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Victor Emmanuel

Victor Emmanuel



Victor EmmanuelUnity of Italy was effected by constitutional means, by the voice of the people and by fortunate circumstances, rather than by the sword. It may be called a bloodless victory. Upon the fall of Napoleon III., Italian nationality was consummated, and Victor Emmanuel reigned as a constitutional monarch over united Italy. To his prudence, honesty and good sense the liberation of Italy was largely indebted.


Victor Emmanuel, the first king of united Italy, was the son of Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, and of Theresa, daughter of Grand Duke Ferdinand of Tuscany. He was born at Turin on the 14th of March, 1820. He received a careful education in science and military tactics. On April 12th, 1842, he married the Archduchess Adelaide of Austria. As Duke of Savoy he took an active part in the events of 1848, accompanying his father to the field, and distinguishing himself at the battles of Gotto and Novara. On the evening after the latter, March 24, 1849, Charles Albert signed his abdication in the Bellina Palace, in favor of his son.


Victor Emmanuel was then known only as a great sportsman, haughty, and a reputed opponent of liberalism. He succeeded ill obtaining from Austria terms less humiliating than those imposed on his father; but the treaty of peace was Not signed till the I2th of August On ascending the throne of Sardinia he endeavored to reorganize the finances, the army, and the system of public instruction; established railways and promoted trade. He refused the offer made by Austria for the cession of Parma, provided he would abolish the Constitution. Genoa having revolted and expelled his garrison, he sent an army against it and reduced it to obedience. His efforts for the prosperity of his kingdom were generally successful. By the advice of Count Cavour he confiscated much church property, and took away many clerical privileges. He concluded, in January, 1855, a convention with France and England, to take part in the war against Russia, and dispatched to the Crimea all army of I7,000 men, Under General De La Marmora, which, after a considerable interval or sickness and inaction, gained a signal victory on the banks of the Tehernaya. Sardinia thus obtained a right to take part in the Conference of Paris, and her ambassador, Count Cavour, laid before the representatives an able paper on the state of Italy, but the Conference took no action on it. In 1855 the king lost his mother, wife and brother", and was brought to death's door by an attack of fever. After his recovery he visited France and England, where he was received with great enthusiasm.


In the early part of 1859 Victor Emmanuel, whose relations with Austria had long been unfriendly, announced in the Chamber of Deputies that a storm was impending. Count Cavour detailed the grievances of Sadinia against Austria in a diplomatic partircular. Austria summoned Sardinia to disarm, but in vain; and the Austrian army crossed the Ticino. Napoleon III. dispatched a powerful army to Italy, and, having assumed the command, joined the Sardinian forces, and defeated the Austrians. Montebello, May 20th ; at Palestro, :May 30th and 31st Magenta, June 4th ; and at Solferino, June 24th, the emperor and the king being present in person. The Austrians were expelled from Lombardy, the princes from Naples, Tuscany, Parma, and :Modena and the Treaty of Villafranca, concluded on July 11th, confirmed by the Treaty of Zurich, November 10th, terminated the war and declared Victor Emmanuel King of Italy.


In I860 the daring expedition of Garibaldi and his "Thousand Heroes " to Sicily resulted not only in the liberation of that island, but in driving the Bourbon king from his throne. ;This glorious prize was presented to Victor Emmanuel, although he had given no assistance to the gallant adventure. A treaty for the evacuation of Rome by the French in two years, was signed September 15. 1864. A few months later the court was transferred to Florence. In 1866 the King of Italy. making common cause with Prussia, declared war against Austria. The Italian army was defeated by the Austrians at Custozza, June 24th, and the Italian fleet sustained a reverse off Lissa, July 20th but in consequence of the success of the Prussians, peace was signed at Vienna, October 3d, by which Venice and the territory of Venetia were ceded to Italy. Victor Emmanuel made his public entrance into Venice on November 7th.


The French troops, which were to be removed from Rome in 1867;, according to agreement, remained there until the war took place between France and Prussia, when the emperor felt himself compelled to withdraw them. The last detachment left the States of the Church in August, 1870, and on the 20th of September, notwithstanding the agreement made of Victor Emmanuel not to invade the pope's dominions, the Italian troops, under General Cadoma, entered Rome, after a short resistance of the pontifical troops, who ceased firing at the pope's request. It was not until late in the following year, however, that the formal transfer of the capital was effected. On June 24th the Parliament of Florence was prorogued, and in the following week the King of Italy took up his abode in the Palace of the Quirinal. Thereupon Victor Emmanuel said, "With Rome as the capital of Italy I have fulfilled my promise, and crowned the enterprise which three·and-twenty years ago was undertaken by my illustrious father. My heart, as a king and as a son, is filled with a solemn exultation at having to salute here, for the first time, representatives assembled from all parts of our beloved country, and at being enabled to say to them, Italy is free and united; henceforth it depends upon us alone to make her also great and prosperous.


