Charles Felix of Sardinia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Carlo Felice)
Jump to: navigation, search
Charles Felix
Carlos Félix de Cerdeña, por Jean Baptiste Isabey.jpg
King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy
Reign 12 March 1821 – 27 April 1831
Coronation 25 April 1821
Predecessor Victor Emmanuel I
Successor Charles Albert
Born (1765-04-06)6 April 1765
Royal Palace, Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia
Died 27 April 1831(1831-04-27) (aged 66)
Palazzo Chiablese, Turin, Kingdom of Sardinia
Burial 28 April 1831
Hautecombe Abbey, Saint-Pierre-de-Curtille
Spouse Maria Cristina of Naples and Sicily (m. 1807–31); his death
Full name
Carlo Felice Giuseppe Maria di Savoia
House House of Savoy
Father Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia
Mother Maria Antonia Ferdinanda of Spain
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Charles Felix's signature

Charles Felix (Italian: Carlo Felice Giuseppe Maria; 6 April 1765 – 27 April 1831) was the Duke of Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta and King of Sardinia from 1821 to 1831.


Early life[edit]

Carlo Felice di Savoia was born in Turin as the eleventh child and fifth son born to Victor Amadeus III of Savoy and Maria Antonia Ferdinanda of Spain. His paternal grandparents were Charles Emmanuel III of Savoy and his German wife Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg. His maternal grandparents were French born King Philip V of Spain and his Italian wife, Elisabeth Farnese.

He was a younger brother of two other rulers of Savoy Charles Emmanuel IV and Victor Emmanuel I. He spent his childhood with his sister Maria Carolina and his younger brother, Giuseppe Benedetto Placido, Count of Moriana, at the Castle of Moncalieri.

From his youth, Carlo Felice was reported as having a very complex character: on the one hand consistent and inflexible, private, distrustful, and impulsive, if not touchy and vindictive; on the other hand honest, sincere, and cabable of emotion and fondness. He had a clever mind, at times even ironic. He possessed a sacral conception of the monarchy and the right to reign.[1]

During the years of the French Revolution and the Italian Campaign, Charles Felix formed part of a "parallel court" opposed to Charles Emmanuel IV's circle, along with his brother Victor Emmanuel, the latter's wife Maria Theresa, Maurizio Giuseppe Duke of Monferrat, and Giuseppe Placido, count of Moriana.[2]

In this period, Charles Felix began to keep a personal diary, which is an important source for events and for his conflicts with the court in Savoy.

The Italian campaign[edit]

When war broke out with France, Charles Felix did not distinguish himself as a soldier, despire having received a military education. In 1792, after the French occupation of the Duchy of Savoy and the county of Nice, he followed the troops to Saluzzo and in 1793, he accompanied his father, Victor Amadeus III, who had directed the operations for the reconquest of Nice and Savoy along with the Austrians under general J. de Vins, into the Susa Valley, to Pinerolo, Cuneo, and Tenda.

Charles Felix remained very far from the front lines in any case. In spring 1794, after the arrival in Aosta of his brother the Duke of Monferrat, Charles Felix and Giuseppe Placido went to Morgex in order to retake some positions of relative strategic importance, but they did not achieve anything.[3].

On 28 April 1796, Victor Amadeus III was forced to sign the Armistice of Cherasco with the French, which was followed by the Treaty of Paris on 15 May, which accepted French control of Nice, Savoy, Genevoise, and some fortresses. Charles Felix, who had been titled Duke of Genoa, obtained the title of Marquis of Susa in compensation for his nominal loss.

Victor Amadeus III died in October of the same year and was succeeded as Prince of Piedmont by Charles Emmanuel IV. The relationship between the new king and Charles Felix had never been good, but now deteriorated as the king strove to keep his brothers in the dark about affairs of state.

Two years into his reign, Charles Emmanuel IV was forced to surrender all royal control on the mainland. Along with the king and the rest of the royal family, Charles Felix left Turin on the evening of 9 December 1798 for Cagliari, where they arrived on 3 March 1799.

Viceroy of Sardinia[edit]

Charles Felix as the Grand Master of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus

Charles Emmanuel IV was childless and, after the death of his wife, he abdicated in favour of his brother Victor Emmanuel I on 4 June 1802. The latter did not take possession of the domains in Sardinia himself, preferring to entrust them to Charles Felix as viceroy.

