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From the Emperor’s Desk: March 14 is the birthdate of two Italian Kings, Vittorio Emanuele II and his son Umberto I. I’d like to give a short synopsis of both kings.

Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Sardinia-Piedmont & King of Italy

Vittorio Emanuele II (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso di Savoia; March 14, 1820 – January 18, 1878) was King of Sardinia-Piedmont from 1849 until 17 March 1861, when he assumed the title of King of Italy and became the first king of a united Italy a title he held until his death in 1878.

Born in Turin as the eldest son of Carlo Alberto King of Sardinia-Piedmont and Maria Theresa of Austria, Princess of Tuscany, a daughter of Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Luisa of Naples and Sicily. Vittorio Emanuele fought in the First Italian War of Independence (1848-49) before being made King of Sardinia-Piedmont following his father’s abdication.

Archduchess Adelaide of Austria

In 1842 Vittorio Emanuele married his first cousin once removed Archduchess Adelaide of Austria (1822–1855). She was born at the Royal Palace of Milan to Archduke Rainer of Austria and his wife Princess Elisabeth of Savoy, daughter of Carlo Emanuele, Prince of Carignano (1770–1800),and Maria Cristina of Saxony (1770–1851). She had an elder brother of Carlo Alberto future King of Sardinia. By her he had eight children.

Vittorio Emanuele II supported the Expedition of the Thousand (1860–1861) led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, which resulted in the rapid fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in southern Italy. However, Vittorio Emanuele II halted Garibaldi when he appeared ready to attack Rome, still under the Papal States, as it was under French protection. In 1860, Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Romagna decided to side with Sardinia-Piedmont, and Victor Emmanuel then marched victoriously in the Marche and Umbria after the victorious battle of Castelfidardo over the Papal forces. He subsequently met Garibaldi at Teano, receiving from him the control of southern Italy and becoming the first King of Italy on March 17, 1861.

The rest of Vittorio Emanuele II’s reign was much quieter. After the Kingdom of Italy was established he decided to continue on as King Vittorio Emanuele II instead of Victor Emmanuel I of Italy. This was a terrible move as far as public relations went as it was not indicative of the fresh start that the Italian people wanted and suggested that Sardinia-Piedmont had taken over the Italian Peninsula, rather than unifying it. Despite this mishap, the remainder of Vittorio Emanuele II’s reign was consumed by wrapping up loose ends and dealing with economic and cultural issues.

Vittorio Emanuele died in Rome in 1878, after meeting with Pope Pius IX’s envoys, who had reversed the excommunication, and received last rites. He was buried in the Pantheon. His successor was his son Umberto I.


Umberto I, King of Italy

Umberto I (Umberto Rainerio Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio di Savoia; March 14, 1844 – July 29, 1900), nicknamed the Good, was the King of Italy from January 8, 1878 until his assassination on July 29, 1900.

The son of Vittorio Emanuele II and Archduchess Adelaide of Austria, Umberto was born in Turin, which was then capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia, on his father’s 24th birthday. As Crown Prince, Umberto was distrusted by his father, who gave him no training in politics or constitutional government, and he was brought up with no affection or love. Instead, Umberto was taught to be obedient and loyal; had to stand at attention whenever his father entered the room; and when speaking to his father had to get down on his knees to kiss his hand first. The fact that Umberto had to kiss his father’s hand before allowed to speak to him both in public and in private right up to his father’s death contributed much to the tension between the two.

At first, Umberto was to marry Archduchess Mathilde of Austria, the second daughter of Archduke Albert, Duke of Teschen and Princess Hildegard of Bavaria; however, she died as the result of an accident at the age of 18.# On April 21, 1868, Umberto then married his first cousin Margherita of Savoy, daughter of born to Prince Ferdinand of Savoy, Duke of Genoa and Princess Elisabeth of Saxony. Their only son was Victor Emmanuel, prince of Naples., later King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy.

Margherita of Savoy

Umberto kept many mistresses on the side, and his favorite mistress, Eugenia, the wife of Duke Litta Visconti-Arese, lived with him at his court as his common-law wife as he forced Queen Margherita to accept her as a lady-in-waiting.

While Umberto was to be described by a modern historian as “a colorless and physically unimpressive man, of limited intellect” Margherita’s appearance, cultural interests and strong personality were to enhance the popularity of the monarchy.

Ascending the throne on the death of his father (January 9, 1878), Umberto adopted the title “Umberto I of Italy” rather than “Umberto IV” (of Savoy), in direct contrast to his father who retained his regnal number as King of Sardinia-Piedmont and consented that the remains of his father should be interred at Rome in the Pantheon, rather than the royal mausoleum of Basilica of Superga.

Umberto’s reign saw Italy attempt colonial expansion into the Horn of Africa, successfully gaining Eritrea and Somalia despite being defeated by Abyssinia at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. In 1882, he approved the Triple Alliance with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary.

Umberto I, later in life.

He was deeply loathed in leftist circles because of his conservatism and support of the Bava-Beccaris massacre in Milan. He was especially hated by anarchists, who attempted to assassinate him during the first year of his reign.

On the evening of July 29, 1900, Umberto was assassinated in Monza. The king was shot four times by the Italian-American anarchist Gaetano Bresci. Bresci claimed he wanted to avenge the people killed in Milan during the suppression of the riots of May 1898.

# I will be posting on the tragic life of Archduchess Mathilda of Austria later today.