1902 Encyclopedia > Savoy


SAVOY. The history of the house of Savoy shows in a striking manner how the destinies of a nation may depend on the fortunes of a princely family. During eight centuries, and through all changes of fortune, the princes of Savoy have kept one end steadily in view, and, in the words of Charles Emmanuel III., have "treated Italy as an artichoke to be eaten leaf by leaf." The ambitions of princes and the interests of the people have fortunately tended in the same direction, and their work is now per-fected in the glory of their house and the freedom of the state.

The descent of HUMBERT the Whitehanded, the founder of the family, is uncertain, but he was most probably a son of Amadeus, the great-grandson of that Boso of Provence (879) who was father of the emperor Louis the Blind. In reward for services rendered to Rudolph III. of Aries, Humbert obtained from him in 1027 the counties of Savoy and Maurienne, and from the emperor Conrad the Salic Chablais and the Lower Valais. His territories, therefore, all lay on the north-western slopes of the Alps. On his death in 1048 he was succeeded perhaps by his eldest son AMADEUS L, but eventually by his fourth son OTHO, who, by his marriage with Adelaide, sole heiress of the marquis of Susa, obtained the counties of Turin and the Val d'Aosta, and so acquired a footing in the valley of the Po. His wife's rank, too, as marchioness made the family guardians of the frontier by authority of the king of Italy, as they had been before by possession of territory, and was the foundation of their subsequent power as "warders" of the Alps. Otho was succeeded in 1060 by his son AMADEUS II., who maintained a judicious neutral-ity between his brother-in-law the emperor Henry IV. and the pope. In reward for his mediation between them he obtained from the former after Canossa the province of Bugey. The accession of his son HUMBERT II. in 1080 brought fresh increase of territory in the valley of the Tarantaise, and in 1091 this prince succeeded to the dig-nities of his grandmother Adelaide, when he assumed the title of prince of Piedmont. AMADEUS III. came to the throne in 1103, and in 1111 his states were created counties of the empire by Henry V. On his way home from the crusades in 1149 Amadeus died at Nicosia, and was suc-ceeded by his son HUMBERT III. This prince did not follow the example of Amadeus II., but took the part of the pope against Barbarossa, who accordingly ravaged his territories until Humbert's death in 1188. The guardians of his son THOMAS acted more discreetly, and reconciled their ward and the emperor. He remained Ghibelline all his life, and received from Henry VI. accessions of territory in Vaud, Bugey, and Valais, with the title of imperial vicar in Piedmont and Lombardy. He was followed in 1233 by AMADEUS IV., whose wife was the beautiful Cecilia of Beaux, surnamed Passe Rose. A campaign against the inhabitants of Valais ended in the annexation of their district, and his support of Frederick II. against the pope caused the erection of Chablais and Aosta into a duchy. In 1253 his son BONIFACE succeeded to his states at the age of nine, but, after giving proofs of his valour by defeat-ing the troops of Charles of Anjou before Turin, he was taken prisoner and died of grief (1263).

The Salic law now came into operation for the first time, and PETER, the uncle of Boniface, was called to the throne. This prince, on the marriage of his nieces Eleanor and Sancha of Provence with Henry III. of England and Richard, earl of Cornwall, had visited England, where he had been created earl of Richmond, and built a palace in London afterwards called Savoy House. His brothers Boniface and "William were also appointed, the former to the see of Canterbury, and the latter to the presidency of the council. ! In return he recognized the claims of Richard to the impe-

