23 DECEMBER 2002
The son of Italy’s last king set foot on Italian soil for the first time in his adult life today, saying “I cannot find words to express my feelings.”
Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, who left Italy when he was nine years old, flew into Rome’s Ciampino airport on a surprise lightning visit made possible by the lifting earlier this year of a post-war ban on male members of the former royal family returning to their homeland.
The family was exiled in 1946 for collaborating with Mussolini’s fascist regime. One of the conditions of the lifting of the ban was that the former royals swear loyalty to the Italian republic. There was, then, some criticism of the fact that Victor Emmanuel chose to seek an audience with the Pope on his first visit rather than a meeting with the Italian president.
However, “We are Catholic and I am returning to my country which, with the Pope, is the seat of Catholicism,” explained Victor Emmanuel. “The first thing I do is see the Pope, then we shall see all the others.”
After the audience with the Pope, Victor Emmanuel, together with his wife Marine Doria and their son Emmanuel Filiberto, returned to Switzerland where they live. Emmanuel Filiberto, 30, had never before been in Italy.