Saturday, February 6, 2016

Monarch Profile: King Carlo Emanuele IV of Piedmont-Sardinia

A monarch with a tragic but immensely gallant personal story was Carlo Emanuele IV. He was born Prince of Piedmont Carlo Emanuele Ferdinando Maria di Savoia at the Royal Palace in Turin on May 24, 1751, the first-born son of the Duke of Savoy, later King Vittorio Amadeo III and his Queen consort the Infanta Maria Antoinetta of Spain. Even in his youth he had many trials to endure. He health was fragile, he was often unwell and was possibly epileptic. As usual, he was taught extensively of the very long and colorful history of the venerable House of Savoy. The stories of warrior princes and crusader knights must have seemed an impossibly difficult example to follow for the young Prince of Piedmont but he seized on the cases of those Savoy princes with a reputation for great faith and piety, such as Blessed Amadeo IX, as examples he could follow. Despite his physical frailties, or perhaps in part because of them, he grew into a refined, handsome young man of deeply sincere Catholic faith. He was well mannered, courtly and a man who felt his emotions intensely.

When his father became King of Piedmont-Sardinia, he immediately began political negotiations for an appropriate marriage for his son Carlo Emanuele. Through his sisters the House of Savoy had already forged marital ties with the French royal House of Bourbon and King Vittorio Amadeo III wanted to strengthen these ties even further. In 1775 he arranged a marriage for his son to Princess Marie Clotilde of France, the sister of King Louis XVI. She was sixteen and had been prepared for this and from the time she was very young had been taught to speak Italian in preparation for her marriage to the heir of the House of Savoy. The marriage, however, was not without some unkind gossip. At the French court of Versailles, where beauty and a glamorous image was paramount among the status-conscious aristocrats, Marie Clotilde did not fit in, being rather reserved, shy and somewhat overweight. Cruel French elites mocked her for her size, saying that the Prince of Piedmont was getting two brides instead of one. However, if she had any fears about the court in Turin, they were quickly dispelled. She was, like her husband, a devout Catholic of sincere faith and this mattered more to him than her dress size. When someone commented to him about his bride’s reputation for being overweight, Carlo Emanuele was not bothered, saying that he had, “more to worship”.

Marie Clotilde was accepted with sincere affection by her Italian husband and was warmly embraced into the family by her new sisters-in-law as well. The only misfortune, as far as King Vittorio Amadeo III was concerned, was that the couple were never able to have any children. Nonetheless, they had a happy marriage and both were equally devoted to the happiness of the other and loved each other completely and totally. Their religious faith was the backbone of their marriage and they lived a modest but contentedly fulfilled life together. Their shared faith was something they would need for beyond the borders of Piedmont, trouble was brewing as Revolution began to break out in France. The Savoy monarchy opened its doors to refugees from the Terror and the political turmoil and religious persecution in France affected Carlo Emanuele deeply. In 1794 he joined the Third Order of St Dominic as Carlo Emanuele of St Hyacinth. Meanwhile, his father had declared war on republican France in an act of monarchist solidarity but the small Piedmontese army was quickly defeated and forced to cede territory in the armistice of Cherasco.

On October 16, 1796 Vittorio Amadeo III died and his son succeeded him as King Carlo Emanuele IV of Piedmont-Sardinia. It was not an enviable position which he inherited. The economy was in ruins, the army was in shambles and French agents were doing everything possible to encourage republican revolution in the country. The new monarch had no romantic illusions about being king and referred to his crown as a “crown of thorns”. Under the leadership of Napoleon, France also made renewed efforts to dominate Piedmont and King Carlo Emanuele IV was powerless to resist. Eventually the French seized control of all of the ancestral lands of the Savoy, reducing their holdings to the island of Sardinia. The King and Queen went into exile in Tuscany but French troops soon set about the conquest of the entire Italian peninsula. The royal couple moved to Sardinia and remained there for six months. During that time the King enacted a number of reforms and opened his ports to the British fleet to give what support and cooperation he could to the Allied cause. At last Turin was liberated from the French by the Imperial Russian Army and the legitimist Czar Paul I invited King Carlo Emanuele IV to return to his capital city. However, upon landing, the King found that the Russians had departed and Piedmont was occupied by the Austrians who were not supportive of his return and hoped to retain control of as much of Italy as possible.

The Savoy King and Queen were forced to relocate to a new residence near Florence but were under constant threat, particularly as Napoleon gained more and more control over France. They had to move to various cities and in 1802, after coming down with typhus, Queen Maria Clotilde died and King Carlo Emanuele IV was inconsolable with grief at the loss of his beloved wife. Unable to carry on without her, at the Palazzo Colonna in Rome Carlo Emanuele IV abdicated his throne on June 4, 1802. His younger brother then became King Vittorio Emanuele I. The former monarch decided to devote the rest of his life to God and as he had long been a passionate supporter of the restoration of the Jesuits he joined the Society of Jesus as a novice in 1815, six months after the order was restored. He lived at the Jesuit house near the church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale in Rome until his death on October 6, 1810. There was a small group far from Italy that marked his passing as well as his own former subjects. In 1807 he inherited the Jacobite claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, Ireland and France and was regarded by die-hard Jacobites as “King Charles IV”. He had been good friends with and a frequent guest of his cousin Prince Henry, Cardinal York, the last of the Stuart line but never made any public acknowledgement of this inheritance or any claim on the British throne.


  1. Great post, but one small complaint. You said, "... he joined the Society of Jesus as a novice in 1815" Then you said,"until his death on October 6, 1810." How did he join the Jesuits in 1815 than die in 1810?

  2. Wonder if 1815 was typo for 1805 OR 1810 typo for 1820?

  3. Né l'uno né l'altro ... "Carlo Emanuele IV di Savoia (Carl Emanuel ëd Savòja, in piemontese), detto l'Esiliato (Torino, 24 maggio 1751 – Roma, 6 ottobre 1819), fu duca di Savoia e re di Sardegna dal 1796 al 1802."

    Grazie, la vichipedia!


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