Succession to the Italian throne

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The line of succession to the Italian throne is a structed list of those persons eligible to succeeded to throne of the former Kingdom of Italy, or today the headship of the Royal House of Italy. The Italian monarchy was abolished in June 1946 following a constitutional referendum which saw a narrow majority vote for the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of an Italian Republic. Despite the referendum itself being seen by many observers as deeply flawed due to Italy's post war borders not having been settled, millions of voters excluded from the electoral roll and vote rigging in certain areas of Italy by communist partisans,[1] King Umberto II of Italy chose to go into exile rather than contest the result and risk civil war.

Following the death of King Umberto II in 1983 his only son Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples succeeded unchallenged as head of the House of Savoy. This position was uncontested until 2006 when Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta challenged the rights of Prince Vittorio Emanuele arguing he had fortified his right of succession upon his unequal marriage to Marina Ricolfi-Doria. Upon his death in 2021, Prince Amedeo was succeeded in his claims by his son Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta.

Law of succession[edit]

The succession to the Italian throne is regulated by salic law to the perpetual exclusion of daughters and their descendants according to Article 2 of the Fundamental Statute of 4 March 1848 issued by King Charles Albert of Sardinia, which became the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy upon its creation in 1861:[2]

Article 2. The state is governed by a representative monarchical government. The throne is hereditary according to the Salic law

For a marriage to be dynastically valid it must also be authorised by the head of the Royal House.[3]

Line of succession in June 1946[edit]

The Savoy-Genoa male line ultimately became extinct upon the death of Prince Eugenio, the last surviving male agnate of this line, in 1996. In turn, this left only the main Savoy royal male line and the Savoy-Aosta male line.

There is also a surviving morganatic branch of the House of Savoy, the Counts of Villafranca-Soissons, who descend from Prince Eugenio Emanuele, Count of Villafranca.

Post monarchy[edit]

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Prince Vittorio Emanuele was in a relationship with a French commoner, Dominique Claudel. His father King Umberto was opposed to the match and wrote to his son that were he to marry Claudel then he would be removed from the line of succession, lose all his titles including that of Prince of Naples and become a private citizen with his cousin Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta as next in line becoming the heir to the throne. The king further stated that such an outcome would be communicated by him to every member of the House of Savoy, to all sovereigns and heads of royal families and publicly to the Italian people.[5] Prince Vittorio Emanuele acknowledged his father's letter and resolved to think over the consequences of if he were to marry Miss Claudel.[6]

Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Dominique Claudel later separated and by 1963 he was in a relationship with Swiss water skier, Marina Ricolfi-Doria.[7] Following an interview with Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Ricolfi-Doria published in an Italian magazine in July 1963, King Umberto II wrote again to his son reminding him of his letter regarding a marriage with Dominique Claudel.[8]

Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Ricolfi-Doria remained in a relationship and were married in a civil ceremony in Las Vegas on 11 January 1970. They were married religiously in the Iranian capital of Tehran on 7 October 1971.[9] Despite the king's previous threats to remove Prince Vittorio Emanuele's titles and place in the line of succession and communicate such an act to the members of the House of Savoy, sovereigns and heads of royal families and to the Italian people no such communications were made and Prince Vittorio Emanuele continued to be viewed by authority's such as the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels Fürstliche Häuser (successor to the Almanach de Gotha)[10] and Burke's Peerage[11] as his father's heir, a view never contradicted by King Umberto.

