Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Houses Savoy and Grimaldi

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of the Kingdom of Italy under the royal house of Savoy. It is no wonder, both being powerful names in southern France and northern Italy, that there is a very long, sometimes friendly and sometimes troubled history between the Savoy and Grimaldi families. Rainier I had dealt with the House of Savoy in border disputes between Piedmont and Monaco. Lord Lucien of Monaco was the first to officially ally himself with the Duke of Savoy (seeking the help of the King of France at the same time) during one of the most serious efforts of the Republic of Genoa to conquer Monaco. However, the friendship turned sour when the Duke sent troops to occupy La Turbie which Lucien took as much as a threat as a guardian. The Lady Claudine was so upset over the experience that she set it down in her will that any Grimaldi who did homage to the Savoy should be deprived of their hereditary rights. A little harsh perhaps? However, the two families could not ignore each other forever, though they made a good effort to do so for quite a while.

Relations, did, of course, warm up over the years. As we have mentioned, Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy (later King of Sardinia) was quite infatuated with the Grimaldi Princess Louise-Hippolyte though she did not feel quite the same about him. It was also Victor Amadeus II who obtained Nice from France and tried to obtain Monaco but was not successful there. He did, however, obtain feudal rights over 11/12 of Menton and Roquebrune which Prince Antoine I contested but an arbitration by Britain and France found in favor of the House of Savoy in 1714. The ceremony of homage to the Duke of Savoy (by then also King of Sardinia and Sicily) from 1716 to 1841. The idea that a sovereign principality would be a protectorate of one kingdom and a vassal of another kingdom in at least one portion of its territory might give someone a better understanding of why the Monegasque have always been so protective of their independence. It was something they had to fight hard to obtain and have constantly struggled to keep amidst the changing designs of the great powers of Europe surrounding them. Monaco under the Grimaldis were trying to hold fast but the for the House of Savoy, their star was clearly on the rise.

King Vittorio Emanuele I came to the throne of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1802. Obviously this was during the French Revolutionary period and the territories of the Savoy had suffered like all the other neighbors of the French Republic. However, things would turn around under the firm rule of Vittorio Emanuele I. The Congress of Vienna set him back on his throne in Turin (he had by then also inherited the legitimist -Jacobite- claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, Ireland and France) and his family holdings were enlarged by the Congress to include the former territories of the Republic of Genoa. Meanwhile, the Grimaldis had been restored to Monaco mostly thanks to Prince Tallyrand, otherwise the Allies might have found it easier to give Monaco to the Savoys altogether while they were at it, just to keep things simple. However, Tallyrand intervened and ensured Monaco remained under Grimaldi rule.

However, what the Allies did do, was to tear up the treaty with France first signed by Prince Honore II. Henceforth, Monaco would be a protectorate of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia under the House of Savoy. Prince Honore IV predicted there would be trouble over this given the long rivalry that had existed between the two houses. The public was not happy about the change, having been used to the relationship with France, but King Vittorio Emanuele I tried to make a good impression. However, relations only worsened when Sardinian troops occupied Monegasque territory and people were really outraged when Turin forbid the fabrication, trade or import of tobacco in the principality as this had been a lucrative local business. As tensions increased over the years and trouble began brewing in Menton and Roquebrune in particular the Monegasque blamed the Savoy government for being behind it as this was when the drive toward Italian unification was starting to get underway.

That drive got underway during the reign of King Vittorio Emanuele II, son of King Carlo Alberto, who did finally succeed in bringing together the Italian nation, creating the united country of Italy as we know it today and he became the first King of Italy. During this ambitious enterprise the King needed the support of Emperor Napoleon III of the French. Piedmont-Sardinia, in the wake of the uprisings in Menton and Roquebrune, had claimed those areas but in working out their relationship with France surrendered control of these areas (along with their own ancestral homeland) and Prince Charles III of Monaco agreed to sell these towns to France. So ended the period when Monaco was a protectorate of the House of Savoy but there were still some in Italy who longed for the territory as well as Nice and Savoy to be included in greater Italy. It is also worth remembering that, at this stage, the Monegasque, although unique, considered themselves rather more Italian than French due to their long history going back to Genoa and the Ligurian region. In World War II, following the Italian declaration of war on France and the occupation of Savoy, Nice, Corsica and Tunisia, Monaco was occupied as well and for the last time was within the Savoy sphere of influence.

It was not long, however, before the fortunes of war shifted. Monaco's brief stint as part of Mussolini's 'new Roman Empire' did not last very long. In 1943 King Vittorio Emanuele III dismissed the dictator and withdrew to the Allied camp, later abdicating in favor of his son King Umberto II. Monaco was liberated and Prince Louis II could breath a little easier. Things were not so happy for the House of Savoy. In 1946 a fraudulent referendum brought down the Italian monarchy and the House of Savoy was forced into exile. Despite sometimes have trouble in their long history together, the two houses remained friendly in spite of everything and when King Umberto II, the last reigning member of the Savoy royal house and last King of Italy, died in exile, Prince Rainier III attended his funeral to pay his respects to the man who represented the end of an era.

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