Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Naples

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The Duke of Savoy and
Prince of Naples
Head of the Royal House of Italy
(disputed since 2006)
Pretence 18 March 1983 – 3 February 2024
Predecessor King Umberto II
Successor Prince Emanuele Filiberto
Born (1937-02-12) 12 February 1937 (age 87)
Naples, Italy
Died 3 February 2024(2024-02-03) (aged 86)
(m. 1971)
Issue Prince Emanuele Filiberto
Full name
Vittorio Emanuele Alberto Carlo Teodoro Umberto Bonifacio Amedeo Damiano Bernardino Gennaro Maria
House Savoy
Father Umberto II of Italy
Mother Princess Marie-José of Belgium

Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Naples (In Italian: Vittorio Emanuele, Duca di Savoia, Principe di Napoli; 12 February 1937 - 3 February 2024)[1][2] is the only son of Umberto II, the last King of Italy, and his wife Marie-José of Belgium. Vittorio Emanuele assumed the headship of the Royal House of Italy upon the death of his father in 1983 and adopted the title of Duke of Savoy. Since 2006 his headship has been contested by Aosta branch of the House of Savoy, whose current representative is Prince Aimone, 6th Duke of Aosta.

He has lived for most of his life in exile following the constitutional referendum of 1946 which saw a narrow majority vote for the abolition of the monarchy and the creation of an Italian Republic. 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.[3] He was only allowed to return to Italy in 2002.

Early life[edit]

Vittorio Emanuele was born in Naples to the heir to the Italian throne, Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, who would later become the last King of Italy as Umberto II, and Princess Marie-José of Belgium.[1][2] Upon his birth his grandfather King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy bestowed the title Prince of Naples on his grandson, the title was last borne by his grandfather prior to his succession to the throne and alternated with the title Prince of Piedmont each generation as the title borne by the heir to the throne.[4]

Vittorio Emanuele's birth, which provided a direct male heir to the throne, was greeted with great enthusiasm throughout Italy with 101 gun salutes and a crowd of 200,000 Italians marching to the Royal Palace in Naples to celebrate the birth, with his father and grandmother Queen Elena appearing on the balcony on five occasions to greet the crowds.[5] Prince Vittorio Emanuele was baptised in Rome in the Pauline Chapel of the Quirinal Palace on 31 May 1937.[6]

In July 1943 during the Second World War, Prince Vittorio Emanuele's grandfather removed the Fascist prime minister Benito Mussolini from office and had him placed under arrest, replacing him with Marshal of Italy, Pietro Badoglio. Despite this the king came in for criticism from Liberal politicians who were refusing to serve in the Badoglio government. A number of members of the Badoglio cabinet also advocated the abdication of both the King and the Prince of Piedmont and for the then six year old Vittorio Emanuele to ascend the throne under a regency.[7] During this period, due to the dismissal of the German Führer Adolf Hitler's ally Mussolini, Vittorio Emanuele was taken to Switzerland with his sisters by their mother to protect them from possible Nazi reprisals.[8]

Ultimately Vittorio Emanuele's grandfather would abdicate on 9 May 1946, just prior to a constitutional referendum to determine the form of government between a monarchy under Vittorio Emanuele's popular father, now King Umberto II, or a republic which when the results came in saw a narrow majority vote for a 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,[9] despite not accepting the result King Umberto II who had only been on the throne for 34 days left for exile with his family rather than risk a civil war. The nine year old Prince Vittorio Emanuele, who left Italy via Naples on 6 June 1946, when leaving the Quirinal Palace for the last time noted the contrast between the reception the family recivied when his father took the throne a month earlier and now:[8]

but how, first they applaud us and then they send us away?

Barred from setting foot in Italy by a 1947 exile law passed by the Italian republic, Prince Vittorio Emanuele briefly begun his exile in Portugal where his father would set up residence, before he was taken to live in Switzerland with his mother Queen Marie-Jose where he was enrolled at a boarding school.[8] He studied political science and economics in Geneva, Switzerland, after which he gained experience working the financial sector before establishing a business importing and exporting helicopters in 1966.[4]


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.[10] Prince Vittorio Emanuele acknowledged his father's letter and resolved to think over the consequences of if he were to marry Miss Claudel.[11]

Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Dominique Claudel later separated and by 1963 he was in a relationship with Swiss water skier, Marina Ricolfi-Doria.[12] 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.[13]

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 Tehran on 7 October 1971.[4] 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)[14] and Burke's Peerage[15] 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.[4]

Head of the House of Savoy[edit]

Although barred from Italy, Prince Vittorio Emanuele agitated for the restoration of the monarchy. During the 1978 presidential election, which went to nine rounds of voting, he stated:[16]

the presidential election is revealed increasingly every day to be the principal cause of the present instability, in my opinion a renewed monarchy by removing the summit of the state from partisan choice could better guarantee national unity, stability in continuity and indispensable international prestige

