Victor Emmanuel II of Italy

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Vittorio Emanuele II
King of Italy
prev. King of Sardinia
VictorEmmanuel2.jpg
King of Sardinia
Reign 23 March 1849 – 17 March 1861
Predecessor Charles Albert
King of Italy (more...)
Reign 17 March 1861 – 9 January 1878
Successor Umberto I
Consort Adelaide of Austria
Rosa Vercellana
Issue
among others...
Maria Clotilde, Princess Napoléon
Umberto I of Italy
Amadeo I of Spain
Oddone, Duke of Montferrat
Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal
Full name
Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso di Savoia
House House of Savoy
Father Charles Albert
Mother Maria Theresa of Austria
Born 14 March 1820
Palazzo Carignano, Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia
Died 9 January 1878(1878-01-09) (aged 57)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Burial Pantheon, Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature

Victor Emanuel II (Vittorio Emanuele Maria Alberto Eugenio Ferdinando Tommaso; 14 March 1820 – 9 January 1878) was king of Sardinia from 1849 until, on 17 March 1861, he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, a title he held until his death in 1878. The Italians gave him the epithet Father of the Fatherland (Italian: Padre della Patria).

Biography[edit]

Victor Emanuel II in 1849

Victor Emanuel was born the eldest son of Charles Albert, Prince of Carignano and Maria Theresa of Austria. His father succeeded a distant cousin as King of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1831. He lived for some years of his youth in Florence and showed an early interest in politics, the military, and sports. In 1842, he married his cousin Adelaide of Austria. He was styled as the Duke of Savoy prior to becoming King of Sardinia-Piedmont.

He took part in the First Italian War of Independence, (1848-1849), under his father, King Charles Albert fighting in the front line at the battles of Pastrengo, Santa Lucia, Goito and Custoza.

He became King of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1849 when his father had abdicated the throne after a humiliating military defeat by the Austrians at the Battle of Novara. Victor Emanuel was immediately able to obtain a rather favorable armistice at Vignale by the Austrian imperial army commander, Radetzky. The treaty, however, was not ratified by the Piedmontese lower parliamentary house, the Chamber of Deputies, and Vittorio Emanuele retaliated by firing his Prime Minister Claudio Gabriele de Launay, replacing him with Massimo D'Azeglio, (1798-1866). After new elections, the peace with Austria was accepted by the new Chamber of Deputies. In 1849 he also fiercely suppressed the revolt in Genoa, defining the rebels as a "vile and infected race of canailles". In 1852, he appointed Count Camillo Benso of Cavour ("Count Cavour") as Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia. This turned out to be a wise choice as Cavour was a political mastermind and a major player in the Italian unification in his own right. Victor Emmanuel II soon became the symbol of the Italian "Risorgimento", the Italian unification movement during the 1850s and early 60's. He was especially popular in the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont because of his respect for the new constitution and his liberal reforms, unlike most of the other conservative monarchs of Europe (who eventually lost their thrones).

Brooklyn Museum - Caricature of King Victor Emanuel II - Thomas Nast - overall

Crimean War[edit]

Victor Emanuel reviews the troops for the Crimean War

Following Victor Emanuel's advice, Cavour joined Britain and France in the Crimean War against Russia. Cavour was reluctant to go to war due to the power of Russia at the time and the expense of doing so. Victor Emanuel, however, was convinced of the rewards to be gained from the alliance created between Britain and, more importantly, France.

After successfully seeking British support and ingratiating himself with France and Napoleon III at the Congress of Paris in 1856 at the end of the war, Count Cavour arranged a secret meeting with the French emperor. In 1858, they met at Plombières-les-Bains (in Lorraine), where they agreed that if the French were to help Piedmont combat Austria, which still occupied the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in northern Italy, France would be awarded Nice and Savoy.

At the time, Victor Emanuel had become a universal symbol of the Italian Risorgimento, the movement pushing towards the unification of Italy.

Wars of Italian Unification[edit]

The Italo-French campaign against Austria in 1859 started successfully. However, sickened by the casualties of the war and worried about the mobilisation of Prussian troops, Napoleon III secretly made a treaty with Franz Joseph of Austria at Villafranca whereby Piedmont would only gain Lombardy. France did not as a result receive the promised Nice and Savoy, but Austria did keep Venetia, a major setback for the Piedmontese, in no small part because the treaty had been prepared without their knowledge. After several quarrels about the outcome of the war, Cavour resigned, and the king had to find other advisors. France indeed only gained Nice and Savoy after the Treaty of Turin was signed in March 1860, after Cavour had been reinstalled as Prime Minister, and a deal with the French was struck for plebiscites to take place in the Central Italian Duchies.

Later that same year, Victor Emanuel II sent his forces to fight the papal army at Castelfidardo and drove the Pope into Vatican City. Victor Emanuel II’s success at these goals got him excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Then, Giuseppe Garibaldi conquered Sicily and Naples, and Sardinia-Piedmont grew even larger. On 17 March 1861 the Kingdom of Italy was officially established and Victor Emanuel II became its king.

