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Remains of exiled Italian king return to Italy

FILE PHOTO: King Victor Emanuel III, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini watch fascist troops march past from a balcony in central Rome in this still image taken from 1941 television file footage. REUTERS/via ReutersTV/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - The remains of Victor Emmanuel III, who reigned as Italy’s king through two world wars and died in exile in 1947, were flown back from Egypt on Sunday for reburial at a family mausoleum near Turin.

The remains of his wife, Queen Elena, also returned to Italy on Friday for reburial with those of the king at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, near the Piedmont town of Cuneo, a spokesman for the sanctuary said.

Elena died in 1959 and her remains had lain in Montpelier in France.

Victor Emmanuel III’s 46-year reign, which started in 1900 after the assassination of his father Umberto I, encompassed the period of fascist rule in Italy under dictator Benito Mussolini.

He drew criticism for failing to prevent Mussolini’s seizure of power in 1922 and for fleeing Rome in 1944 to avoid an invading German army.

The monarch - known as “sciaboletta”, or small sabre, due to his stature - abdicated the throne in 1946 in favor of his son Umberto II in a vain effort to avert a plebiscite to decide whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic.

After Italians voted for a republic, Victor Emmanuel went into exile in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died the following year.

Italy’s post-war constitution barred male descendants of the royal House of Savoy from setting foot in Italy because of the family’s support for Mussolini. The ban was lifted in 2002.

The grandson of Umberto II, Emanuele Filiberto, told the Italian press recently that he believed the right place for the remains of former Italian kings was the Pantheon in Rome.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Gareth Jones