- Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Infobox Italian Royalty|monarch
name =Victor Emmanuel III
title =Emperor of Ethiopia; King of Italy and Albania
King of Italy
July 29, 1900- May 9, 1946
July 29, 1900
predecessor =Umberto I
successor =Umberto II
King of Albania
reign1 =1939 - 1943
Emperor of Ethiopia
reign2 =1936 - 1941
predecessor2 =Haile Selassie I
successor2 =Haile Selassie I
Elena of Montenegro
issue =Princess Yolanda
Giovanna, Queen of Bulgaria
Princess Maria Francesca
royal house =
House of Savoy
royal anthem =
father =Umberto I
Margherita of Savoy
date of birth =birth date|1869|11|11|mf=y
place of birth =
Naples, Kingdom of Italy
date of death =death date and age|1947|12|28|1869|11|11
place of death =
Victor Emmanuel III ( _it. Vittorio Emanuele III;
11 November, 1869– 28 December, 1947) was a member of the House of Savoyand King of Italy ( 29 July, 1900– 9 May, 1946). In addition, he was Emperor of Ethiopia(1936–43) and King of Albania(1939–43). During his long reign, Victor Emmanuel III saw two world wars and the birth, rise, and fall of Fascismin the Kingdom of Italy.
Victor Emmanuel was born in
Naples, Italy. He was the only child of Umberto I, King of Italy("Re d'Italia"), and his consort, Princess Margherita of Savoy. Margherita was the daughter of the duke of Genoa.
Unlike his paternal first cousin's son, the 6'6" tall
Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta, Victor Emmanuel was short of stature even by 19th century standards, to the point that today he would appear diminutive.
24 October 1896, Prince Victor Emmanuel married Princess Elena of Montenegro.
Ascension to the throne
29 July 1900, at the age of 30, Victor Emmanuel ascended the throne upon his father's assassination. He became Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Elena became Queen Elena of Italy ("Regina Elena d'Italia").
The only advice that his father Umberto ever gave his heir was "Remember: to be a king, all you need to know is how to sign your name, read a newspaper, and mount a horse". His early years showed evidence that, by the standards of the Savoy monarchy, he was a man committed to constitutional government. Indeed, even though his father was killed by an anarchist, the new King showed a commitment to constitutional freedoms.
Though Italy was a parliamentary democracy, the monarchy possessed considerable residual powers, including the right to appoint the Prime Minister, even if the individual in question did not command majority support in the Chamber of Deputies. A shy and somewhat withdrawn individual, the King hated the day-to-day stresses of Italian politics, though the country's chronic political instability forced him to intervene no less than ten times between 1900 and 1922 to prevent parliamentary crises.
World War Ibegan, Italy remained neutral at first despite being part of the Triple Alliance(albeit it was signed on defensive terms and Italy objected that the Sarajevo assassination did not qualify as aggression). However, in 1915, Italy signed several secret treaties committing to enter the war on the side of the Triple Entente. Most of the people opposed war, however, and the Italian Chamber of Deputiesforced Prime Minister Antonio Salandrato resign. Victor Emmanuel, however, declined Salandra's resignation and made the decision to enter the war himself. He legally had the right to make this decision under the Statuto Albertino, popular opposition to the war notwithstanding. However, the corrupt and disorganised war effort, the stunning loss of life suffered by the Italian army, especially at the great defeat of Caporetto, and the economic depression that followed the war turned the King against what he perceived as an inefficient political bourgeoisie.
Support to Mussolini
The economic depression which followed
World War Ihad given rise to much extremism among the sorely-tired working classes of Italy. This caused the country as a whole to become politically unstable. Benito Mussolini, soon to be Italy's Fascist dictator, took advantage of this instability for his rise to power.
March on Rome
In 1922, Mussolini led a force of his Fascist supporters on a
March on Rome. Prime Minister Luigi Factaand his cabinet drafted a decree of martial law. But Victor Emmanuel refused to sign it. The King suggested that his Royal Army ("Regio Esercito") could not have defended the city against the Fascist march. However, testimony from the military leaders and surviving military records challenge his claim.
Fascist violence had been growing in intensity throughout the summer and autumn of 1922, climaxing with the rumours of a possible coup. Victor Emmanuel had all the means at his disposal to sweep Mussolini and his rag-tag
Blackshirtarmy to one side. General Pietro Badoglio told the King that military would be able to rout the rebels, who numbered no more than 10,000 men, without any difficulty.Fact|date=July 2008 Thereupon, Victor Emmanuel could have ordered Facta to protect Rome and could have supported a decree proclaiming martial law.
