Amedeo di Savoia-Aosta, nicknamed Duke of Iron and hero of the Amba Alagi, member of the House of Savoy belonging to the Savoia-Aosta branch, was viceroy of Ethiopia from 1937 to 1941.
Amedeo was born in Turin in 1898 by Emanuele Filiberto, second duke of Aosta, and by Elena di Borbone-Orléans. As heir of the duchy of Aosta he received the title of duke of Puglia. At nine he was sent to the college of St. Andrew in London, in the United Kingdom; He returned to Italy and was sent to a military career at the age of fifteen and enrolled in the Royal College of the Nunziatella in Naples. Amedeo soon clashed with the strict deliveries imposed on the other students: no one had to go first to the prince, and, if asked, he had to stand at attention and answer exclusively: "Yes, real height, no real height". Annoyed by so much formality, Amedeo allowed his companions to give him "you" and to omit the title of Royal Highness.
At the entrance of Italy in the First World War he volunteered, at only 16, as a simple soldier in the "Voloire" artillery riding regiment. His father Emanuele Filiberto introduced him to General Petitti di Roreto, saying: "No privilege, be treated like the others". He was immediately assigned to the front line, with the rank of corporal and artillery servant on the Karst, earning the rank of lieutenant for war. At the end of the conflict he obtained permission from his father to follow his uncle Luigi Amedeo, duke of Abruzzi in Somalia, where he was engaged in the exploration of the river Uèbi Scebèli with the aim of creating a farm for the cultivation of cotton, sugar cane and seeds oily. Together they built a railway and a village, named Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi.
Later Amedeo studied at Eton College and Oxford University, learning English perfectly. In 1921 Amedeo left for the Belgian Congo. The temporary "exile", according to the scandalistic chronicle of the time, derived from a joke about the king and the queen. During a reception, when the rulers appeared, he was reported to have said: "Here is Curtatone and Montanara". The reference to the Risorgimento battle was softly addressed also to the short stature of Vittorio Emanuele and to the nation of origin of the queen: Montenegro. The joke was heard and the next day, the father was summoned by the king and decided to leave court. Amedeo went to Africa and got himself under a pseudonym as a simple worker in a soap factory in Stanleyville (today Kisangani).
On July 24, 1925, when he returned to Italy, he obtained a military pilot's license. Back in Africa, Amedeo made numerous reconnaissance flights, earning a silver medal for military valor for daring flying actions on Cyrenaica. Subsequently he graduated in jurisprudence at the University of Palermo with a thesis entitled The concepts informers of the juridical relations between the modern states and the indigenous populations of the colonies, examining the colonial problem under the moral aspect and claiming that the imposition of the sovereignty of one status on the natives is morally justified only by improving the living conditions of the colonized populations. During the thirties he resided at the Castle of Miramare, in Trieste, while he commanded the 4th Stormo Caccia di Gorizia, passing then to the command of the Air Brigade and finally of the Air Division "Aquila".
At that time he was also honorary president of the Unione Sportiva Triestina Calcio. In 1935, at the outbreak of the Ethiopian War, he asked to go to the front, but the King refused, motivating him with his position in the order of succession to the throne. Meanwhile, there was also talk of proposals and agreements to make Amedeo king of some European nation: at the end of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939, it was thought to give him the throne of Spain, left free by the Bourbons, but the proposal lapsed for the opposition of Francisco Franco.
Later, there were meetings between high-ranking Hungarian and Italian politicians for Amadeus to crown the Hungarian crown, which remained vacant after the defeat of the Habsburgs at the end of the First World War (wishing to maintain the monarchy, since the crown represented unity and independence of the state, at the end of the First World War the Hungarians found a compromise solution by appointing a regent in the person of Admiral Miklós Horthy, waiting for the future ascent to the throne of some king who was not a Habsburg dynasty against whom victorious powers of the war had vetoed.Amedeo's death in 1942, however, blurred the plan to put a Savoy on the throne of Budapest).
Following the death of his father Emanuele Filiberto in 1931, Amedeo assumed the title of duke of Aosta. In 1932 he entered the Regia Aeronautica and became, after the Italian conquest of 1936, viceroy of Ethiopia. After the second Italo-Abyssinian war, on 21 October 1937 Amedeo di Savoia was nominated governor general (and therefore commander in chief) of the Italian East Africa and viceroy of Ethiopia. In 1941, faced with the overwhelming advance of the British in the Italian East Africa, the few Italian troops remaining at his command withdrew to organize the last resistance in the Ethiopian mountains.
