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Humbert II of Italy

Humbert II (Italian Umberto II) (September 15, 1904 - March 18, 1983), nicknamed the King of May (Italian Re di Maggio), was the Prince of Piedmont and later the last King of Italy from May 9, 1946 to June 12, 1946.

He was married in Rome, Italy on January 8, 1930 to Marie Josť of Belgium[?] (August 4, 1906 - January 27, 2001) and has children including:

1. Maria Pia 1934-
2. Vittorio Emanuele 1937-
3. Maria Gabriella 1940-
4. Maria Beatrice 1942-

Table of contents

Prince of Piedmont

The Prince of Piedmont was educated to a military career and in time became the commander in chief of the Northern Armies, and then of the Southern ones. However his role was merely formal, the concrete command belonging to Mussolini, with whom they always reciprocally kept at distance. It has been conjectured that Mussolini had collected a secret dossier on Umberto, but this folder (which is said was found after the dictator was shot), was never seen.

Following the Savoyards' tradition ("Only one Savoy reigns at a time"), he kept apart from active politics until he was finally named the Lieutenant. Only in one case, while he was in Germany for a royal wedding, he autonomously accepted to meet Hitler (it is likely that he himself proposed the meeting). This action was not considered proper, given the international situation, and Umberto was later even more severely banned from political events.

In 1943, the Crown Princess Maria Josť, the daughter of King Albert I of Belgium, was involved in vain attempts to arrange a separate peace treaty between Italy and the United States, and her interlocutor from Vatican was Monsignor Montini, a senior diplomatic who later became Pope Paul VI. Her attempts were not sponsored by the king and Umberto was not (directly, at least) involved in them. After her failure (she never met the American agents), she was sent with her children to Sarre, in Savoy, and isolated from the political life of the Royal House.

Following the overthrow of Benito Mussolini in 1943, King Victor Emmanuel handed over his constitutional functions to Umberto, who was made Lieutenant-General[?] of the Realm, and left Italy for Egypt.

King of Italy

Humbert earned for himself widespread praise for his role in the following three years. Had Victor Emmanuel III handed over the throne in 1943, it is likely that the monarchy would have won the 1946 referendum on its survival. Victor Emmanuel's failure proved to be one of his many major mis-judgments. The referendum itself was and remains shrouded by questions as to its authenticity. Millions of voters, many of them pro-monarchist, were unable to vote because they had not yet been able to return to their own local areas to register. Nor had the issue of Italy's borders, and so the voting rights of those in disputed areas, been satisfactorily clarified. Other allegations too have been made about voter manipulation, while even the issue of how to interpret the votes became controversial, as it appeared that not just a majority of those validly voting but of those votes cast (including spoiled votes), was needed to reach an outcome. In the event the monarchy lost by a tight margin. Humbert had by this stage become king, Victor Emmanuel having reluctantly and belatedly abdicated a few weeks before the referendum.

In Exile

Humbert and Maria Josť separated in exile; it was indeed an arranged marriage, following a long tradition of royal families, even if some observers alleged that she was really fascinated by her husband, an elegant tombeur de femmes. However Humbert's sexual interests lay elsewhere, a playboy of 'peculiar tastes (in the words of one royal website) or 'His Majesty's inability to distinguish between the sexes', as another royal biographer put it, being used by foreign governments hostile to the Savoyard monarchy's survival to ensure the Vatican's failure to support the monarchical cause more fully in the 1946 referendum. Pope Pius XII attoned for this 'failure' by refusing to meet the elected presidents of Italy during his lifetime. Pope John XXIII abandoned his practice on his election.

King Humbert lived for thirty-five years years in exile, a popular old gentleman, nicknamed 'Europe's grandfather', at many of Europe's royal weddings. While the 1947 constitution of the Italian Republic barred all male heirs to the defunct Italian throne from setting foot on Italian soil again, female members of the Savoy family were not barred, but out of respect for Humbert and his son, Crown Prince Victor Emmanuel, Maria Josť and her daughters declined to return to their native land, the exiled queen making her first return to her late husband's kingdom only in the 1980s. When it was revealed that the exiled king was terminally ill, President Sandro Pertini[?], who as a young republican firebrand had played a leading role on the republican side in campaigning against the monarchy and Humbert, urged the Italian Parliament to amend the constitution to let the King return to die in his homeland. However before this could happen, Humbert died. No member of the Italian Government attended the funeral, held in Savoy, for the last King of Italy. Looking back later, former prime minister Andreotti believed their absence a mistake and disrepectful to a man and a king generally seen as decent and honourable, who in different circumstances could have made a fine Italian king. But by the time he inherited the throne, the monarchy, through its association with Mussolini and fascism, had been fatally undermined. The nine-hundred and ninety-nine year reign of the Savoyards in various duchies and kingdoms, first in Northern Italy, then over the whole peninsula, had come to an end.

The 1947 constitution of the Italian Republic barred all male heirs to the defunct Italian throne from setting foot on Italian soil again; this rule has recently been abolished.

Humbert was
preceded by Vittorio Emanuele III
as the last King of Italy, he was not succeeded; his first son Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, is the current Head of the House of Savoy.

See also: Kings of Savoy -- Fascism -- Benito Mussolini -- Birth of the Italian Republic

External links

Additional Reading

  • Denis Mack Smith Italy and Its Monarchy (Yale University Press, 1989)
  • Robert Katz The Fall of the House of Savoy

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