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Starting government: Liberalism
Turin; Florence; Rome
Perhaps one of the most unlikely candidates for the role of a central player within Europe, the small Duchy of Piedmont–Savoy nevertheless managed to weather the storms which occasionally buffeted it, and emerged at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 as a stronger entity than ever. It often punched well above its weight, as its role in the War of the Spanish Succession showed, and its rulers would later go on to reign over the united Kingdom of Italy in the late 19th century.
Early modern SavoyEditPiedmont was not immune from the religious conflict which swept Europe after the 1520s. However, it did manage to escape the worst excesses of the Protestant versus Catholic conflict. The principle "Protestant" minority in the Duchy was a group known as the Waldensians, who had actually been around since the twelfth century. Initially having started as a mendicant (begging) order, it had been outlawed in 1186 and 1215. When Protestantism began to make itself felt, the Waldensians adjusted their beliefs to fit in with the new-style religion. Despite occasional attempts by the authorities to suppress them, usually at the behest of and with the help of the French, they continued to battle against the odds until they were allowed their full religious freedom in 1848.
Savoy was severely damaged by the Italian Wars during the first half of the sixteenth century. The duchy was shorn of its Swiss possessions (including Geneva), and King Francis I of France occupied the rest of the duchy in 1536, forcing Duke Charles III into exile. This would not last, however. With the 1559 Treaty of Chhateau-Cambrésis, Piedmont was restored to Duke Emmanuel Philibert (1553–1580, the son of Duke Charles III and known to contemporaries as "Ironhead"). Emmanuel was, however, made to recognise the permanent loss of the duchy's former Swiss possessions, but received the consolation of being able to marry the sister of King Henry II of France. On returning to his homeland, Duke Emmanuel moved his capital to the Italian city of Turin, whilst at the same time retaining the quintessentially French character of his Court. His son, Duke Charles Emmanuel I (1580—1630), made an attempt to recover Geneva by force of arms, but failed, having to be satisfied with the Piedmontese marquisate of Saluzzo, which he gained by the 1601 Treaty of Lyons. The duchy would not, however, truly come into the European mainstream until the War of the Spanish Succession, which took place during the rule of Duke Victor Amadeus II (1675–1713).
Initially supporting the French, he switched sides in 1703, his cousin Eugene of Savoy soon becoming the overall commander of the Imperial armies. His reward came in the Peace of Utrecht, which made him King of Sicily, which he ruled until 1720, when he agreed to swap it for the Kingdom of Sardinia. Ten years later, he abdicated in favour of his son. The Duchy of Piedmont-Savoy and Kingdom of Sardinia continued to be held together until Napoleon swept through Northern Italy in 1796. The family would, however, continue to play an important role in Italian politics — they were Kings of Italy until they were deposed in 1946.
From Savoyard Duchy to Italian CrownEdit
By the 19th century, it was clear that the Savoyard state would be better focussed on the weaker and more rebellious Italian states than continuing to hanker after its former Swiss possessions. By then, Italy was ripe for conquest. Having been forced to live alternately under Austrian and French rule since the last independent ruler of indigenous extraction, the Tuscan Grand Duke Gian Gastone de' Medici, passed away heirless in 1737, the Italian people now clamoured for change — and the Piedmontese crown listened. Northern Italy was racked by uprisings against Austrian rule. Soaring food prices and stymied reform continued to stoke unrest, leading to anti-establishment uprisings throughout Austrian Italy, the Papal States, Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (which ironically had its capital on the mainland as opposed to Sicily itself).
The first blow was struck against Austria by Sardinia, coinciding with a general uprising in Lombardy against the Austrians. Italian revolutionaries in Milan managed to drive the Austrians into fortresses in the Veneto; then the Sardinians marched from Piemont and struck them before they could regroup, culminating in the battle of Goito outside Brescia in 1848. Flush with success, the Sardinians attacked again but were soundly defeated at Novara in 1849, forcing the king to abdicate. In the face of the defeat at Novara, the Sardinians scrambled to learn from their mistakes, even as the prime minister, count Cavour, negotiated a series of strategic alliances between Sardinia, the French and the nascent Prussian Empire.
The Sardinians went on the march again in 1859 while at the same time Giuseppe Garibaldi launched an invasion in the summer of 1860. Marching initially only with a thousand men, he attracted rebels and Italian patriots throughout southern Italy from Sicily all the way to Naples, taking advantage of the popularity of the House of Savoy and the incompetence of the Neapolitans. This time, the Sardinians were victorious, although they had to cede their ancestral lands of Nice and Savoy to France in exchange for all of northern Italy, with the Sardinian king, Victor Emmanuel II, being crowned king of Italy by 1861.
However, more still had to be done — the Austrians still held Venetia and several other smaller outposts in Italy, and the Papal States still had to be reckoned with, but luck was with Italy. The Austro-Prussian War broke out in the summer of 1866. In two months, Prussia acquired all of present-day Germany, while Italy managed to seize Venice, leaving only Trentino in Austrian hands. In 1870, Prussia went to war with France, and the French were compelled to quit Rome to tend to defence of the homeland. The Italians took advantage and after occupying the Papal States, held a referendum which approved the annexation of Rome into Italy.
Decline and fall of the monarchyEdit
Problems remained for the new nation-state, however. Italy was saddled with large economic and social problems. In addition, the papacy did not recognize the Italian state, and crime was rampant. Despite all of this, Italy did manage to make some progress, and even managed to seize Libya from the Turks. They entered the Great War on the side of the Allies, with the promise that they would gain additional territory that they considered to be yet "un-liberated Italy". However at the end of the war they received far less then what they were expecting from the Allies. This created popular nationalistic resentment of the western powers, and of the Italian government who acquiesced to the deal.
The postwar economic depression combined with these feeling gave fertile ground for Benito Mussolini to found the Fascist party in 1919. With shrewd political manipulation, and the help of his "Black Shirt Squads" to intimidate the population, he would be able to force King Victor Emmanuel III to appoint him as Prime Minister, and within four more years the title of dictator, usurping power from the government, stylising himself as the Duce or "military leader" of the kingdom of Italy. This acquiescence to the Duce would prove to be the monarchy's downfall, however. With the dismissal and arrest of the Duce in 1943 and his subsequent execution in 1945 as well as the humiliation of Italy by foreign powers, the monarchy's reputation was irredeemably besmirched. A referendum held in 1946 declared Italy a republic, sealing the fate of the House of Savoy after nearly three centuries of influence in European affairs.