King Felipe of Spain's cousin the Duke of Aosta dies at 77

King Felipe of Spain's cousin the Duke of Aosta dies at 77

06/04/2021

King Felipe of Spain’s cousin the Duke of Aosta who spent his infancy in an internment camp, was a childhood friend of Prince Michael of Kent and whose claim to the defunct throne ended in fisticuffs, dies at 77

  • Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who lay claim to defunct Italian throne, has died
  • Duke was sent to an internment camp as an infant and was educated in England  
  • He was a childhood friend of the Duke of Kent and was related to Felipe of Spain
  • Amedeo spent years embroiled in a row with his cousin that ended in fisticuffs 

An Italian aristocrat who spent years embroiled in a row over his claim to the defunct Italian throne has died aged 77. 

Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, will be best remembered for his bitter dynastic feud with his third cousin, Victor Emmanuel, the Duke of Savoy, son of the last king of Italy.   

The pair fought publicly over their competing claims to the throne, which was abolished at the end of the Second World War. The row culminated in 2004 when the pair came to blows at a party held in honour of their cousin, King Felipe of Spain, at Madrid’s Zarzuela Palace. 

Although a court officially declared Victor Emmanuel the rightful Duke of Savoy, Prince Amedeo never accepted the decision.

Italian aristocrat: Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, has died in Italy at the age of 77

Childhood in London: The Duke of Aosta spent a year of his infancy in an internment camp. He was educated in Italy and in the UK. Pictured, the young prince arriving in London in 1955

Childhood friends: The Duke with Prince Michael of Kent at Crans-sur-Sierre in the Swiss Alps. Prince Michael of Kent’s mother, Princess Marina of Kent, and Amedeo’s mother were cousins

Royal marriage: In 1964, just before his 21st birthday, Amedeo married his first wife, Princess Claude of Orléans. Fittingly, she too was heir to a defunct throne. Pictured, at their wedding 

Public row: Prince Amedeo will be best remembered for his bitter dynastic feud with his third cousin, Victor Emmanuel, the Duke of Savoy, son of the last king of Italy 

As recently as last month his son and heir Prince Aimone – the second of his three children with his first wife, Princess Claude of Orléans – dismissed the Savoy’s claim when Victor Emmanuel announced he would abolish male primogeniture, allowing his teenage granddaughter to one day lead the historic House of Savoy. 

Born in Florence in September 1943, Prince Amedeo was the only son of Prince Aimone, 4th Duke of Aosta, and Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, the younger sister of Queen Sofia of Spain. 

Just weeks before Amedeo’s birth, Italy surrendered to the Allies. In July 1944, the 10-month-old Amedeo was sent with his mother, aunt and two cousins to an Austrian internment camp. 

When the camp was liberated in May 1945, the family returned to Italy.  

The Italian monarchy was abolished at the end of the Second World War and the royal family exiled. Republicans argued the Royal Family had been discredited by its links to Mussolini. 

Indeed Amedeo was named in honour of his uncle Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta, who had been appointed by the Fascist dictator to serve as Viceroy of Italian East Africa. 

When Amedeo was just four years old, his father died in exile in Buenos Aires. The young duke inherited his father’s title and claim to the throne. 

Serious: Amedeo inherited his father’s dukedom aged 4 and looked businesslike as a boy

Young love: Amedeo with his first wife, Claude. Portuguese-born Princess Claude of Orléans, now 77, was the ninth child and fifth daughter of Henri, comte de Paris, Orléanist claimant to the French throne, and of Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza

Like many young royals and aristocrats, Amedeo enjoyed the benefit of an international education, studying at Seaford Academy, in East Sussex, as well as the Collegio Navale Morosini in Venice and the Italian Naval Academy in Livorno.

He graduated as an officer in the Italian Navy. 

Warring factions: Cousins’ rival claims to defunct Italian throne

The Italian monarchy was abolished at the end of the Second World War after a referendum. Republicans argued the Royal Family had been discredited by its links to Mussolini.

The male heirs were exiled. 

Royalists campaigning for the restoration of the monarchy have for decades been split between Amedeo and Victor Emmanuel. 

Although Victor Emmanuel had a stronger claim to the throne as a direct descendant of the last king, a series of scandals – including a shooting of a German teenager on board a yacht and allegations of his involvement in illegal gambling and prostitution, of which he was eventually acquitted – led a group of supporters to declare Amedeo the rightful heir. 

The feud came to a head in 2004 when Victor Emmanuel reportedly punched Amedeo at a party celebrating Felipe of Spain, who was then heir to the throne. 