The troops were totally loyal to the King.Fact|date=July 2008 Even
Cesare Maria De Vecchi, commander of the Blackshirts, and one of the organisers of the March on Rome, told Mussolini that he would not act against the wishes of the monarch. It was at this point that the Fascist leader considered leaving Italy altogether. But then, in the minute before midnight, he received a telegram from the King inviting him to Rome. By midday on 30 October, he had been appointed Prime Minister, at the age of 39, with no previous experience of office, and with only 35 Fascist deputies in the Chamber.
The King failed to move against the Mussolini regime's abuses of power (including, as early as 1924, the assassination of
Giacomo Matteottiand other opposition MPs). Though the King claimed in his memoirs that it was the fear of a civil war that motivated his actions, it would seem that he received some 'alternative' advice, possibly from Antonio SalandraFact|date=July 2008, an ultra conservative politician and former Prime Minister, and General Armando DiazFact|date=July 2008, that it would be better to do a deal with Mussolini. There were also pro-Fascist elements in his immediate family, including Margherita of Savoy, his mother.Fact|date=July 2008
Whatever the circumstances, Victor Emmanuel showed weakness in a position of strength, with dire future consequences for Italy and for the monarchy itself.Fact|date=July 2008 It has been alleged that Victor Emmanuel's decisions showed not only poor judgment but also undemocratic sentiments.Fact|date=July 2008 What is not in doubt is that Fascism offered political stability and opposition to
left-wingradicalism. This appealed to many people in Italy at the time, and certainly to the King. In many ways, the events from 1922 to 1943 demonstrated that the monarchy and the moneyed class, for different reasons, felt Mussolini and his regime offered an option that, after years of political chaos, was more appealing than what they perceived as the alternative: socialismand anarchism. Both the spectre of the Russian Revolution and the tragedies of World War Iplayed large roles in these political decisions.
In 1929, Mussolini signed the
Lateran Treatyfor Victor Emmanuel. The treaty was one of the three agreements made that year between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. On 7 June 1929, the Lateran Treaty was ratified and the " Roman Question" was answered.
Loss of popular support
The Italian monarchy enjoyed popular support for decades. Foreigners noted how even as late as the 1940s
newsreelimages of King Victor Emmanuel and his strikingly beautiful Queen Elena, born a Princess of Montenegro, evoked applause, sometimes cheering, when played in cinemas, in contrast to the hostile silence shown toward images of Fascist leaders.
30 March 1938, the Italian Parliament established the rank of First Marshal of the Empirefor Victor Emmanuel and Mussolini. This new rank was the highest rank in the Italian military.
As popular as Victor Emmanuel was, several of Victor Emmanuel's decisions proved fatal to the monarchy. Among these decisions were his assumption of the crown of
Ethiopia, his public silence when Mussolini's Fascist government issued its notorious racial purity laws, and his assumption of the crown of Albania.
Emperor of Ethiopia
In 1936, Victor Emmanuel assumed the crown of the
Emperor of Ethiopia. His decision to do this was not universally accepted. Victor Emmanuel was only able to assume the crown after the Italian Royal Army invaded Ethiopia(Abyssinia) and had overthrown Emperor Haile Selassieduring the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The League of Nationsdecried Italy's participation in this war and the illegal use of " chemical warfare" against the Ethiopian forces was well documented.
Public silence concerning racial purity laws
In 1938, Victor Emanuel kept a public silence when the Fascist government, under pressure from
Nazi Germany, issued racial purity laws. These laws left his Jewishsubjects open to persecution and constituted a clear violation of both his coronation oath and his oath to the constitution.
The fact that large numbers of Italians risked their lives to save not only their Jewish fellow citizens but also Jewish refugees from other countries only deepened their contempt for a King who had dragged them into an alliance with the Germans that they had never wanted. Victor Emanuel's private complaints to Mussolini did little to lessen this contempt.
King of Albania
In 1939, Victor Emmanuel assumed the crown of the
King of Albania. Italian forces invaded the nearly defenseless monarchy across the Adriatic Seaand caused King Zog I to flee. The Italian invasion of Albaniawas generally seen as the act of a stronger nation taking unfair advantage of a weaker neighbor.