Victor Emanuel meets Giuseppe Garibaldi in Teano

Victor Emanuel supported Giuseppe Garibaldi's Expedition of Thousand (1860–1861), which resulted in the rapid fall of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in southern Italy. However, the King halted Garibaldi when he appeared ready to attack Rome, still under the Papal States, as it was under French protection. In 1860, through local plebiscites, Tuscany, Modena, Parma and Romagna decided to side with Sardinia-Piedmont. Victor Emanuel then marched victoriously in the Marche and Umbria after the victorious battle of Castelfidardo (1860) over the Papal forces, after which he gained a Papal excommunication.

The King subsequently met with Garibaldi at Teano, receiving from him the control of southern Italy. Another series of plebiscites in the occupied lands resulted in the proclamation of Victor Emanuel as the first King of Italy by the new Parliament of unified Italy, on 17 March 1861. He did not renumber himself after assuming the new royal title, however. Turin became the capital of the new state. Only Rome, Veneto, and Trentino remained to be conquered.

Completion of the unification[edit]

In 1866 Victor Emanuel allied himself with Prussia in the Third Italian War of Independence. Although not victorious in the Italian theater, he managed anyway to receive Veneto after the Austrian defeat in Germany.

Tomb of Victor Emanuel II at the Pantheon

In 1870, after two failed attempts by Garibaldi, he also took advantage of the Prussian victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War to capture Rome after the French withdrew. He entered Rome on 20 September 1870 and set up the new capital there on 2 July 1871, after a temporary move to Florence in 1864. The new Royal residence was the Quirinal Palace.

The rest of Victor Emanuel II’s reign was much quieter. After the Kingdom of Italy was established he decided to continue on as King Victor Emanuel II instead of Victor Emanuel 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 Victor Emanuel II’s reign was consumed by wrapping up loose ends and dealing with economic and cultural issues.

Victor Emanuel died in Rome in 1878, after refusing to meet with Pope Pius IX's envoys, who could have reversed the excommunication. He was buried in the Pantheon. His successor was his son Umberto I.

Family and children[edit]

Portrait of Victor Emanuel II
Giulio Monteverdi: Monument to Victor Emanuel II – Rovigo

In 1842 he married his first cousin once removed (by Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor) Adelaide of Austria (1822–1855). By her he had eight children:[1]

In 1869 he married morganatically his principal mistress Rosa Vercellana (3 June 1833 – 26 December 1885). Popularly known in Piedmontese as "Bela Rosin", she was born a commoner but made Countess of Mirafiori and Fontanafredda in 1858. Their offspring were:

  • Vittoria Guerrieri (2 December 1848 – 1905), married three times and had issue.
  • Emanuele Alberto Guerrieri (16 March 1851 – 1894), Count of Mirafiori and Fontanafredda, married and had issue.

In addition to his morganatic second wife, Victor Emanuel II had several other mistresses:

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, who when as the mistress of Napoleon III pleaded the case for Italian unification.

—Laura Bon at Stupinigi, who bore him two children:

  • Stillborn son (1852).
  • Emanuela Maria Alberta Vittoria di Roverbella (6 September 1853 - 1880/1890).

—Virginia Rho at Turin, mother of two children:

  • Vittorio di Rho (1861 – Turin, 10 October 1913). He became a notable photographer.
  • Maria Pia di Rho (25 February 1866 – Vienna, 19 April 1947).

—Unknown Mistress at Mondovì, mother of:

  • Donato Etna (15 June 1858 – Turin, 11 December 1938). He became a much decorated soldier.

—Baroness Vittoria Duplessis, who bore him:

  • A daughter, perhaps named Savoiarda. She died as an infant.

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Genealogical data from the Savoia page of the Genealogie delle famiglie nobili italiane website.

Sources[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  • Del Boca, Lorenzo (1998). Maledetti Savoia. Casale Monferrato: Piemme. 
  • Gasparetto, Pier Francesco (1984). Vittorio Emanuele II. Milan: Rusconi. 
  • Godkin, G. S. (1880). Life of Victor Emmanuel II. Macmillan. 
  • Mack Smith, Denis (2000). Storia d'Italia. Rome-Bari: Laterza. ISBN 88-420-6143-3. 
  • Mack Smith, Denis (1995). Vittorio Emanuele II. Milan: Mondadori. 
  • Pinto, Paolo (1997). Vittorio Emanuele II: il re avventuriero. Milan: Mondadori. 
  • Rocca, Gianni (1993). Avanti, Savoia!: miti e disfatte che fecero l'Italia, 1848–1866. Milan: Mondadori. 

External links[edit]

Victor Emmanuel II of Italy
Born: 14 March 1820 Died: 9 January 1878
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles Albert
King of Sardinia
23 March 1849 – 17 March 1861
Kingdom of Sardinia renamed
as Kingdom of Italy
Vacant
Title last held by
Napoleon I
King of Italy
17 March 1861 – 9 January 1878
Succeeded by
Humbert I