Thursday, November 20, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
It was a time of hardship and waiting for opportunities. Vittorio Emanuele I, however, was a man who understood enduring misfortune. In 1789 he had married the Hapsburg Archduchess Maria Teresa of Austria-Este, daughter of Duke Ferdinand of Modena (who was the son of the Austrian Emperor Francis I). She was as ardently conservative and traditional as her husband was and the two were a very well-matched couple and had a very happy marriage. However, securing the succession remained a problem. While his older brother had never been able to have children, King Vittorio Emanuele I fathered seven children, all but one of whom were daughters. The eldest ultimately married her uncle, Duke Francis IV of Modena, the next did not survive childhood, the third lived an even shorter time. The next eventually married the Duke of Parma, the fifth married Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria and the sixth married King Fernando II of the Two Sicilies. There was only one boy among them, Prince Carlo Emanuele, born in 1796 and sadly he died of smallpox in 1799. Once again, the Savoy crown would have to pass from brother to brother rather than father to son (and a brother who would be childless as well). They knew personal tragedy with the loss of two children, one a potential heir, yet their shared faith and values allowed them to endure it as they later endured their exile on Sardinia. But, that was something that would change.
It was, finally, a mutiny in the army that signaled the end of the reign of Vittorio Emanuele I. Rebel troops seized control of the citadel in Turin and demanded that the King grant a constitution with guaranteed civil rights and a war against Austria to liberate Milan and Venice. Anyone at all familiar with the character of King Vittorio Emanuele I would know intuitively that he would never agree to any such demands. The content of them really did not even matter as he would never have agreed to anything put forward by mutinous troops and riotous subjects making demands on their sovereign. The political issues he was absolutely opposed to and while he had no great love for Austria (because of their shifting policies in the war and territorial acquisitions) and would have been as pleased as anyone to restore northern Italy to Italian rule, he was certainly not going to be coerced into a specific action and would never stand for being dictated to by a riotous mob. Yet, with the mobs in the streets and the loyalty of the army being either absent or questionable; what could he do? There seemed to be no choice but to give in, yet, for the King, that was out of the question. If King Vittorio Emanuele I could not rule as he saw fit, he decided that he would not rule at all and preferred to abdicate rather than give in to pressure from disloyal elements. So, on March 21, 1821 he formally abdicated his throne in favor of his brother, who was away in Modena, with his nephew Prince Carlo Alberto on hand to oversee things in the interim. The Queen (who some even blamed for the crisis) had offered to act as regent but in the event went with her retired husband to Nice (then part of Piedmont-Sardinia). He died at Moncalieri castle a few years later on January 10, 1824.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
"Before the days of Mussolini, Italy was not averse to war. How otherwise could it have successfully borne the heavy and protracted battles of the Isonzo during the First World War? Piedmont is the cradle of Italy’s military prowess. With the exception of Prussia, no dynasty was ever as militant as the House of Savoy. It was the campaigns of the Piedmontese battalions that unified Italy, thereby fulfilling the dreams of many generations. Everywhere the memorials bore witness to this fact.
"At Turin and in that neighborhood were a number of military schools. The Peidmontese nobility, like the Prussian one, put service in the army on a higher plane than any other service to the state. The discipline was good. In Piedmont there were also many alpine units, the best that the Italian Army could produce---proud, quiet, outwardly not very disciplined troops, but reliable types, brought up the heard way, accustomed to camping in the eternal snows with only the barest supplies. They were magnificent soldiers, to whose pride and modesty I paid tribute whenever I happened to encounter an Alpino. The Navy, too, was good, though I had few contacts with it."
-From the book "Neither Hope Nor Fear" by the commander of the German XIV Panzer Corps, General Frido von Senger und Etterlin who was responsible for the defense of Monte Cassino and the Gustav Line, who had also earlier fought in the defense of Sicily.