Trashy Royals podcast

60. King Umberto II and Queen Marie-Jose of Italy and the Fall of the House of Savoy

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One of the outcomes of the 20th century's two world wars was the widespread abolition of monarchies across Europe. Some of these events were brutal, as in Russia, but others, like Italy, happened bloodlessly and through the popular will. After a long reign that saw the Kingdom of Italy enthralled by Benito Mussolini's fascist dictatorship, World War II, and King Victor Emmanuel III aiding and abetting it all, the Italian people were exhausted. In an effort to preserve the institution, Victor Emmanuel III abdicated in 1946, elevating his son, Umberto II and his wife Marie-Jose of Belgium, to the throne. A referendum on the future of the monarchy was already scheduled, so Umberto and Marie-Jose, whose marriage had been uniquely unhappy, barnstormed the country trying to salvage public opinion and hang onto their thrones. It didn't work; by a 54-46% vote, Italians chose to create the Republic of Italy, and the reign of King Umberto II and Queen Marie-Jose ended after just over a month. They and their four children were exiled to Portugal, but it wasn't all bad news. After all, the independent and curious Marie-Jose had been strategically wed to a dullard who happened also to be gay. Once free of her role as anybody's Queen, she left Umberto on the Portuguese Riviera and took the kids to a new life in Switzerland and never looked back. Unfortunately, their one son, Vittorio Emanuele, did not exactly live his best life in the aftermath of it all. While just a child when the monarchy ended, he had a strained relationship with his father, fell into arms dealing and shady international finance as an adult, and managed to get himself into - and out of - serious legal trouble a number of times. Listen ad-free at Learn more about your ad choices. Visit

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