ROME (AP) — The remains of exiled King Victor Emmanuel III, whose rule through two world wars led to the end of Italy's monarchy, are expected to be returned to a family mausoleum near Turin soon, an Italian church said Saturday.
The announcement from the Sanctuary of the Nativity of Mary in Vicoforte came hours after the remains of the king's late wife, Queen Elena, were secretly transferred to the sanctuary from Montpellier, France, where she died in 1959.
Victor Emmanuel ruled Italy from 1900-1946, when he abdicated in favor of his son, Umberto II, in a desperate bid to preserve the monarchy amid rising republican sentiment following Italy's disastrous involvement in World War II.
A plebescite favored the birth of the Italian republic, forcing both father and son — Italy's last king — into exile.
Victor Emmanuel died in 1947 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his remains still reside. Umberto died in 1983 in Geneva.
Italy's post-World War II constitution barred male descendants of the royal House of Savoy from Italian soil as punishment for the family's support of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The ban was lifted in 2002, and moves to bring royal remains back to Italy began in earnest in 2011.
One of Victor Emmanuel's great-grandchildren, Emmanuel Filiberto — who along with his father made a triumphant return to Italy in 2002 after the ban was lifted — said he was pleased with the return of his ancestors to Italian soil. But he criticized the secrecy with which Elena's remains were repatriated, saying he learned of it only from the media.
In an interview with Mediaset's Tgcom24 Saturday, Filiberto said his grandfather — Umberto II — had always said the remains of exiled members of the House of Savoy should only return if they could be interred in the Pantheon in Rome — the final resting place of many other members of the family.
In a sign of the internecine battles among Europe's minor royals, Filiberto's sister appeared to be fully behind the initiative to keep the remains up north near Turin. Another relative, Prince Serge of Yugoslavia, reportedly is seeking to block Victor Emmanuel's remains from coming back to Italy altogether.
This version has been corrected to show that Italy's last king, Victor Emmanuel's son, was Umberto II, not I.