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Kingdom of Sardinia

The kingdom of Sardinia consisted in the early 19th Century mainly of Piedmont and the neighboring Savoy in northwestern Italy and had its capital at Turin; the island of Sardinia was a very unimportant part of the ruler's realms. After the unsuccessful war with Austria in 1848-1849 the country had been reorganized under a new constitution and became the nucleus around which all Italy might unite.

The nucleus of the Sardinian monarchy was the small Alpine country of Savoy. This state dates from 1016, from which period it was governed by its own counts. In 1050 extensive districts in Piedmont were acquired by marriage; and in 1399 Nice, and in 1418 the whole of Piedmont, were added. The sovereigns of Savoy and Piedmont were long celebrated for their ability, and the skill with which they preserved and extended their limited dominions, notwithstanding the difficulty of their position in the immediate vicinity of the great powers of Europe. This territory was recognised as a separate kingdom at the peace of Utrecht in 1713. Sicily was then added to the Piedmontese dominion, but in 1719 it was exchanged for the island of Sardinia. Genoa and its territory, Monaco, were annexed to the Sardinian crown at the peace of 1815.

Considered as a political unity, the Sardinian monarchy, or, as it was later called, the Subalpine Kingdom, was a singular complication of genealogies, annexations, grants, conquests, and cessions, alternating with the fortunes of neighboring states and the alliances of her own rulers. After the Roman and the Vandal conquests, the Counts of Savoy - now by an eligible marriage, and again by diplomatic sagacity - at one epoch by adherence to the German emperors, and at another through intrigues with the court of Spain, France, or Austria - extended and confirmed their power. The last king of Arles, according to tradition, laid the foundation of this princely house when he created its first recognized ancestor, Berthold, Count of Savoy, in 1016. Thenceforth the bounds of the state were continually shifting, but the dynasty was established. The old title of "King of Cyprus," so often found annexed to the names of his successors, was derived from Anne, daughter of James, king of Cyprus, - the wife of Duke Louis. The will of Count Amadeus VI., in 1383, inaugurated the legal existence of the line.

During the protracted wars between Charles V. and Francis I. Sardinia lost the Valais and Geneva (which became incorporated with Switzerland), and the Pays de Vaud, thenceforth possessed by Berne. The military distinction of Emanuel Philibert, who, after being expelled from his kingdom by the French, became one of the generals of Philip II., obtained for him the restoration of his dominions by the peace of Cateau Cambresis in 1539. With this energetic and intelligent ruler fairly began the development and consolidation of the state; and, of her long line of dukes and princes, he therefore is chiefly associated with her recent political advancement. The national life of the present has invoked his memory; the name of no other ruler is so frequently on the lips of the Piedmontese citizen ; his judicious enterprises are constantly referred to, and his errors extenuated ; his example is held up for imitation, and the stranger is pointed to his statue in Turin, as an effigy that recalls the best traditions of the kingdom.

By the peace of Utrecht, in 1713, Sardinia was formally acknowledged as a European kingdom. Victor Amadeus II. gained Alessandria, part of Milan, Val di Sesia, and the duchy of Montferrat, which in the twelfth century was a German marquisate, and by the law of descent ought to have previously accrued to Piedmont. To these acquisitions the peace of Utrecht added Sicily in 1713; but, seven years after, the island of Sardinia was unwillingly received as a substitute. Charles Emanuel III., the next king, as the ally of France and Spain against Austria, by Ihe peace of Vienna, in 1735, secured Tortona and Novara, another fragment of Milan, as an imperial fief.* By the treaty of Worms, eight years afterward, during the war of the Austrian succession, a third fragment, Anghiera, Vigevano, &c., was acquired.

During his reign of forty years great prosperity attended the kingdom, and the code of laws known by his name is a noble memorial of his wisdom. In his disputes With the Pope, the rights of the state were asserted and preserved ; and the Concordat of 1726, afterwards confirmed by Benedict XIV., made all church appointments, and even papal bulls, dependent on his approval for their validity in Piedmont, and also subjected the clergy of. the kingdom to taxation. It is recorded of this monarch, that he ever longed to add Genoa to his dominions, and that he was one of those kings "over whose cradles we weep only to breathe again at their tombs."

Victor Amadeus III. died in 1796, and his successor, Charles Emanuel IV., abdicated in 1802. The former joined Austria against France, and lost thereby Savoy and Nice ; and although the latter allied himself to France against Austria, his dominions were invaded on the pretence of popular dissatisfaction with the taxes and the nobility, by order of the Directory, and in 1798 he was forced to cede all his continental possessions to France, and to retire with his family to the island of Sardinia. After his abdication, he passed the rest of his life with a Jesuit fraternity at Rome, where he died in 1819. Meantime both Piedmont and Genoa were incorporated with the French empire. By the peace of Paris in 1814, Victor Emanuel I. received, as his brother's successor, the possessions of the house, except half of Savoy, which, however, was added by treaty the next year, together with Monaco. Carouge and Chesne were given to Geneva.

A strong desire was manifest in the Congress of Vienna to reinforce the Sardinian kings, because they virtually held the passes of the Alps; and, on the bther hand, England wished to establish commercial relations with the court of Turin. Both of these diplomatic objects were promoted by the cession of Genoa to the Sardinian monarchy, and the noble city of the sea, for which her kings had so long sighed in vain, was thus arbitrarily annexed in December, 1814. The restoration of Victor Emanuel was the signal for reaction in the political and social interests of the state. The old constitution was revived, the Jesuits readmitted, the Holy Alliance signed, and a strict censorship established. In 1818 the sale of the royal domains by the French was confirmed, and four hundred thousand livres annually appropriated to reimburse the emigrants who had thus lost their estates.

As England's ally, the king obtained honorable terms of peace with the Barbary powers, whose corsairs had seriously interfered with the Sardinian commerce, and against whom, heretofore, his own small navy had ineffectually acted. In 1821 he abdicated - on account of the Austrian occupation of his territory - in favor of his brother, Charles Felix, who in his attempt blindly to carry out the views of the Vienna Congress, and to make his country a " partition wall" between Austria and France, provoked the Piedmontese revolution. The Congress of Verona, in 1822, decreed that foreign troops should evacuate the country.

Yet Sardinia rather inclined to Austrian politics. As late as 1825 a royal edict forbade any person to learn to read and write, who was not possessed of four hundred dollars; a like sum in the funds was required for admission to the universities; and translations of the modern German authors were proscribed. Charles Felix died in 1831, and was succeeded by Charles Albert, at the commencement of whose reign popular disturbances occurred in Genoa, and the merchants there offered him a liberal sum to purchase their independence, which being refused, he was virtually besieged until relieved by Austrian troops.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:01:13 ZULU