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Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy.

Charles Emmanuel I (Italian: Carlo Emanuele I di Savoia), (January 12, 1562 – July 26, 1630), surnamed the Great, was the Duke of Savoy from 1580 to 1630. He was also nicknamed Testa d' feu ("Head of Fire") for his rashness and military attitudes.



He was born in the family castle at Rivoli, Piedmont, the only child of Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy and Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry. He became duke on August 30, 1580.

An ambitious and self-esteeming person, he followed a policy of expansion for his duchy. In the autumn of 1588, taking advantage of the civil war weakening France during the reign of his first cousin Henry III, he occupied the Marquisate of Saluzzo, which was under French protection. The new king, Henry IV, demanded the restitution of that land, but Charles Emmanuel refused, and a war ensued. The broader conflict involving France and Spain ended with the Peace of Vervins (May 2, 1598), which left the current but separate question of Saluzzo unsolved. After the Duke had started talks with Spain, Henry threatened to reopen the war until, with the Treaty of Lyon (January 17, 1601), Saluzzo went to Savoy in exchange for Bresse and other territories over the Alps. By terms of the treaty, the eradication of Protestants was to be carried on in the Duchy.

Coat of Arms of the Dukes of Savoy after Emmanuel Philibert.
A Savoyard armour captured by the Swiss after the failed siege of Geneva

In 1602, Charles Emmanuel attempted to besiege the city of Geneva. On December the 11th of that year, he commanded his troops to the city during the night, and they surrounded the city walls at 2:00 AM. The Savoyard cuirassiers were ordered to dismount and climb the city walls in full armour as a shock tactic. However, the alarm was raised by a night watchman and Geneva's militia rose to meet the invaders. The attempted raid was a disastrous failure, and 54 Savoyards were killed, and many more were captured. Charles Emmanuel's army retreated in a panic and the Savoyard prisoners were executed. The heavy helmets worn by Charles Emmanuel's troops, which featured visors made in crude imitation of a human face, were henceforth known as "Savoyard" helmets after this notorious incident. A number of these armours were captured by the Swiss and kept as trophies. The Geneva militia's successful defense of the city's walls is celebrated to the present day as an act of heroism with the annual festival of L'Escalade.

With the Treaty of Bruzolo (April 25, 1610), Charles Emmanuel allied with France against Spain, but the assassination of Henry IV changed the situation, as the treaty was not recognized by Marie de' Medici, who immediately assumed regency for Henry's son Louis XIII, a minor. Nevertheless, Charles Emmanuel obtained the help of French troops to free Alba from the Spaniards (January 1617), as the new King Louis XIII resumed his father's former alliance with Savoy. His sister Christine Marie was married to Charles Emmanuel's son, Victor Amadeus in 1619.

However, when the French occupied Casale Monferrato during the War of the Mantuan Succession, Charles Emmanuel allied with Spain. When Richelieu invaded Piedmont and conquered Susa, the duke changed sides again and returned to an alliance with France. However, when Philip IV of Spain sent two invasion forces from Genoa and Como, Charles Emmanuel declared himself neutral, and in 1630 Richelieu ordered a French army to march into Savoy to force him to obey the pacts. The French troops, soon backed by another army, occupied Pinerolo and Avigliana. The Savoy army under Victor Amadeus was defeated in Lower Valsusa.

The duke, having caught a violent fever, died suddenly at Savigliano in late July 1630. He was succeeded by his son Victor Amadeus.


Charles Emmanuel's ancestors in three generations
Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy Father:
Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy
Paternal Grandfather:
Charles III, Duke of Savoy
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Philip II, Duke of Savoy
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Claudine de Brosse
Paternal Grandmother:
Infanta Beatriz, Duchess of Savoy
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Manuel I of Portugal
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Maria of Aragon
Margaret of France, Duchess of Berry
Maternal Grandfather:
Francis I of France
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
Charles, Count of Angoulême
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Louise of Savoy
Maternal Grandmother:
Claude of France
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Louis XII of France
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Anne of Brittany

Marriage and issue

He married his cousin Catherina Micaela, daughter of Philip II of Spain and Elizabeth of Valois and had ten children:

After the death of his wife, he never remarried but was father to another eleven illegitimate children from 1600 onwards by the following mistresses, Luisa de Duing, Argentina Provana, Marguerite de Roussillon, Virginia Pallavicino, Anna Caterina Meraviglia and Anna Felizita Cusa.


  • Henri IV de Bourbon, (The Great), King of France married Mary de' Médici, Princess de Tuscany. They were married on January 17, 1600. As a wedding present to his wife, he decided to wage war against the Carlo Emanuel I de Savoy, Duc de Savoy in 1600, from which he ... Finally, a truce was declared at Loudun on 21 February 1616 with the signing of the Treaty of Loudun.
Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy
Born: 12 January 1562 Died: 26 July 1630
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emmanuel Philibert
Duke of Savoy
Succeeded by
Victor Amadeus I


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