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Headship of the House of Savoy
©2006, 2009 L. Mendola

Grand arms of the House of Savoy.An Italian's worst enemy is usually another Italian. Sadly, it's often too easy to turn one Italian against another with minimal effort, perhaps using what may seem to outsiders like an arcane, ridiculous argument. The worst case in modern collective memory was the "civil war" fought between Fascists and Partisans from September 1943 to April 1945, effectively a mini-war within the Second World War and a convenient excuse for one Italian to kill another. For most of those involved, the underlying pretext was anything but what was stated. Of course, that wasn't the only little war ever fought between Italians. Italian families --even royal ones-- are as factious as Italy's eclectic politics. Parenti serpenti!

On 7 July 2006 HRH Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta, supported by several members of the Savoy family and by outspoken exponents of two quasi-official organisations associated with his dynasty, declared himself the legal successor of King Umberto II of Italy (who died in exile in 1983). In his declaration and several statements issued with it he states that he, and not his third cousin (Prince Vittorio Emanuele, Duke of Savoy), is the Head of the Royal House of Savoy, asserting that Vittorio Emanuele, only son of King Umberto II, was excluded from the succession based on certain principles of dynastic law (about which more below).

Consistent with this reasoning, he further states that Prince Emanuele Filiberto, son of Vittorio Emanuele, is excluded from the line of succession, and that any official royal act undertaken by Vittorio Emanuele since succeeding His Majesty King Umberto II, including changes to the statutes of the dynastic orders of chivalry and bestowal of honours (investiture of knights and dames), in these is illegal ipso facto, and not to be "recognised." Amedeo has charged his son and heir, Prince Aimone, with the task of "reorganising" the dynastic orders of chivalry. The Duke of Aosta has "assumed" the rank and title "Duke of Savoy," reserved to the head of the dynasty, and explained that he waited decades to make his claim in order not to hinder the Italian Republic's lifting of his cousins' exile, which finally took place in 2002, and because he felt that certain conditions now necessitated this drastic decision. (Conveniently, the much-delayed announcement of Amedeo's claim avoided possible contestation by the late Eugenio of Savoy, Duke of Genoa; it also avoided potential contestation by the late Queen of Italy and by Umberto's Minister of the Royal Household, also now deceased.) By any measure, the existence of rival claimants to headship of one of Europe's oldest dynasties is most unfortunate.

The Head of the House of Savoy since 1983 has been, and remains, Vittorio Emanuele di Savoia (Victor Emmanuel of Savoy). I shall succinctly, but with reasonable completeness, present the reasons for this. These principles are based on actual circumstances and dynastic law rather than questions of personality or alleged events. This article is published independently and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Royal House of Savoy or the Grand Master of its orders of chivalry. Patrilineal genealogy of the House of Savoy.It is not intended as a dynastic history. The most complete history of the House of Savoy is Francesco Cognasso's monumental volume I Savoia (unfortunately never published in English). In English there is Denis Mack Smith's Italy and Its Monarchy and Robert Katz's Fall of the House of Savoy, both factually accurate if slightly biased in tone. Amedeo of Aosta's autobiographical In Nome del Re (1986) should be read critically. It is not the author's intention to attack Prince Amedeo of Aosta (who he has met); resolution of a dynastic dispute can only be resolved within the royal family.

This essay succinctly sets forth, in simplest terms, the reasons for the dispute, but it also seeks to explain why this kind of dispute attracts much more attention than it merits, and from which quarters.

Background of the Royal Exile
Dynastic Laws and Succession
Citizenship in the Republic
Quasi-Official Bodies
Subcultural Warriors

Background of the Royal Exile
Umberto II reigned briefly following his father's abdication in 1946 and in June of that year was exiled in connection with the referendum establishing the Italian Republic. The 1948 Constitution included an article imposing this exile of the son and other male descendants of the late King of Italy (Vittorio Emanuele III died in exile in Egypt in 1947) as a "transitory" measure which was not repealed until 2002.

King Umberto resided in Portugal during much of his exile, and played an avuncular role in the life of Amedeo, who, like the princes in the line of the Dukes of Genoa (see chart) was allowed to reside in Italy. (The line of the Dukes of Genoa has been extinct since 1996 but under the laws of the Kingdom of Italy the Dukes of Aosta, as descendants of the first King of Italy, actually took precedence over them in the line of succession.) Vittorio Emanuele and his sisters were raised and schooled in Switzerland.

