house of Savoy

Savoy and Piedmont

Its first important member was Count Humbert the Whitehanded, a powerful feudal lord of the kingdom of Arles (in SE France) in the 11th cent. He held possessions in Savoy and acquired, through marriage, several fiefs in Piedmont, including Turin. Through marriage, diplomacy, and conquest his successors expanded their holdings in France, Switzerland, and Italy, acquiring Bresse and Bugey, Chablais (on the south shore of the Lake of Geneva), Lower Valais, Gex, Ivrea, Pinerolo, Nice, parts of Vaud and of Geneva, and other seigniories and towns. Chambéry, acquired in 1232, became the seat of the counts, whose scattered possessions were gradually consolidated. Amadeus VIII acquired the ducal title in 1416. His son Louis (d. 1465) married Anne de Lusignan, titular heiress to the kingdoms of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia; these titles were later borne by ruling members of the house.

The expansion of Switzerland and the Italian Wars resulted in the temporary disintegration of the duchy. The Swiss took the lower Valais (1475) and Vaud (1536); Geneva became independent (1533); and the rest of the duchy was occupied (1536) by Francis I of France. In 1559, however, Duke Emmanuel Philibert, called Ironhead, obtained the restoration of his duchy—except the larger part of the Swiss conquests—under the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis. Emmanuel Philibert made Turin his capital, thus shifting the center of his duchy from France to Italy. The language and tone of the court, however, remained French until the late 18th cent. Emmanuel Philibert's son and successor, Charles Emmanuel I, unsuccessfully sought to reconquer Geneva. He gained (1601) the marquisate of Saluzzo in Piedmont from France in exchange for Bresse, Bugey, and Gex.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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