Duchy of Savoy

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Duchy of Savoy

Ducatus Sabaudiae(lat)
Ducato di Savoia(it)
Duché de Savoie(fr)
Ducato di Savouè(frp)
Ducà 'd Savòja(pms)
Savoie flag.svg
Flag of Savoy
Arms of Dukes of Savoy.svg
Coat of arms of Savoy (16th c.)
Motto:  FERT
Lands of Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy.PNG
States of the Duke of Savoy around 1700;
Savoy proper is in the northwest.
Status Imperial State of the Holy Roman Empire
Core country of the Savoyard state
Capital Chambéry (1416–1562)
Turin (1562–1847)
Common languagesItalian, Piedmontese, French, Latin, Francoprovençal, Occitan
Roman Catholicism
Amadeus VIII
Charles Albert
Historical era Modern Era
  County of Savoy raised
    to a duchy
 Occupied by France
1536–59, 1630,
1690–96, 1703–13
  Acquired Sicily and parts
    of the Duchy of Milan
11 April 1713
 Acquired the kingdom
    of Sardinia
in exchange
    for Sicily
 Occupied by
     Revolutionary France
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Savoie flag.svg County of Savoy
Flag of Montferrat.svg Duchy of Montferrat
Flag of Genoa.svg Republic of Genoa
First French Republic Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg
Kingdom of Sardinia Civil Flag and Civil Ensign of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1816-1848).svg
Today part of

From 1416 to 1847, the Duchy of Savoy (Italian : Ducato di Savoia, French : Duché de Savoie) was a country in Western Europe. It was created when Sigismund, King of the Romans, raised the County of Savoy into a duchy for Amadeus VIII. The duchy was an Imperial fief, [1] [2] [3] [4] subject of the Holy Roman Empire with a vote in the Imperial Diet. From the 16th century, Savoy belonged to the Upper Rhenish Circle. Throughout its history, it was ruled by the House of Savoy and formed a part of the larger Savoyard state, which in 1720 became the Kingdom of Sardinia (also called "Kingdom of Savoy-Sardinia").



15th century

The Duchy was created in 1416 when Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1433–1437) awarded the title of "Duke" to Count Amadeus VIII. [5] [6] [7]

Being landlocked at its conception in 1388, the then-County of Savoy acquired a few kilometres of coastline around Nice. Other than this expansion, the 14th century was generally a time of stagnation. Pressure from neighboring powers, particularly France, prevented development, which characterizes the rest of the Renaissance era for Savoy.

The reign of Amadeus VIII was a turning point for the economy and the policy of the state, which deeply marked the history of the nation. His long reign was highlighted by wars (the country expanded its territory by defeating the Duchy of Monferrato and Lordship of Saluzzo), as well as reforms and edicts, and also some controversial actions. The first was in 1434, when he chose to withdraw to the Château de Ripaille, where, living the life of a hermit, he founded the Order of St. Maurice. In 1439, he received an appointment as antipope, which he accepted (under the name of Felix V), although he subsequently resigned a decade later out of a fear of undermining the religious unity of Christians.

The Italian Peninsula in 1499. Italy in 1499.png
The Italian Peninsula in 1499.

The second important action of the Government of Amadeo VIII was the creation of the Principality of Piedmont in August 1424, the management of which was entrusted to the firstborn of the family as a title of honor. The duke left the territory largely formed from the old Savoy domain.

As a cultured and refined man, Duke Amadeus gave great importance to art. Among others, he worked with the famous Giacomo Jaquerio in literature and architecture, encouraging the cultivation of the arts in the Italian Piedmont.

However, his first son Amedeo died prematurely in 1431 and was succeeded by his second son Louis. Louis was in turn succeeded by the weak Amadeus IX, who was extremely religious (he was eventually declared blessed), but of little practical power, to the point that he allowed his wife, Yolande (Violante) of Valois, sister of Louis XI, to make very important decisions. During this period, France was more or less free to control the affairs of Savoy, which bound Savoy to the crown in Paris.

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[ citation needed ] of Vercelli. The future of the nation was entrusted to the hands of a boy, Philibert I, who died at the early age of seventeen, after reigning for ten years. He was succeeded by Charles I, who died aged 21, and Charles II, who died aged 6. As a consequence of its participation in the Burgundian Wars, Savoy lost all its possessions north and south-east of Lake Geneva to the Swiss Confederacy.