Outside Italy King Umberto II is usually viewed as little more than a footnote to history. He willed the Shroud of Turin, the trust of his family for centuries, to the Catholic Church upon his death, and in fact his wartime sympathies could be described, if with some equivocation, as essentially anti-Fascist (he is thought to have opposed certain of the laws his father was persuaded or constrained to sign). In the end he fully supported the Allies and the cause of liberation. In his own nation he was widely liked; the referendum of 1946 passed only narrowly, and probably with questionable balloting in some quarters.

Dynastic Laws and Succession
In the eleventh century, when the Normans ruled England and half of Italy, the House of Savoy emerged as a family of feudal knights and then counts who guarded important Alpine passes in the interest of the Holy Roman Emperor. From Chambery they established themselves at Turin in the sixteenth century and "Italianised" themselves in language and customs. Early in the eighteenth century the Dukes of Savoy were elevated to the rank of kings (of Sicily and then Sardinia) and between 1848 and 1870 they were a cornerstone of Italian unification. Salic Law has always governed succession and, despite a certain sympathy to Waldensians and Jews (and notwithstanding the occasional excommunication), the dynasty has always been Roman Catholic.

The crux of Amedeo's claim rests with the supposed lacking royal recognition (by King Umberto II) of Vittorio Emanuele's marriage to Marina Ricolfi Doria, a lady of Italian-Swiss ancestry. A number of dynastic laws, some decreed during the twentieth century, make it clear that the prior consent of the king (or dynastic head) is necessary for a prince's marriage to be dynastically valid. In the past even royal princesses requested such permission (of course until the 1940s most royal unions were arranged by parental consent), but Salic Law dictates that all dynasts in the House of Savoy are male; there may be a queen consort but not a reigning queen, as succession is through princes. The laws most often cited are the royal letters patent of 1780 and 1782, which mention that a royal marriage must be "equal" (i.e. a union of the dynast to another royal) to obtain royal consent, and the Italian Civil Code of 1865, 1890 and 1942. The part of the older laws regarding equal marriages was abandoned by the most recent one, but as there was no 'test' via a dynastic marriage (of a male Savoy dynast) between 1943 and abolition of the monarchy in 1946 the matter was effectively moot until Vittorio Emanuele's engagement decades later. The requirement is not explicitly mentioned in the most recent version of the Civil Code of the Kingdom of Italy (1942) relevant to monarchical headship and royal succession. (In Spain, by way of parallel example, this principle no longer exists; in the matter of suitability of his potential spouse Prince Felipe legally had need only of the sovereign's consent to wed, notwithstanding the history, aristocratic or otherwise, of his betrothed's family.)

The condition requiring that the spouse be Roman Catholic probably would have been retained for some years, at least into the 1980s when Italy decided that henceforth there would be no state religion. (Elena Petrovich of Montenegro converted from Orthodoxy to wed Vittorio Emanuele III.)

At all events, the statutes make it clear that dynasts whose marital unions do not receive prior royal consent are excluded from the line of succession; in practice a royal decree of some kind would be issued to confirm this exclusion. It was never simply "automatic" (in the true sense of that word), as some have claimed. The condition of prior consent is pertinent here. Vittorio Emanuele's civil marriages to Marina Doria (in Las Vegas and Geneva) did not enjoy prior approval by King Umberto II. However, following the Catholic wedding in Iran (attended by Queen Maria Jose though not King Umberto), the King and Queen attended festivities in Switzerland marking the occasion. Later, they were godparents of Emanuele Filiberto, who the King made Prince of Venice. Would he have done so if the line of his only son (and heir apparent) werePrince Vittorio Emanuele with his consort, Princess Marina. to be excluded from the succession? What is more, no formal declaration in the matter was made, either pro or contro, by King Umberto II. Based on his subsequent actions, while it is clear that King Umberto initially may have entertained certain reservations about his son's marriage (demonstrated by correspondence), it is apparent that he did not thereby intend to exclude his son from the line of succession. Given the content and tone of the king's letters, it seems that he may not have been completely aware that the requirement of "equal" rank was no longer part of Italian dynastic law, and indeed he may have lacked up-to-date legal advice in this regard. As mentioned above, there had been no marriage since 1946 to establish this precedent based on recent law.

