1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Humbert, Ranieri Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio, King of Italy

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13
Humbert, Ranieri Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio, King of Italy

HUMBERT, RANIERI CARLO EMANUELE GIOVANNI MARIA FERDINANDO EUGENIO, King of Italy (1844–1900), son of Victor Emmanuel II. and of Adelaide, archduchess of Austria, was born at Turin, capital of the kingdom of Sardinia, on the 14th of March 1844. His education was entrusted to the most eminent men of his time, amongst others to Massimo d’Azeglio and Pasquale Stanislao Mancini. Entering the army on the 14th of March 1858 with the rank of captain, he was present at the battle of Solferino in 1859, and in 1866 commanded a division at Custozza. Attacked by the Austrian cavalry near Villafranca, he formed his troops into squares and drove the assailants towards Sommacampagna, remaining himself throughout the action in the square most exposed to attack. With Bixio he covered the retreat of the Italian army, receiving the gold medal for valour. On the 21st of April 1868 he married his cousin, Margherita Teresa Giovanna, princess of Savoy, daughter of the duke of Genoa (born at Turin on the 20th of November 1851). On the 11th of November 1869 Margherita gave birth to Victor Emmanuel, prince of Naples, afterwards Victor Emmanuel III. of Italy. Ascending the throne on the death of his father (9th January 1878), Humbert adopted the style “Humbert I. of Italy” instead of Humbert IV., and consented that the remains of his father should be interred at Rome in the Pantheon, and not in the royal mausoleum of Superga (see Crispi). Accompanied by the premier, Cairoli, he began a tour of the provinces of his kingdom, but on entering Naples (November 17, 1878), amid the acclamations of an immense crowd, was attacked by a fanatic named Passanante. The king warded off the blow with his sabre, but Cairoli, in attempting to defend him, was severely wounded in the thigh. The would-be assassin was condemned to death, but the sentence was by the king commuted to one of penal servitude for life. The occurrence upset for several years the health of Queen Margherita. In 1881 King Humbert, again accompanied by Cairoli, resumed his interrupted tour, and visited Sicily and the southern Italian provinces. In 1882 he took a prominent part in the national mourning for Garibaldi, whose tomb at Caprera he repeatedly visited. When, in the autumn of 1882, Verona and Venetia were inundated, he hastened to the spot, directed salvage operations, and provided large sums of money for the destitute. Similarly, on the 28th of July 1883, he hurried to Ischia, where an earthquake had engulfed some 5000 persons. Countermanding the order of the minister of public works to cover the ruins with quicklime, the king prosecuted salvage operations for five days longer, and personally saved many victims at the risk of his own life. In 1884 he visited Busca and Naples, where cholera was raging, helping with money and advice the numerous sufferers, and raising the spirit of the population. Compared with the reigns of his grandfather, Charles Albert, and of his father, Victor Emmanuel, the reign of Humbert was tranquil. Scrupulously observant of constitutional principles, he followed, as far as practicable, parliamentary indications in his choice of premiers, only one of whom—Rudini—was drawn from the Conservative ranks. In foreign policy he approved of the conclusion of the Triple Alliance, and, in repeated visits to Vienna and Berlin, established and consolidated the pact. Towards Great Britain his attitude was invariably cordial, and he considered the Triple Alliance imperfect unless supplemented by an Anglo-Italian naval entente. Favourably disposed towards the policy of colonial expansion inaugurated in 1885 by the occupation of Massawa, he was suspected of aspiring to a vast empire in north-east Africa, a suspicion which tended somewhat to diminish his popularity after the disaster of Adowa on the 1st of March 1896. On the other hand, his popularity was enhanced by the firmness of his attitude towards the Vatican, as exemplified in his telegram declaring Rome “intangible” (September 20, 1886), and affirming the permanence of the Italian possession of the Eternal City. Above all King Humbert was a soldier, jealous of the honour and prestige of the army to such a degree that he promoted a duel between his nephew, the count of Turin, and Prince Henry of Orleans (August 15, 1897) on account of the aspersions cast by the latter upon Italian arms. The claims of King Humbert upon popular gratitude and affection were enhanced by his extraordinary munificence, which was not merely displayed on public occasions, but directed to the relief of innumerable private wants into which he had made personal inquiry. It has been calculated that at least £100,000 per annum was expended by the king in this way. The regard in which he was universally held was abundantly demonstrated on the occasion of the unsuccessful attempt upon his life made by the anarchist Acciarito near Rome on the 22nd of April 1897, and still more after his tragic assassination at Monza by the anarchist Bresci on the evening of the 29th of July 1900. Good-humoured, active, tender-hearted, somewhat fatalistic, but, above all, generous, he was spontaneously called “Humbert the Good.” He was buried in the Pantheon in Rome, by the side of Victor Emmanuel II., on the 9th of August 1900.  (H. W. S.)