Monday, April 7, 2014
The Italian Family Feud, In Brief
The crisis began with a marriage but there was another scandal that occurred first which may have set the scene for what caused the eventual division of the Italian monarchist community. In 1969, the Crown Prince, Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples decided to give himself a major royal promotion and attempted to usurp the position of his father. He began styling himself “King Victor Emmanuel IV” on the ridiculous grounds that his father had forfeited his position by accepting the outcome of the republican referendum in 1946 (which was ridiculous as it stood but also completely dishonest as the King had done no such thing). By this time, of course, King Umberto II was quite elderly and have been unaware of the antics of his only son. He claimed the right to act as head of the House of Savoy and in that capacity raised his longtime, common-born, girlfriend to the nobility with the title of Duchess. The following year, 1970, the Prince of Naples, married without the consent of his father his longtime girlfriend-turned duchess Marina Doria in a civil marriage in Las Vegas, Nevada. Whether the King withheld his permission because the bride was a commoner or because it was a civil rather than Catholic ceremony is unknown but it is clear that his consent was not given nor is there any reason why it should have been sought by the couple considering that the Prince of Naples had already declared his own father deposed and himself the true King-in-exile.
In any event, the King never wrote anything more down or said anything publicly about what was obviously a painful, private matter for the family. Before his passing, however, he did bestow the highest order of knighthood of the House of Savoy on the son of the Duke of Aosta, rather than his own grandson Prince Filiberto, which many took as a clear sign of who he intended to lead the family in the future. The last King of Italy to date, Umberto II, died in 1983 and his son, the Prince of Naples, immediately declared himself (again) head of the family and, in an attempt at reconciliation, Queen Marie-Jose urged her daughters to rally in support of their brother. They did so at the time as did some other family members and the greatest asset of the supporters of Crown Prince Victor Emmanuel is that no one really said anything in opposition to him for years until a series of increasingly more embarrassing scandals (including an arrest and some jail time) brought him into disrepute. It was only at that time that the Duke of Aosta openly declared the succession of his cousin to have been invalid on the grounds of his marriage and that he, Prince Amadeus, was the true head of the House of Savoy.
Finally, the good news is that, despite some extreme unpleasantness, this is one succession dispute that should resolve itself -provided no one tries to do anything ridiculous. The reason for that is that the Prince of Naples has only one son, the Prince of Venice, and he has only daughters whereas the Duke of Aosta has both a son and a grandson. Therefore, in the course of time there should no longer be any grounds for dispute between the two branches of the family since the Savoy rules of succession clearly state that women may not inherit the throne. The senior line will run out of male heirs with Prince Filiberto and the Aosta line should then stand unchallenged. However, I have to add “should” there because the Prince of Venice has stated, at least once, that he may intend for one of his daughters to succeed him, discounting the house rules altogether. If that happens, the dispute could go on for a very long time to come, however, it would also mean that one side was completely disregarding the rules entirely and showing that their allegiance is based solely on personal preference. Personally, it seems clear to me that the Duke of Aosta is the proper choice but if the Italian public were totally won over by the charms of Prince Filiberto and decided to make him King of Italy, I would cheer that as well as regardless of how serious a person he might be, no one could possibly be worse than gaggle of politicians whose corruption is only matched by their incompetence, who have been ruining Italy ever since 1946.