It is not entirely accurate to assert that transmission to Amedeo of a privileged precedence in the dynastic succession would be "automatic" based on an alleged defect (in dynastic law) of Vittorio Emanuele's marriage. Apart from the King possibly having been mistaken regarding application, after 1942, of the equal marriage principle, no case is known in the House of Savoy, going back to 1780, of an automatic act unconfirmed by a royal decree, motu proprio, order, rescript or other declaration having ever taken effect in the case of exclusion of a dynast from the succession. That said, the entire situation would have been less muddled had King Umberto issued a statement formally recognising his married son's position.

What if the principle of equal marriages had remained in force legally but Umberto approved his son's 'unequal' union anyway? One imagines that, following the King's death, somebody might have contested both Vittorio Emanuele's dynastic position and King Umberto's consent. This really is not simply a question of personalities but also of circumstance.

Falcone Lucifero was Minister of the Royal Household in the last days of the Kingdom of Italy and during King Umberto's long exile. He outlived the King and never made any public statement against Prince Vittorio Emanuele or in support of Prince Amedeo as head of the dynasty. The last will and testament of the King makes no mention of it. The late Queen Maria Jose also (at all events understandably) acknowledged that her son was head of the dynasty, and this does not seem to have been mere maternal partiality. In other words, there is no evidence to support the thesis that in 1983 the succession might have been transmitted to anybody other than Prince Vittorio Emanuele.

The lack of a formal decree, the King's apparent acceptance (albeit after the fact) of Vittorio Emanuele's marriage, and the subsequent (contemporary) acceptance of Vittorio Emanuele's 1983 succession by all concerned, are the principal reasons for continued support of Vittorio Emanuele by many monarchists, historians and others.

It is known that Prince Amedeo enjoyed a good rapport with King Umberto, but there is no clear indication that the latter ever moved to exclude his own son from the succession, despite some vaguely-worded passages in private correspondence which are sometimes construed to that effect, and notwithstanding that Vittorio Emanuele was not named an executor of the King's estate. The mother of Amedeo's son (Aimone) is Claudia of France, and prior royal consent was granted by Umberto, so no succession problem arises there. Amedeo's interpretation of dynastic law has been known to many of us for two decades; it is explained in his book published in Italy in 1986 and the relevant facts are even mentioned in Katz's book, published in 1971 while the King was still alive.

That said, there is no question that Amedeo is indeed second in the line of succession (after Emanuele Filiberto) to headship of the dynasty. Aimone, Amedeo's son, is third; Aimone's own young son (Umberto), born in 2009, is fourth. It is obvious that Vittorio Emanuele has no authority to expel his cousin from the dynasty.

Citizenship and the Republic
Vittorio Emanuele and his son, Emanuele Filiberto, in statements issued before their entry into Italy from exile, expressed their recognition of the Italian Republic and their support of its sovereignty and authority, referring to "our president." No surprise, as this was to be the source of their Italian passports, though the statement was criticised by many as unnecessary because it was never asked of other citizens seeking passports or other rights. Amedeo swore loyalty to the Republic (with Umberto's approval) when he joined the Italian Navy, so it is contradictory to claim that the Duke of Savoy thereby compromised his dynastic position while his cousin did not. This issue really is not very important. The Kingdom of Italy no longer exists to issue passports.

Quasi-Official Bodies
Prince Amedeo's formal declarations explicitly mention a specific quasi-official body, and some supporting statements mention a second. It so happens that both were established in the mid-1950s under King Umberto's auspices but neither enjoys any official role in the function of the dynasty. A third, the family council, is also discussed here.