Each step of the king's advance to higher power had been marked by a triumphal entry into a city-Milan, Florence, Naples, Venice, and finally Rome. Victor Emmanuel, who had no wish to quarrel with the Catholic Church, made overtures of friendship to the pope, but Pius IX. firmly refused to enter into any relations with a monarch who had seized the Estates of the Holy See. Victor Emmanuel expired, after but a few days' illness, on the 9th of January, 1878. He was buried in the Pantheon. What was the special character, the great endowment, of the fortunate king who had realized what had been the dream of ages for Italy? Victor Emmanuel was simply an energetic soldier of reckless bravery. He early acquired the popular name,(Re galantomo). His nature was passionate and uncultivated, yet he was possessed of sound common sense and good faith. ·Without any marked intellectual ability, he was personally well suited, under the direction of the statesmanship of Count Cavour, and with the opportune military help of the French emperor and the Italian patriot, to realize the great object of his life-the unification and regeneration of Italy.




The first serious battle took place at Montebello, at which place the Austrians sustained a defeat from the French. On the 30th of May the second of the four great battles or the campaign took place at Palestro. It was in this battle that the Sardinian army, led by the king in person, achieved its chief triumph. For a long time the issue remained doubtful, but finally the fate of the day was decided by an impetuous charge of the Bassalieri, assisted by a corps of French Zouaves. In this charge Victor Emmanuel advanced at the head of his troops, and was for some little time actually cut off from the bulk of his soldiers. In honor of the personal share the king had taken in this action, he was appointed to a nominal command in the Zouaves; and throughout his life he was fond of describing himself p~ the Corporal of Zouaves. As a result of this victory, the Austrians had to retire, and there can be no doubt that the battle exercised a very important influence on the final issue of the campaign. In Italian records the battle of Palestro is given, perhaps, even more than its fair share of significance. This is natural enough, as it is the only engage ment in which the Sardinian troops took and kept the lead. It was essential to the objects for which Napoleon had entered upon the war, that the chief:f not the sole credit of the campaign should redound to France, and that his own leadership as a military general should be made as conspicuous as possible. The campaign was conducted under the control of the French generals, and it was their policy to keep the Sardinian contingent as much in the background as possible. Personally, the Emperor of the French did everything in his power to avoid offending the susceptibilities of the Italians; but his generals were not equally considerate, and Victor Emmanuel had to put up with much that was eminently distasteful to his pride.


Moreover, the vexation which naturally had been caused to the king by the preeminence assigned to the French throughout the campaign was increased, in so far as his personal feelings were concerned, by the exploits achieved by the free lances under the command of Garibaldi. To the" Hunters of the Alps," as this corps was described, there had been assigned the duty of harassing the Austrians in the broken country lying at the foot of the Alpine ranges. The task was comparatively an easy one. The Austrian outposts were harassed and disheartened by the in-fortune which attended the main body of the army. The country surrounding the Italian lakes was one in which regular troops were at a disadvantage. The population was bitterly hostile to the Austrian soldiery. And, also, it is only fair to admit that General Garibaldi's real military talent as a guerrilla leader found full scope in this mountain warfare. Still, be the explanation what it may, the fact remains that the Garibaldian volunteers, alone and unassisted, inflicted a series of more or less damaging defeats upon the Austrians : The neighborhood of Como and Varese, at a time when the exploits of the regular Sardinian troops were obscured by the prowess of their too powerful ally. To speak the truth, the Lombard campaign was one fought by France with the assistance of a Sardinian contingent, and there can be little doubt that, if Victor Emmanuel could have followed the dictates of his own heart, he would far sooner have been leading the Garibaldian volunteers than have served in the regular campaign, practically, though not nominally, under the orders of the French staff.