Charles Felix's government of Sardinia was rather rigid and authoritarian. Since the Sardinian revolutionary movements (it) in 1794, the island had experienced a period of disorder, exacerbated by widespread poverty, which had led to an increase in crime, which the viceroy supressed with notable harshness, writing to his brother the king, "slaughter, slaughter, for the good of the human race."[4]

Charles Felix established a military regime, such that his Sardinian subjects referred to him as "Carlo Feroce" (Charles the Ferocious). The tool of this regime was the special court of the Viceregal delegation for the investigation of political proceedings, which took action immediately against the "capopolo" (popular leader), Vincenzo Sulis, who was guilty of nothing other than having been more successful than the viceroy in defeating the revolutionary movements. When Sulis was condemned to twenty years in gaol, the viceroy considered it a lenient sentence. Furthermore, in the persecution of "state criminals," Charles Felix legitimated the adoption of military procedures and granted every power to the police, from spying, to censoring letters and placing bounties on suspects.[4].

In his reorganisation work, however, he displayed notable energy to control the autonomy of the judiciary and the local bureaucracy and managed to correct some abuses of the feudal regime.[5]

In fact, when the Stamenti, the parliament of the kingdom, voted to pay a tax of 400,000 lire, Charles Felix exerted significant pressure to have the poorest classes exempted from the tax and he judged disputes in feudal jurisdiction in favour of vassals rather than feudal lords.[5] When an anti-feudal revolt took place against the Duke of Asinara, who had refused to conform to the regulations of the viceroy, Charles Felix decided to punish both the duke, who was stripped of his property, as well as the revolutionaries.[6].

Despite the precarious political and social situation, Charles Felix was able to bring some improvements to the agriculture and economy of the island. Under his rule, an agrarian society and an office for the administration of Crown mines and forests were established. Additionally, the farming of olives was encouraged and commercial contracts were granted in order to encourage local production. Finally, he began a project to systematise the road network.[7].

Marriage and return to Turin[edit]

Maria Cristina of Naples, wife of Charles Felix and queen of Sardinia

On 7 March 1807, in the Cappella Palatina of the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, Charles Felix married by proxy Maria Cristina of Naples and Sicily (17 January 1779 - 11 March 1849), daughter of Ferdinand IV King of Naples and Sicily and Maria Carolina of Austria.

The marriage which had originally been opposed by Charles Felix, had been arranged or dynastic reasons. Neither Charles Emmanuel nor Victor Emmanuel had male children (the son of the latter had become sick and died in Sardinia), while the Duke of Montferrat and the Count of Morian were deceased, so Charles Felix had become the heir presumptive and therefore had to produce a male heir.

Although the marriage to Maria Cristina proved harmonious, she was unable to have children, forcing Victor Emmanuel to consider the succession of Charles Albert, prince of Carignano, from a collatoral line of the House of Savoy.[8]

After the fall of Napoleon and the return of Victor Emmanuel to Turin on 20 May 1814, Charles Felix joined him for a brief period before returning to Sardinia the following year with his wife. He formally retained the role of Viceroy until 1821, although he returned to the court in Turin after a short period.

Revolution of 1821[edit]


Following revolts in Cadiz in 1820, King Ferdinand VII of Spain was forced to restore the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and hope of obtaining similar concessions from their own sovereigns arose in many European states. Insurrections broke out in Naples and Palermo.

The initial indications of crisis were confirmed on 11 January 1821 when four students were stopped by the police at a theatre performance in Turin because they were wearing red caps with black bows, symbol of the carboneria. The young men offered resistance and were arrested, provoking a large brawl.[9].

The next day, all the students and many of their teachers protested, calling for the release of the youths and, when this was refused, they blockaded themselves in the university and the government was forced to call in the army. Although nobody was killed, the wounded were very numerous and the situation escalated.[10]

A connection was made between the protestors and the secret society of the "Federati", whose leaders Santorre di Rossi, Giacinto Collegno, Carlo Emanuele Asinari, and Guglielmo Moffa di Lisio Gribaldi (all soldiers, officials, or sons of ministers) and Roberto d’Azeglio met with Charles Albert on the 6th of March. They were ready to act, having identified the prince as a new man for the House of Savoy, who might be willing to break with the absolutist past.[11].

The goal of the conspirators was not to abolish the House of Savoy, but to induce it to enact political and social reforms and then undertake a war against Austria, which seemed possible in light of the deeply anti-Austrian sentiments of the Victor Emmanuel I.[12]

In this, the conspirators took advantage of the absence of Charles Felix, whom they thought would have been able to induce Victor Emmanuel to oppose their plans. They planned to raise the army, surround the royal residence at Moncalieri castle and force him to grant a constitution and declare war on Austria. The role of Charles Albert would have been to mediate between the conspirators and the king,[13] but the following morning, he changed his mind and attempted to escape from the conspirators, although he did not disavow them.

