28 December 2015

Death of Victor Emmanuel III

King loses his life after just 18 months in exile 

Victor Emmanuel III, Italy’s longest reigning King, died on this day in 1947.
Victor Emanuel III was also known as the soldier king
Victor Emmanuel III in full military
regalia, pictured in the 1920s

The previous year he had abdicated his throne in favour of his son, King Umberto II.

Victor Emmanuel III had been hoping this would strengthen support for the monarchy in advance of the referendum asking the country if they wanted to abolish it.

Earlier in his reign he had been popular with the people and respected for his military success, but opinion changed after the Second World War.

Vittorio Emanuele III di Savoia was born 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.

He became King of Italy in 1900 after his father was assassinated in Monza.

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 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 Emanuel III enjoyed support after he visited areas in the north affected by the fighting and his wife, Queen Elena, was seen helping  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.

He 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.

Victor Emmanuel III went into exile in Alexandria in Egypt, where he died one and a half years later.

Travel tip:
The National Library in Naples, 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.
The Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III is in Piazza Plebiscito
Piazza Plebiscito in Naples, home of the
Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III
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 named after Queen Margherita in 1889 by a Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito.

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