16th century

When Philibert II died in 1504, he was succeeded by Charles III the Good, a rather weak ruler. Since 1515, Savoy had been occupied by foreign armies, and Francis I of France was just waiting for the opportunity to permanently annex 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. However, the city was lost on 3 April of the same year. Charles III retired in Vercelli, trying to continue the fight, but never saw the state free from occupation.

Emmanuel Philibert was the Duke who more than any other influenced the future policy of Savoy, managing to put an end to the more than twenty-year long occupation. The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, signed in 1559, restored full autonomy to the duchy, with his marriage to Margaret of France. [8]

Emmanuel Philibert realized that Savoy could no longer trust France. So he moved the capital to Turin, and which he protected with a complex system of fortifications known as the Cittadella. (Remnants of the Citadalla can still can be seen, although it was largely destroyed by the subsequent expansion of the city.) From his military experience in Flanders, Emmanuel Philibert learned how to run an army, having won the famous Battle of St. Quentin. He was the first Duke of Savoy to establish a stable military apparatus that was not composed of mercenaries but rather by specially trained Savoyan 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 under the Treaty of Lyon. Unfortunately, the wars of Charles Emmanuel ended mostly in defeats. Nevertheless, he is remembered as "Charles the Great", since he was a versatile and cultured man, a poet and a skillful reformer. He was able to manage the Duchy at a time of severe crisis vis-a-vis the European powers and found support from the Habsburgs. The policy of Charles Emmanuel was in fact based more on actions of international warfare, such as the possessions of the Marquis of Saluzzo, and the wars of succession in the duchies of Mantua and Monferrato. Generally, Savoy sided with Spain, but on occasion allied with France (as, for example, the Treaty of Susa required).

17th century

During the seventeenth century, the influence of the court of Versailles put pressure on Savoy. Due to the proximity of the Duchy of Milan, troops were stationed in France, and the disposal of Pinerolo (one of the most important strongholds of Savoy), were situated[ by whom? ] close to Turin.[ clarification needed ] The court, which had been under Spanish influence with Charles Emmanuel I, became oriented towards France under his three successors. Vittorio Amedeo I (in office 1630–1637) had married Madame Royale, Maria Christina of Bourbon-France in 1619. Cristina held the real power in Savoy during the short period of the child-duke Francis Hyacinth (reigned 1637–1638) and during the minority (1638-1648) of Charles Emmanuel II.

During the Thirty Years' War, Savoy was one of the states of the Holy Roman Empire that largely sided with France and against both the Emperor and Spain. Savoyard troops participated on the side of the French in the Savoyard-Genoese War, the War of the Mantuan Succession, the Tornavento campaign and, in part, in the Piedmontese Civil War, among other places.

The strong French influence, plus various misfortunes, repeatedly hit Savoy following the death of Charles Emmanuel I (26 July 1630). First of all, the plague ran rampant in 1630 and contributed significantly to the already widespread poverty.

The Wars of Succession of Monferrato (1628–1631) were very bloody in the countryside and subjected Casale Monferrato to a long siege (1629). Developments of arms and politics affected the economy and future history, exacerbating the already difficult situation after the death of Victor Amadeus I in 1637. He was succeeded for a short period of time by his eldest surviving son, the 5-year-old Francis Hyacinth. The post of regent for the next-oldest son, Carlo Emanuele II, also went to his mother Christine Marie of France, whose followers became known as madamisti (supporters of Madama Reale). Because of this, Savoy became a satellite state of the regent's brother, King Louis XIII of France. The supporters of Cardinal Prince Maurice of Savoy and Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano (both sons of Charles Emmanuel I), together with their followers, took the name of principisti (supporters of the Princes).

Each warring faction soon besieged the city of Turin. The principisti made early gains, making Turin subject to great looting on 27 July 1639. Only in 1642 did the two factions reach an agreement; by now, the widow of Victor Amadeus I had placed Victor's son Charles Emmanuel II on the throne and ruled as regent in his place, even past the child's age of majority.

A resurgence of religious wars took place during the regency. Subsequently, in 1655, Savoyard troops massacred large numbers of the Protestant population of the Waldensian valleys, an event known as the Piedmontese Easter (Pasque Piedmont). Eventually international pressure stopped the massacres.[ citation needed ] A final agreement with the Waldensians was carried out in 1664.[ citation needed ]

The government of Charles Emmanuel II was the first step towards major reforms carried out by his successor Victor Amadeus II in the next century. Of particular importance were the founding of militias in Savoy and the establishment of the first public school-system in 1661. A cultured man, but also a great statesman, Charles Emmanuel imitated Louis XIV. He wanted to limit this[ which? ] to the court in the sumptuous palace of Venaria Reale, a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, and a copy recreated in Italy of the magnificence of the Palace of Versailles. It was a time of great urban expansion, and Charles Emmanuel II promoted the growth of Turin and its reconstruction in the baroque style. After his death in 1675, there followed the period of the regency (1675-1684) of his widow, the new Madama Reale, Maria Giovanna Battista of Savoy-Nemours.

