of Croatia
  • King of Spain
  • King of Cyprus
  • King of Armenia
  • King of Jerusalem
Founder Umberto I of Savoy
Final ruler Umberto II of Italy
Current head Disputed:
Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples,
Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta
Founding year 1003
Dissolution 12 June 1946
Ethnicity Italian, originally Frankish
Cadet branches Savoy-Carignano,
(extinct since 1996)
(extinct since 1209)

Template:House of Savoy

The House of Savoy (Italian: Casa Savoia) is one of the oldest royal families in the world, being founded in year 1003 in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Sardinia in northwestern Italy in 1720. Through its junior branch, the House of Savoy-Carignano, it led the unification of Italy in 1861 and ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II. The House of Savoy ruled unified Italy with Victor Emmanuel II, Umberto I, Victor Emmanuel III, and Umberto II as monarchs. The last monarch ruled for a few weeks before being deposed following the Constitutional Referendum of 1946. A republic was then proclaimed.[1]


The name derives from the historical region Savoy in the Alpine region between what is now France and Italy. Over time, the House of Savoy expanded through judicious marriages to gain political power.[2] They went from ruling that region to rule almost all of the Italian Peninsula. Yet their growth and survival over the centuries was not based on spectacular conquests, but on gradual territorial expansion through marriage and methodical and highly manipulative political acquisitions.

Early history[]

The house descended from Humbert I, Count of Sabaudia (Umberto I "Biancamano"), (1003–1047 or 1048). Humbert's family are thought to have originated from near Magdeburg in Saxony, with the earliest recording of the family being two 10th century brothers, Amadeus and Humbert.[3] Though originally a poor county, later heirs to the throne were diplomatically skilled, and gained control over strategic mountain passes in the Alps. Two of Humbert's sons were bishops at the Abbey of Saint Maurice on the River Rhone east of Lake Geneva, and Saint Maurice is still the patron of the House of Savoy.

Humbert's son, Otto of Savoy ascended the throne in 1051 after the death of his elder brother Amedeo and married the Marchioness Adelaide of Turin, passing the Marquessate of Susa, with the towns of Turin and Pinerolo, into the House of Savoy's possession.[4] This diplomatic skill caused the great powers such as France, England, and Spain to take the counts' opinions into account.

They once had claims on the modern canton of Vaud, where they occupied the Château of Chillon in Switzerland, but their access to it was cut by Geneva during the Protestant Reformation, after which it was conquered by Bern. Piedmont was later joined with Sabaudia, and the name evolved into "Savoy" (Italian "Savoia"). The people of Savoy were descended from the Celts and Romans.

Abbaye royale de Hautecombe II - 200501

Hautecombe Abbey, where many of the dukes are buried.

Expansion, retreat and prosperity[]

By the time Amadeus VIII came to power in the late 14th century, the House of Savoy had gone through a series of gradual territorial expansions and he was elevated by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund to the Duke of Savoy in 1416.[5]

Italy 1494

Map of Italy in 1494.

In 1494, Charles VIII of France passed through Savoy on his way to Italy and Naples, which initiated the Italian War of 1494–98.[6] During the outbreak of the Italian war of 1521-1526, Emperor Charles V stationed imperial troops in Savoy.[7] In 1536, Francis I of France invaded Savoy and Piedmont taking Turin by April of that year.[8] Charles III, Duke of Savoy, fled to Vercelli.[8]

When Emmanuel Philibert came to power in 1553 most of his family's territories were in French hands, so he offered to serve France's leading enemy the House of Habsburg, in the hope of recovering his lands. He served Philip II as Governor of the Netherlands from 1555 to 1559.[9] In this capacity he led the Spanish invasion of northern France and won a victory at St. Quentin in 1557.[10] He took advantage of various squabbles in Europe to slowly regain territory from both the French and the Spanish, including the city of Turin. He moved the capital of the duchy from Chambéry to Turin.

The 17th century brought about economic development to the Turin area and the House of Savoy took part in and benefitted from that. Charles Emmanuel II developed the port of Nice and built a road through the Alps towards France. And through skillful political manoeuvres territorial expansion continued. In early 18th century in the War of the Spanish Succession Victor Amadeus switched sides to assist the Habsburgs and via the Treaty of Utrecht they rewarded him with large pieces of land in northeastern Italy, and a Crown in Sicily. Savoy rule over Sicily lasted only seven years (1713–20).

The Kingdom of Italy[]

Italy 1796

Map of Italy in 1796.