Final efforts to save crown
10 June 1940, Italian dictator Benito Mussolinimade the fatal decision to have Italy enter World War IIon the side of Nazi Germany. Italy was not prepared for war and, almost from the beginning, disaster followed disaster. In 1940 Italian armies in North Africaand in Greecesuffered humiliating defeats. In late 1941, Italian East Africawas lost. In 1942, Italian Libyawas lost. Early in 1943, the ten divisions of the " Italian Army in Russia" ("Armata Italiana in Russia", or ARMIR) were crushed as an aside to the Battle of Stalingrad. Before the end of 1943, the last Italian forces in Tunisiahad surrendered and Sicilyfell. After a series of setbacks, the Royal Navy (" Regia Marina") became no more than a " fleet in being." The Mediterranean Seawas hardly "Italy's Sea" ("Mare Nostrum"). The Royal Air Force (" Regia Aeronautica"), while generally doing better than the Army and the Navy, was chronically short of modern aircraft and even it was politely uninvited to participate in the Battle of Britain.
As Italy's fortunes worsened, the popularity of the King suffered. One coffee house ditty went as follows::"When our Victor was plain King, :Coffee was a common thing.:When an Emperor he was made, :Coffee to a smell did fade.:Since he got Albania's throne, :Coffee's very smell has flown." [TIME Magazine, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,794043,00.html The Little King] ]
19 July 1943, the Italian capital city was bombed for the first time.
Coup d'état against Mussolini
24 July 1943, Dino Grandiand the Grand Council of Fascismvoted overwhelmingly to ask Victor Emmanuel to resume his full constitutional powers--in effect, a motion of no confidencein Benito Mussolini. The next afternoon, the King -- who had been planning for some time to get rid of the dictator himself -- summoned Mussolini to the palace and dismissed him as Prime Minister. The King replaced Mussolini with Marshal Pietro Badoglioand then renounced the usurped Ethiopian and Albanian crowns in favor of the legitimate monarchs of those states.
Publicly, Victor Emmanuel and Badoglio claimed that Italy would continue the war as a member of the Axis. Privately, they both began negotiating with the Allies for an armistice. Court circles had already been putting out feelers to the Allies before Mussolini's ouster.
Armistice with the Allies
8 September 1943, Victor Emmanuel made something of a blunder when he announced an armistice with the Allies without first ordering the Royal Army to defend Rome. Left without orders, the Italian armed forces everywhere disintegrated. Many of those units which did not surrender, joined forces with the Germans. Italian forces in Italy, France, the Balkans, and the Dodecanese Islands were quickly neutralized.
Fearing a German advance on Rome, Victor Emmanuel and his government fled south to
Brindisi. This choice may have been necessary to protect his safety; indeed, Hitler had planned to arrest him shortly after Mussolini's overthrow. Nonetheless, it still came as a surprise to many observers inside and outside Italy. They drew contrasts to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who refused to leave London during the Blitz, and of Pope Pius XII, who mixed with Rome's crowds and prayed with them after the working class Roman neighborhood of Quartiere San Lorenzowas bombed and destroyed.
Ultimately, the Badoglio government in southern Italy raised the
Italian Co-Belligerent Army("Esercito Cobelligerante del Sud"), the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force("Aviazione Cobelligerante Italiana"), and the Italian Co-Belligerent Navy("Marina Cobelligerante del Sud"). All three forces were loyal to the King.
12 September, the Germans launched "Operation Oak" (" Unternehmen Eiche") and rescued Mussolini. In short time, he established a new Fasciststate in northern Italy. Mussolini's Italian Social Republic("Repubblica Sociale Italiana") was never more than a German-dominated puppet state, but it did compete for the allegiance of the Italian people with Badoglio's government in the south.
Realizing that he was too tainted by his earlier support of the Fascist regime, Victor Emmanuel transferred most of his powers to his son, Crown Prince Umberto, in April 1944. By doing this, Victor Emmanuel relinquished his remaining power while retaining the royal title. This status was formalized shortly after Rome was liberated on
June 4, when he appointed Umberto Lieutenant General of the Realm.
