At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Victor Emmanuel III abdicates


Last ditch bid to save the monarchy fails


Photo of Victor Emmanuel III
Victor Emmanuel III
Italy’s longest-reigning King, Victor Emmanuel III (Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia), abdicated from the throne on this day in 1946.

To try to save the monarchy, Victor Emmanuel III had earlier transferred his powers to his son, Umberto. But he formally abdicated 70 years ago today, hoping the new King, Umberto II, would be able to strengthen support for the monarchy.

Victor Emmanuel III went to live in Alexandria in Egypt , where he died, after just 18 months in exile, in December 1947.

In contrast with his father, who had been King of Italy for nearly 46 years, Umberto reigned for just over a month, from 9 May to 12 June. The country had voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy and Italy was declared a republic. Umberto went into exile and was later nicknamed Re di maggio, the May King.

Victor Emmanuel III had at one time been a popular King of Italy, ascending to the throne in 1900 after his father was assassinated in Monza.

During his reign, Italy had been involved in two world wars and experienced the rise and fall of fascism.

At the height of his success he was nicknamed by the Italians Re soldato (soldier King) and Re vittorioso (victorious King) because of Italy’s record in battle during the First World War. He was also sometimes called sciaboletta (little sabre) as he was only five feet (1.53m) tall.

Italy had remained neutral at the start of the War but signed treaties to fight on the side of France, Britain and Russia in 1915. Victor Emmanuel III earned respect as a result of visiting areas in the north affected by the fighting while his wife, Queen Elena, helped the nurses care for the wounded.

But the instability after the First World War led to Mussolini’s rise to power. Victor Emmanuel III was later to claim that it was fear of a civil war that stopped him moving against Mussolini right at the start. But his apparent weakness had dire consequences for the country and he lost support.

He finally dismissed Mussolini and had him arrested in 1943 but it was too late to save the monarchy.

Photo of Piazza Plebiscito in Naples
Piazza Plebiscito in Naples, home of the Biblioteca
Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III
Travel tip:

The National Library in Naples is named after Italy’s longest reigning monarch. Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Piazza Plebiscito is one of the most important libraries in Italy with more than two million books, manuscripts and parchments. It is open daily from 8.30 to 7.30 pm , but closed on Sundays.

Travel tip:

When in Naples, try an authentic Pizza Margherita, named in honour of the mother of Victor Emmanuel III, Queen Margherita. It is claimed that the pizza, with its tomato, basil and mozzarella topping, was created to represent the Italian flag and was named after Queen Margherita in 1889 by a Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito.

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