The Consulta dei Senatori del Regno was a kind of "shadow cabinet" (more precisely a shadow senate) distinguished from the British model by its utter uselessness. Initially, it was composed of dozens of retired or serving men (Italian women couldn't even vote until the 1946 referendum), mostly senators and a few deputies --later the occasional scholar-- who had actually served in theSenate of the Kingdom of Italy and supported the monarchy's re-establishment, or at least its principles. (In the Kingdom of Italy Senators were appointed by the Crown; deputies were elected.) The Consulta's role was just that: consultative. It was never intended to act as a "king maker" and for the thousand years that the Savoys ruled various dominions (beginning as humble counts of Savoy and ending up as kings of Italy) nothing quite like it was ever deemed necessary because there were, if anything, real senates at the monarchs' disposal. Prince Vittorio Emanuele dissolved it once he was permitted entry into Italy. It seems to have "re-constituted" itself, but the original "senators" are long gone. By the time of Umberto's death, it was essentially an honorary society of loyalists and royalists.

The Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana ostensibly sought to control the use and abuse of titles of nobility in Italy. Of course it had no real legal power, as the new constitution declared nobiliary titles unrecognised (except for use of "predicati" or territorial designations in certain cases). Bogus titles and claims abound in Italy, as elsewhere. The private organisation Collegio Araldico, which publishes the equally unofficial Libro d'Oro, might rely on a finding of the Corpo della Nobiltà, but before long all manner of fantastic "nobles" and their family "histories" were being "recognised." In Italy the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, conversely, relied on its own determinations in these matters, and in the past these were usually reasonably faithful to actual history. By the 1970s, the Corpo della Nobiltà was plagued by problems with which the Consulta Araldica del Regno (Royal College of Arms), until 1948 part of the Interior Ministry, rarely ever had to contend. In the last few years a vocal element in the Corpo della Nobiltà has supported Amedeo's subtle (and now overt) claim to dynastic headship, but they cannot be said to speak for the Italian nobility as a group. In medieval England, King John's barons persuaded him to grant Magna Carta under implicit threat of deposition, but he was a reigning monarch and the barons exercised genuine military and economic power; nobody in Italy has the practical authority to force a man to renounce his identity or incorporeal rights, be they his coat of arms, title of nobility or headship of a royal dynasty.

In addition to Collegio Araldico's book (the blue Libro d'Oro), a "red book," the Annuario della Nobiltà Italiana is published in Piedmont in the tradition of the Crollalanza family (Italian heraldists). This was first published in 1879, long before the Libro d'Oro, and in certain respects is perhaps more reliable, if no more complete.

What is pathetic is how proponents of both Vittorio Emanuele and Amedeo are trying to get "their" Savoy listed as head of the dynasty in these books, as if this could somehow influence history or reality. Here our Savoys are hardly alone. There's some of the same kind of thing from suporters of Carlo Bourbon (son of the late Prince Ferdinando) versus his cousin, Infante Carlos, regarding headship of the House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, an equally unpleasant matter.

It's amazing how many "ordinary" Italians try to get their names inscribed in these two nobiliary directories, and how many actually manage to do so. What is even more bizarre is reading the historically-questionable entries of upstarts who seem to have supplanted those of Italians genuinely descended in the male line from noblemen --the kind of aristocrats who live in palatial ancestral homes bearing sculpted coats of arms above the baroque entrances to internal courtyards. The upstarts to which I refer are not recent ennoblements (such as the creations of King Umberto II in exile) but people whose "nobility" has been "recognised" by one of the two Constantinian Orders of Saint George (bestowed by one of the two branches of the House of the Two Sicilies) or by the Order of Malta, perhaps through falsified documentation. Why is this important to our discussion? Partly because the positions of both Vittorio Emanuele and Amedeo are theoretically strengthened by the support of "the nobility," which here in Italy is rarely very noble in any sense, and partly because the attacks by the "kingmakers" in each camp are so frequently based on destroying the credibility of nobiliary claims asserted by those on the other side.

Here one of the techniques used by supporters of one dynastic claimant or the other is to personally attack the "social" positions of those in the opposing camp. What I have seen (on both sides) reflects nothing less than profound ignorance of history and nobiliary law. This is by no means just a question of which families were officially recognised before 1948, for in such an ancient land historical fact transcends the short-lived Kingdom of Italy --and the Order of Malta, for one, regularly makes its own determinations as to postulants' lineages. As but a single example of the complexities involved in such matters, one of the many problems in ascertaining noble ancestry among Italians is that untitled nobility was rarely recognised in a formal way in the Kingdom of Italy, and is often overlooked by the more zealous, or jealous, heraldic "scholars" today. Yet as recently as the eighteenth century sovereigns such as Carlo de Bourbon of Naples and Sicily (later Carlos III of Spain) decreed that gentlemen whose names were inscribed in Sicily's various mastre nobili of armigerous giurati (aldermen on local administrative councils) were to be recognised in every legal sense, and without further need of confirmation, as nobles of the Kingdom of Sicily. Unfortunately, certain would-be kingmakers and heraldic "experts" are ignorant of such facts. (As no post-medieval mastra nobile in Sicily has been published these may only be consulted in manuscript.) Given this, one can well imagine the reliability of the kingmakers' interpretations of dynastic law. The more important question of historical revisionism is mentioned further on (see 'kingmakers').