Beginning of the revolt[edit]

The conspirators grew suspiscious and prepared to cancel the insurrection which they had planned for the 10th. The same day, Charles Albert, completely penitent, raced to Moncalieri in order to confess everything to Victor Emmanuel and beg for pardon. In the night the garrison of Alessandria, commanded by one of the conspirators, Guglielmo Ansaldi, rebelled and occupied the city. Although they had been abandoned by the Prince, the rest of the revolutionaries decided to act at this point.[14].

Abdication of Victor Emmanuel and Regency of Charles Albert[edit]

Victor Emmanuel I, who abdicated in favour of Charles Felix after the rebellion of 1821

On Sunday 11 March 1821, King Victor Emmanuel I met with the Crown Council, which Charles Albert was a member of. As a result of the king's indecision, no action was taken.

On 12 March, the Citadel of Turin fell into the hands of the rebels. Victor Emmanuel encouraged Charles Albert and Cesare Balbo to negotiate with the Carbonari, who refused to listen to their messages. Thus, in the evening, in the face of the spreading military uprising, the king abdicated in favour of his brother Charles Felix. Since the latter was in Modena at the time, Charles Albert was appointed regent.[15]

The abdication of the king, which followed the dismissal of the ministers of state, led to chaos because it created a dynastic crisis which foreign powers would not ignore and because it split the army and bureaucracy, preventing every possibility of maintaining order.#

The regent tried to take control by naming a new government (the lawyer, Ferdinando del Pozzo (1768-1843) as Minister of the Intrior, general Emanuele Pes di Villamarina as minister of war, and Lodovico Sauli d'Igliano as minister of foreign affairs) and attepted to negotiate with the rebels, but he achieved nothing.

Given the impossibility of taking any decisions without the agreement of the new king, Charles Albert sent Charles Felix an account of the events, seeking instructions, but the letter took a very long time to reach its destination.

Fearful of becoming the object of popular anger, on the evening of 13 March 1821, Charles Albert signed a decree granting a constitution along the lines of the Spanish constitution of 1812, which would not become law until approved by the king.[16].

The next day, the regent decided to form a junta, which was to protect the parliament. Two days after that, he swore to observe the Spanish Constitution, in a Savoyard version which had been slightly altered according to the requests of Victor Emmanuel's consort, Maria Therese.[17]

Intervention of Charles Felix[edit]

At this point, Charles Felix, who had now received the letter from Charles Albert notifying him of his brother's abdication, decided to act. He told the messenger not to address him as "majesty", then asserted that since the abdication had been extracted through violence, it could not be considered valid. Finally, he said, "tell the Prince that, if there is still a drop of our royal blood in his veins, he should set out for Novara immediately and wait there for my orders."

As for the Spanish constitution, he declared any sovereign acts taken after the abdication of his brother to be null and void, then he issued the following proclamation, "Far from consenting to any change in the pre-existing form of government with the nominal abdication of the king, our beloved brother, we consider all the royal subjects who have aided or abetted the traitors or who have presumed to proclaim a constiution, to be rebels."

Charles Albert, deeply discouraged, did as Charles Felix commanded, went to Novara, and issued a proclamation renouncing the regency and calling on everyone to submit to Charles Felix. On the 29th, he received a letter from Charles Felix ordering him to depart with his family for Florence.

With Charles Albert out of the way, Charles Felix dispatched several letters to Francis I of Austria, asking him to send troops in order to suppress the revolt.

On 3 April, he issued a second proclamation which granted a pardon to the soldiers while applying strict sanctions to rebel officials, which ultimately, prevented any form of compromise. Chancellor Metternich himself said to Francis IV of Modena that this proclamation had been imprudent and was written "with animosity, passion, and hatred."

The rebels, realising that no other option remained for them, marched on Novara, where the forces loyal to Charles Felix were gathered under the command of Vittorio Sallier de La Tour. This, inevitably, convinced Metternich to intervene.

On 8 April there was a battle with (Noara-Borgo Vercelli) with the troops of de La Tour and then with those of the Austrian general Ferdinand von Bubna, who occupied Vercelli and Alessandria on 11 April, while de La Tour, who had received full powers from Charles Felix, occupied Turin on the 10th.

On 19 April, despite pressure from the emperors of Russia and Austria, Metternich, Charles Albert, Francis IV, and Charles Felix himself (who hated the idea of receiving the crown "thanks" to rebels), Victor Emmanuel reaffirmed his abdication. Thus, on 25 April, Charles Felix acceded to the throne.


