The House of Savoia (Casa Savoia)

The House of Savoia was the royal family of Italy from March 17, 1861, when Vittorio Emanuele II, king of Sardinia, was proclaimed "by the grace of God king of Italy", to June 13 1946, when Umberto II, fourth king of Italy, left Italy (without formally abdicating) following a referendum in favor of a Republic. The kings of Italy were Vittorio Emanuele II (died Jan 9, 1878), his son Umberto I (assassinated Juy 29, 1900), Vittorio Emanuele III (abdicated May 9, 1946, died December 28, 1947) and Umberto II (died March 18, 1983).

The counts of Savoia trace their lineage to Umberto Biancamano (Humbert aux Mains Blanches) in the 10th c., considered by some to be descended from the house of Saxony. The arms of Savoia Modern (Gules a cross argent) first appear in 1263 with Pietro II. He was the maternal uncle of Eleanor of Provence, wife of Henry III of England, and spent some time in England as earl of Richmond. He assumed the cross in 1241 and brought it back to Savoia with him when he succeeded his nephew Bonifacio.

In 1416 Amedeo VIII was made duke of Savoia by the Emperor Sigismond I. His son Ludovico I married Anne de Lusignan in 1433 and through her the later dukes of Savoia claimed the kingdoms of Cyprus, Jerusalem and Armenia. In 1713 Vittorio Amedeo II was made king of Sicily by the treaty of Utrecht, but he later exchanged Sicily for Sardinia and the royal title was confirmed by the treaty of Cambrai in 1720. In 1815 the treaty of Vienna granted Genoa to the house of Savoia.

The unification of Italy was made to the benefit of the House of Savoia, which ruled over Sardinia, Piedmont and Genoa, in 1859-61. In 1860, it ceded Savoia and Nice to France. In 1866, Venetia was taken from Austria, and in 1870 the Papal States were annexed.

The House of Savoia straddles Italian and French history; its roots are in French-speaking Savoie and it moved its capital to Torino in the late 16th century. Some branches such as Savoie-Nemours and Savoie-Soissons were at the court of France. Since this page is devoted to Italian heraldry, the names are systematically given in their Italian form.

Arms of the Casa Savoia

The arms of the House of Savoia changed often over time. Here are a few of the configurations that were in use. (The blasons of the individual quarters are listed below).

  • Under Emanuele Filiberto (1559-80): Quarterly: 1. and 4. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté in base Angria, 2. Chablais, 3. Aosta; over all an escutcheon of Savoie Modern. Chablais and Aosta were part of the original possessions of the counts of Savoia and were made into duchies in the mid-13th c. by the Emperor Frederic II.
  • Under Vittorio Amedeo (1632): Quarterly: 1, quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg; 2. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté in base Angria; 3. per pale Chablais and Aosta; 4. per pale , Genevois and Montferrat (Monferrato). Over all an escutcheon of Savoia Modern.
  • As of 1680: Grand-Quarterly: I, quarterly, 1. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté in base Angria, 2. Savoie ancient, 3. quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg, 4. Aosta; II. Chablais, Piedmont, Susa and Bressa; III. Bugey, Vaux, Achaia and Antioch; IV. Veromey, Nice, Faucigny and Gex. Overall Rhodes (sic; Montferrat?) and Saluzzo in point of honor. This blason comes from L'Araldo Veneto, 1680, but I'm not sure how trustworthy it is.
  • In 1713: Quarterly: 1, quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg; 2. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté in base Angria; 3. per pale Chablais and Aosta; 4. quarterly Piedmont, Montferrat, Genevois and Saluzzo. Enté in base Nice. Over all an escutcheon of Savoie ancient and sur le tout du tout an escutcheon of Savoie Modern. A royal crown indicates that the dukes of Savoia have become kings of Sicily in 1713. In 1720, Sicily was exchanged for Sardinia, and an escutcheon of Sardinia was added in point of honor.
  • From 1815: Quarterly: 1, quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg; 2. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté in base Angria; 3. quarterly Aosta, Genoa, Chablais and Nice; 4. quarterly Piedmont, Montferrat, Genevois and Saluzzo. Over all an escutcheon of Savoie ancient and sur le tout du tout an escutcheon of Savoie Modern, in point of honor an escutcheon of Sardinia. The only change is the inclusion of Genoa in the kingdom of Sardinia. A smaller version (piccole armi) was: Quarterly: 1. Sardinia; 2. per pale Cyprus (Lusignan) and Jerusalem; 3. Genoa; 4. Piedmont. Over all an escutcheon of Savoie Ancient and sur le tout du tout an escutcheon of Savoie Modern, in point of honor an escutcheon of Sardinia.
  • In 1870, the arms were simplified: the royal house of Italy simply bore Gules a cross argent.

