ABOUT THE SAVOY FOUNDATION
The American Foundation of Savoy Orders is the philanthropic arm of the American Delegation of Savoy Orders in America. The primary mission of the American Delegation of Savoy Orders in North America is to perpetuate the principles, traditions and humanitarian work of the Dynastic Orders of the Royal House of Savoy.
Many religious, hospitaller and military orders of chivalry or knighthood were founded during the Crusades to protect, defend and offer assistance to sick and weary Christian pilgrims visiting the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Among the earliest to be formed for these purposes were the Knights of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem (now known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), the Knights of the Temple of Solomon (the Knights Templar), the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, the Teutonic Order, and the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, which provided medical care for knights and pilgrims suffering from leprosy.
In 1572, Pope Gregory XIII united two ancient and separate orders by Papal Bull - the historic military Order of Saint Maurice and the even older hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem - into the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. The Grand Mastership of the combined Order was granted by the Pope, in perpetuity to the head of the House of Savoy in 1573.
The Civil Order of Savoy was established by the Savoy King Charles Albert in 1831 to recognize outstanding citizens of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. Within the Civil Order, in 1988 HRH Prince victor Emmanuel of Savoy created the Order of Merit of Savoy to honor special achievements of individuals. Membership is not restricted to Italian citizens.
Continuing the hospitaller and historical traditions of the Dynastic Orders of the Royal House of Savoy, the American Foundation of Savoy Orders focuses particularly on humanitarian aid and charitable activities in the following fields: health care; global emergency relief to victims of natural disasters; social assistance; and cultural and educational programs.
History of the Royal House of Savoy
THE DYNASTIC ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD AND MERIT OF THE ROYAL HOUSE OF SAVOY
The Royal House of Savoy was Europe’s oldest sovereign family. It recently celebrated its millennium anniversary at the dawn of the 21st century. Commencing about the year 1000, the heads of the House of Savoy had ruled, first as counts, then as dukes and finally as kings, for almost a thousand years. From the 18th until the mid-20th centuries, the Royal House of Savoy played an increasingly significant role in the history of modern Italy. Following the Napoleonic era, the Savoy Dynasty gradually unified the entire Italian peninsula into the nation of Italy between 1861 and 1870. By briefly surveying the long history and succession of the Royal House of Savoy, which evolved over the centuries in tandem with the growth and development of its orders of knighthood and merit, the historical interrelationship and modern relevance of these institutions are brought into sharp and meaningful focus.
The Savoy dynasty traces its origins to the eleventh century rulers of the area where today France, Italy and Switzerland come together in the vicinity of Lake Geneva. The family’s dynastic succession began when they were originally created sovereign Counts by the Holy Roman Emperor, Conrad II at the beginning of the 11th century. The first Count of Savoy, Umberto I “the Whitehanded” (born about 972), was granted lands there by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II. As each of the great powers of medieval Europe played out its hand, the Counts, and later the Dukes of Savoy, consolidated their rule, eventually becoming Kings in 1713.
By the 1860's, the heads of the ruling dynasties of the Two Sicilies, Tuscany, Modena and Parma had yielded to the Savoys, who were then Kings of Sardinia -Piedmont. Their dominion extended over Aosta, Savoy, Piedmont and other territories of modern-day Italy and France, including Sicily and Sardinia. Finally, in 1871, under the Savoy's aegis and the leadership of King Victor Emmanuel II (1820-1878), the Italian states were unified into the Kingdom of Italy. He was followed by King Umberto I (1844-1900), King Victor Emmanuel III (1869-1947) and King Umberto II (1904-1983).
The Savoys remained Kings of a united Italy until the impact of World War II led to a referendum which narrowly established the Republic of Italy in 1946. The last King, Umberto II, died in 1983. His only son, His Royal Highness Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoy, is the present Head of the House of Savoy and Grand Master of its Dynastic Orders.
