11 November 2015

Victor Emmanuel III

Birth of the King who ruled Italy through two world wars

Italy’s longest reigning King, Victor Emmanuel III (Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia), was born on this day in Naples in 1869.

The only child of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy, he was given the title of Prince of Naples.

The National Library, named after Victor Emmanuel III
is housed inside the Palazzo Reale
He became King of Italy in 1900 after his father was assassinated in Monza.

During the reign of Victor Emmanuel III, Italy was involved in two world wars and experienced the rise and fall of Fascism.

At the height of his popularity he was nicknamed by the Italians Re soldato (soldier King) and Re vittorioso (victorious King) because of Italy’s success 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 First World War but signed treaties to go into the war on the side of France, Britain and Russia in 1915. Victor Emmanuel III enjoyed popular support 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. To try to save the monarchy, Victor Emmanuel III transferred powers to his son, Umberto, and formally abdicated in 1946, hoping the new King, Umberto II, would be able to strengthen support for the monarchy.
Victor Emmanuel III went into exile in Alexandria in Egypt, where he died in 1947.

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 and is well worth visiting. 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 after 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 Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito.


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