Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, son of Italy's last king, dies aged 86

ROME (AP) — Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, the son of Italy’s last king, Umberto II, has died at the age of 86.

The prince died on Saturday in Geneva, the Savoy Royal House said in a statement. He had lived in Switzerland since the family were exiled from Italy when he was 9 years old.

Vittorio Emanuele was born on February 12, 1937, in Naples to Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, who would later briefly become Umberto II, and Princess Marie-José of Belgium.

Umberto ruled Italy for only 34 days after his father, King Vittorio Emanuele III, abdicated in an attempt to save the monarchy that had been discredited by his support of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime during World War II.

When Italians voted to abolish the monarchy in 1946, Vittorio Emanuele and his family were obliged to go into exile. An article of the Constitution of the new Italian Republic prevented previous kings of the House of Savoy, their wives and male descendants of the family from entering Italian soil.

The ban was lifted in 2002 and moves to bring royal remains back to Italy began in 2011.

Vittorio Emanuele and his son, Emanuele Filiberto, made a triumphant return to Italy for a visit in 2002, after the ban was lifted, but the two men later gave up on compensation claims of 260 million euros for their family’s exile and the return of confiscated property, following a public outcry in Italy.

In 2005, in a letter published by Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, Vittorio Emanuele issued an official apology to Italy’s Jewish population, declaring that it was an error for the Savoy Royal Family to have signed the racial laws in 1938.

Vittorio Emanuele's private life was marred by a string of judicial troubles.

In 1999, he was acquitted of manslaughter by a court in Paris at the end of a 13-year legal battle. He had been accused of firing a rifle from his yacht while it was moored off Corsica, fatally wounding a German tourist who was sleeping in a vessel nearby.

The controversial case inspired a 2023 Netflix series: “The King Who Never Was.”

The prince was arrested in 2006 as part of an investigation in the southern Italian town of Potenza on charges of racketeering and involvement in prostitution. He was acquitted after a trial.

Vittorio Emanuele is survived by his wife, Marina Ricolfi Doria, and his only son, Emanuele Filiberto, who now becomes the heir of the Savoy family.