Once control of Turin was re-established, Charles Felix, who was still in Modena, ntered into personal communication with the Emperor of Austria in order to obtain recognition from the Congress of Laibach, which was then in session, that he would be able to assume full control of his possessions, as an absolute monarch, and that Austria would not be allowed to interfere in any way in his territories.

At the subsequent Congress of Verona, Charles Felix feared pressure for constitutional changes and reiterated in his instructions to his ambassadors that the repression of the "revolutionary spirit" inspired by the Congress of Laibach belonged exclusively to him and that he was firmly convinced of the necessity of this obligation.

Having decided to remain at Modena, he appointed Ignazio Thaon di Revel as Lieutenant General of the Kingdom, and placed G. Piccono della Valle and G.C. Brignole in charge of foreign affairs and financial affairs respectively


Charles Felix was a younger brother of Charles Emmanuel IV and Victor Emmanuel I. He was not expected to ever succeed to the throne. However Charles Emmanuel never had any children and abdicated the throne on 4 June 1802. Victor Emmanuel had four living daughters when he abdicated the throne in 1821. As the succession was regulated by the Salic Law, Charles Felix succeeded his brother on the throne.

Since Charles was in Modena at the time of his succession, he appointed as Regent his cousin, and heir, Charles Albert (of the Carignano branch of the Savoy family). Charles Albert was in touch with the liberal revolutionaries at that time, and immediately granted their request for a constitution. All this occurred between the 6 and 14 March 1821.

Even before he reached Turin, Charles Felix repudiated the Regent's promise and, to help restore order, called in the Austrians, who stayed in Piedmont till 1823. In that same year Charles Albert went to Spain to extinguish by force of arms the last sparks of revolt, making himself an object of hatred as the betrayer of Italian liberalism, but regaining the confidence of the King, who might have chosen another successor.

Charles Felix was a true reactionary, convinced that the world would soon be swept clean of all those - in his view - wicked and sacrilegious innovations introduced by the French Revolution and diffused throughout Europe by Napoleon Bonaparte "the rascal" as he called him.

Death and Succession[edit]

Charles Felix died without issue, in Turin at the Palazzo Chablais which had been given to him by his sister Princess Maria Anna, Duchess of Chablais, after a reign of ten years. He was succeeded by the senior male member of his dynastic house, the regent Charles Albert (1798-1849). He was the last surviving grandchild of Philip V of Spain.


The Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa is named for him.

The principal road of the island of Sardinia, the Strada statale 131 Charles Felix, which connects the towns of Cagliari and Sassari-Porto Torres, constructed in the 19th century, is named for him.


Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

Arms of Charles Felix, King of Sardinia
  • 6 April 1765 – 12 March 1821 His Royal Highness the Duke of Genevois
  • 12 March 1821 – 27 April 1831 His Majesty the King of Sardinia


  • écartelé, en 1 d'argent, à la croix de gueules, cantonnée de quatre têtes de maures de sable, tortillées d'argent, en 2 grand quartier parti en 1 burelé d'azur et d'argent de dix pièces au lion de gueules armé lampassé et couronné d'or brochant sur le tout et en 2 d'argent à la croix potencée d'or cantonné de quatre croisettes de même, en 3 grand quartier d'argent à la croix de gueules et en 4 grand quartier de gueules à la croix d'argent brisé d'un lambel d'azur, sur le tout d'or à l'aigle de sable, sur le tout du tout de gueules à la croix d'argent

See also[edit]

  1. ^ G. Locorotondo, Carlo Felice, pp.365-366
  2. ^ A. Segre, Vittorio Emanuele I, p. 42
  3. ^ S. Costa di Beauregard, Unhomme d'autrefois, Paris 1877, p. 274
  4. ^ a b Indro Montanelli & p.344.
  5. ^ a b "Carlo Felice di Savoia".  Unknown parameter |access_date= ignored (help).
  6. ^ "Storia di Usini, la Rivolta anti-feudale".  Unknown parameter |access_date= ignored (help)
  7. ^ "Teste di storia: Carlo Felice di Savoia, il re per caso".  Unknown parameter |access_date= ignored (help)
  8. ^ Indro Montanelli & p.309
  9. ^ Montanelli & p. 300
  10. ^ Montanelli & p. 301
  11. ^ Bertoldi & p. 63
  12. ^ Montanelli & p. 302
  13. ^


    — pp. 65, 76
  14. ^ Bertoldi & pp. 75-79
  15. ^ Bertoldi & pp. 85-89, 98
  16. ^ Bertoldi & pp. 91-95
  17. ^ Bertoldi & pp. 95-96