Further, following the birth of the couples son Emanuele Filiberto in 1972, King Umberto bestowed the new title of Prince of Venice upon his grandson and the following year, rather than stripping his son of his title of Prince of Naples in fact recognised his daughter in law Marina Ricolfi-Doria as Her Royal Highness the Princess of Naples.[9]

Situation following the death King Umberto II[edit]

Upon the death of death of King Umberto II in 1983 his only son Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples succeeded to the headship of the Royal House of Italy (the House of Savoy), the sovereignty of the dynastic orders of the House of Savoy and the title of Duke of Savoy. He was publicly recognised as head of the Italian Royal House by the Italian Republic, reigning sovereigns and the heads of the non-reigning houses and every genealogical reference work subsequently published.[12] Because of a number of scandals Prince Vittorio Emanuele had been involved in, his cousin Prince Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, Duke of Aosta was long viewed more favourably by a number of Italians as fit to represent the Italian royal heritage.[13]

On 21 May 2004 blows were struck in Madrid between Prince Vittorio Emanuele and the Duke of Aosta. At a soirée held at the Zarzuela Palace during the wedding celebrations of the then Prince of Asturias, Amedeo approached Vittorio Emanuele who reportedly punched him twice in the face, causing him to stumble backward down the steps.[14][15] The quick intervention of Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, manged to prop up the Duke and prevent him from falling to the ground.[15] She discreetly assisted him indoors while staunching his bleeding face until first aid was administered.[14] Upon learning of the incident, King Juan Carlos I of Spain reportedly declared that "never again" would an opportunity to abuse his hospitality be afforded the rivals.[14][15] The Queen's quick action avoided what might have been more serious injury to Amedeo and a public escalation of the confrontation.

On 16 June 2006, Prince Vittorio Emanuele was arrested in Varenna and imprisoned in Potenza on charges of corruption and recruitment of prostitutes for clients of the Casinò di Campione.[16][17][18] Shortly afterwards on 7 July 2006, his long term rival Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta finally moved against him and publicly announced he was assuming the headship of the Royal House of Italy and all accompanying prerogatives including the title of Duke of Savoy, receiving the support of the president of the Council of Senators of the Kingdom and the national president of the Italian Monarchist Union.

Despite not having claimed the position in the 23 years since the death of King Umberto II, Prince Amedeo claimed he had succeeded as head of the Royal House of Italy upon Umberto II's death claiming Vittorio Emanuele and his son were excluded from the succession due to Vittorio Emanuele's marriage to the commoner Marina Ricolfi-Doria, claiming it was without the consent of King Umberto II, and that consequently all decrees issued by Vittorio Emanuele issued since 1983 were illegitimate.[19]

Prince Vittorio Emanuele responded on 13 December 2006 to the Duke of Aosta's assumption of the headship of the Royal House of Italy by declaring the Duke of Aosta, his wife Princess Silvia, Duchess of Aosta and his son Prince Aimone, Duke of Apulia were all deprived of their membership of the dynastic orders of the House of Savoy and that the Duchess of Aosta was no longer recognised as Her Royal Highness.[12]

Following the Duke of Aosta and his son's assumption of the name "di Savoia" along with the undifferenced arms of the Royal House of Savoy and of the Prince of Piedmont, Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his son filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit was successful, with the court of Arezzo ruling in February 2010 that the Duke of Aosta and his son must pay damages totalling 50,000 euros to their cousins and cease their use of the arms of the Royal House and those of the Prince of Piedmont.[20] They were also forbidden to use the name "di Savoia", instead they must resume use of the name "di Savoia-Aosta".[21]

Absolute primogeniture[edit]

As Prince Vittorio Emanuele's son has no son of his own, only having two daughters, Princess Vittoria and Princess Luisa, on 15 January 2020, Prince Vittorio Emanuele announced in a press release that on 28 December 2019 he used his rights and prerogatives as head of the House of Savoy to abolish the Salic Law which governed the line of succession in favour of absolute primogeniture, allowing his descendants to succeed by birth order regardless of sex on the basis of "equality between the sexes and moreover, an application of both accepted and implemented by extensive international normative".[22] He cited "the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, applied in the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009, which reaffirmed the principle of equality between men and women and the values and objectives of the European Union".[23]

On the same day, in response to this act, the Italian Monarchist Union announced that they opposed this act of change in the line of succession made by the Prince of Naples.[24] The change was also opposed by the Duke of Aosta and his son. Vittorio Emanuele's son has taunted the Aosta branch over his father's announcement declaring:[25]

They were thinking that me, not having any sons, they would finally have what they were waiting for, for 150 years,....[but] they got screwed, and they got pissed.