The point is that in certain ways the Savoys, thanks largely to their respective supporters, have fallen prey to the social ills which plague many Italian families, whether it's a dispute over a noble title or a battle over a tiny parcel of useless land. There was a recent case, for example, in which the heir to an Italian noble title challenged a cousin in court for using the same 'predicato' (i.e. 'di something' after his surname), though the latter, as a male-line descendant of the same grandfather, clearly had the legal right to do so. Such rubbish makes a mockery of history.

The Family Council mentioned by Amedeo may be an efficient means of permitting all members of the Savoy family, princesses as well as princes and even non-dynasts (such as the sons of Savoy princesses; Maria Pia's children appertain to the Royal House of Yugoslavia), to participate in dynastic affairs, but it has no precedent in western European dynastic history as a juridical or administrative entity. That said, family support is perhaps more important in non-regnant dynasties than in reigning ones, often as a kind of "witness" to events (such as the fact cited above that Vittorio Emanuele's siblings and cousins did not oppose his succession in 1983), but formalising it in this way gives the impression of support which may be misleading.

In addition to these three quasi-official organisations, there were several monarchist associations, each with its own political or social agenda. After Vittorio Emanuele signed a statement recognising the Italian Republic's right to exist and declaring his loyalty to it, he stated that the material need for monarchist groups did not exist except for purely cultural purposes. Outside Italy, certain Armenian historians and aristocrats regard the Savoys as their royal dynasty de jure.

Unfortunately, a number of non-regnant royal families are divided by dynastic disputes. Those of France, Russia and the Two Sicilies (Bourbons of Naples) readily come to mind. As no authority is empowered to adjudicate such a dispute, these often span generations. Headship disputes may indeed be a normal symptom that plagues royal families which no longer reign, much like the frequent disputes over nobiliary titles between brothers or cousins whose country is no longer a monarchy. As regards the House of Savoy, while an outsider may entertain an opinion, it is important to bear in mind that the present dispute can only be settled in familias. Under present circumstances, it seems unlikely that the Savoyard orders of chivalry will be recognised officially by the Italian government any time soon. These should be considered a special bond between knights (and dames) and the Duke of Savoy. In some dynastic disputes supporters of one dynast or the other have become particularly venomous in their attacks on those supportive of the opposing claimant. Initially, it was hoped that this might have been avoided out of respect for the Savoy family. Unfortunately, that is rarely possible when the "kingmakers" begin making their own views known to all and sundry.

One is struck by what has happened here in Italy since Amedeo's declaration in 2006. On the advice of lawyers, Vittorio Emanuele has undertaken a legal challenge in Italian courts to prevent Amedeo's use of the surname 'Savoia.' This motion was ridiculed by historians and, of course, ruled against by the judges. A threatened claim for financial compensation from the Italian government for the decades of exile found little popular support among Italians before being dropped, but in its wake Amedeo "defeated" his cousin in a popularity survey taken during a well-watched television chat show. This was not long after the same show made the first public announcement that Amedeo had recently fathered the child of a Dutch woman, who later gave birth to his daughter. Amedeo is married to a Sicilian noblewoman. I should mention that none of these things is a secret; all were mentioned in the Italian press or broadcast on television. This included Amedeo's on-air debate with a representative of Vittorio Emanuele, who his "heraldic experts" later accused of using a familial territorial designation (predicato) without authority. Much more could be said but it is not my intention to descend to the level of mud-slinging of which I accuse others.

