The Victorious King: The Role of Victor Emmanuel III in the Great War

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The First World War disclosed the extraordinary role played by Victor Emmanuel III holding Italy’s fate in his hands. In the first fifteen years of his reign – contrary to what will happen during the two Fascist decades – the Sovereign had carried out an international activity with strong political connotations and the Great War was no exception. At the outbreak of the conflict, Victor Emmanuel forced the hands of his Ministers and played a crucial role in the ratification of the secret Treaty of London. Moreover, after the entrance into the war, he was the protagonist of every military decision (i.e. the dismissal of General Cadorna) and in 1917 at the meeting with the British Prime Minister he was pivotal in obtaining some military help from the Allies (Lloyd George in his memoirs said that the King saved Italy in Peschiera). Lastly, Victor Emmanuel became the ‘living symbol’ of the country and his constant presence at the frontline made him loved by the soldiers who even came to recognize the distinctive roar of the engine of his car. Therefore, through the analysis of newspapers and documents of the time, this paper wants to show how the King acted before and during the Great War, how he contributed to the declaration of war and how he became one of the few icons well-established in the popular imagination throughout the country, a powerful unifying factor for the young nation. In addition to the bibliographical framework, the study is based on the research carried out in Rome at the Central Archives of the State and at the Historical Archives of the Foreign Office.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMonarchies and the Great War
EditorsMatthew Glencross, Judith Rowbotham
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • British Monarchy
  • First World War
  • History of political institutions


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