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Victor Emmanuel III
Vitorioemanuel.jpg
Portrait in 1919
King of Italy (more...)
Reign 29 July 1900 – 9 May 1946
Predecessor Umberto I
Successor Umberto II
First Marshal of the Empire
Tenure 30 March 1936 – 25 July 1943
Co-ranking Benito Mussolini
Emperor of Ethiopia
Reign 9 May 1936 – 5 May 1941
Predecessor Haile Selassie I
Successor Haile Selassie I
King of the Albanians
Reign 16 April 1939 –
8 September 1943
Predecessor Zog I
Consort Elena of Montenegro
Issue
Yolanda, Countess of Bergolo
Mafalda, Landgravine of Hesse
Umberto II
Giovanna, Queen of Bulgaria
Maria Francesca, Princess Luigi of Bourbon-Parma
Full name
Vittorio Emanuele Ferdinando Maria Gennaro
House House of Savoy
Father Umberto I of Italy
Mother Margherita of Savoy
Born 11 November 1869
Naples, Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946)
Died 28 December 1947 (aged 78)
Alexandria, Egypt Flag of Egypt (1922–1958)
Burial Saint Catherine's Cathedral, Alexandria, Egypt

Victor Emmanuel III (Italian: Vittorio Emanuele III; 11 November 1869 – 28 December 1947) was King of Italy (29 July 1900 – 9 May 1946). In addition, he claimed the thrones of Ethiopia and Albania as Emperor of Ethiopia (1936–41) and King of the Albanians (1939–43), which were not recognised by all great powers. During his long reign (45 years), which began after the assassination of his father Umberto I, the Kingdom of Italy became involved in two World Wars. His reign also encompassed the birth, rise, and fall of Italian Fascism.

Victor Emmanuel abdicated his throne in 1946 to his son Umberto II, hoping to strengthen the support for the monarchy against an ultimately successful referendum to abolish it. He then went in exile to Alexandria, Egypt, where he died and was buried the following year.

He was nicknamed by the Italians as "Re soldato" (Soldier King) after Italian entry into the First World War. He was also nicknamed "Sciaboletta" ("little sabre") due to his height of 1.53 metres (5.0 ft).

BiographyEdit

Early yearsEdit

Queen Margherita with Vittorio Emanuele

Young Victor Emmanuel with his mother, Margherita of Savoy, 1876.

Montabone, Luigi (18..-1877) - Vittorio Emanuele III da ragazzo

Victor Emmanuel as a teenager, 1886.

Brogi, Carlo (1850-1925) - Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia

Victor Emmanuel in 1895.

Victor Emmanuel was born in Naples, Italy. He was the only child of Umberto I, King of Italy, and his consort (first cousin by his grandfather Charles Albert of Sardinia), Princess Margherita of Savoy. Margherita was the daughter of the Duke of Genoa.

Victor Emmanuel III

Victor Emmanuel III by Vanity Fair artist Libero Prosperi, 1902.

Unlike his paternal first cousin's son, the 1.98 m (6-foot 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. He was just 1.53 m tall (just over 5 feet). From birth, Victor Emmanuel was known by the title of Prince of Naples.

On 24 October 1896, Prince Victor Emmanuel married Princess Elena of Montenegro.

Accession to the throneEdit

On 29 July 1900, at the age of 30, Victor Emmanuel ascended the throne upon his father's assassination. 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 parliamentary rule had been firmly established in Italy, the Statuto Albertino, or constitution, granted the king considerable residual powers. For instance, he had 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 fewer than ten times between 1900 and 1922 to solve parliamentary crises.

When World War I began, 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 politicians opposed war, however, and the Italian Chamber of Deputies forced Prime Minister Antonio Salandra to resign. Victor Emmanuel, however, declined Salandra's resignation and personally made the decision for Italy to enter the war. He was well within his rights to do so under the Statuto. Popular demonstrations in favor of the war were staged in Rome, with 200,000 gathered on 16t May, 1915, in the Piazza del Popolo. 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 Post–World War I recession that followed the war turned the King against what he perceived as an inefficient political bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, the King visited the various areas of northern Italy suffering repeated strikes and mortar hits from elements of the fighting there, where he demonstrated considerable courage and care in personally visiting many people, with his wife the queen taking turns with nurses in caring for Italy's wounded. It was at this time, the period of World War I, that the King enjoyed genuine affection from the majority of his people.

Support to MussoliniEdit

The economic depression which followed World War I gave rise to much extremism among the sorely tried 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 RomeEdit

Albert I and Victor Emmanuel III

Victor Emmanuel III (right) with Albert I of Belgium (left). This photograph shows Victor Emmanuel's small physical stature.

