Kingdom of Italy
Regno d'Italia (Italian)
Royaume d'Italie (French)
The Kingdom of Italy in 1812
The Kingdom of Italy in 1812
StatusClient state of the French Empire
Common languages
GovernmentUnitary absolute monarchy
• 1805–1814
Napoleon I
• 1805–1814
Eugène de Beauharnais
LegislatureConsultant Senate
Historical eraNapoleonic Wars
17 March 1805
19 March 1805
23 May 1805
26 December 1805
8 February 1814
11 April 1814
30 May 1814
CurrencyItalian lira
ISO 3166 codeIT
Preceded by
Succeeded by
First French Empire
Italian Republic
Venetian Province
Papal States
Republic of Noli
Republic of Ragusa
Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia
Kingdom of Sardinia
Duchy of Modena and Reggio
Papal States
Austrian Empire

The Kingdom of Italy (Italian: Regno d'Italia; French: Royaume d'Italie) was a kingdom in Northern Italy (formerly the Italian Republic) that was a client state of Napoleon's French Empire. It was fully influenced by revolutionary France and ended with Napoleon's defeat and fall. Its government was assumed by Napoleon as King of Italy and the viceroyalty delegated to his stepson Eugène de Beauharnais. It covered some of Piedmont and the modern regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino, South Tyrol, and Marche. Napoleon I also ruled the rest of northern and central Italy in the form of Nice, Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, but directly as part of the French Empire (as departments), rather than as part of a vassal state.

Constitutional statutes

Iron Crown of Lombardy

See also: Constitutional Statute of Italy

The Kingdom of Italy was born on 17 March 1805, when the Italian Republic, whose president was Napoleon Bonaparte, became the Kingdom of Italy, with the same man (now styled Napoleon I) as the new King of Italy and his 24-year-old stepson Eugène de Beauharnais as his viceroy. Napoleon I was crowned at the Milan Cathedral, Milan on 23 May, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy. His title was "Emperor of the French and King of Italy" (French: Empereur des Français et Roi d'Italie, Italian: Imperatore dei Francesi e Re d'Italia), showing the importance of this Italian kingdom to him.[1]

Even though the republican constitution was never formally abolished, a series of Constitutional Statutes completely altered it. The first one was proclaimed two days after the birth of the kingdom, on 19 March,[2] when the Consulta declared Napoleon I as king and established that one of his natural or adopted sons would succeed him once the Napoleonic Wars were over, and once separated the two thrones were to remain separate. The second one, dating from 29 March, regulated the regency, the Great Officials of the kingdom, and the oaths.

The most important was the third, proclaimed on 5 June, being the real constitution of the kingdom: Napoleon I was the head of state and had the full powers of government; in his absence, he was represented by the Viceroy, Eugène de Beauharnais. The Consulta, Legislative Council, and Speakers were all merged into a Council of State, whose opinions became only optional and not binding for the king. The Legislative Body, the old parliament, remained in theory, but it was never summoned after 1805; the Napoleonic Code was introduced on 21 March 1804.[3]

The fourth Statute, decided on 16 February 1806, indicated Beauharnais as the heir to the throne.[2]

The fifth and the sixth Statutes, on 21 March 1808, separated the Consulta from the Council of State, and renamed it the Senate, with the duty of informing the king about the wishes of his most important subjects.[2]

The seventh Statute, on 21 September, created a new nobility of dukes, counts and barons; the eighth and the ninth, on 15 March 1810, established the annuity for the members of the royal family.[2] In 1812, a Court of Accounts was added.

The government had seven ministers:

Image gallery


The Kingdom of Italy in 1807, with Istria and Dalmatia, shown in yellow
The Kingdom of Italy in 1811, shown in pink

Originally, the Kingdom consisted of the territories of the Italian Republic: the former Duchy of Milan, Duchy of Mantua, Duchy of Modena, the western part of the Republic of Venice, part of the Papal States in Romagna, and the Department of Agogna (it) centred on Novara.

After the defeat of the Third Coalition and the consequent Treaty of Pressburg, on 1 May 1806, the Kingdom gained from Austria the eastern and remaining part of the Venetian territories, including Istria and Dalmatia down to Kotor (then called Cattaro), though it lost Massa and Carrara to Elisa Bonaparte's Principality of Lucca and Piombino. The Duchy of Guastalla was annexed on 24 May.

With the Convention of Fontainebleau with Austria of 10 October 1807, Italy ceded Monfalcone to Austria and gained Gradisca, putting the new border on the Isonzo river.

The conquered Republic of Ragusa was annexed in spring 1808 by General Auguste de Marmont. On 2 April 1808, following the dissolution of the Papal States, the Kingdom annexed the present-day Marches. At its maximum extent, the Kingdom had 6,700,000 inhabitants and was composed by 2,155 comunes.

The final arrangement arrived after the defeat of Austria in the War of the Fifth Coalition: Emperor Napoleon and King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria signed the Treaty of Paris on 28 February 1810, deciding an exchange of territories involving Italy too.

