Victor Amadeus was born in Turin to Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy and his second wife Marie Jeanne of Savoy. Named after his paternal grandfather Victor Amadeus I he was their only child. As an infant he was styled as the Prince of Piedmont, traditional title of the heir apparent to the duchy of Savoy. A weak child, his health was greatly monitored. As an infant he had a passion for soldiers and was noted as being very intelligent.
His father died in June 1675 Turin at the age of forty after a series of convulsive fevers. His mother was declared Regent of Savoy and Marie Jeanne, known as Madame Royale at court, took power. In 1677, during his mother's regency she tried to arrange a marriage between Victor Amadeus and his first cousin Infanta Isabel Luisa of Portugal, the presumptive heiress of her father, Peter II and Victor Amadeus' aunt. His mother urged him to agree to the marriage as this would have left Marie Jeanne permanently in control of the Duchy of Savoy as Regent because her son would have had to live in Portugal with his new wife. The duchy would then revert to the Kingdom of Portugal at her death. Victor Amadeus refused and a party was even formed which refused to recognise his leaving Savoy. Despite a marriage contract being signed between Portugal and Savoy on 15 May 1679, the marriage between Victor Amadeus and the Infanta came to nothing and was thus cancelled.
Other candidates included Maria Antonia of Austria, a Countess Palatine of Neuburg and Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici. Victor Amadeus was keen on the match with Tuscany and negotiations were kept secret from France even though the match never happened. Under the influence of Louis XIV and Marie Jeanne, Victor Amadeus was forced to marry a French princess Anne Marie d'Orleans. His mother was keen on the match and had always promoted French interests having been born in Paris a member of a cadet branch of the House of Savoy. He asked for Anne Marie's hand in March 1684, Victor Amadeus, who had been using political allies to gain support to end his mother's grip on power, succeeded in 1684 when she was banished from further influence in the state.
A significant event of his mother's regency was the Salt Wars of 1680. These rebellions were caused by the unpopular taxes on salt in all cities in Savoy. The system had been put in place by Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy in order to raise money for the crown. The annual payment of a tax which had been in place for over 100 years caused great discontent and rebellion finally broke out in Mondovi, where the people refused to pay taxes to the emissary of Savoy, Andrea Cantatore di Breo. The unrest caused an army to be sent to stop the unrest in the town, which was pacified quickly. However, in the town of Montaldo, the unrest began again and was more serious than before. 200 soldiers were killed in warfare which lasted for several days.
The news of these rebellions soon reached a wider scope and it became clear that soon the whole of Piedmont was on the verge of revolt. Power at this point still being with Victor Amadeus' mother, she ordered representatives of the town of Mondovi to go to Turin to conclude treaties and were cordially welcomed by the young Victor Amadeus, who agreed to the treaties. The event had allowed Victor Amadeus a chance to exert some power.
Having succeeded in ending his mother's power in Savoy, Victor Amadeus looked to his oncoming marriage with the youngest child of Philippe I, Duke of Orleans (brother of Louis XIV) and Henrietta of England. The contract of marriage between Anne Marie and the Duke of Savoy was signed at Versailles on 9 April; On 10 April 1684, Anne Marie was married at Versailles, by proxy, to Victor Amadeus. The couple were married in person on 6 May 1684.
Victor Amadeus II began a large scale persecution of the Vaudois (Piedmontese and Savoyard Protestants) in 1685. The state had been bankrupted due to various conflicts and a famine in 1679 which had used all last resources. Due to his alliances with England and the Dutch Republic during the Nine Years War, he was forced to cease this practice from 1688, and in 1694 granted an Edict of Toleration. However in 1698 Louis XIV forced him to expel all Protestant immigrants from Savoy in accordance with a treaty of 1696.
Victor Amadeus II undertook sweeping administrative reforms within Savoy. In 1696 he established a system of intendants, based on the French model, responsible for collecting taxes and law enforcement. In 1697 he began a land survey which was largely completed by 1711, the Perequazione, to examine the land holdings and privileges of the Church and nobility. In 1717 he reformed the secretariat system in Turin establishing individual secretaries for war, internal affairs and foreign affairs. From the 1670s he also had a new administrative zone built in Turin, around the ducal palace. This zone included a military academy, the ministry of war, a mint, and a customs house. This work was still ongoing upon his death.
Victor Amadeus also undertook a number of military reforms. Often when one of his key fortresses was under attack, he would replace its commanding officer with one of his most reliable and trusted leaders. In 1690 he established a select militia within his territories, and he later overhauled the militia system in 1714 and strictly codified it. This included an obligation for each region under his rule to provide a number of men for the militia based on population. From 1713 he also began to establish his own navy based on the limited Sicilian naval forces he had been granted.
Victor Amadeus was able to use the experienced armies he developed in foreign wars to establish more firm control within his own territories. Faced with rebellion by Mondovi at the end of the century, he brought a force of veterans from the Nine Years War there and re-established his authority. He employed a similar strategy against an anti-tax riot in Cigliano in 1724.
