The Monarchs and Presidents of Italy From 1861 Until 2014

After a protracted campaign of unification, which encompassed several decades and a series of conflicts, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed on March 17th, 1861 by a parliament based in Turin. This new Italian monarchy lasted for less than ninety years, ousted by a referendum in 1946 when a slim majority voted for the creation of a Republic. The monarchy had been badly damaged by their association with Mussolini’s fascists, and by failure in World War 2. Not even a change of side could prevent the change to a republic.

The dates given are the periods of said rule. Key Events in Italian History.

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1861 - 1878 King Victor Emmanuel II

Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont was in prime position to act when a war between France and Austria opened the door for Italian unification, and thanks to a lot of people, including adventurers like Garibaldi, he became the first King of Italy. Victor expanded this success, finally making Rome the capital of the new state.

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1878 - 1900 King Umberto I

Umberto I’s reign began with a man who had shown coolness in battle and provided dynastic continuity with an heir. But Umberto allied Italy to Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Triple Alliance (although they would initially stay out of World War I), oversaw a failure of colonial expansion, and culminated in unrest, martial law, and his own assassination.

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1900 - 1946 King Victor Emmanuel III

Italy did not fare well in World War I, deciding to join in search of extra land and failing to make headway against Austria. But it’s Victor Emmanuel III’s decision to give into pressure and ask fascist leader Mussolini to form a government which began to destroy the monarchy. When the tide of World War II turned Emmanuel had Mussolini arrested, and the nation joined the allies, but the king could not escape disgrace and abdicated in 1946.

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1946 King Umberto II (Regent from 1944)

Umberto II replaced his father in 1946, but Italy held a referendum the same year to decide on the future of their government, and twelve million people voted for a republic; ten million voted for the throne, but it was not enough.

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1946 - 1948 Enrico da Nicola (Provisional Head of State)

With the vote passed to create a republic, a constituent assembly came into being to draw up the constitution and decide on the form of government. Enrico da Nicola was the provisional head of state, voted in by a large majority and re-elected after he’d resigned due to ill health; the new Italian Republic began on January 1st, 1948.​​

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1948 - 1955 President Luigi Einaudi

President Luigi Einaudi
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Before his career as a statesman Luigi Einaudi was an economist and academic, and after the Second World War, he was the first governor of the Bank in Italy, a minister, and the new Italian Republic’s first president.

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1955 - 1962 President Giovanni Gronchi

Giovanni Gronchi
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After World War I a relatively young Giovanni Gronchi help establish the Popular Party in Italy, a Catholic-focused political group. He retired from public life when Mussolini stamped the party down, but returned to politics in the freedom after World War II, eventually becoming the second president. He refused to be a figurehead, drawing some criticism for ‘interfering’.

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1962 - 1964 President Antonio Segni

President Antonio Segni
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Antonio Segni had been a member of the Popular Party before the fascist era, and he returned to politics in 1943 with the collapse of Mussolini’s government. He was soon a key member of the post-war government, and his qualifications in agriculture led to agrarian reform. In 1962 he was elected President, having twice been Prime Minister, but retired in 1964 on health grounds.

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1964 - 1971 President Giuseppe Saragat

President Giuseppe Saragat
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Giuseppe Saragat’s youth included working for the socialist party, being exiled from Italy by fascists, and returning at a point in the war where he was almost killed by Nazis. In the post-war Italian political scene, Giuseppe Saragat campaigned against a union of socialists and communists and was involved in the name change to Italian Social Democratic Party, with nothing to do with Soviet-sponsored communists. He was government, minister of foreign affairs, and opposed nuclear power. He succeeded as president in 1964 and resigned in 1971.​

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1971 - 1978 President Giovanni Leone

President Giovanni Leone
 Vittoriano Rastelli / Getty Images

A member of the Christian Democratic Party, Giovanni Leone’s time as president has come under heavy revision. He’d served in the government frequently before becoming president, but had to struggle through internal disputes (including the murder of a former prime minister) and, despite being considered honest, had to resign in 1978 over a bribery scandal. In fact, his accusers later had to admit they were wrong.

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1978 - 1985 President Sandro Pertini

President Sandro Pertini
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Sandro Pertini’s youth included work for the Italian socialists, imprisonment by the fascist government, arrest by the SS, a death sentence and then escape. He was a member of the political class after the war, and after the murder and scandals of 1978, and after a considerable period of debate, he was elected the compromise candidate for president to repair the nation. He shunned the presidential palaces and worked to restore order.

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1985 - 1992 President Francesco Cossiga

President Francesco Cossiga
  Vittoriano Rastelli / Getty Images

The murder of former Prime Minister Aldo Moro looms large in this list, and as Interior Minister,​ Francesco Cossiga’s handling of the event was blamed for the death and he had to resign. Nevertheless, in 1985 he became President… until 1992, when he had to resign, this time over a scandal involving NATO and anti-communist guerrilla fighters.

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1992 - 1999 President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro

President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Franco Origlia / Stringer / Getty Images

A long-time Christian Democrat and member of the Italian governments, Luigi Scalfaro became president as another compromise choice in 1992, after several weeks of negotiation. However, the independent Christian Democrats did not outlast his presidency.

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1999 – 2006 President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi

President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
 Brendan Smialowski / Stringer / Getty Images

Before becoming president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi’s background was in finance, although he was a classicist at university; he became president in 1999 after the first ballot (a rarity). He was popular, but despite requests to do so, he demurred from standing a second time.

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2006 - Giorgio Napolitano

Giorgio Napolitano
 Simona Granati - Corbis / Getty Images

A reforming member of the communist party, Giorgio Napolitano was elected as President of Italy in 2006, where he had to deal with the Berlusconi government and overcome a series of economic and political dislocations. He did so and stood for a second term as president in 2013 in order to secure the state.