Duchy of Savoy
For the early history of Savoy
Savoy is a region of France. It comprises roughly the territory of the Western Alps situated between Lake Geneva in the north and Monaco and the Mediterranean coast in the south....

, before it was raised to a duchy, see County of Savoy
County of Savoy
The Counts of Savoy emerged, along with the free communes of Switzerland, from the collapse of the Burgundian Kingdom of Arles in the 11th century....

 and March of Turin
March of Turin
The county or march of Turin was founded in 941 by Hugh of Italy, who appointed Arduin Glaber as its governor. Arduin had captured Turin and the Susa Valley from the Saracens...


From 1416 to 1847, the House of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

 ruled the eponymous Duchy of Savoy . The Duchy was a state in the northern part of the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, with some territories that are now in France. It was a continuation of the County of Savoy
County of Savoy
The Counts of Savoy emerged, along with the free communes of Switzerland, from the collapse of the Burgundian Kingdom of Arles in the 11th century....

. The duchy was a constituent state of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, specifically its Upper Rhenish Circle
Upper Rhenish Circle
The Upper Rhenish Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1500 on the territory of the former Duchy of Upper Lorraine and large parts of Rhenish Franconia including the Swabian Alsace region and the Burgundian duchy of Savoy....


15th Century

The Duchy was created in 1416 following Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor
Sigismund of Luxemburg KG was King of Hungary, of Croatia from 1387 to 1437, of Bohemia from 1419, and Holy Roman Emperor for four years from 1433 until 1437, the last Emperor of the House of Luxemburg. He was also King of Italy from 1431, and of Germany from 1411...

, awarding the title Duke
A duke or duchess is a member of the nobility, historically of highest rank below the monarch, and historically controlling a duchy...

 to Count Amadeus VIII. The territory of the Duchy then included Moriana, the Valle d'Aosta, and Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...


Being landlocked earlier, in 1388 the then County had conquered a few kilometres of coastline around Nice
Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of...

. Other than that, the 14th century had been a time of stagnation. The pressure of the neighboring powers, particularly France, prevented development, which characterizes the rest of the Renaissance for Savoy.

The reign of Amadeus VIII was a turning point for the economy and the policy of the state, and deeply marked the history of the nation. His long reign was marked by wars (the country expanded its territory by defeating the Duchy of Monferrato and Lordship of Saluzzo
Saluzzo is a town and former principality in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont region, Italy.The city of Saluzzo is built on a hill overlooking a vast, well-cultivated plain. Iron, lead, silver, marble, slate etc...

), reforms and edicts, but also some controversial incidents: first of all when he chose, in 1434, to withdraw to the Château de Ripaille, where, living the life of a hermit
A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society.In Christianity, the term was originally applied to a Christian who lives the eremitic life out of a religious conviction, namely the Desert Theology of the Old Testament .In the...

, he founded the Order of St. Maurice, and in 1439 received the appointment as antipope
An antipope is a person who opposes a legitimately elected or sitting Pope and makes a significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd and mid-15th century, antipopes were typically those supported by a...

 which he accepted (under the name of Felix V) and subsequently declined a decade later, fearful of undermining the religious unity of Christians.

Also an important action of the Government of Amadeo VIII, was the creation of the Principality of Piedmont
Lord of Piedmont
The lordship, later principality of Piedmont was originally an appanage of the Savoyard county and as such its lords were members of the Savoy-Achaea branch of that illustrious house. The title was inherited by the elder branch of the dynasty in 1418, at about which time Savoy was elevated to...

 in August 1424, whose management was entrusted to the firstborn of the family, as a title of honor: the duke left the lands, therefore, largely formed from the old domain of Savoy. His son Amedeo, however, died prematurely in 1431. The area and the succession was assigned to the second son Louis.

As a cultured and refined man, Duke Amadeus gave great importance to art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

 (he worked with, among others, the famous Giacomo Jaquerio
Giacomo Jaquerio
Giacomo Jaquerio was an Italian medieval painter, one of the main exponents of Gothic painting in Piedmont. He was active in his native town Turin, Geneva and other localities of Savoy.-Biography:...

), literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 and architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, encouraging the entry of art to the Italian Piedmont.

From the reign of Amadeus VIII the power was left to his son Louis of Savoy. Louis was then succeeded by the weak Amadeus IX who was extremely religious (he was declared blessed), but of little practical power to the point that he allowed his wife, Yolande (Violante) of Valois
Yolande of Valois
Yolande of Valois was a Duchess consort of Savoy. She was was a daughter of King Charles VII of France, "The Victorious," and Marie of Anjou. She married Duke Amadeus IX of Savoy in 1452. She was named after her grandmother, Yolande of Aragon. She is sometimes known as Yolande of France...