From duchy to kingdom

Charles Emmanuel II was succeeded by his 11-year-old son, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy; his mother, the French born Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours was regent. Marie Jeanne sought to marry her son to the daughter and heir presumptive of King Peter II of Portugal. This could have led to Savoy becoming a possession of a foreign power.

After Victor Amadeus II assumed power, Savoy became hostile to France, which invaded in the Nine Years' War. Savoy defeated the French in the Siege of Cuneo (1691), but was dramatically defeated in the battles of Staffarda and Marsaglia. Savoy became a French satellite, and Victor Amadeus II married Anne Marie d'Orléans, niece of King Louis XIV of France.

Italian Peninsula in 1796. Italy 1796.svg
Italian Peninsula in 1796.

Savoy remained a French ally during the first phase of the War of the Spanish Succession, but changed sides later. France invaded again, and Savoy was saved by Austrian troops led by the duke's cousin, Prince Eugene of Savoy.

At the end of the war in 1713, Victor Amadeus II received the Kingdom of Sicily. By the Treaty of London (1718), Victor Amadeus II exchanged Sicily for Sardinia in 1720. Sardinia then became the Kingdom of Sardinia. The various dominions held in personal union by Victor Amadeus II included Sardinia, Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta Valley, Nice, and Oneglia. The collection was usually referred to as "Sardinia", meaning the kingdom.

After the French Revolution, Savoy was occupied by French Revolutionary forces in 1792 and annexed to France. Savoy was first added to the département of Mont-Blanc; then, in 1798, it was divided between the départements of Mont-Blanc and Léman (French name of Lake Geneva). Savoy, Piedmont, and Nice were restored to the House of Savoy at the Congress of Vienna in 1814–1815.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Turin (1860), the Duchy of Savoy was annexed by France. The last Duke of Savoy became King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.

List of Dukes of Savoy


The flag of Savoy is a white cross on a red field. It is based on a crusader flag, and as such is identical in origin to the flag of the Knights of Malta (whence the modern Flag of Malta and of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and others (flags of Denmark and Switzerland, with inverted colors to those of England and Genoa, among others). It was possibly first used by Amadeus III, Count of Savoy, who went on the Second Crusade in 1147.[ citation needed ] In the 18th century, the letters "FERT" were sometimes added in the cantons to distinguish the flag from the Maltese one.


  1. ^ When the Duchy of Savoy acquired Sicily in 1713 and later Sardinia in 1720, the title of "Duke of Savoy", while remaining a primary title, became a lesser title to the title of King. The Duchy of Savoy remained as a state of the new country until the provincial reform of King Charles Albert, at which point the kingdom became a unitary state.

Related Research Articles

Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy

Charles Emmanuel I, known as the Great, was the Duke of Savoy from 1580 to 1630. He was nicknamed Testa d'feu for his rashness and military aggression.

Victor Amadeus I, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy

Victor Amadeus I was the Duke of Savoy from 1630 to 1637. He was also known as the Lion of Susa.

Francis Hyacinth, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy

Francis Hyacinth was the Duke of Savoy from 1637 to 1638 under regency of his mother Christine Marie.

Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy

Charles Emmanuel II ; 20 June 1634 – 12 June 1675) was the Duke of Savoy from 1638 to 1675 and under regency of his mother Christine of France until 1648. He was also Marquis of Saluzzo, Count of Aosta, Geneva, Moriana and Nice, as well as claimant king of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia. At his death in 1675 his second wife Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours acted as Regent for their nine-year-old son.

Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia King of Sardinia

Victor Amadeus II was Duke of Savoy from 1675 to 1730. He also held the titles of Prince of Piedmont, Duke of Montferrat, Marquis of Saluzzo and Count of Aosta, Moriana and Nice.

Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy

Charles Emmanuel III was the Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia from 1730 until his death.

House of Savoy-Carignano

The House of Savoy-Carignano originated as a cadet branch of the House of Savoy. It was founded by Thomas Francis of Savoy, Prince of Carignano (1596–1656), an Italian military commander who was the fifth son of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. His descendants were accepted as princes étrangers at the court of France, where some held prominent positions. They eventually came to reign as kings of Sardinia from 1831 to 1861, and as kings of Italy from 1861 until the dynasty's deposition in 1946. The Savoy-Carignano family also, briefly, supplied a king each to Spain and Croatia, as well as queens consort to Bulgaria and Portugal.