The crown of Sicily, the prestige of being kings at last, and the wealth of Palermo helped strengthen the House of Savoy further. In 1720 they exchanged Sicily for Sardinia of which they were kings. In 1792 Piedmont-Sardinia joined the First Coalition against the French First Republic, but was beaten in 1796 by Napoleon and forced to conclude the disadvantageous Treaty of Paris (1796), giving the French army free passage through Piedmont. In 1798, Joubert occupied Turin and forced Charles Emmanuel IV to abdicate and leave for the island of Sardinia. Eventually, in 1814 the kingdom was restored and enlarged with the addition of the former Republic of Genoa by the Congress of Vienna.

In the meantime, nationalist figures such as Giuseppe Mazzini were influencing popular opinion. Mazzini believed that Italian unification could only be achieved through a popular uprising, but after the failure of the 1848 revolutions, the Italian nationalists began to look to the Kingdom of Sardinia and its prime minister Count Cavour as the leaders of the unification movement. In 1848, Charles Albert conceded a constitution known as the Statuto Albertino to Piedmont-Sardinia. The Statuto Albertino remained at the basis of the Kingdom's legal system even after Italian unification was achieved and the Kingdom of Sardinia became the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

The Kingdom of Italy was the first Italian state to include the Italian Peninsula since the fall of the Roman Empire. But when Victor Emmanuel was crowned King of Italy in 1861, his reign did not control Venetia and Lazio. Yet the House of Savoy continued to rule Italy for several decades through the Italian Independence wars as the Italian unification continued and even as the First World War raged on in the early 20th century.


Italia 1843-fr

Map of Italy in 1843.

In April 1655, based on (perhaps false) reports of resistance by the Waldensians, a Protestant religious minority, to a plan to resettle them in remote mountain valleys, Charles Emmanuel II ordered their general massacre. The massacre was so brutal it aroused indignation throughout Europe. Oliver Cromwell, then ruler in England, began petitioning on behalf of the Waldensians, writing letters, raising contributions, calling a general fast in England and threatening to send military forces to the rescue. The massacre prompted John Milton's famous sonnet, "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont".

In 1898 the Bava-Beccaris massacre in Milan involved the use of cannons against unarmed protesters (including women and old people) during riots over the rising price of bread. King Umberto I of the House of Savoy congratulated General Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris for the massacre and decorated him with the medal of Great Official of Savoy Military Order, greatly outraging a large part of the public opinion. As a result Umberto I was assassinated in July 1900 in Monza by Gaetano Bresci, the brother of one of the women massacred in the crowd, who traveled back to Italy from the United States for the assassination. The king had previously been the target of failed assassination attempts by anarchists Giovanni Passannante and Pietro Acciarito.

Fascism and end of monarchy[]

When the First World War ended, the Treaty of Versailles fell short of what had been promised in the London Pact to Italy. As the economic conditions in Italy worsened after the war, popular resentment and along with it the seeds of Italian fascism began to grow and resulted in the March on Rome by Benito Mussolini.

General Pietro Badoglio advised King Victor Emmanuel III that he could easily sweep Mussolini and his rag-tag Blackshirt army to one side, but Victor Emmanuel decided to tolerate Mussolini and appointed him as prime minister on October 28, 1922. The king remained silent as Mussolini engaged in one abuse of power after another from 1924 onward, culminating in December 1925 when he dropped all pretense of democracy. By the end of 1928, the king's right to remove Mussolini from office was, at least theoretically, the only check on his power. Later, the King's failure, in the face of mounting evidence, to move against the Mussolini regime's abuses of power led to much criticism and had dire future consequences for Italy and for the monarchy itself.

Italy conquered Ethiopia in 1936, and Victor Emmanuel was crowned as Emperor of Ethiopia. He added the Albanian crown as well in 1939. However, as Mussolini and the axis powers failed in the Second World War in 1943, several members of the Italian court began putting out feelers to the Allies, who in turn let it be known that Mussolini had to go. After Mussolini received a vote of no confidence from the Fascist Grand Council on 24 July, Victor Emmanuel dismissed him from office, relinquished the Ethiopian and Albanian crowns, and appointed Pietro Badoglio as prime minister. On 8 September, the new government announced it had signed an armistice with the Allies five days earlier. However, Victor Emmanuel made another blunder when he and his government fled south to Brindisi, leaving his army without orders.