It would, however, be doing less than justice to the king's character to suppose that his personal annoyances obscured his recognition of the ends which were being achieved by the aid of France. The battle of Magenta, which took place on the third of June, laid Milan open to the invading force, and compelled the Austrians to seek the protection of the Quadrilateral. On the 8th of June Napoleon III. and Victor Emmanuel entered Milan in triumph. The French were, of necessity, the heroes of the hour j but to Victor Emmanuel the welcome given had a personal as well as a political character. He was welcomed not only as the liberator of Lombardy, but as the son of Charles Albert. Immediately upon the entrance of the allied armies Lombardy was declared part and parcel of the Sardinian kingdom, and the head of the House of Savoy was once more greeted with the title of King of Italy.


Meanwhile, the Emperor Francis Joseph had arrived at Verona, to inspire his troops by his presence. So long as the Quadrilateral was intact, the dominion of Austria in the Peninsula was not seriously endangered i and if the Austrian generals had followed the tactics of 1848, and had awaited attack behind their fortresses, the issue of the war might have been different. Radetsky, however, bad died the year before, and with him the Austrians had lost their one commander of military genius. The presence of the young emperor upon the field of battle seemed to necessitate immediate action. General Benedek, the commander-in-chief, though brave and impetuous, was not possessed of strategical ability, and on the 23d of June the Austrian army crossed the Mindo in force, with the view of marching upon Milan. On the following day the Austrians were attacked by the Franco-Sardinian armies. The battle lasted from early morning till close on sunset. The fortunes of the day were for a time doubtful. The Austrians, who fought with stubborn courage, were at last dislodged from their positions by the onslaught of their assailant'>. Since that time the destructiveness of modern warfare has increased in terrible proportions, but at the dabof its occurrence Solferino was regarded as one of the bloodiest of battles recorded in history. The main attack upon the Austrians was made at two points-at Solferino by the French, and at San Martino by the Sardinian5. Both attacks proved ultimately successful, but the first·named was the more important of the two, while the latter was chiefly useful in diverting the resistance of the enemy. The combined operations of the allied armies resulted in a decisive, though costly, victory-the loss of the attacking force in officers being necessarily the heavier of the two. The allies lost 936 officers and 7,305 men, while the Austrian muster-roll of killed and wounded amounted to only 630 officers and 19,311 men. At the cud of the day, the allied armies held the positions occupied by the enemy in the morning. The final repulse of the Austrians was effected by a junction between the Sardinian and the French armies, in which the former were led by the king himself. This defeat, coming at the end of a series of disasters to the Austrian arms, seemed at the time to be over~ whelming, and the allied armies looked forward with confidence to an immediate advance upon the Quadrilateral.


On the morrow of Solferino Napoleon III. was deemed by common consent to have reestablished the military ascendancy of France, and to have vindicated his own claim to the succession of his great predecessor. The repute may have been in founded, but it sufficed to serve his purpose. To have carried on the war, and to have expelled the Austrians from Venetia, as he had from Lombardy, would have added little to the fame he had already won j while any repulse, or even any prolonged resistance, would have obliterated the memory of his past successes. No prudent commander could count absolutely upon a continuance of the uninterrupted success which had hitherto attended the French arms. The Austrians, fighting beneath the shelter of the Quadrilateral, might easily, as 1848 had shown, have proved far more formidable antagonists than they had manifested themselves in the open plains of Lombardy. The fortresses could only be captured, in all human likelihood, after a protracted and costly siege while, if the war was prolonged, it was well-nigh certain Austria would not be left to fight her battle alone. Throughout Germany the desire to come to the aid of Austria w:::s daily becoming more marked. It was only the opposition of Prussia which had hitherto restrained the Diet from passing a resolution to the effect that the cause of Austria was one which the Confederation was bound to make its own; and already Prussia had had to yield so far to the pressure of popular opinion in Germany as to propose the mobilization of the Federal forces.


Thus, in as far as France was concerned, every consideration of prudence dictated the expediency of an early termination of the war. Indeed, looking back upon the past, the force of the arguments in favor of the peace of Villafranca seems so decisive from the Napoleonic point of view, that it is difficult to believe the Sardinian Government to have been as much astonished at the conclusion of peace as they professed to be at the time. Be this as it may, at the very moment when the allied armies were about to advance into Venetia, and when the Sardinians had already commenced the investment of Peschiera, Napoleon III. announced his intention of proposing an armistice, with a view to the arrangement of a treaty of peace. On the 8th of July an armistice was concluded for five weeks. On the 11th, after a personal interview at Villafranca between the two emperors, the conditions of peace were agreed upon and signed. With their signature the war was virtually at an end.-E. DICEY.


Victor Emmanuel

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