, sister of Louis XI, to make very important decisions. In this period, France was more or less free to control the affairs of Savoy, which bound the Piedmont to the crown in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...


The Duchy's economy suffered during these years, not only because of war, but also because of the poor administration by Violante and the continued donations by Amadeus IX to the poor of Vercelli
Vercelli is a city and comune of about 47,000 inhabitants in the Province of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC.The city is situated on the river Sesia in the plain of the river...

. The future of the nation was entrusted to the hands of a boy, Philibert I, who died just at the age of seventeen, after ten years of reign. He was succeeded by Charles I
Charles I of Savoy
Charles I , surnamed the Warrior, was the Duke of Savoy from 1482 to 1490 and titular king of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Armenia from 1485 to 1490....

, whose ascent to the throne seemed to promise a rebirth of the country.

16th Century

When Philibert II died in 1504, he was succeeded by Charles III the Good, a rather weak duke. Since 1515, Piedmont was occupied by foreign armies, and Francis I of France
Francis I of France
Francis I was King of France from 1515 until his death. During his reign, huge cultural changes took place in France and he has been called France's original Renaissance monarch...

 was just waiting for the opportunity to permanently annex the duchy of Savoy and its possessions. In 1536 Francis I ordered the occupation of the Duchy, which was invaded by a strong military contingent: Charles III realized too late the weakness of the state, and tried to defend the city of Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

, however the city was lost on April 3 of the same year. Charles III retired in Vercelli
Vercelli is a city and comune of about 47,000 inhabitants in the Province of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC.The city is situated on the river Sesia in the plain of the river...

, trying to continue the fight, but never saw the state free from occupation.

Emmanuel Philibert was the Duke who more than any influenced the future policy Savoy, managing to put an end to the more than twenty-year long occupation. The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis which was signed in 1559, restored full autonomy for the duchy.

Realizing that it could not longer trust France as a land of conquest, the center of gravity, and the capital, was moved to Turin, which yielded better defense by promoting the construction of a complex system of fortifications, the Cittadella (which still can be observed, although it is largely destroyed by the subsequent expansion of the city). From his military experience in Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, Emmanuel Philibert was the winner of the famous Battle of St. Quentin
Battle of St. Quentin (1557)
The Battle of Saint-Quentin of 1557 was fought during the Franco-Habsburg War . The Spanish, who had regained the support of the English, won a significant victory over the French at Saint-Quentin, in northern France.- Battle :...

 as he had learned how to run an army. He was therefore the first Duke of Savoy to establish a stable military apparatus that was not formed by mercenaries, but by Piedmont specially trained soldiers.

His son, Charles Emmanuel I, extended the duchy to the detriment of the lordships of Monferrato and the territory of Saluzzo, previously ceded to France, in 1601 with the Treaty of Lyon
Treaty of Lyon (1601)
The Treaty of Lyon was signed on January 17, 1601 between France, Spain, and Savoy. Based on the terms of the treaty, Henry IV of France relinquished Saluzzo to Savoy. In return, he acquired Bugey, Valromey, Gex, and Bresse. Eventually, the territory of Bresse was attached to the French military...

. Unfortunately, the wars of Charles Emmanuel ended mostly in defeats, but he is however often remembered as "the Great", as he was a versatile and cultured man, poet and skillful reformer. He was able to manage the Duchy at a time of severe crisis with the European powers, finding support at the court of the Habsburgs. The policy of Charles Emmanuel was in fact more based on actions of international warfare, such as the possession of the Marquis of Saluzzo, and the wars of succession to the duchies of Mantua
Duchy of Mantua
The Duchy of Mantua was a duchy in Lombardy, Northern Italy, subject to the Holy Roman Empire.-History:After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Mantua was invaded by Byzantines, Longobards and Franks. In the 11th century it became a possession of Boniface of Canossa, marquis of Toscana...

 and Monferrato. Generally, Savoy sided, on these occasions, alongside Spain, but also on occasions fell back to follow the French (as, for example, the Treaty of Susa required).

17th Century

During the seventeenth century the influence of the court of Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 came to press on the Piedmont. The proximity of the Duchy of Milan
Duchy of Milan
The Duchy of Milan , was created on the 1st of may 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus. It was this diploma that installed, Gian Galeazzo as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia...

, where troops were stationed in France, and the disposal of Pinerolo
Pinerolo is a town and comune in north-western Italy, 40 kilometres southwest of Turin on the river Chisone.-History:In the Middle Ages, the town of Pinerolo was one of the main crossroads in Italy, and was therefore one of the principal fortresses of the dukes of Savoy. Its military importance...

 (one of the most important strongholds of Savoy), close to Turin. The court, which had been under Spanish influence with Charles Emmanuel I, became French under his three successors. The marriage of Vittorio Amedeo I with Maria Christina of Bourbon-France, the future Madame Royal. Cristina held the real power in Savoy during the short period of Francis Hyacinth and the young age of Charles Emmanuel II.