In 1922, Mussolini led a force of his Fascist supporters on a March on Rome. Prime Minister Luigi Facta and his cabinet drafted a decree of martial law. After some hesitation the King refused to sign it, citing doubts about the ability of the Army to contain the uprising.

Fascist violence had been growing in intensity throughout the summer and autumn of 1922, climaxing with the rumours of a possible coup. General Pietro Badoglio told the King that the military would be able to rout the rebels, who numbered no more than 10,000 men, without any difficulty.

The troops were loyal to the King. 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.

Re darfo

Victor Emmanuel in Darfo Boario Terme after the Gleno Dam disaster, 1923

The King failed to move against the Mussolini regime's abuses of power (including, as early as 1924, the assassination of Giacomo Matteotti and other opposition MPs) and remained silent during the winter of 1925–26 when Mussolini dropped all pretense of democracy. Later that year, Mussolini passed a law declaring that he was responsible to the King, not Parliament. Although under the Statuto Albertino Italian governments were responsible only to the monarch, it had been a strong constitutional convention since at least the 1860s that they were actually responsible to Parliament. By 1928, practically the only check on Mussolini's power was the King's right to dismiss him from office—though that right could only be exercised on the advice of the Fascist Grand Council, a body that could only be convened by Mussolini.

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 the archconservative Salandra as well as General Armando Diaz, that it would be better to do a deal with Mussolini.

Whatever the circumstances, Victor Emmanuel showed weakness in a position of strength, with dire future consequences for Italy. Fascism offered opposition to left-wing radicalism. 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: socialism and anarchism. Both the spectre of the Russian Revolution and the tragedies of World War I played large roles in these political decisions. At the same time, though, the crown became so closely identified with Fascism that by the time Victor Emmanuel was able to shake himself loose from it, it was too late to save the monarchy.

Lateran TreatyEdit

In 1929, Mussolini, on behalf of the king, signed the Lateran Treaty. 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 settled.

Loss of popular supportEdit

Titles of the Crown of ItalyEdit

Monarchical styles of
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Italy (1890)
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 11 November 1869 – 29 July 1900: His Royal Highness The Prince of Naples

From 1860 to 1946, the following titles were used by the King of Italy:

Victor Emmanuel III, 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 and Banna, Busca, Bene, Brà, Duke of Genoa, Monferrat, Aosta, Duke of Chablais, Genevois, Duke of Piacenza, Marquis of Saluzzo (Saluces), Ivrea, Susa, of Maro, Oristano, Cesana, Savona, Tarantasia, Borgomanero and Cureggio, Caselle, Rivoli, Pianezza, Govone, Salussola, Racconigi with Tegerone, Migliabruna and Motturone, Cavallermaggiore, Marene, Modane and Lanslebourg, Livorno Ferraris, Santhià Agliè, Centallo and 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, of Apertole, Baron of Vaud and of Faucigni, Lord of Vercelli, Pinerolo, of Lomellina, of Valle Sesia, of Ceva Marquisate, Overlord of Monaco, Roccabruna and 11/12th of Menton, Noble patrician of Venice, patrician of Ferrara.

FamilyEdit

In 1896 he married princess Elena of Montenegro (1873–1952), daughter of Nicholas I, King of Montenegro. Their issue included:

  1. Yolanda Margherita Milena Elisabetta Romana Maria (1901–1986), married to Giorgio Carlo Calvi, Count of Bergolo, (1887–1977);
  2. Mafalda Maria Elisabetta Anna Romana (1902–1944), married to Prince Philipp of Hesse (1896–1980) with issue.
  3. Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria, later Umberto II, King of Italy (1904–1983) married to Princess Marie José of Belgium (1906–2001), with issue.
  4. Giovanna Elisabetta Antonia Romana Maria (1907–2000), married to King Boris III of Bulgaria (1894–1943), and mother of Simeon II, King and later Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
  5. Maria Francesca Anna Romana (1914–2001), who married Prince Luigi of Bourbon–Parma (1899–1967), with issue.
Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
Born: 11 November 1869 Died: 28 December 1947
Italian royalty
Preceded by
Umberto I
King of Italy
29 July 1900 – 28 December 1947
Succeeded by
Umberto II
Preceded by
Haile Selassie I
Emperor of Ethiopia
9 May 1936 – 28 December 1947
Succeeded by
Umberto I
Preceded by
Zog I
King of the Albanians
16 April 1939 – 28 December 1947
Succeeded by
Umberto I