As the Allies and the Resistance gradually chased the Nazis and Fascists off the peninsula, it became apparent that Victor Emmanuel was too tainted by his earlier support of Mussolini to have any postwar role. Accordingly, Victor Emmanuel transferred most of his powers to his son, Crown Prince Umberto, in April 1944. Rome was liberated two months later, and Victor Emmanuel transferred his remaining powers to Umberto and named him Lieutenant General of the Realm. Within a year, public opinion pushed for a referendum to decide between retaining the monarchy or becoming a republic. In a last-ditch attempt to save the monarchy, Victor Emmanuel formally abdicated on May 9, 1946. Umberto then formally assumed the throne as Umberto II. It did not work; the Italian constitutional referendum, 1946 was won by republicans with 54% of the vote. Victor Emmanuel fled into exile in Egypt, dying there a year later.

On 12 June 1946, the Kingdom of Italy formally came to an end as Umberto transferred his powers to Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi and called for the Italian people to support the new republic. He then went into exile in Portugal, never to return; he died in 1983.

Under the Constitution of the Italian Republic, the republican form of government cannot be changed by constitutional amendment, thus forbidding any attempt to restore the monarchy short of adopting an entirely new constitution. The constitution also forbade male descendants of the House of Savoy from entering Italy. This provision was removed in 2002[11] but as part of the deal to be allowed back into Italy, Vittorio Emanuele, the last claimant to the House of Savoy, renounced all claims to the throne.[12]

House of Savoy today[]

The Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Turin and the neighbourhood are protected as a World Heritage Site. Although the titles and distinctions of the Italian royal family are not legally recognised by the Republic of Italy, the remaining members of the House of Savoy, like dynasties of other abolished monarchies, still prefer using some of the various titles they acquired over the millennium of their reign prior to the republic's establishment, including Duke of Savoy, Prince of Naples, Prince of Piedmont and Duke of Aosta.

Currently the leadership of the House of Savoy is contested by two cousins: Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, who used to claim the title of King of Italy, and Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who still claims the title of the Duke of Savoy. Their rivalry has not always been peaceful — on May 21, 2004, following a dinner held by King Juan Carlos I of Spain on the eve of the wedding of his son Felipe, Prince of Asturias, Vittorio Emanuele punched Amedeo twice in the face.[13]

Some of the remaining members of the House of Savoy have been engulfed in controversy in the 21st century. On June 16, 2006 Vittorio Emanuele was arrested in Varenna and imprisoned in Potenza on charges of corruption and recruitment of prostitutes for clients of the Casinò di Campione (casino) of Campione d'Italia.[14][15][16] After several days, Vittorio Emanuele was released and placed under house arrest instead.[17] He was released from house arrest on July 20 but was required to remain within the borders of Italy.

Vittorio Emanuele's son Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy works in Geneva as a hedge fund manager. In 2007, lawyers representing the father and son wrote to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano seeking damages for their years in exile.[18] During a television interview, Emanuele Filiberto also requested with his cousin Prince Marco of Savoy that Roman landmarks such as the Quirinale palace and Villa Ada should return to the Savoy family. The Italian prime minister’s office has released a statement stating that the Savoys are not owed any damages and suggesting that Italy may demand damages from the Savoys for their collusion with Benito Mussolini. The Italian constitution contains a clause stripping the Savoys of their wealth on exile.

The patrilineal lineage of the House of Savoy was reduced to four males between 1996 and 2009. In 2008 Aimone of Savoy-Aosta married Princess Olga of Greece, his second cousin, and they became the parents of sons Umberto and Amedeo born, respectively, in 2009 and 2011.

List of rulers[]

Counts of Savoy[]

Main Branch

  • Humbert I "Biancamano" ("White hand") : 1003–1047 or 1048
  • Amadeus I : 1048–1051 or 1056
  • Otto : 1051 or 1056–1060
  • Peter I : 1060–1078
  • Amadeus II : 1060–1080
  • Humbert II : 1080–1103
  • Amadeus III : 1103–1148
  • Humbert III : 1148–1189
  • Thomas I : 1189–1233
  • Amadeus IV : 1233–1253
  • Boniface : 1253–1263
  • Peter II : 1263–1268
  • Philip I : 1268–1285
  • Amadeus V : 1285–1323
  • Edward I : 1323–1329
  • Aimone : 1329–1343
  • Amadeus VI : 1343–1383
  • Amadeus VII : 1383–1391
  • Amadeus VIII : as Count of Savoy 1391–1416

Dukes of Savoy[]

Kings of Sicily[]

Kings of Sardinia[]

Savoy-Carignano Branch

Kings of Italy[]

Emperors of Ethiopia[]

Kings of Albania[]

World War II Croatia[]

In 1941, in the fascist puppet state Independent State of Croatia, Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta, grandson of Amadeo I of Spain, was formally named as the king-designate under the name "Tomislav II", but refused to assume the kingship, was never crowned, never ruled, and formally abdicated in 1943.

Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia[]

In 1396, the title and privileges of the final king of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, Levon V, were transferred to James I, his cousin and king of Cyprus. The title of King of Armenia was thus united with the titles of King of Cyprus and King of Jerusalem.[19] The title was held to the modern day by the House of Savoy.

Titles of the Crown of Sardinia[]


Map of Kingdom of Sardinia.

VITTORIO AMEDEO III, per la grazia di Dio Re di Sardegna, Cipro, Gerusalemme e Armenia; Duca di Savoia, Monferrato, Chablais, Aosta e Genevese; Principe di Piemonte ed Oneglia; Marchese in Italia, di Saluzzo, Susa, Ivrea, Ceva, Maro, Oristano, Sezana; Conte di Moriana, Nizza, Tenda, Asti, Alessandria, Goceano; Barone di Vaud e di Faucigny; Signore di Vercelli, Pinerolo, Tarantasia, Lumellino, Val di Sesia; Principe e Vicario perpetuo del Sacro Romano Impero in Italia.

The English translation is: Victor Amadeus III, by the Grace of God, King of Sardinia, Cyprus, Jerusalem, Armenia, Duke of Savoy, Montferrat, Chablais, Aosta and Genevois, Prince of Piedmont and Oneglia, Marquis (of the Holy Roman Empire) in Italy, of Saluzzo, Susa, Ivrea, Ceva, Maro, Oristano, Sezana, Count of Maurienne, Nice, Tende, Asti, Alessandria, Goceano, Baron of Vaud and Faucigny, Lord of Vercelli, Pinerolo, Tarentaise, Lumellino, Val di Sesia, Prince and perpetual Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy.

Titles of the Crown of Italy[]

Victor Emmanuel II, by the Grace of God and the Will of the Nation, King of Italy, King of Sardinia, Cyprus, Jerusalem, Armenia, Duke of Savoy, Count of Maurienne, Marquis (of the Holy Roman Empire) in Italy; Prince of Piedmont, Carignano, Oneglia, Poirino, Trino; Prince and Perpetual vicar of the Holy Roman Empire; Prince of Carmagnola, Montmellian with Arbin and Francin, Prince bailliff of the Duchy of Aosta, Prince of Chieri, Dronero, Crescentino, Riva di Chieri e Banna, Busca, Bene, Brà, Duke of Genoa, Monferrat, Aosta, Duke of Chablais, Genevois, Duke of Piacenza, Marquis of Saluzzo (Saluces), Ivrea, Susa, del Maro, Oristano, Cesana, Savona, Tarantasia, Borgomanero e Cureggio, Caselle, Rivoli, Pianezza, Govone, Salussola, Racconigi con Tegerone, Migliabruna e Motturone, Cavallermaggiore, Marene, Modane e Lanslebourg, Livorno Ferraris, Santhià Agliè, Centallo e Demonte, Desana, Ghemme, Vigone, Count of Barge, Villafranca, Ginevra, Nizza, Tenda, Romont, Asti, Alessandria, del Goceano, Novara, Tortona, Bobbio, Soissons, Sant'Antioco, Pollenzo, Roccabruna, Tricerro, Bairo, Ozegna, delle Apertole, Baron of Vaud e del Faucigni, Lord of Vercelli, Pinerolo, della Lomellina, della Valle Sesia, del marchesato di Ceva, Overlord of Monaco, Roccabruna and 11/12th of Menton, Noble patrician of Venice, patrician of Ferrara.

These titles were used during the unified Kingdom of Italy which lasted from 1860–1946.[1]

Dynastic orders[]

The House of Savoy has held two dynastic orders since 1434, which were brought into the Kingdom of Italy as national orders. Although the Kingdom of Italy ceased to exist in 1946, King Umberto II did not abdicate his role as fons honorum over the two dynastic orders over which the family has long held sovereignty and grand mastership. The following are the dynastic orders of the Royal House of Savoy. Today, HRH Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples is hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master of these orders.