Within a year, public opinion forced a plebiscite to decide between retaining the
monarchyor becoming a republic. On May 9, 1946, in hopes of influencing the vote, Victor Emmanuel formally abdicated. It did not work. 54% of the voters favored declaring a republic in the referendum held less than a month later. While widespread irregularities in the vote were alleged, particularly in southern Italy, the Savoy family was required to leave the country. The Kingdom of Italy ("Regno d'Italia") was no more.
Taking refuge in
Egypt, Victor Emmanuel died in Alexandriain 1947 and was buried there, behind the altar of St Catherine's Cathedral. In 1948, TIME Magazine included an article about "The Little King." [TIME Magazine, [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,794043,00.html The Little King] ]
He has been seldom treated sympathetically by historians. His almost forced abdication on the eve of a
referendumon the future of the Italian monarchy achieved nothing — being too little, far too late. At worst, it reminded undecided voters of the role the monarchy and the King's own actions (or inactions) had played during the Fascist period, at precisely the moment when monarchists were hoping that voters would focus on the positive impression created by Crown Prince Umberto and Princess Maria José as the " de facto" monarchs of Italy since 1944. The 'May' King and Queen, Umberto and Maria José, in their brief, month-long reign, were unable to shift the burden of recent history and opinion. To this day, his role in the rise of fascism, his support of Italian imperialism, and his unwillingness to oppose either ensure that his legacy will always be controversial.
Titles of the Crown of Italy
From 1860 to 1946, the following titles were used by the
King of Italy:
Victor Emmanuel III,
by the Grace of Godand the Will of the Nation, King of Italy, King of Sardinia, Cyprus, Jerusalem, Armenia, Duke of Savoy, countof Maurienne, Marquis (of the Holy Roman Empire) in Italy; prince of Piedmont, Carignano, Oneglia, Poirino, Trino; Prince and Perpetual vicarof the Holy Roman Empire; prince of Carmagnola, Montmellian with Arbin and Francin, prince bailliff of the Duchy of Aosta, Princeof Chieri, Dronero, Crescentino, Riva di Chierie Banna, Busca, Bene, Brà, Duke of Genoa, Monferrat, Aosta, Duke of Chablais, Genevois, Duke of Piacenza, Duke of Brescia, Marquisof Saluzzo(Saluces), Ivrea, Susa, del Maro, Oristano, Cesana, Savona, Tarantasia, Borgomaneroe Cureggio, Caselle, Rivoli, Pianezza, Govone, Salussola, Racconigi con Tegerone, Migliabruna e Motturone, Cavallermaggiore, Marene, Modanee Lanslebourg, Livorno Ferraris, Santhià Agliè, Centalloe 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, Baronof Vaude del Faucigni, Lordof Vercelli, Pinerolo, della Lomellina, della Valle Sesia, del marchesato di Ceva, Overlord of Monaco, Roccabrunaand 11/12th of Menton, Noble patricianof Venice, patrician of Ferrara.
In 1896 he married princess Elena of Montenegro (1873–1953), daughter of Nicholas I, King of
Montenegro. Their issue included:
# Yolanda Margherita Milena Elisabetta Romana Maria (1901-1986), married to Giorgio Carlo Calvi, Count Bergolo, (1887–1977);
# Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana (1902–44), married to
Prince Philipp of Hesse(1896–1980) with issue; she died in the Nazi concentration campat Buchenwald;
# Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria, later Umberto II, King of Italy (1904–1983) married to Princess
Marie José of Belgium, with issue.
# Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria (1907–2000), married to Boris III, King of
Bulgaria, and mother of Simeon II, King and later Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
# Maria Francesca Anna Romana (1914–2001), who married Prince Luigi of
Bourbon-Parma(1899–1967), with issue.
Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946)
Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta, Viceroyand Governor-Generalof Italian East Africa
* Aimone, 4th Duke of Aosta, King Tomislav II of Croatia
History of Italy as a monarchy and in the World Wars
*cite book|first=Denis|last=Mack Smith|title=Italy and its Monarchy|publisher=
Yale UniversityPress|year=1989|id=ISBN 0-300-05132-8
* [http://www.chivalricorders.org/royalty/gotha/italygen.htm Genealogy of recent members of the House of Savoy]
* [http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/emanuele.htm King Vittorio Emanuele III]
NAME=Savoy, Victor Emmanuel
King of Italy, Emperor of Ethiopia, King of Albania
DATE OF BIRTH=
29 July, 1900
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH=
9 May, 1946
PLACE OF DEATH=
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