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rial throne, and received from him Kyburg in the diocese of Lausanne, conveniently near to the county of Geneva, which had been willed to him by the last count. But this increase of territory only brought new anxieties, for Peter's short reign was occupied in reducing refractory vassals to obedience. At his death in 1268 he was succeeded by his brother PHILIP I., who died in 1285, when their nephew AMADEUS V. came to the throne. This prince, surnamed the Great, united Bauge and Bresse to his states in right of his wife Sibylla, and later on Lower Faucigny and part of Geneva. For his second wife he married Mary of Bra-bant, sister of the emperor Henry VII., from whom, in reward for his services in North Italy, he received the seigneury of Aosta. His life was passed in continual and victorious warfare, and one of his last exploits was to force the Turks to raise the siege of Rhodes. In commemoration of his victory it is said that he substituted for the eagles in his arms the letters F.E.R.T. (Fortitudo ejus Ehodum tenuit). He died in 1323 while making preparations for a campaign in aid of his nephew, the emperor of the East. His son EDWARD succeeded him, and, dying in 1329, was followed by his brother AYMON. This prince died in 1343, when his son AMADEUS VI. ascended the throne. His reign was, like his grandfather's, a series of petty wars, from which he came out victorious and with extended terri-tory, until, accompanying Louis of Anjou on his expedition against Naples, he died there of the plague (1383). The reign of his son AMADEUS VII. promised to be as glorious as those of his ancestors, but it was cut short by a fall from his horse in 1391. Before his death, however, he had received the allegiance of Barcelonnette, Ventimiglia, Villafranca, and Nice, so gaining access to the Mediterranean.

