Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy has died at the age of 86. The son of the last Italian king, Umberto II, is dead.
The House of Savoy ruled over the territories of Savoy and Piedmont in the High Middle Ages and provided the kings of Italy from 1861 to 1946. At times, the dynasty also ruled over parts of western Switzerland, the county of Nice, Liguria and Sardinia.
However, with the rise of Benito Mussolini and the establishment of the fascist regime in 1922, which ultimately led to Italy entering the Second World War alongside Nazi Germany, the role of the monarchy was considerably weakened. The monarchy’s role in the fascists’ seizure of power and their destructive rule had also called its legitimacy into question.
Vittorio Emanuele’s father Umberto II became King of Italy on 10 May 1946. Around a month later, the monarchy was abolished in a referendum. King Umberto II and his family had to leave the country and move to Switzerland – hence the name “May King”. Officially, the now deceased Vittorio Emanuele was therefore only crown prince for one month. He spent the majority of his life outside Italy.
Viktor Emanuel spent his childhood in Switzerland (Geneva) and Portugal. In 1992, he submitted an official application for permission to return to Italy. For many years, he endeavoured to help this application succeed by making numerous contacts with Italian politicians. It was only in March 2002 that Victor Emmanuel and his family were allowed to return after the country’s constitution had been amended and he and his son had confirmed the abolition of the monarchy and taken a written oath to the constitution.
In the past, Vittorio Emanuele had repeatedly caused a stir with scandals. In 1978, an argument broke out in the marina of an island off Corsica. Shots are said to have been fired from Vittorio Emanuele’s rifle. A German tourist was hit and later died. On another occasion, he was investigated for exploiting prostitutes and corruption.
On 7 July 2006, the Council of Senators of the Realm, a collegiate body founded by former King Umberto in 1955 to watch over the honour of the House of Savoy, decreed that “Amadeus of Savoy, formerly Duke of Aosta, is the rightful Duke of Savoy and head of the House of Savoy”.
He thus replaced his cousin, the controversial former Crown Prince of Italy, the now deceased Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, against his will. The latter has since brought several lawsuits against him.
Finally, he sued the Italian state to obtain the return of the jewels of the house.
His great-grandmother was Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna di Savoia; as the wife of Umberto I, she was Queen of Italy from 1878 to 1900. She died in Bordighera in 1926.
His widow is Marina Ricolfi Doria, a former water skier. She won four world championship titles in various disciplines in 1955 and 1957.
His son Emanuele Filiberto is married to the actress Clotilde Courau. They have two daughters.
Lead image via Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain