History of King Humberto II

Humberto II was born in Racconigi Castle, Italy, on 15 September 1904. Son of Víttorio Emmanuel III, he reigned from 9 May to 13 June 1946.

He was married on 8 January 1930, in the Pauline Chapel of the Quirinal Palace, in Rome, with Princess Maria José, daughter of King Albert I of Belgium, with whom he had four offspring: Maria Pia (1934), Emmanuel (1937), Maria Gabriella (1940) and Beatrice (1943).

On 9 May1946, and in a last attempt to save the monarchy, he became King of Italy, after his father’s abdication, who never opposed Mussolini’s dictatorship. He ruled for one month only, since on 2 June, the Italians, after a referendum, decided to establish a Republic. At the same time, his wife and children travelled to Portugal and the King stayed in Italy waiting for the final decision of the Council of Ministers, which was reached on 12 June.


Humberto II was obliged to hand over all his powers to the Prime Minister, going into exile on 13 June, but he never abdicated from the throne.

When he left Italy, Humberto II, the “King of May”, so called for having ruled only during that month, made an effort to keep calm, but it was apparent that he was desperate and that he kept back his tears at great cost.

Finally, it was the well known Portuguese Pinto Basto family that provide their Cascais residence - currently Villa D’Este – to house the King and his family.

Meanwhile, Maria José left for Merlinge, in Switzerland, due to an eye sickness. She took her son with her, and later, Maria Gabriella and Maria Beatrice also left for Switzerland. Maria Pia married and went to Paris with her husband. The King remained alone in Cascais, having his mother’s secretary, count Dino Olivieri, as his only company. He received visitors, studied and read on the balcony, always with nostalgia for his Italy.

He resided in this house for 11 years (1950-1961), until a group of faithful monarchists financed “Villa Itália”. It was thus how, in a two thousand square metre plot and next door to Villa D’Este, the King’s final residence was built and is now known as “Villa Itália”, the name given it by Humberto himself.

The spectacular location of the House, across the road from Boca do Inferno, and the wonderful view over Cascais bay, became the ideal scenario for many of the more magnificent parties that were part of the Cascais social scene at the time.

The King quickly entered the Estoril luxury circuit, and was a constant presence in social gatherings and other events. Such as all the other “blue blood” or wealthy exiles, Humberto II, who attended mass every day, took great advantage of the hotel and leisure industry on the Coastline, which enjoyed a very strong boom at the time. Estoril and Cascais became fashionable.

In the picture, one of the festivities that took place in the residence of the King of Italy, Humberto II, with Queen Victoria Eugenie and the Counts of Barcelona.

King Humberto II was also one of the most visible foreign residents to the area’s inhabitants, walking on the beach and habitually taking part in a series of charity initiatives. One of his first acts in Portugal was to visit the “O Século” seaside home, in S. Pedro do Estoril, which housed refugee children, mainly Jewish.


The House of Savoy

This is one of the families that, for many centuries, maintained sovereignty over the territory with the same name. Its many members became united, throughout the centuries, with the most illustrious European lineages. The House of Savoy comprises an important chapter in the history of Europe. With secular links and a simultaneously Alpine and Mediterranean territory, it was often, in the 16th and 17th centuries, party to the conflicts and rivalries between two powers, France and Spain. It was the symbol and the national representation of modern Italy, since it was responsible for the country becoming unified. A fact that led it to a collision with the Papal State and with the remaining Italian dynasties, some of which with foreign origins.

Humberto II’s grandfather, Humberto I, was born on 14 March 1844, and was assassinated on 29 July 1900. He married Margaret, Princess of Savoy-Geneva, and had one only son, his successor, Vittorio Emmanuel III, born on 11 November 1869 and died in exile on 28 December 1947, one year after abdicating in favour of his only male son, Humberto II. From his marriage to Helena, Princess Petrovitch Niegoch of Montenegro, five offspring were born: Yolanda, Mafalda, Humberto II, Joana (Queen of the Bulgarians after her marriage to Boris III), and Maria.

Humberto II, born on 15 September 1904 married Maria José, Princess of Belgium, and had three daughters and one son, Vittorio Emmanuel, Prince of Naples (a title given to the crown prince and heir to the throne).

(Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia, fragments from “The Exile’s Coast” by José Vegar/Luis Villalobos, Blue Living Magazine, May 2003)

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