  • Ordine Supremo della SS. Annunziata (The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation)
  • Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus)

Recently, all three of Victor Emmanuel's sisters (HRH Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Parma, HRH Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy, and HRH Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy) resigned from both of these dynastic orders, alleging that memberships in the orders had been sold to unworthy candidates, a newfound practice they could not abide.[20]

In addition to these, the House of Savoy claims sovereignty over the Civil Order of Savoy and the Order of the Crown of Italy (since 1988, the Order of Merit of Savoy), which are merit orders of the Royal House.

See also[]

  • Duke of Aosta
  • List of nicknames of European Royalty and Nobility
  • Counts of Villafranca
  • List of rulers of Savoy
  • List of consorts of Savoy
  • County of Savoy
  • Duchy of Savoy
  • Kingdom of Sardinia
  • List of monarchs of Sardinia
  • List of Sardinian consorts
  • Kingdom of Italy
  • King of Italy
  • List of Italian queens


  1. ^ Ginsborg, Paul -A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988, pg 98. Online: A History of Contemporary Italy (Google books)
  2. ^ The kingdom of Burgundy, the land of the house of Savoy and adjacent territories, Eugene Cox, The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 5, C.1198-c.1300, ed. Rosamond McKitterick, David Abulafia, (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 365-366.
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo "Savoy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo "Piedmont". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  5. ^ Introduction:The Sabaudian Lands and Sabaudian Studies, Matthew Vester, Sabaudian Studies: Political Culture, Dynasty, and Territory (1400–1700), ed. Matthew Vester, (Truman State University Press, 2013), 1.
  6. ^ Sabaudian Studies, Matthew Vester, Sabaudian Studies: Political Culture, Dynasty, and Territory (1400–1700), (Truman State University Press, 2013), 6.
  7. ^ Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars, 1494-1559, (Pearson Educational Limited, 2012), 154.
  8. ^ a b Michael Mallett and Christine Shaw, The Italian Wars, 1494-1559, 230-231.
  9. ^ Henry Kamen, Philip of Spain, (Yale University Press, 1997), 64.
  10. ^ Henry Kamen, Philip of Spain, 67.
  11. ^ By Constitutional Amendment, after some attempts to do so in another way: see
    Né l'Unione europea, né i diritti dell'uomo possono aprire le frontiere a Casa Savoia, in Diritto&Giustizia edizione online, 2001, anno II, n. 36.
  12. ^ Guardian Newspaper,2763,1227375,00.html
  13. ^ Right royal punch-up at Spanish prince's wedding
  14. ^ Arrest and jail
  15. ^ Arrested Italy prince goes from palace to jail
  16. ^ The Prince and the prostitutes
  17. ^ House arrest
  18. ^ Savoy claim
  19. ^ Hadjilyra, Alexander-Michael (2009). The Armenians of Cyprus. New York: Kalaydjian Foundation. p. 12. 
  20. ^ The Fall of the House of Savoy, The Guardian, June 23, 2006.

Further reading[]

  • Francesco Cognasso: I Savoia nella politica europea. Milano, 1941 (Storia e politica).
  • Robert Katz: The Fall of the House of Savoy. A Study in the Relevance of the Commonplace or the Vulgarity of History, London 1972.
  • Eugene L. Cox: The Eagles of Savoy. The House of Savoy in thirteenth-century Europe. Princeton, N.J., 1974.
  • Denis Mack Smith: Italy and its Monarchy, New Haven, 1992.
  • Toby Osborne: Dynasty and Diplomacy in the Court of Savoy. Political Culture and the Thirty Years' War (Cambridge Studies in Italian History and Culture), Cambridge 2002.
  • Paolo Cozzo: La geografia celeste dei duchi di Savoia. Religione, devozioni e sacralità in uno Stato di età moderna (secoli XVI-XVII), Bologna, il Mulino, 2006, 370 pp.
  • Enrico Castelnuovo (a cura di): La Reggia di Venaria e i Savoia. Arte, magnificenza e storia di una corte europea. Vol. 1-2. Turin, Umberto Allemandi & C., 2007, 364 + 309 pp.
  • Walter Barberis (a cura di): I Savoia. I secoli d'oro di una dinastia europea. Torino, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 2007, 248 pp.

External links[]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  1. Official website of the Duke of Aosta
  2. Official website of the Prince of Naples
  3. Brief history of the House with a picture of coat-of-arm
  4. Genealogy of recent members of the House
  5. House of Savoy fansite
  6. The Heads of House of Savoy

Template:Princes of Savoy Template:Princesses of Savoy Template:European Royal Families

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