With his father seriously ill, Prince Vittorio Emanuele unsuccessfully called for the law of exile to be repealed to allow his father to return to Italy to die.[17] Upon the death of his father in Geneva on 18 March 1983, Prince Vittorio Emanuele assumed 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.[18] Early the following year on 30 January 1984 he issued a decree confirming his wife was to be primarily styled as Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Savoy with Princess of Naples to be a secondary title. At the same time he issued a further decree bestowing the title of Prince of Piedmont on his son Emanuele Filiberto, Prince of Venice.[4]

In 1993 a historic meeting took place in Brussels after the funeral of Prince Vittorio Emanuele's cousin King Baudouin of Belgium, between Vittorio Emanuele and the President of Italian Republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (1918-2012), where for the first time in the post 1946 republican era an Italian President and head of the Italian Royal House had shaken hands. The historic encounter was front page news in the Italian newspapers and lead to speculation on if the monarchy were to be restored in Italy where the country was seen as close to collapse due to an ongoing corruption scandal, a terrorist bombing campaign and a Mafia crimewave.[19]

In 1997 an attempt by the centre left government of Italy to repeal the law of exile which barred Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his son Prince Emanuele Filiberto from entering Italy failed due to opposition from the Communist Refoundation Party.[20] In lobbying for his return he declared he and his son "were loyal to our constitution and our president" which was welcomed by the political parties but condemned by monarchists[21] and resulted in the royal Council of Senators, which had been abolished in 1946 and re-established in exile by King Umberto II in 1955, declaring loyalty to Prince Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, Duke of Aosta.[22]

Finally in 2002 the government of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi passed legislation to allow the constitution to be amended to allow Prince Vittorio Emanuele and his son to return to Italy. After a failed late attempt by leftists to gather 500,000 signatures to force a referendum on the issue, on 23 December 2002, Prince Vittorio Emanuele accompanied by his son and wife made his long awaited return to Italy landing near Rome from where the Royal Family were taken to visit Pope John Paul II at the Vatican for a private 20 minute audience before returning to their home in Geneva hours after their arrival with Prince Vittorio Emanuele stating a serious back injury prevented him from staying longer. The briefness of the trip caused anger across the political spectrum in Italy, with some seeing it as a snub to Italy that they did not visit the Italian President or stay in the country for long. While monarchists were disappointed the family did not visit the Pantheon in Rome, the burial place of the first two kings of Italy from the House of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I.[23]


Because of a number of scandals Prince Vittorio Emanuele has been involved in, his cousin Prince Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, Duke of Aosta was viewed more favourably by a number of Italians as fit to represent the Italian royal heritage.[24]

Dirk Hamer's death (1978–2015)[edit]

On the night of 17 August or the morning of 18 August 1978, on the island of Cavallo (which lies off the south coast of Corsica), Vittorio Emanuele discovered his yacht's rubber dinghy had been taken and attached to another nearby yacht. Arming himself with a rifle, he attempted to board the vessel. He shot at a passenger he had awakened; the shot missed the passenger but mortally wounded 19 year old named Dirk Hamer, a passenger sleeping on the deck of another adjacent yacht. The prince admitted civil liability for the death in a letter dated 28 August 1978.[25] Dirk Hamer died of his wounds on 7 December 1978, and Vittorio Emanuele was arrested.

On 11 October 1989, Vittorio Emanuele was indicted on charges of inflicting lethal injury and possession of a dangerous weapon. However, on 18 November 1991, after thirteen years of legal proceedings, the Paris Assize Court acquitted him of the fatal wounding and unintentional homicide charges, finding him guilty only of unauthorised possession of an M1 Garand rifle.[25] He received a six-month suspended prison sentence.[26]

When incarcerated in June 2006, on unconnected charges of corruption, Vittorio Emanuele was recorded admitting that "I was in the wrong, [...] but I must say I fooled them [the French judges]",[27] leading to a call from Dirk Hamer's sister Birgit for Vittorio Emanuele to be retried in Italy for killing her brother.[28]

Birgit Hamer undertook a long legal fight to obtain the full video. She stated: "What for us is a confession is a boast for him: he laughs about the fact that he killed a boy."[29] The story of the video was broken by aristocratic journalist Beatrice Borromeo,[30] who also wrote the preface for a book on the murder, Delitto senza castigo by Birgit Hamer. Vittorio Emanuele sued the newspaper for defamation, claiming the video had been manipulated. In 2015, a court judgement ruled in favour of the newspaper.[31] On Twitter Borromeo posted: "Vincere una causa è sempre piacevole, ma contro Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia la goduria è doppia!" ("Winning a case is always nice, but against Victor Emmanuel of Savoy the pleasure is double"),[32] which resulted in a spat on Twitter with his son Emanuele Filiberto.[31]

Allegations of anti-semitism (2003)[edit]

Vittorio Emanuele also said in 2003 that the anti-Semitic laws passed under Mussolini's regime were "not that terrible".[33][34] In response, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Amos Luzzatto, stated that "I'm not saying it was he who signed the racial laws in 1938. But, as a Savoy heir, Victor Emmanuel has never distanced himself from them," in an interview with Il Corriere della Sera newspaper.[35]