House of Savoy Noble family

The House of Savoy is a royal dynasty that was established in 1003 in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, the family grew in power from ruling a small Alpine county north-west of Italy to absolute rule of the Kingdom of Sicily from 1713 to 1720, when they were handed the island of Sardinia, over which they would exercise direct rule from then onward.

Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy Duke of Savoy

Emmanuel Philibert, known as Testa di ferro, Piedmontese: Testa 'd fer, "Ironhead", because of his military career, was Duke of Savoy from 1553 to 1580. He is remembered for the Italianization of the House of Savoy, as he recovered the Savoyard state following the Battle of St. Quentin (1557) and subsequently moved the capital to Turin and made Italian the official language in Piedmont.

Battle of Staffarda

The Battle of Staffarda, 18 August 1690, was fought during Nine Years' War in Piedmont-Savoy, modern-day northern Italy. 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 year. The battle was a clear victory for the French commander, Nicolas Catinat, who proceeded to take other Piedmontese strongholds. The French also overran most of the Duchy of Savoy, but due to sickness, lack of infantry, and problems with supply, Catinat was unable to besiege Amadeus's capital Turin as King Louis XIV had hoped.

Christine of France Duchess consort of Savoy

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.

Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours Duchess of Savoy

Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy-Nemours was born a Princess of Savoy and became the Duchess of Savoy by marriage. First married by proxy to Charles of Lorraine in 1662, Lorraine soon refused to recognise the union and it was annulled. She married Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy in 1665 who was her kinsman. The mother of the future Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia who saw the elevation of the House of Savoy to kings, she styled herself as Madama Reale or Madame Royale. She acted as Regent of Savoy from 1675 in the name of her son Victor Amadeus II, who was her husband's successor. Her regency officially ended in 1680, but she maintained power until her son banished her from further influence in the state in 1684. She left a considerable architectural legacy in Turin, and was responsible for the remodelling of the Palazzo Madama, which was her private residence. At the time of her death she was the mother of the King of Sardinia as well as great grandmother of two other kings, Louis I of Spain and Louis XV of France.

Anne Marie dOrléans

Anne Marie d'Orléans was the first queen of Sardinia by marriage to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. She served as regent of Savoy during the absence of her spouse in 1686 and during the War of the Spanish Succession. She is also an important figure in British history.

Royal Palace of Turin

The Royal Palace of Turin is a historic palace of the House of Savoy in the city of Turin in Northern Italy. It was originally built in the 16th century and was later modernized by Christine Marie of France (1606–1663) in the 17th century, with designs by the Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra. The palace also includes the Palazzo Chiablese and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, the latter of which was built to house the famous Shroud of Turin. In 1946, the building became the property of the state and was turned into a museum. In 1997, it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with 13 other residences of the House of Savoy.

Victor Amadeus, Prince of Piedmont Prince of Piedmont

Victor Amadeus of Savoy was the eldest son of Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy and his French wife Anne Marie d'Orléans. He was the heir apparent of Savoy from his birth and as such was styled as the Prince of Piedmont. He acted as Regent of Savoy from September 1713 till September 1714 in the absences of his father. He died of smallpox at the age of 15.

Prince Benedetto, Duke of Chablais Duke of Chablais

Prince Benedetto, Duke of Chablais was an Italian nobleman and military leader. He was the youngest child of King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia. He married his niece Maria Anna of Savoy; they had no children. Benedetto was the owner of the Palazzo Chiablese in Turin.

Emmanuel Philibert, Prince of Carignano Prince of Carignano

Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, 2nd Prince of Carignano, Prince of Carignano, was the son and heir of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano. He constructed the Palazzo Carignano in Turin.

Treaty of Turin (1696) 1696 peace treaty between France and the Duchy of Savoy

The Treaty of Turin, signed on 29 August 1696 by the French King and the Duchy of Savoy, ended the latter's involvement in the Nine Years' War.

Savoyard–Waldensian wars

The Savoyard–Waldensian Wars were a series of conflicts between the community of Waldensians and the Savoyard troops in the Duchy of Savoy from 1655 to 1690. The Piedmontese Easter in 1655 sparked the conflict. It was largely a period of persecution of the Waldensian Church, rather than a military conflict. Joshua Janavel (1617–1690) was one of the Waldensian military leaders against the Savoyard ducal troops.