The Colosseum at sunrise in Rome.

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Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, the only son of Italy’s last king, who lived most of his life in exile in neighboring Switzerland, has died at his home in Geneva, aged 86, a note from the royal house of Savoy said. Gone, said a note from the Royal House of Savoy.

Born in the southern Italian city of Naples, he left his homeland at age 9 when his father Umberto II was forced to abdicate following a 1946 national referendum that abolished the monarchy and established a republic.

He proclaimed himself King of Italy and fought a long battle against the rule in the Italian constitution that barred all male members of his family from returning to the country.

Vittorio Emanuele finally returned to Italian soil in November 2022, after parliament lifted the ban, traveling to Rome for a brief visit just before Christmas and having an audience with Pope John Paul.

But on his return he received a rapturous reception, the image of the House of Savoy having been influenced by his World War II-era association with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

His own reputation was damaged when he was accused of accidentally shooting and killing 19-year-old German Dirk Hammer in a Corsican harbor in 1978.

Hammer was sleeping below deck on a boat when Vittorio Emanuele’s gun went off during an altercation with holidaymakers. Hamir never recovered and died of his injuries a few months later.

Vittorio Emanuele was eventually acquitted of murder in a French court in 1991 and given a suspended sentence for illegal possession of a rifle.

Hammer’s family had long contested the decision, and the case gained renewed attention when it became the focus of a recent Netflix documentary, “The King Who Never Was.”

The prince ran into further legal trouble when he was arrested in 2006 by a magistrate in the southern Italian town of Potenza on charges of forgery and involvement in prostitution. He was acquitted after a trial.

While incarcerated in Potenza, he was recorded boasting to cellmates that he had betrayed the French magistrates in the Hammer case. Vittorio Emanuele disputed the authenticity of the video.

King’s friend

He married Swiss water skiing champion and heiress Marina Doria in 1971 and they lived for many years in a luxurious villa on the shores of Lake Geneva.

In his younger years he worked as a salesman for the Italian Agusta helicopter business and through his business dealings formed a friendship with the Shah of Iran. They got married in Tehran.

Despite living in exile, Vittorio Emanuele was named in 1981 as one of more than 900 members of the outlawed secret Masonic lodge Propaganda 2 (P2),at the center of many of Italy’s scandals in the late 20th century. was

His grandfather, King Victor Emmanuel III, abdicated in favor of his son Umberto just before the 1946 referendum in a final, futile attempt to save the monarchy.

But Vittorio Emanuele’s parents, Umberto II and Maria Jose, ruled Italy for only a month before the family went into long exile.

Vittorio Emanuele is survived by his wife and son, Emanuele Filiberto, who said in 2023 that he would abdicate his claim to the Italian throne in favor of his daughter, Vittoria, when he felt she was ready for the challenge. are

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