‘In full view of the royal guests Victor Emmanuel punched Amedeo twice in the face, causing him to stumble backwards down some steps,’ the Daily Telegraph reported.

‘Amedeo needed first aid for a face wound and was reportedly saved from worse injury by the intervention of the former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, who prevented him from tumbling any further.’ 

Two years later Amedeo declared himself Duke of Savoy – the title used by his cousin – and head of the House of Savoy. The move sparked fresh outrage from Victor Emmanuel.

In 2010 a court ruled the title could only be used by Victor Emmanuel. However the issue rumbled on until as recently as last month when Victor Emmanuel, who is also styled the Prince of Naples, abolished male primogeniture, the preference in inheritance that is given by law, custom, or usage to the eldest son and his issue.

It was driven by the fact that his only son, Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, 47, does not have a male heir. 

The decision to abolish male primogeniture was met with ire by Amedeo’s son, Prince Aimone, who would have succeeded Filiberto had the rule not been changed.

As a teenager, Amedeo spent holidays with Prince Michael of Kent. Prince Michael of Kent’s mother, Princess Marina of Greece, and Amedeo’s mother were cousins. 

Photographs of the pair show them grinning from ear-to-ear as they play fight at the Italian’s ski chalet in the Swiss Alps. 

In 1964, just before his 21st birthday, Amedeo married his first wife. Fittingly, she too was heir to a defunct throne.

Portuguese-born Princess Claude of Orléans, now 77, was the ninth child and fifth daughter of Henri, comte de Paris, Orléanist claimant to the French throne, and of Princess Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza.

The couple had three children, Princess Bianca, now 54, Prince Aimone, 53, and Princess Mafalda, 51. They separated in 1976 and had their marriage annulled six years later. 

In 1987, Amedeo married his second wife, Silvia Paternò di Spedalotto. The pair, who have no children, lived in the Tuscan village of San Rocco where they had agricultural holdings and produced wine under the name Vini Savoia Aosta. 

His fourth child, a daughter, was born out of wedlock in 2006. 

Much of his later life was dominated with the battle for the non-existent throne. 

Royalists campaigning for the restoration of the monarchy have for decades been split between Amedeo and Victor Emmanuel.  

Although Victor Emmanuel had a stronger claim to the throne as a direct descendant of the last king, a series of scandals – including a shooting of a German teenager on board a yacht and allegations of his involvement in illegal gambling and prostitution, of which he was eventually acquitted – led a group of supporters to declare Amedeo the rightful heir. 

The feud came to a head in 2004 when Victor Emmanuel reportedly punched Amedeo at a party celebrating Felipe of Spain, who was then heir to the throne. 

‘In full view of the royal guests Victor Emmanuel punched Amedeo twice in the face, causing him to stumble backwards down some steps,’ the Daily Telegraph reported.

‘Amedeo needed first aid for a face wound and was reportedly saved from worse injury by the intervention of the former Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, who prevented him from tumbling any further.’ 

Two years later Amedeo declared himself Duke of Savoy – the title used by his cousin – and head of the House of Savoy. The move sparked fresh outrage from Victor Emmanuel.

In 2010 a court ruled the title could only be used by Victor Emmanuel. However the issue rumbled on until as recently as last month when Victor Emmanuel, who is also styled the Prince of Naples, abolished male primogeniture, the preference in inheritance that is given by law, custom, or usage to the eldest son and his issue.

The decision was driven by the fact that his only son, Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, 47, does not have a male heir. 

Emanuele is known as the ‘Pasta Prince’, due to his career running food trucks in LA.

Lifelong fight: The Duke of Aosta with a statue of King Umberto II of Italy, the last Italian king 

The royal runs a catering business called Prince of Venice and has lead a colourful life in the public eye, claiming to have dated Kate Moss and starring on Italy’s version of Strictly Come Dancing. He also has a production company called AristoCrazy and a fashion brand called PrinceTees.

Prince Filiberto has previously discussed his desire to set up a royalist party to advocate for restoration of the monarchy in Italy.

The change in rules means his daughter Vittoria Cristina Chiara Adelaide Maria, 17, whom he shares with award-winning French actress Clotilde Courau, will one day head up the House of Savoy. 

The decision to abolish male primogeniture was met with ire by Amedeo’s son, Prince Aimone, who would have succeeded Filiberto had the rule not been changed. 

Prince Amedeo died on June 1, 2021, in Arezzo, Italy. 

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