1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Victor Amedeus II.

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VICTOR AMEDEUS II. (1666-1732), duke of Savoy and first king of Sardinia, was the son of Duke Charles Emmanuel II. and Jeanne de Savoie-Nemours. Born at Turin, he lost his father in 1675, and spent his youth under the regency of his mother, known as “Madama Reale” (madame royale), an able but ambitious and overbearing woman. He assumed the reins of government at the age of sixteen, and married Princess Anne, daughter of Philip of Orleans and Henrietta of England, and niece of Louis XIV., king of France. That sovereign was determined to dominate the young duke of Savoy, who from the first resented the monarch's insolent bearing. In 1685 Victor was forced by Louis to persecute his Waldensian subjects, because they had given shelter to the French Huguenot refugees after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. With the unwelcome help of a French army under Marshal Catinat, he invaded the Waldensian valleys, and after a difficult campaign, characterized by great cruelty, he subjugated them. Nevertheless, he became more anxious than ever to emancipate himself from French thraldom, and his first sign of independence was his visit to Venice in 1687, where he conferred on political affairs with Prince Eugène of Savoy and other personages, without consulting Louis. About this time the duke plunged into a whirl of dissipation, and chose the beautiful but unscrupulous Contessa di Verrua as his mistress, neglecting his faithful and devoted wife. Louis having discovered Victor's intrigues with the emperor, tried to precipitate hostilities by demanding his participation in a second expedition against the Waldensians. The duke unwillingly complied, but when the French entered Piedmont and demanded the cession of the fortresses of Turin and Verrua, he refused, and while still professing to negotiate with Louis, joined the league of Austria, Spain and Venice. War was declared in 1690, but at the battle of Staffarda (18th of August 1691), Victor, in spite of his great courage and skill, was defeated by the French under Catinat. Other reverses followed, but the attack on Cuneo was heroically repulsed by the citizens. The war dragged on with varying success, until the severe defeat of the allies at Marsiglia and their selfish neglect of Victor's interests induced him to open negotiations with France once more. Louis agreed to restore most of the fortresses he had captured and to make other concessions; a treaty was signed in 1696, and Victor appointed generalissimo of the Franco-Piedmontese forces in Italy operating against the imperialists. By the treaty of Ryswick (1697) a general peace was concluded. On the outbreak of the war of the Spanish Succession in 1700 the duke was again on the French side, but the insolence of Louis and of Philip V. of Spain towards him induced him, at the end of the two years for which he had bound himself to them, to go over to the imperialists (1704). At first the French were successful and captured several Piedmontese fortresses, but after besieging Turin, which was skilfully defended by the duke, for several months, they were completely defeated by Victor and Prince Eugène of Savoy (1706), and eventually driven out of the other towns they had captured. By the peace of Utrecht (1713) the Powers conferred the kingdom of Sicily on Victor Amedeus, whose government proved efficient and at first popular. But after a brief stay in the island he returned to Piedmont and left his new possessions to a viceroy, which caused much discontent among the Sicilians; and when the Quadruple Alliance decreed in 1718 that Sicily should be restored to Spain, Victor was unable to offer any opposition, and had to content himself with receiving Sardinia in exchange.

The last years of Victor Amedeus's life were saddened by domestic troubles. In 1715 his eldest son died, and in 1728 he lost his queen. After her death, much against the advice of his remaining son and heir, Carlino (afterwards Charles Emmanuel III.), he married the Contessa di San Sebastiano, whom he created Marchesa di Spigno, abdicated the crown and retired to Chambéry to end his days (1730). But his second wife, an ambitious intrigante, soon tired of her quiet life, and induced him to return to Turin and attempt to revoke his abdication. This led to a quarrel with his son, who with quite unnecessary harshness, partly due to his minister the Marquis d'Ormca, arrested his father and confined him at Rivoli and later at Moncalieri; there Victor, overwhelmed with sorrow, died on the 31st of October 1732.

Victor Amedeus, although accused not without reason of bad faith in his diplomatic dealings and of cruelty, was undoubtedly a great soldier and a still greater administrator. He not only won for his country a high place in the council of nations, but he doubled its revenues and increased its prosperity and industries, and he also emphasized its character as an Italian state. His infidelity to his wife and his harshness towards his son Carlino are blemishes on a splendid career, but he more than expiated these faults by his tragic end.

See D. Carutti, Storia del Regno di Vittorio Amedeo II. (Turin, 1856); and E. Parri, Vittorio Amedio II. ed Eugenia di Savoia (Milan, 1888). The Marchesa Vitelleschi's work, The Romance of Savoy (2 vols., London, 1905), is based on original authorities, and is the most complete monograph on the subject.