Portrait of Charles Albert (1798-1849), King of Sardinia and Duke of Savoy (1831-1849)
Charles Albert (Italian: Carlo Alberto di Savoia; 2 October 1798 – 28 July 1849) was the King of Sardinia from 27 April 1831 to 23 March 1849. His name is bound up with the first Italian constitution, the Albertine Statute, and with the First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849). During the Napoleonic period, he resided in France, where he received a liberal education. As Prince of Carignano in 1821, he granted and then withdrew his support for a rebellion which sought to force Victor Emmanuel I to institute a constitutional monarchy. He became a conservative and participated in the legitimist expedition against the Spanish liberals in 1823. He became king of Sardinia in 1831 on the death of his distant cousin Charles Felix, who had no heir. As king, after an initial conservative period during which he supported various European legitimist movements, he adopted the idea of a federal Italy, led by the Pope and freed from the House of Habsburg in 1848. In the same year he granted the Albertine Statute, the first Italian constitution, which remained in force until 1947. Charles Albert led his forces against the Imperial Austrian army in the First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849), but was abandoned by Pope Pius IX and Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies and was defeated in 1849 at the Battle of Novara, after which he abdicated in favour of his son, Victor Emmanuel II. Charles Albert died in exile a few months later in the Portuguese city of Porto. The attempt to free northern Italy from Austria represents the first attempt of the House of Savoy to alter the equilibrium established in the Italian peninsula after the Congress of Vienna. These efforts were continued successfully by Victor Emmanuel II, who became the first king of a unified Italy in 1861. Charles Albert received a number of nicknames, including "the Italian Hamlet" (given to him by Giosuè Carducci on account of his gloomy, hesitant and enigmatic character)and "the Hesitant King" (Re Tentenna) because he hesitated for a long time between the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and the reinforcement of absolute rule. He was born at the Palazzo Carignano in Turin on 2 October 1798, to Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Carignano and Maria Cristina of Saxony. His father was the great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Francis, Prince of Carignano, youngest legitimate son of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, and founder of the Carignano line of the House of Savoy. Since he did not belong to the main line of the House of Savoy his chances at birth of succeeding to the kingdom were slim. Although the reigning king, Charles Emmanuel IV, had no children, at his death the throne would pass to his brother Victor Emmanuel and then to the latter's son Charles Emmanuel. After that in the line of succession there were two further brothers of Charles Emmanuel IV: Maurizio Giuseppe and Charles Felix.
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