His son AMADEUS VIII. now came to the throne, under the guardianship of his grandmother Bonne de Bourbon. On attaining his majority he first directed his efforts to strengthening his power in the outlying provinces, and in this he was particularly successful. The states of Savoy now extended from the Lake of Geneva to the Mediterranean, and from the Saone to the Sesia. Its prince had therefore considerable power, and Amadeus threw all the weight of this on the side of the emperor. Sigismund was not ungrateful, and in 1416 erected the counties of Savoy and Piedmont into duchies. At this time too the duke recovered the fief of Piedmont, which had been granted to Philip, prince of Achaia, by Amadeus V., and his power was thus thoroughly consolidated. The county of Vercelli afterwards rewarded him for joining the league against the duke of Milan, but in 1434 a plot against his life made him put into execution a plan he had long formed of retiring to a monastery. He accordingly made his son Louis lieutenant-general of the dukedom, and assumed the habit of the knights of S. Maurice, a military order he had founded at the priory of Bipaille. But he was not destined to find the repose he sought. The prelates assembled at the council of Basel voted the deposition of Pope Eugenius IV., and elected Amadeus in his place. Felix V., as he was now called, then abdicated his dukedom definitively, but without much gain in tem-poral honours, for the schism continued until the death of Eugenius in 1447, shortly after which it was healed by the honourable submission of Felix to Nicholas V. The early years of Louis's reign were under the guidance of his father, and peace and prosperity blessed his people; but he afterwards made an alliance with the dauphin which brought him into conflict with Charles VII. of France, though a lasting reconciliation was soon effected. His son AMADEUS IX. succeeded in 1465, but, though his virtues led to his beatification, his bodily sufferings made him assign the regency to his wife Yolande, a daughter of Charles VII. He died in 1472, when his son PHILIBERT I. succeeded to the throne and to his share in the contests of Yolande with her brother and brothers-in-law, who tried to deprive their nephew of his rights. His reign lasted only ten years, when he was succeeded by his brother CHARLES I. This prince raised for a time by his valour the droop ing fortunes of his house, but he died in 1489 at the age oi thirty-one, having inherited from his aunt, Charlotte of Lu-signano, her pretensions to the titular kingdoms of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Armenia. He was succeeded by his son CHARLES II., an infant, who, dying in 1496, was followed by PHILIP II., brother of Amadeus IX. He died in 1497, leaving PHILIBERT II., who succeeded him, and CHARLES III., who ascended the throne on his brother's death in 1504. In spite of himself Charles was drawn into the wars of the period, for in the quarrel between Francis I. and the pope he could not avoid espousing the cause of his nephew. But the decisive victory of Francis at Mari-gnano gave the duke the opportunity of negotiating the conference at Bologna which led to the conclusion of peace in 1516. So far well, but Charles was less fortunate in the part he took in the wars between Francis I. and Charles V., the brother-in-law of his wife. He tried to maintain a strict neutrality, but his attendance at the emperor's coronation at Bologna in 1530 was imperative in his double character of kinsman and vassal. The visit was fatal to him, for he was rewarded with the county of Asti, and this so displeased the French king that, on the revolt of Geneva to Protestantism in 1532, Francis sent help to the citizens. Bern and Freiburg did likewise, and so expelled the duke from Lausanne and Valid. Charles now sided definitely with the emperor, and Francis at once raised some imaginary claims to his states On their rejection the French army marched into Savoy, and, finding the pass of Susa unfortified, descended on Piedmont and seized Turin (1536). Charles V. came to the aid of his ally, and invested the city, but, being him-self hard pressed, was obliged to make peace. France kept Savoy, and the emperor occupied Piedmont, so that only Nice remained to the duke. On the resumption of hostilities in 1541 Piedmont again suffered. In 1544 the treaty of Crespy restored his states to Charles, but the terms were not carried out and he died of grief in 1553. His only surviving son EMMANUEL PHILIBERT succeeded to the rights but not the domains of his ancestors. Since 1536 he had attached himself to the service of the emperor, and had already given promise of a brilliant career. On the abdication of Charles V. the duke was appointed governor of the Low Countries, and in 1557 the victory of St Quentin marked him as one of the first generals of his time. Such services could not go unrewarded, and the peace of Cateau-Cambresis restored him his states, with certain exceptions still to be held by France and Spain. One of the conditions of the treaty also provided for the marriage of the duke with the lovely and accomplished Margaret of France, sister of Henry II. The evacuation of the places held by them was faithfully carried out by the contracting powers, and Emmanuel Philibert occupied himself in strengthening his military and naval forces, until his death in 1580 prevented the execution of the ambitious designs he had conceived. His son CHARLES EMMANUEL I., called the Great, being prevented by Henry III. from retaking Geneva, threw in his lot with Spain, and in 1590 invaded Provence and was received by the citizens of Aix. His intention was doubtless to revive the ancient kingdom of Aries, but his plans were frustrated by the accession of Henry IV. to the throne of France. After effecting with Henry an exchange of Bresse and Bugey for the marquisate of Saluzzo he kept up an intermittent war with him until 1609, when, disgusted with, the behaviour of Spain, he made a treaty with France against Philip. But he could not remain faithful for long, and, siding first with one and then with the other, he found himself in almost the same straits as his grandfather, when death put an end to his ambitions and failures in 1630. The first care of his son VICTOR AMADETTS was to free himself from the double burden of his enemy and his ally, so he concluded peace in 1631. In 1635, however, Richelieu determined to drive the Spaniards out of Italy, and offered the duke the alternatives of war or Milan. He gave but a half-hearted assent to the schemes of France, and, without gaining Milan, died in 1637, leaving by his wife Christina of France Francis Hyacinth, a minor, who only survived till the following year, and CHARLES EMMANUEL II., whose legitimacy was unfortunately rather doubtful. The regency of Christina resembled that of Yolande in the same need for guarding her son's interests against the pretensions of his uncles, Louis XIII. and the princes of Savoy. But fortune favoured her, and on the duke's reaching his majority in 1648 the wars of the Fronde occupied all the attention of Mazarin. The brunt of the conflict with Spain consequently fell upon Savoy, and was borne not ingloriously until the conclusion of peace. Charles Emmanuel occupied the remaining part of his reign in repairing the ravages caused by twenty-four years of warfare, and died in 1675, leaving an only son, VICTOR AMADEUS II., whose minority was as peaceful as his father's had been the reverse. He married Mary of Orleans, the daughter of Henrietta of England, and consequently the legitimate heiress to the English crown on the death of Anne and on the exclusion of the Pretender. For a time he united with Louis XIV. in persecuting the Protestants, but the overbearing behaviour of his ally made him join the coalition of Augsburg in 1690. His campaign against Louis was carried on with varying results until 1695, when he accepted proposals of peace. This defection led to the peace of Ryswick in 1697, and in reward he received from Louis the territories then occupied by France. In 1700 he sided with France against Austria, but, an extension of territory in the Milanese not being granted by Louis, he went over to the enemy in 1703. The generalship of his relative Prince Eugene proved too much for the French, and in 1706 they were defeated before Turin and driven across the frontier. The peace of Utrecht afterwards con-firmed the duke in the possession of the places granted on his joining the coalition, including the long-coveted Mont-ferrato, and endowed him besides with the crown of Sicily. Austrian influences now replaced Spanish in the peninsula, and Charles VI. persuaded him to exchange his kingdom for that of Sardinia. This was accordingly effected in 1720 by the treaty of Madrid, and afterwards proved the very salvation of the house of Savoy. In 1730 the king abdicated in favour of his son, in order to marry the countess of San Sebastian, at whose instigation he after-wards tried to regain the crown, but he died in 1732.