Here I will briefly describe two incidents (again, reported in Italy) for the sake of transparency. In 2004, before Amedeo's open contestation of Vittorio Emanuele's position, the two princes came to blows at a reception in Madrid for the wedding of Prince Felipe. Although alcohol consumption was involved, the incident seemed to stem from the long-simmering dispute related to succession. We can joke about Italian family feuds --reflected in sayings like 'parenti serpenti' and that sort of thing-- but the spectacle of two large, middle-aged men taking part in such an incident in the presence of their petit wives, and dozens of guests, is not a very pretty sight. More recently, there was the opening reception of Venaria Reale, a Savoyard hunting lodge ten kilometers outside Turin, as a museum. It was made clear to the directors that Vittorio and Marina would have to enter from a door far from that used by Amedeo and Silvia, and that the two couples must not meet each other.

Both princes, Vittorio Emanuele and Amedeo, are to some degree ill-served by certain supporters whose principal objectives are based more on social climbing than on much else. Naturally such a thesis cannot be proven in every proponent's case, but one must wonder how many of these people would place any of their own personal interests (not to say their very lives) at risk to materially support the Savoys under less favorable circumstances. It's easy to take a monarchist or royalist position, especially in a free and democratic society, when there is little social or physical risk in doing so as there is in (for example) Tibet. In fact, Italy is extremely free in matters of public expression; those of royal or (titled) aristocratic families really haven't much to lament so far as their treatment is concerned simply because their titles are not recognised officially or because somebody doesn't address them as 'Principe' or 'Conte.' Far more punitive, and of far greater concern, is Italian inheritance law, which divides property, including familial palaces, equally among all male and female descendants so that the heir to a title of nobility does not necessarily inherit an entire estate.

As ugly as the long-running Two Sicilies dispute has been, with certain "kingmakers" taking their silly little "war" wherever they could find an audience --as far afield as the United States-- it has never reached quite this boiling point. Incidentally, though Amedeo is in the Constantinian Order of Carlo di Borbone, Duke of Castro (son of the late Ferdinando), his camp followers include a number of "Constantinian knights" of the order bestowed by Infante Carlos of Spain. So unpleasant were some of these men when present at Savoy events before 2006, often attempting to "recruit" knights of Saints Maurice and Lazarus to their patron's Constantinian Order, that I was actually happy to see them leave for Amedeo's camp. They were one of the elements of the Savoy environment that I had always found distasteful. Closer to Savoyard jurisdiction, Amedeo is considering which of Vittorio Emanuele's knights (since 1983) he will "recognise," and at some point he will begin to bestow honours, and recognise nobiliary claims, himself.

One could be forgiven for observing that those now in Amedeo's camp who formerly supported Vittorio Emanuele --until doing so came to be seen as somehow unfashionable-- now seem disloyal, especially those who are knights of the dynasty's orders. This may not be very remarkable in a nation boasting one of western Europe's highest rates of marital infidelity, and where (according to some recent EU surveys) adults read fewer books per capita per annum than those of most European Union countries. However, it does seem to reflect certain longstanding Italian habits: in families, in politics, in business, on the battlefield. Anybody who doubts this should come spend a year or two living and working in Italy, perhaps beginning his "study abroad" by reading Tobias Jones's Dark Heart of Italy.

It is comical to hear accusations that persons invested in dynastic orders by Vittorio Emanuele are all "social climbers" when, in fact, many have also been decorated by sovereign governments (in some cases, like Amedeo himself, by the Order of Malta) or are the legitimate heirs to Italian or other European nobiliary titles, or descended from legitimate (if perhaps untitled) members of Europe's armigerous gentry. These hardly seem like the kind of people who "need" social validation from a non-reigning prince.

Having mentioned all this for the purpose of clarity in explaining what fuels the engine of this dispute, I would be remiss if I didn't reiterate that in the twenty-first century dynastic law, rather than personalities, forms the basis of determining who would be king, even if no competent court exists to resolve disputes. The Holy See would not arbitrate unless asked to do so, and this is highly unlikely nowadays. Neither the heads of other royal families nor the the European Union or Italian courts, nor the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, wish to play the role of kingmaker, but a number of men (not all of them Italian) would be more than happy to do so...

