February 11, 1873: King Amadeo I of Spain abdicates. Amadeo was the only Spanish king from the House of Savoy. He was the second son of King Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy and was always known as the Duke of Aosta. He was born in Turin, Italy in 1845 and in 1867 married Donna Mario Vittoria dal Pozza at the request of parliamentary deputy Francisco Cassins. The king was opposed to his son’s marriage because the lady in question was not of noble enough birth. She did however, have lots of money which supplied the Dukedom with freedom from the throne heretofore unseen. The king was hoping his son would marry a German princess.
Donna Maria Vittoria’s pedigree was from one of Belgium’s premier noble houses and her aunt was married to Charles III, reigning Prince of Monaco. Prince Amedeo and Donna Maria Vittoria’s wedding had to be one of the worst in history. The best man shot himself. The palace gatekeeper slit his own throat. One of the King’s aides fell from his horse and died. The bride’s wardrobe mistress hung herself. Leading the wedding procession was a colonel who collapsed and died of sunstroke. And the stationmaster was killed when the wheels of the honeymoon train crushed him. Just three years after the wedding, Donna Maria Vittoria was complaining to her father-in-law and asking for his help in curbing his son’s extracurricular activities. The King was appalled that she would speak to him about his son’s infidelity and her own embarrassment, saying that she had no right to dictate her husband’s behavior and her own jealousy was unbecoming.
A Spanish revolution deposed Isabella II and the Duke of Aosta was elected King of Spain by the new Cortes. His election to the monarchy came on November 16, 1870 and he swore to uphold the constitution in Madrid on January 2, 1871. As the election was held, Amadeo’s main backer, General Marques de los Castillejos was assassinated. The politics in Spain were at best unstable and there were conspiracies and uprisings as well as problems in Cuba. The situation went from bad to worse and on this day, in disgust, the King abdicated and headed back to Italy. There he was once again Duke of Aosta.
His first wife died in 1876 and Amadeo married his French niece, Princess Maria Letizia Bonaparte, who was the daughter of his sister and a nephew of Napoleon I. The engagement caused a scandal in Italian courts for two reasons: the 22 year age difference and the close family ties between the two. They wed on September 11, 1888 at the Royal Palace of Turin. Less than two years later, the Duke died and left his young wife with an infant son (and three adult step-sons).
Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. – Denis Diderot
One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion. – Thomas Paine
Little by little, the old world crumbled, and not once did the king imagine that some of the pieces might fall on him. – Jennifer Donnelly
One man to live in pleasure and wealth, whiles all other weap and smart for it, that is the part not of a king, but of a jailor. – Thomas More
Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Coal – In 1808, anthracite coal was first used to heat a home.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.