CHARLES EMMANUEL III. continued his father's intrigues to obtain possession of Milan, and joined the league of France and Spain against Austria in 1732. But he used the victories of the allied forces over the imperialists in such a half-hearted way that it seemed as if he did not wish to break finally with Austria. In the end he only gained from the treaty, which he signed in 1739, the Novarese and Tortona, instead of Milan. The death of Charles VI. in 1740 gave him the chance of expelling the Austrians from Italy, but, though he at first claimed Milan from Maria Theresa, he ended in 1742 by espousing her cause. The complete defeat of the French in 1747 led to the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, by which Charles Emmanuel received the Upper Novarese and Vigevano, after which fce remained at peace until his death in 1773. His son VICTOR AMADEUS in. succeeded him, and devoted the early years of his reign to the improvement of the admin- istration and the reorganization of his army. The time soon came for him to use the weapon he had created, and on the outbreak of the Revolution in France he headed the coalition of Italian princes against her. The house of Savoy thus assumed the headship of Italy, but for the time without much gain, for Napoleon's brilliant victories of 1796 ended in the peace of Paris, by which Savoy, along with Nice, was given to France. Victor Amadeus died shortly afterwards, and was succeeded by his son CHARLES EMMANUEL IV. The fever of the Revolution spread to Piedmont, and in 1798 nothing was left to the king but to retire to Sardinia. In 1802 he abdicated in favour of his brother, VICTOR EMMANUEL I., who, in his island kingdom, protected by the English fleet, became the symbol of the coalition against France. The king returned to Turin in 1814, and in the following year took possession again of Savoy. The anti-revolutionary measures which were adopted by the Italian princes on their return caused a spirit of rebellion to spring up among their subjects. The freedom of the individual and the unity of the nation thus came to be considered objects to be attained at one and the same time. The influence of Austria was paramount in the Peninsula, but an insurrection broke out at Turin in 1820 demanding war with her, and, rather than embroil himself both with his people and with Austria, Victor Emmanuel abdicated in favour of his brother, CHARLES FELIX. The general insurrection was suppressed, and for the next few years Italy suffered everything possible at the hands of various petty princes, whose fears and weakness left them no weapon but persecution. In 1831 Charles Felix died without issue, and in him the elder branch of the family ended. He was succeeded by CHARLES ALBERT, of the line of Savoy-Carignano, which was founded by Thomas Francis, son of Charles Emmanuel the Great, and grandfather of Prince Eugene. The first care of Charles Albert was to reorganize his military and naval forces in readiness for the conflict with Austria which he foresaw. At the same time he put down the conspiracies which would have forced his hand, among which the most famous was that of Mazzini and Ramorino in 1834. The French revolution of 1848 fanned the embers of Italian patriotism, and Charles Albert, without any aid, began the War of Independence. Victory at first followed his arms, but ha was defeated at last by the Austrians at Custozza. In the next year he was again driven into war with the Austrians, and, after his defeat at Novara, he abdicated in favour oj his son, VICTOR EMMANUEL II. From this point the history of the house of Savoy has been told in the article ITALY (vol. xiii. pp. 489 sq.). (H. B. B.)

The above article was written by: H. B. Briggs.

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