The return of the Savoys

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The return of the Savoys: Italy’s banished Royal Family have ended their 57 year exile – but when they flew into Naples it was far from a triumphal return. The Savoys were met with vociferous protestors. The Royals were banished after the war when Italians voted for a republic in a referendum. The result was primarily influenced by the fact that the exiled Victor Emmanuel’s grandfather, Victor Emmanuel III, had acquiesced with the two decades of fascism under the dictator Benito Mussolini before he was deposed in 1943 and Italy joined the Allies to fight Nazism.

The return of the Savoys: August 1934: King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Elena of Italy with their children and grandchildren. From left to right:: Jolanda with son Pier Francesco, Queen Elena, King Vittorio Emanuele III, Mafalda, Giovanna holding her daughter Maria-Luisa, youngest daughter Maria and Umberto. Front row, from left to right, Princess Jolanda’s children: Vittoria Francesca, Maria Ludovia and, on her Aunt Maria’s lap Guia Anna Maria. The two boys are Princess Mafalda’s children, Enrico and her eldest son Maurizio. Princess Maria José was not present for this photograph as she was pregnant with her first child, Maria Pia.

August 1934: King Victor Emmanuel and Queen Elena of Italy with their children and grandchildren. From left to right:: Jolanda with son Pier Francesco, Queen Elena, King Vittorio Emanuele III, Mafalda, Giovanna holding her daughter Maria-Luisa, youngest daughter Maria and Umberto. Front row, from left to right, Princess Jolanda’s children: Vittoria Francesca, Maria Ludovia and, on her Aunt Maria’s lap Guia Anna Maria. The two boys are Princess Mafalda’s children, Enrico and her eldest son Maurizio. Princess Maria José was not present for this photograph as she was pregnant with her first child, Maria Pia.

Returning to their homeland after 57 years in exile the royals were met with a barrage of criticism which threatened to overshadow the lavish parties and welcoming dinners ahead. The three-day visit to Naples by Prince Victor Emmanuel, the 65-year-old head of the House of Savoy, his wife, Marina Doria, and their son, Emmanuel Filiberto, 30, was intended to be a grand official homecoming from Switzerland. Instead, the prince’s expressions of “love” for his native land was met by hostility within Naples – where he was born and from where he sailed into exile at the age of nine – and derision throughout much of Italy. The family has lived in exile since 1946, when the male line was banished after the late King Victor Emmanuel III, the prince’s grandfather, collaborated with Mussolini’s fascist regime.

The return was orchestrated by Silvio Berlusconi’s government, which pushed the Italian parliament to lift the constitutional ban last year. But feelings still run deep. Posters lambasting the royal family as “traitors of Italy” and “slaughterers of the South” appeared around Naples – a reference to the rough treatment meted out to southern “brigands” when the Savoys became rulers of a newly-united Italy in the 19th century. There is added hostility in the South because Naples was the seat of the rival Bourbon dynasty until it was displaced by the Savoys. (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 18/07)