Sunday, 12 February 2012

Head of Italy’s Royal Family turns 75

Prince Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, son of King Umberto II of Italy, and head of the Royal House of Savoy celebrates his 75th birthday today. He was born on 12th February 1937 in Naples to then Crown Princess Marie-José and Crown Prince Umberto of Italy. As a coincidence his wife, Princess Marina, Princess of Naples, née Marina Ricolfi-Doria, was also born on 12th February, but in 1935.

After the rigged referendum in May 1946, the newly proclaimed Italian republic sent the whole Royal Family into exile. For more then five decades the Savoy family lived in exile, mostly in Switzerland and Portugal, Prince Vittorio Emanuele lived with his mother in an estate in Merlinge, Switzerland. After his wedding in 1971, Prince Vittorio Emanuele, Princess Marina and their son, Prince Emanuele Filiberto, Prince of Venice and Piedmont, born in Geneva on 22nd June 1972, resided in Geneva, Switzerland.

For 56 years, Prince Vittorio Emanuele lobbied the Italian Parliament against the law prohibiting the return to his home country. In 1999, he filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights, in which the Prince charged that his lengthy exile violated his human rights. In September 2001, the court decided to hold a hearing on the case at a date later to be fixed.

In 2002 Prince Vittorio Emanuele dropped his case at the European Court of Human Rights and instead he and his son, Prince Emanuele Filiberto, wrote a signed letter, published through a law firm, in which they formally expressed their loyalty to the Constitution of Italy. On 23rd October 2002, the provision in the Constitution of Italy that prohibited Prince Vittorio Emanuele's return to Italy was repealed, after he signed an agreement recognizing the republic as the valid government of the state. Prince Vittorio Emanuele was permitted to re-enter the country from 10th November 2002. On 23rd December 2002 he made his first trip home in over half a century. On the one-day visit he, his wife and his son had a 20-minute audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

The position of Prince Vittorio Emanuele is also claimed by the head of a junior branch of the House of Savoy, his third cousin, Duke Amadeo of Aosta, born 27th September 1943. Duke Amadeo argues that his cousin was no longer eligible to call himself Prince of Savoy because he had failed to secure the legally-required permission of his father, King Umberto II, to marry a Swiss commoner.

The Duke also argued that Prince Vittorio Emanuele forfeited his right to the dynastic title because in order to be allowed to return to Italy from exile in 2002, Prince Victor Emmanuel had to formally recognise the Italian republic as the country's legitimate government. The Duke of Aosta and his family were not forced to go into exile, because the republic did not consider them to be in direct line to the throne, and they stayed in the bilingual autonomous region of Aosta, in the Italian North West. On 22nd July 1964 Duke Amedeo married Princess Claude of France (born 11th December 1943) in Sintra, Portugal. She was the ninth child and fifth daughter of Henri, comte de Paris, de iure King of France, and of Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza, de iure Queen of France.

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