The luxurious Savoy Hotel on the Embankment in London was constructed in the 19th century more or less where another famous house had stood until it was burnt down by a furious London mob. That house was called the Savoy too, and it was built by a man important in British history called John of Gaunt (q.v.), a son of Edward III who became Duke of Lancaster and the richest man in England. The hoi polloi burnt the Savoy to the ground because they had been told John of Gaunt was planning to take the throne from Richard II, a grandson of Edward III.
The name Savoy is ancient, and comes from an alpine area in what is now Switzerland and France. It existed from the middle part of the 11th until the 19th century under that name.
Savoy was a duchy, meaning that it was ruled by Dukes, who took their name from the area. It was in its best days magnificent and colourful, from around 1350 to 1450. The light dimmed when both France and Spain put it in the shade. Unable to be anything else but Roman Catholic, it also had conflicts with Calvinist Geneva. Then came the utterly inane Thirty Years War (q.v.) which badly affected all the countries involved in it. Savoy was involved.
The decline of Savoy reversed, at last, in the eighteenth century when it managed to extend its territory, acquiring the kingdom of Sicily in 1713 (the year of the Treaty of Utrecht) and exchanging it for Sardinia in 1820.
The Napoleonic Wars arrived and seriously damaged everybody who got in the way. Savoy’s mainland possessions were lost to Napoleon and France, briefly, because she got them back in 1814. Now Savoy was able to use its land as a sound base from which it could overturn Austrian dominance in northern Italy in the middle of the 19th century.
As its territorial ambitions happened to coincide with the Risorgimento (q.v.) the Savoy became the ruling house of the Kingdom of Italy and stayed so until 1946, when it became a republic.
House of Savoy
1553 Emmanuel Philibert
Charles Emmanuel I
Victor Amadeus I
Charles Emmanuel II
Victor Amadeus II
Charles Emmanuel III
Victor Amadeus III
Charles Emmanuel IV
Victor Emmanuel I
Victor Emmanuel II
Victor Emmanuel III
1946 Umberto II
There are two present pretenders to the Duchy of Savoy; they are Vittorio Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, and a cousin, Prince Amadeo, Duke of Aosta. There are also pretenders to the throne of Spain and France, but very few republics, having unburdened themselves of monarchs, show signs of wishing for a return of the throne. This is an odd fact, since most Presidents of Republics cost the countries over which they preside infinitely more than a constitutional king or queen does. The Presidential budget of the President of France, for example, is larger than that of three Scandinavian monarchs put together.
Not all is peaceful between the two pretenders to Savoy, or indeed among pretenders in any country. The present pretender to the throne of Spain (an extremely personable young man with a beautiful Latin American wife) had a father, the Duke of Cádiz, who was mysteriously killed on a ski slope; he was beheaded by a wire stretched over the piste.
In Spain at a dinner given by King Juan-Carlos to celebrate the announcement of his son Felipe’s engagement, Vittorio Emmanuel and Prince Amadeo came to blows; The former struck the latter twice in the face.