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As the son of Italy's last king, Umberto II, Prince Victor Emmanuel is currently the head of the House of Savoy. He is to fight claims by his cousin, the Duke of Aosta, that he is not the rightful heir to the royal line
Photo: © AFP
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The duke, pictured with his wife at their Tuscan villa in 2001, will present his claim to be head of the family in court later this month
Photo: © Rex

Italy's royal cousins begin legal battle over titles

1 MARCH 2007

The titles and honours of the Italian royal family are largely symbolic since the founding of the republic in 1946, but that doesn't mean members of the House of Savoy have relinquished their claims over who is the true heir to the monarchy. And now Prince Victor Emmanuel, 70, and his 63-year-old cousin, Duke Amedeo D'Aosta, are heading to court to solve a quarrel between them which has endured for several years.

During a closed court hearing later this month in Arezzo, Tuscany, the Duke will contest his cousin's status as head of the family, which the prince has headed since the death of his father Umberto II in 1983. Duke Amedeo believes the prince forfeited his right to be Umberto's heir when he married a Swiss biscuit heiress without his father's permission in 1971. The Duke has even produced letters which apparently show the last king warning his son of the consequences of marrying without his consent.

Prince Victor Emmanuel's sister, Princess Maria Gabriella, has also joined the fray, choosing to side with her cousin. "My father asked to be buried along with the royal seal, and that was his way of showing that the dynasty ended with him," she has said. Her sibling has retaliated by denouncing Amedeo and refusing to recognise him as a member of the Savoy dynasty "because of his gravely injurious behaviour towards the honour of our royal person".

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