Here are the blazons of the quarters used in the above arms:

  • Achaia: bendy of 6 or and gules.
  • Angria (Engern): Argent three nenuphar leaves gules 1 and 2.
  • Antioch: Or a cross gules.
  • Aosta: sable a lion argent armed and langued gules.
  • Armenia: Or a lion gules armed and crowned argent.
  • Bresse: Argent a bend between two lions azure.
  • Bugey: Gules a lion ermine armed, langued and crowned or.
  • Chablais: Argent billety and a lion sable armed and langued gules.
  • Faucigny: pally of 6 or and gules.
  • Genevois: chequy of nine panes or and azure.
  • Genoa: Argent a cross gules.
  • Gex: Azure six saws (seghette in Italian, morailles in French) or, bound argent, on a chief argent a lion issuant gules.
  • Jerusalem: Argent a cross potent between four crosslets or.
  • Lusignan (Cyprus): barry of eight argent and azure a lion gules langued and crowned or.
  • Luxemburg: Argent a lion gules tail forked armed and crowned or.
  • Montferrat: Argent a chief gules.
  • Nice: Argent an eagle rising crowned sable. Given by the count of Provence in 1388.
  • Piedmont: Gules a cross argent in chief a label azure. The apanage of a junior branch, this principality returned to Savoie in 1418.
  • Saluzzo (Saluces): Argent a chief azure.
  • Sardinia: Argent a cross gules between four Moor's heads couped sable banded of the first. Obtained from Austria in exchange for Sicily in 1718.
  • Savoia Ancient: Or an eagle sable crowned of the first.
  • Savoia Modern: Gules a cross argent.
  • Saxony: barry of ten sable and or a crancelin vert.
  • Susa: per pale argent and gules two towers counterchanged.
  • Tarantaise: Argent an eagle displayed sable crowned with an antique crown (or).
  • Vaux: argent a mountain sable.
  • Veromey: pally of 6 argent and azure a lion gules armed and langued or.
  • Westphalia: Gules a horse courant argent.

Supporters: two lions or.
Crest: a lion's head guardant between two wings or. (Supporters and crest adopted by Emanuele Filiberto (1559-80).
Order of the Santissima Annunziata, founded in 1362 by Amedeo VI of Savoia.
The arms, supporters and crest within a royal pavilion surmounted by a royal crown and the standard of Savoia (adopted by Carlo Emanuele I, 1580-1630).

After unification the arms of Savoie were considerably simplified, reduced to Gules a cross argent. The supporters, crown, crest and collar were kept (1870). The heir apparent was prince of Piedmont and bore a label azure. Currently the son of the last king Umberto II (1904-83) is Vittorio Emanuele, duke of Savoia, prince of Naples (born 1937), and his son Emanuele Filiberto (born 1972) is prince of Piedmont and Venice.

Junior branches

  • Savoia-Acaia (from Tommaso II, 3d son of count Tommaso I, made lord of Piemonte in 1235, prince of Carignano and prince of Capua in 1254; his grandson Filippo became prince of Acaia-Morea in 1301 when he married Isabelle de Ville-Hardouin; lineage extinct in 1418): Gules on a cross argent a bend azure. (cf. coins)
  • Savoia-Vaud (from Ludovico I, 3d son of Tommaso II of Savoia-Piemonte, extinct in 1359): Or an eagle displayed sable, armed and langued gules, on its breast a label of the last.
  • Savoia-Collegno (from Antelmo, natural son of Filippo of Savoia-Acaia)
  • Savoia-Busca (from Antonio, natural son of Giacomo of Savoia-Acaia): Gules on a cross moline argent a bendlet sinister sable or Gules on a cross argent a bend sinister sable
  • Savoia-Arvillars (from Umberto, natural son of count Aimone, extinct in 1469): Gules on a cross argent five lions' heads sable.
  • Savoia-Racconigi (Raconis) (from Ludovico, natural son of Ludovico of Savoia-Acaia, marshal of Savoia in 1433, lineage legitimized in 1581, extinct in 1585): Gules on a cross argent five charges (???), after 1581: Gules on a cross argent a bendlet azure.
  • Savoia-Tende (from Renato (1525), natural son of the duke Filippo II; lineage legitimized and made heirs to Savoia in 1562, extinct in 1572): Gules on a cross argent a bendlet sinister azure
  • Savoia counts of Geneva: Gules a cross argent within a bordure indented of the last.
  • Savoia-Nemours (from Filippo ( 1533, son of duke Filippo II, received the duchy of Nemours from the king of France in 1528, extinct in 1656): Gules a cross argent within a bordure gobony or and azure.
  • Savoia-Carignano (from Tommaso Francesco (Thomas-François, 1656), 6th son of duke Carlo Emanuele I; this junior branch succeeded to the throne of Sardinia in 1831): Quarterly: 1, quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg; 2. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté; in base Angria; 3. per pale Chablais and Aosta; 4. per pale , Genevois and Monferrato. Over all an escutcheon per pale gules a cross argent within a bordure indented of the last and azure a bend couped between three fleurs-de-lys or.
  • Savoia-Soissons (from Eugenio Maurizio (Eugène-Maurice), 3d son of Tommaso Francesco de Savoia-Carignano, lineage extinct in 1734): Quarterly: 1, quarterly Jerusalem, Lusignan, Armenia and Luxemburg; 2. per pale Westphalia and Saxony, enté; in base Angria; 3. per pale Chablais and Aosta; 4. per pale , Genevois and Monferrato. Over all an escutcheon gules a cross argent within a bordure indented of the last.
  • Savoie-Genoa (from Ferdinando, son of Carlo Alberto and brother of Vittorio Emanuele II): Savoie a bordure gobony argent and gules. Titles: duke of Genova, Pistoia, Bergamo, Ancona.
  • Savoia-Aosta (from Amedeo, son of Vittorio Emanuele II): Savoie a bordure gobony or and azure. Titles: duke of Aosta, Abruzzi, Spoleto, count of Torino, Salemi. Currently: Amedeo, 4th duke of Aosta (born 1943).
  • Savoia-Villafranca (from Eugenio, son of Luigi Vittorio of Savoia-Carignano, lineage extinct in 1888).


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François Velde

Sep 13, 2000