On 27 January 2005, in a letter published by Il Corriere della Sera, Vittorio Emanuele issued an apology to Italy's Jewish population, asking forgiveness from the Italian Jewish community, and declaring that it was an error for the Italian Royal Family to have signed the racial laws of 1938.[36]

Spanish royal wedding (2004)[edit]

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.[37][38] The quick intervention of Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, manged to prop up the Duke and prevent him from falling to the ground.[38] She discreetly assisted him indoors while staunching his bleeding face until first aid was administered.[37] 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.[37][38] The Queen's quick action avoided what might have been more serious injury to Amedeo and a public escalation of the confrontation.

Arrest and imprisonment (June 2006)[edit]

On 16 June 2006, 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.[39][40][41] The enquiry was conducted by Italian magistrate John Woodcock, of British ancestry, famous for other VIPs' arrests.[42][43][44]

After several days, Vittorio Emanuele was released and placed under house-arrest instead. He was released from house-arrest on 20 July 2006, but had to stay within the borders of Italy. Vittorio Emanuele was acquitted of all charges in the years 2007 and 2010.[45][46] The paper La Repubblica reported in 2006 that Emanuele Filiberto had distanced himself from his father following his arrest.[47]

Deposition by the Duke of Aosta (July 2006)[edit]

Shortly after Vittorio Emanuele's arrest, 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 which it was without the consent of King Umberto II, and that consequently all decrees issued by Vittorio Emanuele issued since 1983 were illegitimate.[48]

Feud with the Savoy-Aosta's[edit]

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.[18]

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.[49] They were also forbidden to use the name "di Savoia", instead they must resume use of the name "di Savoia-Aosta".[50]

As Prince Vittorio Emanuele's son only has no son 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".[51] 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".[52]

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.[53] 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:[54]

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



  1. 1.0 1.1 Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XIV. "Haus Italien". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, pp. 33, 38–39. ISBN 3-7980-0814-0.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Willis, Daniel, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Clearfield Co., Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1999, p. 673. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5.
  3. Bean, Rachel. Bruno, Stefano, and Doe, Helen. Italy, Malta, and San Marino. Page 797. ISBN 0761478930
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Le Petit Gotha (2002) Pages 604, 622
  5. The Times (13 February 1937) Birth of the Prince of Naples
  6. The Times (1 June 1937) Italian Prince Baptized
  7. The Times (3 November 1943) Political Crisis In Italy
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 SAR Vittorio Emanuele Principe di Napoli Website of the House of Savoy
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  10. Letter from King Umberto (25 January 1960) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  11. Vittorio Emanuele's response to his father's letter of January 25 (15 April 1960) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  12. Interview with Vittorio Emanuele published in the magazine " Oggi " (18 July 1963) Website of the Duke of Aosta
  13. Letter from Umberto II to his son regarding the article published by " Oggi " (18 July 1963) Website of the Duke of Aosta
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  19. Brock, George. Phillips, John. The Times (9 August 1993) Kingmaking in Belgium starts Italy dreaming
  20. Philips, John. The Times (12 July 2002) Italian royals can return, MPs decide
  21. Owen, Richard. The Times (6 February 2002) Italy votes to welcome back its royals as private citizens
  22. Owen, Richard. The Times (5 October 2002) Italy prepares for the return of royals
  23. Philips, John. The Times (24 December 2002) Italians angered by royal day trip
  24. Phillips, John. The Times (8 November 1995) Italy moves to lift ban on heirs of Savoy monarchy
  25. 25.0 25.1 HAMER v. FRANCE – 19953/92 [1996] ECHR 30 (7 August 1996). Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
  26. Summary of trial proceedings concerned the killing of Dirk Hamer.
  27. (in Italian) Vittorio Emanuele, cimici in cella "Ho fregato i giudici francesi"
  28. Prince's braggadocio spurs call for justice. 12 September 2006
  29. Follain, John Prince admits killing on video, The Sunday Times, 27 February 2011; Archived 10 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  30. Borromeo, Beatrice Il video che incastra Savoia, Il Fatto Quotidiano, 24 February 2011;
  31. 31.0 31.1 Beatrice Borromeo, el azote de los Saboya, Hola, 10 March 2015; Archived 26 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  32. "Beatrice Borromeo on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
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  34. Leyland, Joanne (18 June 2006) Former King of Italy's Son Arrested . The Royalist
  35. Tom Gross (18 June 2003). "An Englishman in Auschwitz and other Holocaust articles".
  36. "Stephen Roth Institute: Antisemitism And Racism". 2005. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18.
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 McIntosh, David (December 2005). "The Sad Demise of the House of Savoy". European Royal History Journal. Arturo E. Beeche. 8.6 (XLVIII): 3–6.
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  45. Savoiagate, Vittorio Emanuele assolto. Retrieved on 26 July 2015.
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