Charles Albert (Carlo Alberto)


Charles Albert (Carlo Alberto)
(1798–1849)
   Heir to the throne of the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, Charles Albert vacillated between absolutism and liberal constitutionalism for most of his adulthood. He was born in Turin in October 1798 and was forced to take political responsibility at an early age when King Victor Emmanuel I appointed him regent during the March 1821 insurrection in Piedmont. Charles Albert first tried to placate the insurgents by embracing the idea of a constitutional monarchy, but then reneged, joining the camp of his uncle, Charles Felice, who crushed the insurrection and restored absolute rule. Charles Albert, in order to give proof of his faith in absolutism to the Congress of Verona (1822), served and fought as a common soldier in the French army that invaded and defeated the Spanish constitutionalists in 1823. He became king of Piedmont-Sardinia in 1831. Giuseppe Mazzini greeted his accession to the throne by writing Charles Albert an open letter appealing to the new king to take the lead in the struggle for national independence. He responded by stamping out Mazzini’s Giovine Italia movement, a policy that led to a farcical attempted coup by Mazzini’s supporters in 1834. In other respects, however, Charles Albert was more liberal: He abandoned mercantilism, built railways, ended feudalism, and reorganized the army.
   In the mid-1840s, responding to the liberalism of Pope Pius IX, who had instituted notable judicial, social, and political reforms in the Papal States, Charles Albert veered toward the creation of a constitutional monarchy. The Statuto Albertino, adopted in March 1848, acted as the basic law of Italy until the ratification of the Republican Constitution in 1948. Piedmont-Sardinia consequently escaped the upheaval of revolution in 1848, which, in Italy, led to popular insurrections against the Austrians in Bolognaand Milan, as well as the creation of a republic in Venice. In April 1848, Charles Albert declared war on Austria. The Piedmontese army was defeated at Custoza on 25 July, and in August he was constrained to make peace and allow the Austrians to retake Milan. The war, however, was not over. Incited by a nationalist Parliament and public opinion, Charles Albert attacked once more in March 1849. The Piedmontese were crushed by the Austrians at Novara on 23 March, and he abdicated the throne in favor of his son, VictorEmmanuel II. He left for exile in Portugal, where he died just four months later.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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