Victor Emmanuel II

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Victor Emmanuel II,

1820–78, king of Sardinia (1849–61) and first king of united Italy (1861–78). He fought in the war of 1848–49 against Austrian rule in Lombardy-Venetia and ascended the throne when his father, Charles AlbertCharles Albert,
1798–1849, king of Sardinia (1831–49, see Savoy, house of). Because he had not been entirely unsympathetic to the revolutionary movement of 1821 in Sardinia, Charles Albert developed an ambiguous political reputation prior to acceding to the throne in
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, abdicated after the defeat at Novara. With the skillful collaboration of CavourCavour, Camillo Benso, conte di
, 1810–61, Italian statesman, premier (1852–59, 1860–61) of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The active force behind King Victor Emmanuel II, he was responsible more than any other man for the unification of Italy under the house of
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, whom he appointed premier in 1852, he became the symbol and the central figure of the RisorgimentoRisorgimento
[Ital.,=resurgence], in 19th-century Italian history, period of cultural nationalism and of political activism, leading to unification of Italy. Roots of the Risorgimento
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, the movement for Italian unification. Popular in Sardinia because of his liberal reforms and his respect for the constitution, he increased Sardinian prestige abroad by engaging in the Crimean War as an ally of France, Britain, and Turkey. In conjunction with Napoleon III of France, with whom Cavour had formed an alliance, he fought against Austria in the Italian War of 1859. After the battle of Solferino, France signed a separate armistice with Austria at Villafranca di VeronaVillafranca di Verona
, town (1991 pop. 27,036), Venetia, NE Italy. In 1859, Napoleon III and Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria met there after the Austrian defeats at Magenta and Solferino and signed a preliminary peace treaty, which was formalized the same year by the Treaty
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; Victor Emmanuel was not consulted, but the terms were ratified in the Treaty of Zürich. When, in 1860, Tuscany, Romagna, Parma, and Modena voted for union with Sardinia (contrary to the treaty terms), Victor Emmanuel and Cavour secured French consent to their incorporation in exchange for the cession of Savoy and Nice. He favored the expedition (1860) of GaribaldiGaribaldi, Giuseppe
, 1807–82, Italian patriot and soldier, a leading figure in the Risorgimento. He remains perhaps the most popular of all Italian heroes of the Risorgimento, and a great revolutionary hero in the Western world.
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 into the kingdom of the Two SiciliesTwo Sicilies, kingdom of the.
The name Two Sicilies was used in the Middle Ages to mean the kingdoms of Sicily and of Naples (see Sicily and Naples, kingdom of). Alfonso V of Aragón, who in 1442 reunited the two kingdoms under his rule, styled himself king of the Two
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 and joined forces with Garibaldi after crossing the Papal States and defeating the papal army at Castelfidardo. Plebiscites in Naples and Sicily and in the Marches and Umbria (two provinces of the Papal States) favored union with Sardinia, and in 1861 the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed with Victor Emmanuel as king. The capital was transferred from Turin to Florence in 1865. Siding (1866) with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian WarAustro-Prussian War
or Seven Weeks War,
June 15–Aug. 23, 1866, between Prussia, allied with Italy, and Austria, seconded by Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover, Baden, and several smaller German states.
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, Victor Emmanuel was awarded Venetia in the peace settlement. The remaining Papal States were protected by the troops of Napoleon III, but when he fell in 1870, Italian troops seized the Papal States, and Rome was made (1871) the capital of Italy. Pope Pius IX and his successors protested, and the so-called Roman Question remained a serious problem until the Lateran Treaty of 1929. The remainder of Victor Emmanuel's reign was spent in the consolidation of the new kingdom. His son Humbert I succeeded him.


See biography by C. S. Forester (1927) and works of D. M. Smith.

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Victor Emmanuel II

1820--78, king of Sardinia-Piedmont (1849--78) and first king of Italy from 1861
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005