On rewards in Germany, Bavaria ceded southern Tyrol to the Kingdom of Italy, which in turn ceded Istria and Dalmatia (with Ragusa) to France, incorporating the Adriatic territories into newly created the French Illyrian Provinces. Small changes to the borders between Italy and France in Garfagnana and Friuli came in act on 5 August 1811.

In practice, the Kingdom was a dependency of the French Empire.[4]

The Kingdom served as a theater in Napoleon's operations against Austria during the wars of the various coalitions. Trading with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was forbidden under the Continental System.


40 lire coin of the
Regno d'Italia (1808)
5 lire coin of the
Regno d'Italia (1812)

The kingdom was given a new national currency, replacing the local coins circulating in the country: the Italian lira, of the same size, weight, and metal of the French franc.[5] Mintage being decided by Napoleon with an imperial decree on 21 March 1806, the production of the new coins began in 1807. The monetary unit was the silver lira, which was 5 grams heavy. There were multiples of £2 (10 grams of silver) and £5 (25 grams of silver), and precious coins of £20 (6.45 grams of gold) and £40 (12.9 grams of gold). The lira was basically divided in 100 cents, and there were coins of 1 cent (2.1 grams of copper), 3 cents (6.3 grams of copper), and 10 cents (2 grams of poor silver), but following the tradition, there was a division in 20 soldi, with coins of 1 soldo (10.5 grams of copper, in practice 5 cents), 5 soldi (1.25 grams of silver), 10 soldi (2.5 grams of silver), and 15 soldi (3.75 grams of silver).


The army of the kingdom, inserted into the Grande Armée, took part in all of Napoleon's campaigns. In the course of its existence from 1805 to 1814 the Kingdom of Italy provided Napoleon I with roughly around 200,000 soldiers.[6][7]

In 1805 Italian troops served on garrison duty along the English Channel, during 1806–07 they took part in the sieges of Kolberg and Danzig and fought in Dalmatia.[8] From 1808 to 1813 whole Italian divisions served in Spain, especially distinguishing themselves under Suchet at Tarragona and Saguntum.[9][10]

In 1809, Eugène's Army of Italy formed the right wing of Napoleon I's invasion of the Austrian Empire, winning a considerable victory at Raab and having a respectable share in the victory at Wagram.[8][11]

In 1812, Eugène de Beauharnais marched 27,000 troops of the Kingdom of Italy into Russia.[12] The Italian contingent distinguished themselves at Borodino and Maloyaroslavets,[13][14] receiving the recognition:[15]

"The Italian army had displayed qualities which entitled it evermore to take rank amongst the bravest troops of Europe."

Only 1,000–2,000 Italians survived the Russian campaign, but they returned with most of their banners secured.[12][16] In 1813, Eugène de Beauharnais held out as long as possible against the onslaught of the Austrians[13] (Battle of the Mincio) and was later forced to sign an armistice in February 1814.[17]



Local administration

The Palace of the Senate, Milan
The Consulte de Lyon meeting in 1802, which gave birth to the Italian Republic

The administrative system of the Kingdom was firstly drawn by a law on 8 June 1805. The state was divided, following the French system, in 14 départements, the twelve ones inherited from the republican era plus Adda (Sondrio) and Adige (Verona). The chief of the department, the prefect, was the State's representative in each province, improved the administrative decisions of the central government, controlled the local authorities, led of the police and, differently from the republican era, had all the executive powers in its territory. The local legislative body was the General Council, composed by the representatives of the comunes.

The departments were divided in districts, equivalent to the French arrondissements. The chief of the district was the vice-prefect, which had similar powers to the prefect, but over a smaller area. The local legislative body was the District Council, composed by eleven members. The districts were divided, as in France, in cantons, seats of Tax collectors and Justices of the peace.

The cantons were divided in comunes. The comunes had a City Council (Consiglio Comunale) of fifteen, thirty or forty members, chosen by the king or the prefect depending by the comune size. The Council elected two, four or six Elders for the ordinary administration, helped by a City Secretary. The chief of biggest comunes was the royal Podestà, when in smaller comunes there was a prefectoral Mayor. All the city offices were held only by owners and traders, and the leadership of the owners was assured.

During the kingdom's life, the administrative system of the State changed for domestic and international reasons. Following the defeat of Austria and the Treaty of Pressburg, Napoleon annexed to Italy the territory of former Republic of Venice, as announced on 30 March 1806, and ratified on 1 May. Seven new departments were created, six in the Venetian mainland, and one in Istria (Capodistria), whereas Dalmatia received special institutions led by the General Provider Mr. Dandolo, and maintained its own laws. On 14 July 1807, the government passed a decree that reduced the number of the comunes. Following the dissolution of the Papal States, the kingdom was extended along the Adriatic coast, and on 20 April 1808, three new departments were established. The final territorial change came in action on 10 June 1810, when, as announced by Napoleon on previous 28 May, Italy lost Istria and the never fully incorporated Dalmatia, gaining as reward all the southern Tirol up to the city of Bolzano, creating the 24th and last department: Haut Adige.[19]

Language and education

The language used officially in the Kingdom of Italy was Italian. The French language was used for ceremonies and in all relationships with France.

