To paraphrase the Beatles, Come together, right now under me. The Beatles had to be more popular than Jesus to pull that off. In Italy, Sardinian King Victor Emanuel II only had to be more popular than the Pope. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
This stamp shows so much influence of the original British penny black stamp of 1840. The leaders profile taken from a medal. The gummed paper. The corner letters from where on the sheet the original stamp was from. Another demonstration how right the British design was, especially in a European century dominated by royals.
Todays stamp is issue A5(numbered off of previous Sardinian issues), a 15 Centesimi stamp issued by the Kingdom of Italy in 1863. The stamp showed King Victor Emmanuel II and was a single stamp issue. Controversially at the time, the King was still styling his name as for when King of Sardinia. Many thought he should be the first as the first King of Italy, not just that Sardinia conquered Italy. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth $7 mint. A version with the stamp image mistakenly printed on both sides is worth $17,500. Only one of those is known to exist.
As a member of the Royal House of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel II inherited his fathers throne of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont. He was very much in favor of a united Italy but to achieve that he had to fight Austria, Papal Forces in Rome and the 2 Sicily Kingdom. He had to do more than fight, he had to be able to win at the negotiating table. The fighting with Austria did not go well and was awkward as his mother and wife were Austrian. The King was able to work around that by siding with Britain and France in the Crimean War in order to get concessions from Austria at the subsequent peace conference. He shared a mistress, Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglioni, with Napoleon III and was able to work out an agreement through her for French forces to pull out of Rome where they were defending Papal interests and allow Sardinia Venetia and Lombard from Austria. In return France got Nice and Savoy. This took a while to play out and were helped along by Austria being defeated by Prussia in 1866 and France following suit in 1871.
In addition to eight children via his Queen and two more by his morganatic second marriage to his favorite mistress. Victor Emmanuel fathered 6 further children by 4 other mistresses. He was excommunicated by the Catholic church. Not for all this womanizing but rather for ending Papal control of Rome, confining the Pope to Vatican City. Combined with the conquering of the 2 Sicilys, a united Italy with Rome as his capital was achieved. After the success, the King somewhat faded, He was more adept dealing in big country power games then dealing with unruly ministers and legislators. He died in 1877, soon after his excommunication was reversed.
Well my drink is empty and I will pour another to toast the Countess of Castiglione. She was famous at the time for coquettish Queen of Hearts outfits and pictures where she scandalously showed bare feet and legs. In addition to the King of Italy and the Emperor of France, she also had interactions with German/Prussian Chancellor Bismarck. Perhaps we should withdraw the Beatles song “Come Together” and replace it with “The Lady is a Tramp” in this article. Maybe not though. “Come together, right now, over me” seems to fit the Countess. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.