As theirs was the most ancient regnant royal house of Europe, until a plebiscite narrowly established a republic in 1946, the heads of the Royal House of Savoy have bestowed knighthoods longer than any other European dynasty. When the present head of the House of Savoy confers the family’s dynastic and hereditary honors, he continues a millenial family tradition begun by his forebear Count Umberto I of Savoy, circa 1003.
Today, the dynastic traditions and chivalric orders of the House of Savoy continue under the leadership of H.R.H. Prince Victor Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Naples, and hereditary Grand Master of the Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata ( Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation) and the Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro (Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus). In addition, the Prince confers merit orders of the Royal House: the Ordine Civile di Savoia (Civil Order of Savoy "For Civil Merit") and the Ordine al Merito di Savoia (Order of Merit of Savoy). Read more
The mission of the Savoy Orders is to strengthen and spread the chivalric spirit in the contemporary era through dedication and solemn commitment to humanitarian ideals, Mainly the protection of the sick, the poor and the weak. Thus, to be admitted to a chivalric order of the House of Savoy is not just to receive a high honor, but also to commit to active support and participation by making charitable contributions and engaging in benevolent work. While deeply rooted in the past, the Savoy Orders are actively engaged in the challenges of modern society. The generous participation of the Knights, Dames and friends of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and the Order of Merit of Savoy fosters the continuation of the Savoy Orders’ role in humanitarian and hospitaller assistance and support for its cultural, education and social initiatives.
Since 1946, the Head of the Royal House of Savoy has continued to bestow four Orders of Chivalry that are dynastic and hereditary—that is, the Head of the House of Savoy serves as the Orders' titular Grand Master.
The following is a brief description of the four Orders:
The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation-(Ordine Supremo della Santissima Annunziata)
Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy instituted this Order in 1362. The Annunziata was the highest Order bestowed by the House of Savoy and was reserved for notable men-at-arms, particularly of Catholic and noble birth. Today, the Order is limited to twenty. By tradition, Knights are Catholic. On rare occasions, a non-Catholic, such as a foreign sovereign, may be made an honorary member of the Order. The Head of the House of Savoy serves as the Order's hereditary Sovereign and Grand Master. Read more
The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus-(Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro)
This Order is the combination of two ancient Orders. Amadeus VIII, the first Duke of Savoy, founded the Order of St. Maurice in 1434 when he retired to the Castle of Ripaille on the south shore of Lake Geneva. The Order consisted of a few knights he carefully selected to advise him on such affairs of state as he continued to control. The Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem was founded as a hospitaller order during the Crusades. Its primary object was assisting lepers, many of whom were among its members. In 1572, the Orders of St. Lazarus and St. Maurice were incorporated by Pope Gregory XIII into one community, the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, under the perpetual Grandmastership of the heads of the House of Savoy. After the unification of Italy in 1861 and the proclamation of the Italian Kingdom under the Savoy dynasty, the knighthood of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus became a state dignity conferred by the King. Today the Order is conferred by its 17th Grand Master, H.R.H. Prince Victor Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, to recognize those who support philanthropic causes and have contributed to the benefit of mankind through good works, the arts and letters, sciences and humanitarian disciplines. The Holy See recognizes it as a Dynastic Order. Although recipients need not be Roman Catholics, they must be Christians. Read more
The Civil Order of Savoy (Ordine Civile di Savoia)
The Civil Order of Savoy was founded by King Charles Albert of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1831. The Civil Order is a rare award bestowed only on Italians who, having devoted themselves to professions no less useful than those of the Army, have become, through deep and long studies the ornament of the State or who have through their toils been of use "to the public well being.¨ Among distinguished recipients will be found the names of Cavour, Verdi and Marconi. Read More
The Order of Merit of Savoy (Ordine al Merito di Savoia)
The Order of Merit of Savoy stems from the Civil Order of Savoy. In 1988, HRH Prince Victor Emmanuel of Savoy created the Order of Merit of Savoy. It is a dynastic order of the Royal House of Savoy bestowed by the Prince, as Grand Master, upon individuals whose special and particular achievements in various fields of endeavor have made them worthy of recognition or who have worked to benefit the House of Savoy and its institutions. Read more