Amedeo asserted himself from 17 April to 17 May 1941 on the Amba Alagi with 7,000 men, a force composed of carabinieri, avieri, sailors of the base of Assab, 500 soldiers of health and about 3,000 soldiers of the indigenous troops. The Italian side was soon under siege by the forces of General Cunningham (39,000 men). The Italian soldiers, inferior both in number and by means, gave proof of great value, but, remained exhausted by the cold and the lack of ammunition, water and wood, they had to surrender to the British. On the 14th Amedeo obtained permission from Mussolini for the surrender and appointed General Volpini as a negotiator, who, however, was massacred with his escort by the Ethiopian rebels who surrounded the Italian lines.
Shortly before the surrender, Amedeo authorized the indigenous of his troops to return to their villages (and he also authorized his officers), but, as is clear from the 1941 SIM newsletters, the abandonments were no more than fifteen cases, testifying the deep bond that had established between himself, his younger officers and their ascari . At midday on May 17, the terms of the surrender were agreed upon by the generals Trezzani and Cordero di Montezemolo on the Italian side and by Colonel Dudley Russel on the British side. His Britannic Majesty's military, not only as a tribute to the enemy commander belonging to the best European nobility, but also as a sign of admiration for the firmness shown by them, made the honors of the survivors' arms, keeping the official pistol .
On Monday 19 May 1941, at the entrance of the cavern-command, appeared Amedeo d'Aosta, viceroy of Ethiopia, in an official tie, thread gloves and khaki boots. From Forte Toselli, the Duke started off with rapid steps, while on his left was the English general Maine, escorted by a South African non-commissioned officer. On two columns the soldiers of the garrison followed them, loaded with light weapons, backpacks, cardboard suitcases tied with string, guitars and bundles. Many cried. Everyone, by order of Amedeo, had shaved their beards and cut their hair.
Further back, in disorder, the surviving ascari of the Abyssinian battalions with the Tigrine women who had brought them up there. Amedeo d'Aosta made the salute to the honor guard and the Italian flag that was lowered. However, the British did not fully comply with the terms of the surrender conditions they proposed and were freely sub-signed. After the ceremony of the honor of arms, in fact, the Italian soldiers were left at the mercy of the indigenous troops, who robbed them of everything. At the general staff it was not allowed to follow the Duke as established.
Amedeo, prisoner of war number 11590, was transferred to Kenya by air. During the flight he was given the commands for a few seconds, so as to allow him to pilot for the last time. When he arrived in Kenya he was held prisoner by the English together with his Officer Officer - Lieutenant pilot Flavio Danieli - at Dònyo Sàbouk, an unhealthy and malaria-infested village 70 kilometers from Nairobi. Although Amedeo interceded with the British authorities to improve the conditions of the Italian military and for the repatriation of civilians, the British command did not allow him to receive anyone nor to visit the other prisoners.
In November 1941 he began to accuse some illnesses; in December a high fever forced him to bed: three weeks later the British command allowed Amedeo to visit the Italian prisoners (it would be his last exit), but prevented him to greet them personally: Amedeo only got his car proceeded at a crawl in front of the gates of the prison camp. Behind the gates the Italian prisoners held out their hands and called him by name, while Amedeo did not bother to wipe away the tears running down his face. On January 26, 1942 he was diagnosed with malaria and tuberculosis: this diagnosis, due to the conditions in which he found himself, meant certain death.
Amedeo disappeared March 3, 1942 in the military hospital in Nairobi where he was last hospitalized. At his funeral, even the British generals wore arm mourning. By his express will he is buried at the Italian military shrine in Nyeri, Kenya, along with 676 of his soldiers. Since Amedeo had only female daughters, his brother Aimone succeeded him in the ducal title. Amedeo was reputed to be a gentleman; before leaving his seat in Addis Ababa he wrote a note to the British commands to thank them in advance of the future protection of local women and children.
Moreover, Emperor Hailé Selassié was impressed by the respect that Amadeus demonstrated for him. During her official visit to Italy in 1953, Hailé Selassie invited Anna d'Orléans, widow of the Duke of Aosta, for a tea, but when the Italian government informed him that receiving the Duchess would offend the republic, Hailé Selassié was forced to to cancel the meeting with regret. In exchange, he invited the fifth duke of Aosta to Ethiopia in the mid-sixties and granted him all the honors of a head of state.