Education was made universal for all children, which was also conducted in Italian. By decree of the governor Vincenzo Dandolo, this was so even in Istria and Dalmatia, where local populations were more heterogeneous.[20]

List of departments and districts

The Kingdom of Italy in 1812, when it was extended from Bolzano to central Adriatic Italy (Marche), losing at the same time Istria and Dalmatia

During its last maximum extension (from 1809 to 1814), the Kingdom lost Istria/Dalmatia but got added Bolzano/Alto Adige and consisted of 24 departments.[21]

Decline and fall

The murder of finance minister Prina in Milan marked the effective end of the kingdom.

When Napoleon abdicated both the thrones of France and Italy on 11 April 1814, Eugène de Beauharnais was lined up on the Mincio river with his army to repel any invasion from Germany or Austria, and he attempted to be crowned king. The Senate of the Kingdom was summoned on 17 April, but the senators showed themselves undecided in that chaotic situation. When a second session of the assembly took place on 20 April, the Milan insurrection foiled the Viceroy's plan. In the riots, finance minister Count Giuseppe Prina was massacred by the crowd, and the Great Electors disbanded the Senate and called the Austrian forces to protect the city, while a Provisional Regency Government under the presidency of Carlo Verri was appointed.

Eugène surrendered on 23 April, and was exiled to Bavaria by the Austrians, who occupied Milan on 28 April. On 26 April, the Empire appointed Annibale Sommariva as Imperial Commissioner of Lombardy, while many taxes were abolished or reduced by the Provisional Regency. Finally, on 25 May, the Supreme Imperial Commissioner Count Heinrich von Bellegarde took all the powers in Lombardy, and former monarchies in Modena, Romagna and Piedmont were gradually re-established; on 30 May, the Treaty of Paris was signed, and the remains of the kingdom were annexed by the Austrian Empire as the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, which was announced by Count Bellegarde on 12 June.

See also


  1. ^ Desmond Gregory, Napoleon's Italy (2001)
  2. ^ a b c d "Statuti Costituzionali del Regno d'Italia (1805 al 1810)".
  3. ^ Robert B. Holtman, The Napoleonic Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981)
  4. ^ Napoleon Bonaparte, "The Economy of the Empire in Italy: Instructions from Napoleon to Eugène, Viceroy of Italy," Exploring the European Past: Texts & Images, Second Edition, ed. Timothy E. Gregory (Mason: Thomson, 2007), pp. 65–66.
  5. ^ Equal to the franc, the new Napoleonic lira had a different value face to the old, ancient Milanese lira. Distinguishing the two different coins, people began to refer to the new coin as franc. So, through the years, people in north-western Italy continued to call franc the lira in their local dialects until the changeover with euro in 2002. [1]
  6. ^ Sarti, Roland (2004). Italy: a reference guide from the Renaissance to the Present. New York.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  7. ^ Gregory, Desmond (2001). Napoleon's Italy: Desmond Gregory. AUP Cranbury.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ a b Elting, John R. (1988). Swords around a throne. New York.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ Scott, Sir Walter (1843). Life of Napoleon Buonaparte: Vol.4. Edinburgh.
  10. ^ Thiers, Adolphe (1856). History of the consulate and the empire of France under Napoleon: Vol.13. London.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  11. ^ Arnold, James R. (1995). Napoleon conquers Austria: the 1809 campaign for Vienna. Westport.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ a b John A. Davis, Paul Ginsborg (1991). Society and Politics in the Age of the Risorgimento. Cambridge.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  13. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica (1972). Encyclopædia Britannica: Vol.1. Chicago. ISBN 9780852291627.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  14. ^ Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2006). The encyclopedia of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: Vol.1. Santa Barbara.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ Wilson, Sir Robert Thomas (1860). Narrative of events during the invasion of Russia by Napoleon Bonaparte. London.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  16. ^ Montagu, Violette M. (1913). Eugène de Beauharnais: the adopted son of Napoleon. London.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  17. ^ Jaques, Tony (2007). Dictionary of Battles and Sieges: A–E. Westport.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  18. ^ Antonio Virgili, La Tradizione napoleonica, CSI, Napoli, 2005
  19. ^ Historical name changes can create confusion: the present-day Italian province of South Tyrol (called in Italian Alto Adige) does not cover the same area as the Napoleonic Alto Adige, which mainly correspondeds to the province of Trentino including the city of Bolzano with its Southern surroundings.
  20. ^ Sumrada, Janez. Napoleon na Jadranu / Napoleon dans l'Adriatique.pag.37
  21. ^ "Map of the Kingdom of Italy in 1808, when Ragusa in Dalmatia was part of the "Albania" department".

Further reading