However the 28 December 2019 act is widely viewed as illegitimate, as the male only succession is stipulated by the royal Italian constitution and consequently unless the monarchy is restored there is no constitutional and legal mechanism to change the succession. Therefore after the deaths of Vittorio Emanuele and his son Emanuele Filiberto the claim of the Aosta branch, whose head has two sons, is likely to be significantly enhanced.

In June 2023, Emanuele Filberto announced his intention to abdicate his claim to the throne in favor of his daughter, Princess Vittoria of Savoy, when he feels she is ready to suceed.[26] Until he formally does so he remains in the line of succession and his father's heir.

The line of succession to this claim is as follows:

Duke of Aosta[edit]

The Duke of Aosta claims that because Vittorio Emanuele married in violation of the House of Savoy's dynastic law he forfeited his dynastic rights. Aldo Alessandro Mola, president of the former Council of the Senators of the Kingdom, published a declaration in favour of Amedeo's claim; and he also received the support of Vittorio Emanuele's sister Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy.

The line of succession to this claim is as follows:


  1. Bean, Rachel. Bruno, Stefano, and Doe, Helen. Italy, Malta, and San Marino. Page 797. ISBN 0761478930
  2. Wright, Herbert F. Italy. The constitutions of the states at war, 1914-1918
  3. Cannuyer, Christian. Les Maisons Royales et Souveraines d'Europe. (ISBN: 9782503500171). P 202
  4. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-10-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Letter from King Umberto (25 January 1960) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  6. Vittorio Emanuele's response to his father's letter of January 25 (15 April 1960) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  7. Interview with Vittorio Emanuele published in the magazine " Oggi " (18 July 1963) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  8. Letter from Umberto II to his son regarding the article published by " Oggi " (18 July 1963) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  9. 9.0 9.1 Le Petit Gotha (2002) Pages 604, 622
  10. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels Fürstliche Häuser Band XI (1980). Page 28
  11. Burke's Royal Families of the World, Volume I, Europe and Latin America (1977) Page 367
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sainty, Guy Stair. The Savoy Succession
  13. Phillips, John. The Times (8 November 1995) Italy moves to lift ban on heirs of Savoy monarchy
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 McIntosh, David (December 2005). "The Sad Demise of the House of Savoy". European Royal History Journal. Arturo E. Beeche. 8.6 (XLVIII): 3–6.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Right royal punch-up at Spanish prince's wedding
  16. Arrest and jail. Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
  17. Arrested Italy prince goes from palace to jail. MSNBC (17 June 2006). Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
  18. The Prince and the prostitutes. Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
  19. Detronizzato Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia in favore del cugino (7 July 2006) La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno
  20. Squires, Nick (18 February 2010). "Italian aristocrat cousins fight over defunct throne". The Telegraph. Rome. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  21. "LE LL.AA.RR. I PRINCIPI VITTORIO EMANUELE ED EMANUELE FILIBERTO DI SAVOIA VINCONO LA CAUSA CONTRO AMEDEO D'AOSTA" (PDF). Royal House of Savoy. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  22. Le prince de Naples change les règles de succession de la maison royale d’Italie. Gothanjou (in Italian and French). Published January 15, 2020.
  23. Rule of succession. Real Casa di Savoia (in Italian). Published January 15, 2020.
  24. Comunicato stampa del 15 gennaio 2020. Unione Monarchica Italiana (in Italian). Published January 15, 2020.
  25. Horowitz, Jason Sweet sixteen: Italian princess made heir to defunct Italian throne (10 May 2021) The Independent
  26. Nolasco, Stephanie Italian prince explains decision to renounce throne to fashion model daughter, 19 (15 June 2023) Fox News
  27. Unione Monarchica Italian - Nascita Reale Archived 2009-01-02 at the Wayback Machine

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