King of Italy  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

King of Italy (rex Italiae in Latin and re d'Italia in Italian) is a title adopted by many rulers of the Italian peninsula after the fall of the Roman Empire. However, from the 6th century onwards no “King of Italy” ruled the whole peninsula until Victor Emmanuel finally conquered Rome in 1870, though some pretended to such authority.

After the deposition of Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus in 476, Heruli leader Odoacer was appointed dux Italiae (Duke of Italy) by the reigning Eastern Roman Emperor Zeno. Later, he took the title of rex (not, as is sometimes said, rex italiae), though he always presented himself as an officer of the eastern government. In 493, Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great defeated Odoacer, and set up a new dynasty of kings of Italy. Ostrogothic rule ended when Italy was reconquered by the Roman Empire in 552.

This state of affairs did not last long. In 568, the Lombards entered the peninsula and ventured to recreate a barbarian kingdom in opposition to the Empire, establishing their authority over much of Italy (especially Lombardy) except the Exarchate of Ravenna and the duchies Rome, Venetia, Naples and the southernmost portions. For the next two centuries, Lombards and Byzantines fought for dominance in the peninsula.

In the 8th century, estrangement between the Italian Romans and the Byzantine Empire allowed the Lombards to capture the remaining Roman enclaves in northern Italy. However, in 774, they were defeated by the Franks under Charlemagne, who deposed their king and took up the title rex Langobardorum ("King of the Lombards"). Within the Frankish Empire, Italy was ruled by a rex Italiae. This Kingdom of Italy was integrated into the Holy Roman Empire by Otto I. All subsequent emperors used the title and most were crowned at some time in the ancient Lombard capital of Pavia before their imperial coronation in Rome. However the various emperors ruled only parts of Italy, and many independent states existed on the peninsula over the subsequent centuries, some of which were kingdoms, such as the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples.

By the time of the Renaissance the crown of Italy had little remaining authority, although it continued to exist in attenuated form until the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte endeavoured to attach the Lombard heritage to France again and was crowned with the Iron Crown of Lombardy in Pavia. The next year, the Emperor Francis II abdicated his Imperial title. From the deposition of Napoleon (1814) until the Italian Unification (1861), there was no Italian monarch claiming the overarching title. The Risorgimento successfully established a dynasty, the House of Savoy, over the whole peninsula, uniting the kingdoms of Sardinia and the Two Sicilies. The monarchy was superseded by the Italian Republic (Template:Lang-it) after a referendum was held in 1946.

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