The strong French influence, plus various misfortunes repeatedly hit the Piedmont following the death of Charles Emmanuel II. First of all, the plague developed in 1630, contributed significantly to the already widespread poverty.

The Wars of Succession of Monferrato had been very bloody in the countryside and forced the Monferrato Castle to a long siege. These facts of arms and politics was hard to the economy and future history, exacerbating the already difficult situation after the death of Victor Amadeus I. He was succeeded for a short period of time, by the firstborn male Francis Hyacinth
Francis Hyacinth, Duke of Savoy
Francis Hyacinth was the Duke of Savoy from 1637 to 1638 under regency of his mother Marie Christine.-Biography:...

. The regency was then entrusted, to Carlo Emanuele II, from their mother Christine Marie of France
Christine Marie of France
Christine of France was the sister of Louis XIII and the Duchess of Savoy by marriage. At the death of her husband Victor Amadeus I in 1637, she acted as regent of Savoy between 1637 and 1648....

, whose followers took the name of Madame. Because of this, Savoy was turned into a satellite state of Louis XIII. The principles of Maurice of Savoy
Maurice of Savoy
Maurice of Savoy was a Prince of Savoy and an 17th century cardinal.-Life:He was the son of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain. Aged 14, in 1607, he became cardinal and bishop of Vercelli...

 and Prince Thomas Francis of Savoy, together with their followers, took the name of Principles.

The city of Turin was soon besieged by both factions. The principles won, making Turin subject to great looting on July 27, 1639. Only in 1642 it reached an agreement between the two factions, but now the widow of Victor Amadeus I had placed his son Charles Emmanuel II on the throne, and thus ruled in his place, even past his the age of the child.

During the regency, there was a resurgence of religious wars. In 1655, Savoyard troops massacred large numbers of the Protestant population of the Waldensian valleys, known as Pasque Piedmont, but were eventually stopped by international pressure
On the Late Massacre in Piedmont
On the Late Massacre in Piedmont is a sonnet by the English poet John Milton inspired by the massacre of Waldensians in Piedmont by the Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy in April 1655.-The sonnet:Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones...

. A final agreement with the Waldensians was carried out in 1664.

The government of Charles Emmanuel II was a first step towards major reforms by his successor and the next century. In particular, the creation of militias in Savoy and the first public school system in 1661. A cultured man, but also a great statesman, he was able to learn the lessons given to Europe by Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

. He wanted to limit this to the court in the sumptuous palace of Venaria Reale
Venaria Reale
Venaria Reale is a comune in the Province of Turin in the Italian region Piedmont, located about 8 km northwest of Turin....

, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture
Baroque architecture is a term used to describe the building style of the Baroque era, begun in late sixteenth century Italy, that took the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical and theatrical fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church and...

, and a recreation in Italy of the magnificence of the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles , or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French it is the Château de Versailles....

. It was the time of the great urban expansion, and Charles Emmanuel II promoted expansion of Turin and its reconstruction in the baroque style. At his death, he was followed by a period of regency held by the new Madama Reale Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy-Nemours.

From duchy to kingdom

The son of Charles Emmanuel II, Victor Amadeus II, was under the regency of his mother the French born Marie Jeanne of Savoy in the early years of the reign, in which the energetic mother tried to unite the crown of Savoy with the Portuguese, and thus in the risk of compromising the very survival of the duchy (the Piedmont would be reduced like the other Italian states to a foreign power). With determination by the hand of the regent Victor Amadeus II, Savoy went into bad relations with the crown in Paris, which led to the invasion of the duchy by French forces. Savoy defeated the army of Louis XIV in the Siege of Cuneo
Siege of Cuneo (1691)
The Siege of Cuneo was fought on 28 June 1691 during Nine Years' War in Piedmont-Savoy, modern-day northern Italy. The siege was part of King Louis XIV’s campaign against Victor Amadeus, the Duke of Savoy, who had sided with the Grand Alliance the previous year...

, but was dramatically defeated in the battles of Staffarda
Battle of Staffarda
The Battle of Staffarda was fought during Nine Years' War in Piedmont-Savoy, modern-day northern Italy, on 18 August 1690. The engagement was the first major encounter in the Italian theatre since Victor Amadeus, the Duke of Savoy, had joined the Grand Alliance in opposition to France earlier that...

 and Marsaglia
Battle of Marsaglia
The Battle of Marsaglia was a battle in the Nine Years' War, fought in Italy on 4 October 1693 between the French army of Marshal Nicolas Catinat and the Allied army of Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy ....

. Victor Amadeus II married Anne Marie d'Orléans, niece of Louis XIV.