Under his mother's regency Savoy, despite being a state of the Holy Roman Empire, was closely linked to and heavily dependent upon France, essentially becoming a French satellite. Victor Amadeus II broke this link by joining alliances against France in both the Nine Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession. Savoy was considered a valuable ally in both wars due to its geographical position, enabling a second front to be opened against France in the south. Savoy relied heavily on foreign subsidies, particularly from England and the Dutch Republic, in both wars to maintain its armies.
At the start of the Nine Years War, Savoy had three regiments in the service of France in Flanders. Victor Amadeus struggled throughout the early part of the war to bring those troops back into his own use. Part of the agreement he reached with the Grand Alliance against France was that they would enable him to recover Pinerolo, which his predecessor and namesake had lost decades before. In 1692, he was the only member of the Grand Alliance to bring the war to French lands, invading the Dauphine. In 1695 and 1696, he secretly negotiated a separate treaty with Louis XIV of France which included the return of Pinerolo to Savoy. Throughout the war, he greatly increased the size of the army of Savoy from about 8500 to more than 24000.
During the War of the Spanish Succession, foreign subsidies amounted for almost half of the revenue raised by Savoy to fight the war. The end of the Nine Years' War had helped to design a new balance on the continent: at the death the childless Charles II of Spain he left his throne to Philip, Duke of Anjou grandson of Louis XIV. The will stated that should the Duke of Anjou not accept it would go to his brother the Duke of Berry. Victor Amadeus was himself in line to succeed on the account of the dowry of his great grandmother Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain not being paid on her marriage in 1582 to Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy. That marriage based his claim to the Spanish throne. As a result, Victor Amadeus expected compensation in the form of a territory which had been owned by the vast Spanish empire. Victor Amadeus had his eye on the Duchy of Milan which, having signed a treaty with Louis XIV, had support in conquering the duchy. With the Treaty of Vigevano in October 1696, however Louis XIV's support waned. Victor Amadeus subsequently allied himself with Emperor Leopold I.
England and Austria ignored his claim, the latter of which had a candidate in the form of Archduke Charles who immediately claimed himself as Charles III of Spain. The Grand Duke of Tuscany also ignored his claims. In the mean time he pursued the expansion of Savoy and bought various fiefdoms of the Holy Roman Empire.
Victor Amadeus was in a position where on most sides of Savoy was a Bourbon ruler, the enemy of Philip V, and he was forced to let French troops enter his lands in order to get Milan which Victor Amadeus had wanted so greatly. Forced to ally himself again this time to Louis XIV and his grandson in Spain, his daughter Maria Luisa was used as a pawn to seal this alliance. His daughter subsequently married Philip V in 1701. In 1701, he fought bravely at the Battle of Chiari, fought in the name of Bourbon control of Milan. By 1702, Victor Amadeus was considering changing allegiance to the emperor again having entered secret correspondence with the emperor who promised him the Duchy of Montferrat. In order to appease him, the emperor increased his bribe, adding various territories in Lombardy, Victor Amadeus having ignored him.
In 1703, Victor Amadeus switched sides, joining the Grand Alliance as he had in the Nine Years War. Savoy fared particularly badly against the larger French forces resulting in a siege of Turin in 1706. Anne Marie's uncle, Louis XIV (along with Spanish forces from Anne Marie's second cousin Philip V of Spain), besieged Turin during the Battle of Turin. French troops were under the control of Anne Marie's half brother, the Duke of Orleans. She and her sons were forced to flee Turin with the grandmother for the safety of Genoa. Turin was saved by the combined forces of Victor Amadeus and Prince Eugene of Savoy in September of 1706.
As a result of his aid in the War of the Spanish Succession, Victor Amadeus II was made King of Sicily in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht which ended the war. Victor Amadeus was forced to exchange Sicily for the less important kingdom of Sardinia in 1720 after objections from an alliance of four nations, including several of his former allies. Yet he retained his new title of King. The rule was that there were no kings within the Empire, but if a ruler subject to the Emperor also possessed a large territory outside the Empire he might claim this title as the Elector of Brandenburg had done, styling himself King in Prussia based on his sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia.
As ruler of an independent kingdom and a key player in the recent war, Victor Amadeus significantly expanded his foreign relations. As a duke, he had envoys and embassies in France, the Empire, and Rome. In 1717, he established his own foreign office.
Having done much to improve the state of his inheritance in 1684, Victor Amadeus took the decision to abdicate in September 1730. The previous month the lonely king had lost most of his family, including his favourite son the Prince of Piedmont, and sought the security of a previous mistress Anna Canalis di Cumiana. The couple were married in a private ceremony on 12 August 1730 in the Royal Chapel in Turin having obtained permission from Pope Clement XII. Still attractive in her forties, Victor Amadeus had long been in love with her and as a wedding gift, created her the Marchioness of Spigno. The couple made their marriage public on 3 September 1730 much to the dismay of the court. A month later, Victor Amadeus announced his wish to abdicate the throne and did so in a ceremony at the Castle of Rivoli on the day of his marriage. His son succeeded him as Charles Emmanuel III.
