Who's Who - King Vittorio Emanuele III

King Vittorio Emanuele III King Vittorio Emanuele III's 46 year reign encompassed the First World War, the conduct of which he largely left in the hands of his government and military high command.

Born on 11 November 1869, Vittorio Emanuele became became king on the assassination of his father, Umberto I, in 1900, at the age of 31.

The first years of his reign saw Italy enjoy rapid economic growth, although the outcome of the Turkish war brought serious economic difficulties immediately before the Great War broke out in August 1914.

Although Italy adopted an official policy of neutrality on 2 August 1914 the spread of war was nevertheless effective in halting the spate of strikes and civil unrest in the country.

A shy, devious man, Vittorio Emanuele eventually came out in favour of entering the war with the Allies as offering the best opportunities for Italian territorial gain.  Although he largely left national affairs to his government - then led by Prime Minister Salandra - he was in this case instrumental in Italy's renunciation of her tentative alliance with the Central Powers following the (from the Italian point of view) successful outcome of the secret April 1915 Treaty of London.

Theoretically Commander in Chief of the army, the king seldom interfered in military affairs, leaving its management in the hands of the autocratic Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna.  From time to time however he did mediate=d in quarrels between his (generally incompetent) army commanders.

The king played an important public steadying role in the wake of the Italian military disaster at Caporetto in October 1917.  His pugnacious reiteration of Italian determination to continue the war impressed the British and French and helped convince them to send substantial aid to the Italian front.

His reign after the war proved controversial.  Under Mussolini's fascist regime he acquired new titles: as Emperor of Ethiopia in 1936 and King of Albania in 1939.  He was widely criticised for signing Mussolini's 1938 race laws, which barred Jews from becoming teachers, lawyers and journalists, and banned them from attending state schools and universities, as well as forfeiting much of their property.

With the end of the Second World War a public referendum was conducted in 1946 on the future of the monarchy.  By a slim majority the public approved the monarchy's abolition.  Vittorio Emanuele, who had left the country in 1943, remained in exile in Alexandria, Egypt, having never formally abdicated or renounced his rights.

He died on 28 December 1947 at the age of 78.

'minnie' was a term used to describe the German trench mortar minnenwerfer (another such term was Moaning Minnie).

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