After the War of the Great Alliance, Savoy sided in the first phase of the War of Spanish Succession alongside Louis XIV. By changing alliances a new French invasion of Savoy came, the troops of the Marquis of Fouillade was able to defeat troops of Savoy into Turin. The event, which succeeded only thanks to the arrival on the battlefield of the duke's cousin, Eugene of Savoy, resolved a conflict that spread destruction in Savoy.

At the end of the war in 1713, Savoy received Sicily, and Victor awarded the title of King besides the title of Duke of Savoy. According to the treaty of London of 1718, Victor Amadeus II exchanged Sicily for Sardinia in 1720. Sardinia was then changed into Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia
The Kingdom of Sardinia consisted of the island of Sardinia first as a part of the Crown of Aragon and subsequently the Spanish Empire , and second as a part of the composite state of the House of Savoy . Its capital was originally Cagliari, in the south of the island, and later Turin, on the...

. This newly formed country was called States of Savoy or Kingdom of Sardinia, it was composed of several states including Savoy, Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...

, Aosta Valley, Nice
County of Nice
The County of Nice or Niçard Country is a historical region of France, located in the south-eastern part, around the city of Nice.-History:Its territory lies between the Mediterranean Sea , Var River and the southernmost crest of the...

, Oneglia
Oneglia was a town in northern Italy on the Ligurian coast that was joined to Porto Maurizio to form the Comune of Imperia in 1923....

 and Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...


After the French revolution, Savoy was occupied by French revolutionary forces between 1792 and 1815. The country was first added to the département of Mont-Blanc, then in 1798 was divided between the départements of Mont-Blanc and Léman (French name of Lake Geneva). Savoy, along with Piedmont and Nice were restored to the States of Savoy at the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815.

In 1860, the Duchy of Savoy is annexed by France
Treaty of Turin
The Treaty of Turin concluded on March 24, 1860 is the instrument by which the Duchy of Savoy and the County of Nice were annexed to France.-Background:...

 and the last Duke of Savoy Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy becomes King of Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...


List of Dukes of Savoy

  • Amadeus VIII : 1391–1440, duke from 1416
  • Louis : 1440–65
  • Amadeus IX : 1465–72
  • Philibert I : 1472–82
  • Carlo I
    Charles I of Savoy
    Charles I , surnamed the Warrior, was the Duke of Savoy from 1482 to 1490 and titular king of Cyprus, Jerusalem, and Armenia from 1485 to 1490....

     : 1482–90
  • Charles (II) John Amadeus : 1490–96
  • Philip II : 1496–97
  • Philibert II : 1497–1504
  • Charles III : 1504–53
  • Emmanuel Philibert : 1553–80
  • Charles Emmanuel I : 1580–1630
  • Victor Amadeus I: 1630–37
  • Francis Hyacinth : 1637–38
  • Charles Emmanuel II : 1638–75
  • Victor Amadeus II : 1675–1730, King of Sicily 1713-1720, then King of Sardinia When the Duchy of Savoy acquired Sicily in 1713 and Sardinia in 1720, the title "Duke of Savoy" became a minor title face to the title of king. The Duchy of Savoy remained as administrative division of the new country until the provincial reform of King Charles Albert, then Savoy kept its sovereignty through the Senate but with few powers.
  • Charles Emmanuel III
    Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia
    Charles Emmanuel III was the Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia from 1730 until his death.-Biography:...

     : 1730–1773
  • Victor Amadeus III
    Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia
    Victor Amadeus III was King of Sardinia from 1773 until his death. Although he was politically conservative, he carried out numerous administrative reforms until declaring war on revolutionary France in 1792...

     : 1773–1796
  • Charles Emmanuel IV
    Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia
    Charles Emmanuel IV was King of Sardinia from 1796 to 1802. He abdicated in favour of his brother Victor Emmanuel I...

     : 1796–1802
  • Victor Emmanuel I
    Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia
    Victor Emmanuel I was the Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia from 1802 to 1821, and Jacobite Pretender from 1819 until his death.-Biography:...

     : 1802–1821
  • Charles Felix of Sardinia
    Charles Felix of Sardinia
    Charles Felix was the Duke of Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta and King of Sardinia from 1821 to 1831.-Early life:...

     : 1821-1831
  • Charles Albert of Sardinia
    Charles Albert of Sardinia
    Charles Albert was the King of Piedmont-Sardinia from 1831 to 1849. He succeeded his distant cousin Charles Felix, and his name is bound with the first Italian statute and the First War of Independence...

     : 1831-1849
  • Victor Emmanuel II
    Victor Emmanuel II of Italy
    Victor Emanuel II was king of Sardinia from 1849 and, on 17 March 1861, he assumed the title King of Italy to become the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century, a title he held until his death in 1878...

    : 1849-1860
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