Thursday, December 30, 2010

Victor Amadeus II of Savoy

Having recently noted the anniversary of the tragically premature passing of HSH Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco it should be noted that her death was a sad occasion for many people far beyond the boundaries of Monaco. One of those who certainly took notice was Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy. Born in Turin in 1666 he was quite advanced in age for the time when he became infatuated with the lovely and lively Princess Louise Hippolyte, Duchess of Valentinois. During his life he would be, at various times, King of Sicily and King of Sardinia as well as Duke of Savoy. In 1684 he married Princess Anne-Marie of Orleans, daughter of Prince Philippe of France (brother of King Louis XIV) and Princess Henrietta of England. The early years of his reign saw a crackdown on the Protestants in his domain but this was eventually eased up when political considerations forced him into an alliance with the Protestant Dutch and English. Whereas Savoy had previously been very friendly with France, Victor Amadeus II broke with this tradition and fought with Empire against France in the Nine Years War and War of Spanish Succession. Though Monaco itself was neutral this effectively put him at odds with the towering Prince Antoine of Monaco (father of Louise-Hippolyte) who was very pro-French and fought in the service of the King of France.

His first wife died in 1728 and in 1730 he married a local woman, beneath his station but with the permission of Pope Clement XII. However, even though his first wife was very devoted Victor Amadeus II was not a faithful husband. He would certainly have jumped at the chance of an affair with Princess Louise-Hippolyte as well, but she was not too wild on the idea. She found the old gentleman rather boring and in any event was herself quite devoted to her own husband. Victor Amadeus liked to drop in on the princess at Monaco for “surprise” visits but Louise-Hippolyte caught on and proved too clever for him. With her extensive social network she was instantly informed as soon as he set foot in Nice, which surely meant he would then be on his way to Monaco. As secretive as he thought he was being, he was watched the entire time and the Princess knew every step of his progress. He never quite figured out how it happened that as soon as he crossed the Monegasque border for one of this “unexpected” visit’s the local artillery would fire off an earth-shattering salute.

In any event, Victor Amadeus, influential figure though he was, did not have a very happy end to his life. In 1731 Princess Louise-Hippolyte of Monaco died, which certainly distressed him, and he was not to live very much longer himself. The year before he had abdicated in favor of his son Charles Emanuel III. However, he later tried to go back on his decision and his son had him arrested. He suffered a stroke and blamed his wife for his misfortunes. He died in 1732, only a year after the early loss of the Princess of Monaco he so wished to have.

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