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Vote may end Italian royal exile

Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of Italy's last king, says his family's exile has been
Prince Victor Emmanuel, son of Italy's last king, says his family's exile has been "humiliating and degrading"  

ROME, Italy -- Italian politicians are preparing to vote on a proposal to allow the return of the country's exiled royal family after more than 50 years.

Italy abolished its monarchy in 1946 in the wake of World War II.

A redrawn constitution exiled all male members of the House of Savoy in punishment for royal support of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government is said to be in favour of the return of the Savoys, with newspapers speculating that the family could be back within months.

Italy's two houses of parliament will vote twice on the constitutional amendment, starting next Tuesday with a poll in the Senate.

If it is approved in both houses with a two-thirds majority, no referendum needs to be called.

However, if it passes by a simple majority, the law allows for a optional referendum.

In recent years, the surviving male members of the family have fought to be allowed to return to Italy, arguing that the ban violates their human rights.

They have lobbied the European and Italian parliaments and are bringing a case in the European Court of Human Rights.

'Degrading treatment'

Emmanuel Filiberto, the 29-year-old grandson of Italy's last king, Umberto II, says depending on the result of the vote he would return to Italy initially as a visitor.

Filiberto, who was born and raised in Switzerland, told the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa: "Settling there in a definitive way would make no sense. Maybe at a later time, who knows ... I think my father and my mother would do the same."

His 64-year-old father, Victor Emmanuel, who was nine when he left Italy, alleges he is the victim of discrimination and "humiliating and degrading" treatment.

Umberto II and his wife, Queen Maria Jose, reigned for just a few days until a referendum introduced the Italian republic on June 2, 1946.

Umberto's father, King Vittorio Emanuele III, appointed Mussolini prime minister in 1922.

Criticisms after the war of Vittorio Emanuele III's role in the fascist regime led to his agreeing to abdicate on May 9, 1946, and to leave the future of the monarchy in the hands of the people.

Umberto and Maria Jose then reigned in the 27 intervening days until the referendum introduced the republic.


• Italy's last queen dies at 94
January 28, 2001

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