|House of Savoy Coat of Arms|
|Duke Amadeus VII of Savoy|
|Kingdom of Sardinia (in perspective)|
|Duchy of Piedmont-Savoy with Kingdom of Sardinia imprinted|
|King Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia|
Then Napoleon came. He defeated Piedmont handedly and forced Savoy to sign a treaty allowing them to march right on through Savoy without trouble. It sucked to be Italy in 1796. Two years later, Duke-King Charles Emmanuel IV was forced out of office and the duchy-kingdom was dissolved by French invasion. Sardinia remained nominally a French vassal state but it avoided any further conflict with France. When the war ended in 1814, Savoy returned to the stage, got all its former lands back, and was enlarged with the addition of its eastern Republican neighbor, Genoa. But Savoy decided to play it safe for a while and avoided angering anyone else. The Congress of Vienna had established it as a buffer state between angst-ridden post-Napoleonic France and the increasingly revolutionary Austro-Italian states.
The Revolutions of 1848 were too much for Savoy and the country finally broke, but not in an expected way. Giuseppe Mazzini was fighting for a unified Italy and he looked on Sardinia, the largest entirely independent state, as its leader. Count Camillo Benso di Cavour was the new Sardinian Prime Minister under Duke-King Victor Immanuel II and Cavour was very pro-unification. He influenced Victor Immanuel to join against Russia in the Crimean War, bringing combat experience to the Savoyard people and reminding the other European states that Savoy still was in the game. In 1859, Savoy joined with France to expel Austria and the Bourbons from Italy. The so-called Austro-Sardinian War was short and decisive, with Italy conquering the entirety of northern Italy except Venice, which remained an Austrian possession. The next year, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was conquered, as well as most of the Papal States except Rome. A new Kingdom of Italy was declared on March 17, 1861, with Victor Emmanuel being crowned king. The House of Savoy had reached its zenith.
|King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy|
As a final aside to the story of the family, two members of the family were granted lands outside of the traditional Savoyard inheritance. Amadeo, son of Victor Emmanuel II, was elected King of Spain in 1870 following the deposition of Queen Isabella II. Unfortunately, the primary person backing his elevation was assassinated soon after and the country fell into a nightmare of a situation. After three terrible years of rule, Amadeo abdicated, declaring to the Spanish Parliament that the country was ungovernable. Amadeo's grandson, Aimone, was chosen in 1941 by the fascist puppet government of Croatia to rule the titular state under the name King Tomislav II. The funny thing is: Aimone was afraid to go to Croatia due to various disputes the state had with Italy, especially recent territorial acquisitions made at their expense. Thus, Aimone never actually ruled IN Croatia and was viewed by the majority of the populace as a relatively powerless figurehead. He abdicated in 1943 soon after Mussolini was removed from power in Italy.
And so you have the House of Savoy, the only "native" ruling kingdom in Italy during much of the Early Modern Era and the eventual unifier of Italy, even if the house itself ceased to rule it sixty-four years ago.