Savoy, house of

Historic dynasty of Europe and the ruling house of Italy (1861–1946).

Its founder was Umberto I the Whitehanded (d. 1048?), who held the county of Savoy and areas east of the Rhône River and south of Lake Geneva. His medieval successors, including Amadeus VI, added territory in the western Alps where France, Italy, and Switzerland converge. In 1416 the house was raised to ducal status in the Holy Roman Empire, after which it declined until the late 16th century. Although under French domination in the 17th century, the house under Victor Amadeus II acquired territory in northeastern Italy and attained the royal title, first of the kingdom of Sicily (1713), which he exchanged for Sardinia (1720). The house was powerful in the Risorgimento, and under the kings Victor Emmanuel I, Victor Emmanuel II, and Charles Albert it contributed to the 19th-century unification of Italy. It then lost its prominence, and the monarchs Umberto I and Victor Emmanuel III served mainly as figureheads until the vote for a republic in 1946 ended Savoy rule.

* * *

▪ European dynasty
Italian  Savoia,  French  Savoie,  

      historic dynasty of Europe, the ruling house of Italy from 1861 to 1946. During the European Middle Ages the family acquired considerable territory in the western Alps where France, Italy, and Switzerland now converge. In the 15th century, the house was raised to ducal status within the Holy Roman Empire, and in the 18th century it attained the royal title (first of the kingdom of Sicily, then of Sardinia). Having contributed to the movement for Italian unification, the family became the ruling house of Italy in the mid-19th century and remained so until overthrown with the establishment of the Italian Republic in 1946.

      The founder of the house of Savoy was Humbert I the Whitehanded (mid-11th century), who held the county of Savoy and other areas east of the Rhône River and south of Lake Geneva and who was probably of Burgundian origin. His successors during the Middle Ages gradually expanded their territory. Amadeus V (reigned 1285–1323) introduced the Salic Law of Succession and the law of primogeniture to avoid any future partition of the family's dominions between various members. Amadeus VI (reigned 1343–83) enlarged and further consolidated their territory, and under Amadeus VII (reigned 1383–91) the port of Nice was acquired. Under Amadeus VIII (reigned 1391–1440), Piedmont, on the Italian side of the Alps, was definitely incorporated (after having belonged for nearly two centuries to a branch of the house). Amadeus VIII was granted the title of duke in 1416.

      During the latter 15th and early 16th centuries, the importance of the house declined under a series of weak rulers, culminating in a French occupation of Savoy (1536–59). In 1559, however, Emmanuel Philibert (reigned 1553–80) was able to recover most of Savoy under the terms of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. During the next century, the dukes of Savoy pursued a policy of territorial aggrandizement and, for the most part, maintained an independent role in international affairs by maneuvering between the two major opposing powers, France and the Habsburgs. Although its lands were under French domination during the second half of the 17th century, Savoy emerged from the long period of international wars with major gains. By the Treaty of Utrecht (Utrecht, treaties of) (1713), Victor Amadeus II (reigned 1675–1730) was raised in 1713 from duke to the status of a king as ruler of Sicily; in 1720 he exchanged Sicily for Sardinia. He and his successors also acquired important territory in northeastern Italy. During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), only Sardinia remained free of French control, but in 1815, Victor Emmanuel I (reigned 1802–21) added Genoa to the family's holdings.

      At the beginning of the Risorgimento, the territory of the house of Savoy, centred on Piedmont, was unique among Italian states for its freedom from foreign influence and for its relative military strength. A liberal revolution in 1821 forced Victor Emmanuel I to abdicate in favour of his brother, Charles Felix. On the death of the latter in 1831, Charles Albert, of the Carignano branch of the family, obtained the throne. He contributed to the cause of unification under Piedmont's leadership by modernizing his government (granting a constitution in 1848) and fighting against Austrian power in Italy in the First War of Independence of 1848–49. Under his son Victor Emmanuel II (reigned 1849–1878, king of Italy from 1861), who supported Piedmont's prime minister, Count Cavour, in the diplomatic maneuvering immediately before unification, the Kingdom of Italy was formed with the house of Savoy at its head.

      In the new state the role of the monarch lost its former prominence as a parliamentary system of government evolved. The king was in a pivotal position only in times of crisis. Umberto I succeeded his father as king of Italy in 1878 and reigned until his own death in 1900. Victor Emmanuel III (reigned 1900–46), who remained as figurehead king during the Fascist regime, abdicated in 1946, at the end of World War II, in favour of his son Umberto II in an attempt to save the monarchy, but the Italian people voted in a referendum of June 2, 1946, for a republic, ending the rule of the house of Savoy. A clause was included in Italy's constitution banning the Savoy family from returning to Italy.

      No longer royal, the Savoy family moved abroad, and the monarchist movement, strong in the 1950s, went into decline. At the close of the 20th century, halting moves were made to allow the family back into Italy, and a brief reconciliation occurred in 2002, when the ban was repealed.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • SAVOY, HOUSE OF —    an ancient royal house of Europe (represented now by the king of Italy), whose territorial possessions were constituted a county of the empire in the 12th century under the name Savoy; was created a duchy in the 15th century. By the treaty of… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • House of Savoy — Country Albania, Croatia, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Spain Titles Count of Savoy Duke of …   Wikipedia

  • Savoy — /seuh voy /, n. 1. a member of the royal house of Italy that ruled from 1861 to 1946. 2. French, Savoie. a region in SE France, adjacent to the Swiss Italian border: formerly a duchy; later a part of the kingdom of Sardinia; ceded to France, 1860 …   Universalium

  • Savoy Ballroom — The Savoy Ballroom located in Harlem, New York City, was a medium sized ballroom for music and public dancing that was in operation from 1926 to 1958. It was located between 140th and 141st Streets on Lenox Avenue. [Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns …   Wikipedia

  • house — n., adj. /hows/; v. /howz/, n., pl. houses /how ziz/, v., housed, housing, adj. n. 1. a building in which people live; residence for human beings. 2. a household. 3. (often cap.) a family, including ancestors and descendants: the great houses of… …   Universalium

  • House — /hows/, n. Edward Mandell /man dl/, ( Colonel House ), 1858 1938, U.S. diplomat. * * * (as used in expressions) House of Building Appomattox Court House Babenberg House of Bourbon House of Burgesses House of Commons House of house cat Guise house …   Universalium

  • Savoy — • A district in the south eastern part of France that extends from the Lake Geneva to south of the River Arc Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Savoy     Savoy      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Savoy Place — is a large red brick building on the north bank of the River Thames in London, England. It is on a street called Savoy Place and Savoy Street runs along the side of the building up to the Strand. In front is the Victoria Embankment, part of the… …   Wikipedia

  • House of Nassau-Weilburg — Country Nassau, Luxembourg Ancestral house House of Nassau, House of Bourbon Parma …   Wikipedia

  • House of Braganza-Saxe-Coburg and Gotha — Country Portugal Ancestral house House of Braganza Titles King of P …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.