Víctor Manuel II of Italy: Biography

Victor Emmanuel II of Italy was a general and king of Sardinia who became the first king of the new unified Italy in the year 1861. Victor Emmanuel II remained in his position as king until his death, in 1878. The last king of Italy before him had been crowned in the 6th century.

He was one of the characters of the era who fought for an Italy free of foreign control and became a leading figure in the unifying movement of Italy. He was a successful and shrewd king in politics, and he used the help of his advisers to capture those who instigated revolutions. His achievements made him obtain the title of"father of the fatherland".

Victor Emmanuel II of Italy


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Ascent to the throne
    • 1.2 Peace in the kingdom
    • 1.3 War with Austria
    • 1.4 Unification of Italy
  • 2 References


Víctor Manuel II was born on March 14, 1820 in Turin, a region that at that time was part of the kingdom of Sardinia. He was the son of Carlos Alberto, prince of the kingdom of Saboya-Carignano. During his childhood he did not receive an extensive education: his teachers focused on inculcating his religion and military knowledge.

Although he was destined to take his father's place when the time came, he was not interested in state policies in his youth; rather, he focused all his time on learning military tactics and strategy.

He married his cousin in 1842, the daughter of the Archduke of Austria. Before being conferred the throne of Sardinia in 1849, he was named Duke of Savoy.

Ascent to the throne

Víctor Manuel participated in the Sardinian war against Austria and fought valiantly in what was considered the first Italian war of independence, from 1848 to 1849. However, the troops of his kingdom suffered humiliating defeats, which caused Carlos Alberto (his father) will leave the throne of Sardinia.

It was then in 1849 when Víctor Manuel II obtained the throne of Sardinia. His father did not want to negotiate the terms of peace with Austria, because he saw it as a highly humiliating situation. The Austrians presented a peace proposal to Victor Manuel, but the terms were far from acceptable for Sardinia.

As proposed by Austria, they would not occupy the Piedemonte region and would give more territory to Victor Manuel if he accepted to reject the Constitution that his father had established. After deliberating about it, he refused to accept the offer. This caused Austria to invade more territory of free Italy.

This also caused their armies to lose a large number of troops. However, the decision not to stick to the original Austrian peace proposal made the Italians see him as a hero. He also secured amnesty for all the Lombards who fought against the kingdom of Austria.

Peace in the kingdom

After having lost a little more territory with the Austrians, the Treaty of Milan was signed in 1850, which ended the war. That same year Víctor Manuel took one of the most important political decisions of his career: he appointed Camillo di Cavour as his new minister of agriculture.

Di Cavour turned out to be a genius for politics. Two years after his appointment as minister and already with the kingdom in a momentary peace, was appointed prime minister by King Victor Emmanuel.

During the early years of the 1850s the king worked closely with the prime minister to increase the effectiveness of the country's policies. Power was taken from the Church to give it to the people.

At the time of the Crimean War, Victor Manuel allied with England and France to attract the attention of the most important countries of the time. The work was successful; the relations between Sardinia (Italy) with French and British improved exponentially.

War with Austria

The war with Austria was the event that made Víctor Manuel II go down in history as the hero of Italy. In 1859 he made diplomatic contact with Napoleon III (then king of France) to seek to form an alliance and attack Austria. The French king accepted in exchange for the regions of Savoy and Nice, which were under the control of the Italians.

When the war began, the troops of Sardinia-Piedemonte and their French allies started off on the right foot, taking territory by pressuring Austria out of Italy.

However, the French king decided to stop the advance in April of the same year and Víctor Manuel had no choice but to sign a peace treaty, receiving Lombardy in return.

Di Cavour opposed the signing of this agreement, because he thought that the war should continue even if they no longer counted on the French troops. After the signing of the peace in April 1859, Di Cavour resigned his position as prime minister.

The events that occurred later demonstrated the importance of the decision made by Victor Manuel.

Unification of Italy

After the end of the conflict with Austria, one of the most important Italian military leaders of the moment decided to start invading the independent kingdoms that divided the country. This military man was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who started his campaign invading the kingdom of Sicily.

Víctor Manuel saw this as a perfect opportunity to unify Italy. He began to secretly support the revolutionary movement of Garibaldi by giving him military support.

After a series of subsequent victories by the unifying army of Garibaldi, the same king decided to join the military in the capture of Naples. There the civilians received him with applause, because they wanted Naples to be part of a united Italy.

In October 1860 Garibaldi formally announced that all his conquests were ceded to King Victor Manuel. In February of the following year the Italian Parliament appointed him king of Italy.

In 1866 an alliance with Prussia returned Venice to Italian control, leaving out only Rome (controlled by the pope). Víctor Manuel invaded Rome in 1870 and, although the Pope was granted his security and the entire Vatican was guaranteed, he never forgave him for such military action.

He died on January 9, 1878 without having received the pardon of the Church, but recognized as"father of the country"by his people.


  1. Victor Emmanuel II Biography, Ohio Encyclopedia, 2004. Taken from Ohio.edu
  2. Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy; The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, March 8, 2018. Taken from Britannica.com
  3. Victor Emmanuel II Biography, Biography Website, (n.d.). Taken from biography.com
  4. Victor Emmanuel II, Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2004. Taken from encyclopedia.com
  5. Kingdom of Sardinia, Wikipedia en Español, April 1, 2018. Taken from wikipedia.org

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