The fact that there is no court empowered to resolve a familial dispute in a non-regnant dynasty has never discouraged certain fanatics from trying. It's one thing to write a clear legal opinion or historical thesis, but quite another to become so obsessed with the matter that it becomes a compulsive activity in which personal attacks are made on the dynasts themselves or their proponents, with verbal or published debates sought at every opportunity. This is the order of the day. European dynastic pretenders often become the object of bizarre obsessions by royalty-watchers, hangers-on and social climbers. While it may be rather rare to meet the kingmakers face to face, they find fertile gound on the Web, particularly in blogs and on message boards, and occasionally in Italy's insatiable tabloid press. The gossip can become malicious, particularly when its focus strays from facts, history, legal considerations and public events into the realm of the more personal and subjective, taking aim, explicitly and by name, at anybody who holds a view contrary to that of the kingmaker.

Amedeo's more adamant supporters have no monopoly on this behaviour; the comportment of some of Vittorio Emanuele's advocates is equally distasteful. A few "Amedeists" have conveniently claimed prior ignorance (until 2006) of certain facts and relevant events which I have known for over twenty years. In so doing they implicitly acknowledge my superiority of knowledge in these arcane matters; one such person, a would-be kingmaker whose specialty is defamation of people decorated with orders of which he "disapproves," is a member of Amedeo's "secret" commission established to decide which of Vittorio Emanuele's knights are to be deemed "worthy" of recognition by Amedeo. No doubt any knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus invested after 1983 who remains loyal to Vittorio Emanuele will then be denounced as a "fraud" or "impostor" or worse! (Any normal person reading this will be forgiven for laughing out loud at this point --if he hasn't already.)

Beyond the more esoteric kingmakers' tasks of deciding, at least for themselves, who is or isn't an aristocrat in the Kingdom of Italy (sorry, for a moment I forgot that it's now known as the "Italian Republic"), generalised revisionist history advanced, particularly but not exclusively, by some of Amedeo's more vocal monarchist proponents is disturbing because it is part of an artificial "world" surrounding the royal family that is completely divorced from reality. The kingmakers' "creative" versions of the history of the Risorgimento (1848-1870), Fascism (1922-1945) and other movements make one wonder why any of the Savoys even associate with these people. Worse, the revisionism is misleading to younger generations of Italians, for there exists no piece of paper, book or website that can change the facts of our country's horrific civilian deaths and self-destructive military disasters --sometimes at the hands of other Italians. The sad fact is that even after the death of the last King of Italy all the monarchist organisations attract more than their share of revisionists, aspirants to "nobility" and not a few neo-Fascists looking to a royal prince for social validation. Very few Italian monarchists can even read English well enough to understand the words you are reading right now; to call the education of such people mediocre would be a generous gesture indeed, for in many cases their learning is so minimal as to be almost lacking entirely.

The gatehouse of Castello al Mare in Palermo.Leaving aside the number of deaths incurred by the wars that ended in 1861 and 1945, which remain "intangible" to most people, I would like to describe one of the numerous tangible examples of the philistinism which is typical of many (if not most) of the poorly-educated Savoyard monarchists. Shown here is the gatehouse of the seaside castle (Castello al Mare) erected in Palermo during the Norman era (twelfth century), supplanting parts of an older (Arab) structure. The remains of a large round tower (not unlike that of Windsor Castle, another Norman structure), part of a curtain wall and a moat are also preserved at this site. Until 1860, when Savoy supporters were allowed to destroy much of the castle, the entire fortress stood here. Then, in 1922, the national Fascist government ordered its complete destruction. When this was almost complete, in 1923, the voices of a few intellectuals, architects and historians were finally heard and the wrecking ceased. Granted that certain of today's Italian monarchists and kingmakers may actually like castles, were their ancestors opposed to the more destructive policies of the Unification (Risorgimento) and Fascist movements? Don't make me laugh. While my own family, as a matter of historical fact, actively opposed both movements, that was not true of most Italians, the majority of whom (in 1860) couldn't even read and write and (in 1922) simply did what the regime told them to do; many of their descendants are poorly educated about the facts of Fascism, which only now are beginning to be taught in Italian schools. To those outside Italy this may seem an esoteric point, but the entire issue of Italian monarchism (and related issues such as claims to dynastic headship) are esoteric. I would add, however, that there's nothing esoteric about a young Italian who knows less (if indeed anything at all) about the wars in Libya and Ethiopia, or the Second World War, than a foreigner of the same generation. That's when such ignorance is no longer something to be laughted at.

