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Umberto I
King of Italy
(1844-1900)


Other names: Umberto Rainerio Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio[1]

Other Titles and Honours

Titular King of Cyprus, 1878-1900†[2]
Titular King of Jerusalem, 1878-1900†[2]
Titular King of Armenia, 1878-1900†[2]
9th Principe di Carignano, 1878-1900†[1]
Titular 23rd Duca di Savoia, 1878-1900†[S7]
Knight of the Garter, 1878 (England)[1]
Gold medal for valour, 1866 (Italy)[3]

Positions Held

General[3]
Captain, 1858[4]

Main Events

Umberto's education was entrusted to the most eminent men of his time, amongst others to Massimo d’Azeglio and Pasquale Stanislao Mancini. Entering the army in 1858, he was present at the battle of Solferino in 1859, and in 1866 commanded a division at Custozza. Attacked by the Austrian cavalry near Villafranca, he formed his troops into squares and drove the assailants towards Sommacampagna, remaining himself throughout the action in the square most exposed to attack. With Bixio he covered the retreat of the Italian army, receiving the gold medal for valour.[4]

On ascending the throne he adopted the style 'Humbert I of Italy; instead of 'Humbert IV', and consented that the remains of his father should be interred at Rome in the Pantheon, and not in the royal mausoleum of Superga. Accompanied by the premier, Cairoli, he began a tour of the provinces of his kingdom, but on entering Naples in 1878, amid the acclamations of an immense crowd, he was attacked by a fanatic named Passanante. The king warded off the blow with his sabre, but Cairoli, in attempting to defend him, was severely wounded in the thigh. The would-be assassin was condemned to death, but the sentence was by the king commuted to one of penal servitude for life. The occurrence upset for several years the health of Queen Margherita. In 1881 King Humbert, again accompanied by Cairoli, resumed his interrupted tour, and visited Sicily and the southern Italian provinces. In 1882 he took a prominent part in the national mourning for Garibaldi, whose tomb at Caprera he repeatedly visited. When, in the autumn of 1882, Verona and Venetia were inundated, he hastened to the spot, directed salvage operations, and provided large sums of money for the destitute. Similarly, in 1883, he hurried to Ischia, where an earthquake had engulfed some 5000 persons. Countermanding the order of the minister of public works to cover the ruins with quicklime, the king prosecuted salvage operations for five days longer, and personally saved many victims at the risk of his own life. In 1884 he visited Busca and Naples, where cholera was raging, helping with money and advice the numerous sufferers, and raising the spirit of the population.[4]

Compared with the reigns of his grandfather, Charles Albert, and of his father, Victor Emmanuel, the reign of Humbert was tranquil. Scrupulously observant of constitutional principles, he followed, as far as practicable, parliamentary indications in his choice of premiers, only one of whom, Rudini, was drawn from the Conservative ranks. In foreign policy he approved of the conclusion of the Triple Alliance, and, in repeated visits to Vienna and Berlin, established and consolidated the pact. Towards Great Britain his attitude was invariably cordial, and he considered the Triple Alliance imperfect unless supplemented by an Anglo-Italian naval entente. Favourably disposed towards the policy of colonial expansion inaugurated in 1885 by the occupation of Massawa, he was suspected of aspiring to a vast empire in north-east Africa, a suspicion which tended somewhat to diminish his popularity after the disaster of Adowa in 1896. On the other hand, his popularity was enhanced by the firmness of his attitude towards the Vatican, as exemplified in his telegram declaring Rome 'intangible' in 1886, and affirming the permanence of the Italian possession of the Eternal City.[4]

Above all King Humbert was a soldier, jealous of the honour and prestige of the army to such a degree that he promoted a duel between his nephew, the count of Turin, and Prince Henry of Orleans in 1897 on account of the aspersions cast by the latter upon Italian arms. The claims of King Humbert upon popular gratitude and affection were enhanced by his extraordinary munificence, which was not merely displayed on public occasions, but directed to the relief of innumerable private wants into which he had made personal inquiry. The regard in which he was universally held was abundantly demonstrated on the occasion of the unsuccessful attempt upon his life made by the anarchist Acciarito near Rome in 1897, and still more after his tragic assassination at Monza by the anarchist Bresci in 1900. Good-humoured, active, tender-hearted, somewhat fatalistic, but, above all, generous, he was spontaneously called 'Humbert the Good'.[4]

Place of birth: Turin[1]
Place of marriage: Turin[1]
Place of death: Monza[1]
Place of burial: Pantheon of Rome[4]

 
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Sources

1. H. Montgomery-Massingberd, ed. Burke's Royal Families of the World. Volume I: Europe & Latin America. London: Burke’s Peerage Ltd., 1977.

2. K.M. Setton, ed. A History of the Crusades, vol. 2. Wisconsin: Princeton University of Wisconsin Press, 1969.

3. Umberto Ranieri di Savoia, Onorificenze, Presidenza della Repubblica, 2018.

4. Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, 11th edn, vol. 13. New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica Co., 1911.
 

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