Taking the style of King Victor Amadeus, he and Anna moved into the chateau de Chambery outside the capital. The couple took a small retinue of servants and Victor Amadeus was kept informed of matters of state. He insisted on having a Louis XIV-style wig with him at all times as his only luxury.
Under the influence of Anna, in 1731 having suffered a stroke, Victor Amadeus decided he wanted to resume his tenure on the throne and informed his son of his decision. Arrested by his son, he was transported to the Castle of Moncalieri and Anna was taken to a house for reformed prostitutes at the Castle of Ceva but was later allowed to return to the Castle of Rivoli where her husband was moved. She was returned to him on 12 April. The stroke seemed to have affected Victor Amadeus in a way which caused him to later turn violent towards his wife, blaming her for his misfortunes.
King Victor Amadeus died in September 1732 and was buried in the Convent of San Giuseppe di Carignano. His son decided not to bury him in the Basilica of Superga which Victor Amadeus had built and where he asked to be buried, as his son did not want to remind the public of the scandal which his abdication had caused. Anna was moved to the Convent of the Visitation in Pinerolo where she died aged 88.
Despite his political reforms and his passion for trying to increase the importance of Savoy in Europe, Victor Amadeus left a considerable cultural legacy in the city of his birth. In 1697 Victor Amadeus commissioned Le Notre to lay out large gardens at the Palace of Turin where he had previously commissioned the Viennese Daniel Seiter to paint a famous gallery which exists to this day. Victor Amadeus subsequently had Seiter knighted. He also encouraged musical patronage in Savoy and the court became a centre for various musicians of the period.
Being crowned King of Sicily in Palermo in December 1713, he returned to Turin in September 1714. From Palermo he bought back Filippo Juvarra, an Italian architect who had spent many years in Rome. Juvarra was patronised by Victor Amadeus and was the mind behind the remodelling of the Royal Palace of Turin, Palace of Venaria, Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi as well as building the Basilica of Superga. The architect was also responsible for various roads and piazza's in Turin. Victor Amadeus' mother also used Juvarra for the famous staircase within the Palazzo Madama where she lived after being banished.
In 1997 the UNESCO added a group of buildings which were connected to Victor Amadeus and his family to be added to have World Heritage status. These buildings including the Royal Palace, the Palazzo Madama, the Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi and his wife's Villa della Regina were grouped as the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.
His distant relationship with his mother was always strained and has been blamed on her ambition to keep power to herself. Marie Jeanne spent most of her time relegated to state business which she enjoyed and had little time for her only child whom she kept under close supervision in order to make sure he would try to assume power. Anne Marie gave her husband six children but also had two stillbirths of each gender one in 1691 and again in 1697. Three of these children would go on to have further progeny including the eldest Maria Adelaide who was the mother of Louis XV of France. His second daughter Maria Luisa known in the family as Louison would marry Philip V of Spain in 1701 and was also regent of Spain for various periods. These two marriages were tactics used by Louis XIV to keep Victor Amadeus close to France prior to the War of the Spanish Succession.
Anne Marie would remain a devoted wife. She quietly accepted his extramarital affairs the longest one being with the famed beauty Jeanne Baptiste d'Albert de Luynes by whom he had two children. Jeanne Baptiste was his mistress for eleven years and eventually fled Savoy due to Victor Amadeus' obsession with her. Victor Amadeus subsequently had his daughter including the future Maria Vittoria marry the Prince of Carignano from which the present Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples is a direct descendant. His favourite child was Victor Amadeus born in 1699 and given the title Prince of Piedmont as heir apparent. At the death of the Prince of Piedmont in 1715 from smallpox Anne Marie died in 1728 after a series of heart attacks.
His relationship with his younger son and eventual successor Charles Emmanuel was a cold one and the two were never close. Victor Amadeus organised the first two marriages of Charles Emmanuel the first one being to Anne Christine of Sulzbach, daughter of the Count Palatine of Sulzbach which produced a son which died in infancy. The second marriage was to Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg a first cousin of Anne Christine and mother of six children including the future Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia.Maria Adelaide of Savoy (1685–1712); married Louis, Duke of Burgundy and had issue;
Maria Anna of Savoy (1687–1690);
Maria Luisa of Savoy (1688–1714) married Philip V of Spain and had issue;
Victor Amadeus of Savoy (1699–1715) died unmarried;
Charles Emmanuel of Savoy (1701–1773); the next Duke of Savoy and King of Sardinia.
Emanuele Philibert of Savoy (1705-1705) died in infancy.
Maria Vittoria of Savoy (1690–1766) married Victor Amadeus I, Prince of Carignano and had issue;
Vittorio Francesco of Savoy (1694–1762) married Maria Lucrezia Franchi di Pont, had no issue;
14 May 1666 – 12 June 1675 His Highness The Prince of Piedmont
12 June 1675 – June 1689 His Highness The Duke of Savoy
June 1689 – 22 September 1713 His Royal Highness The Duke of Savoy
22 September 1713 – 24 August 1720 His Majesty The King of Sicily
24 August 1720 – 3 September 1730 His Majesty The King of Sardinia
3 September 1730 – 31 October 1732 His Majesty King Victor Amadeus