As I mentioned earlier, the Consulta dei Senatori del Regno was never meant to decide who would (or could) be king of Italy, and it is not up to any single, self-appointed group to re-write history. That said, it is understandable that the Savoys, even moreso than most families, would wish to preserve the knowledge of their history and traditions. Here I take issue not with their right to do so, but with the way in which they allow others to act on their behalf. I also question their choice of representatives, advisors and pseudo-heralds.

How times have changed. In the Middle Ages two feuding princes would do battle at the heads of armies of real knights, not a bunch of Italian social climbers whose own fathers literally fled from the Americans and Brits instead of defending their families and their country's sovereign territory (in Sicily in 1943). As I said earlier (in 'Honour' above), loyalty is too rarely an Italian's strong suit when it entails genuine risk, even if there are occasional exceptions. The Battle of Benevento (1266), to cite just one medieval example, determined the fate of Italy for centuries, sweeping away the Hohenstaufens in favour of the Angevins and consolidating Papal power. In those days nobody concerned himself obsessively with documents and claims unless these could be backed up with actions. The pen had not yet proven mightier than the sword; even the threat of excommunication and interdict failed to tame monarchs such as Frederick II.

Subcultural Warriors
Particularly --perhaps ironically-- in the United States, there are lineage societies (with membership based on descent from certain people over at least a few generations) and ethnocentric organisations ("Italian-Americans" and so forth), as distinguished from social, cultural and charitable clubs and organisations having broader admission criteria based on common interest or experience (sports, arts, cuisine, hobbies, professions, military, religion, school affiliation, etc.). While military-religious and dynastic orders of chivalry cannot be placed in any of these categories, they appeal to many rational persons who value history and tradition but, unfortunately, many less rational ones seeking social validation of some kind, exemplified by wearing a fancy "gong." In any field of interest there are those inclined to form for themselves a sub-group within the larger group, and others who desire ever greater importance or prominence. The Order of Malta, the best-known of the military-religious knightly orders, used to be described by journalists as "arcane" or secretive, even though it was no moreso than any gentlemen's club in London or New York. It is true that that order was once exclusively aristocratic, this based on a tradition dating, literally, from the eleventh century, so entry was rather restricted. This has changed somewhat, however.

The point is that a gentleman should not boast (or feel the need to) about his own decorations, honours, affiliations or ancestry, and certainly not of his assistance to those less fortunate. That a knight of Malta would not desire (or need) to explain his actions to outsiders struck the curious as unusual when members of the Red Cross and other organisations were more than happy to do so. Unpleasant as dynastic disputes are, it is the overzealous camp followers and certain "knights" who have fostered a wide resentment that has marked the environment with hatred and lunacy. Until the early 1990s they were fewer in number, but they seem to have proliferated with the increase in internet use and greater social networking in general. Were it not for the more eccentric, obsessive "supporters" of this or that dynastic claimant, these disputes would remain merely academic or esoteric, as perhaps they should be; at the very least there would be less hate mail and defamation on the web and elsewhere.

So, regardless of which dynastic pretender they support in the Savoyard or any other dispute, we are left with two broad categories: the gentleman and the fanatic. The fanatics have often exploited the fact that the gentlemen, acting out of a sense of dignity and perhaps true chivalry, and not being obsessive "one-issue wackos," refuse to engage their misinformation and tirades directly. That's why, to an outsider, it may seem that one side is "winning" the war of words (or the tempest in the teapot) when, in fact, nobody ever really wins. As in many cases, it would be unfortunate to judge the entire field of activity by the actions of a few eccentrics.

Let's remember that subcultures, however noble, useful or self-important, don't represent the world at large, which some of us still prefer to think of as the "real world."

Parting Thoughts
Few of us have much time to spend engaging in running debates regarding purely hypothetical kingship when we should be working, raising families or pursuing other productive activities. As to Italy's monarchists and other kingmakers, it is unfortunate that they represent a tiny minority view among Italians yet exercise considerable influence in Savoyard circles. Don't expect these low-budget kingmakers and fanatics to be presiding over any coronations (in Italy or anyplace else) any time soon. Theirs is a tempest in a non-reigning teapot. There is no crown in sight.

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