Reading the reports: Prince Edward's journeys and stays in Piedmont
As Prince Edward intended to go to Turin to visit the Court of Savoy, King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia gave Francesco Antonio Vacca di Piozzo, his Master of the Revels and Introducer of the Ambassadors,1' the order to draw up a proper reception protocol.18 This specified in detail what kinds of treatment were to be reserved to the honoured guest and which amusements were to be organised to entertain him during his stay in Piedmont. It also listed all the rules of the ceremonial, namely of the complete apparatus of gestures, expressions, rituals, and formulas, which the functionaries, military officers, and the members of the Sabaudian royal family would have to observe when receiving and dealing with the Duke of York.1 ’
Vacca di Piozzo wrote two detailed day-by-day reports (later transcribed in the official court register),20 taking care that the specifications of the protocols were in fact followed to the letter. Although not always unbiased, these reports, the letters sent to the commanders of those Piedmontese towns visited by Prince Edward (that were recorded in a specific register of the Regia Segreteria di Guerra of the Kingdom of Sardinia),21 and some articles in English journals, such as The London Gazette and the London Chronicle,22 represent a unique and largely neglected body of evidence that allows us to trace, step-by-step, the prince’s itineraries, the activities he joined in, and the people he met in Piedmont. But rather than merely being a ‘travel diary’, they also provide valuable information about the social aspects that surrounded his stays and how they were perceived by both the court of Savoy and the British press, and allow us better to understand the political, diplomatic, and commercial relationships and cultural exchanges between the kingdoms of Great Britain and Sardinia.
The first journey (10 February-7 March 1764)
Prince Edward disembarked in Genoa on 28 November 1763 and stayed there until 10 February 1764.23 In the city, he enjoyed the amusements the Doge of Genoa organised for him, including visits to the harbour and the city monuments, gala dinners, balls, and nights at the theatre. Not being a lover of the ceremonial rules, the prince occasionally did not observe them, but thanks to his young age (he was only 24 years old) and to his self-assured and expansive character, he was an extraordinary success in Genoa.24
The prince left Genoa on the morning of 10 February 1764 in the direction of Turin,23 accompanied by his Chamber Gentleman, Colonel Henry' St John, and his Squire, Sir William, 5th Baronet of Gore Boothby.26 After passing Novi Ligure, Edward left the Republic of Genoa, entered the Kingdom of Sardinia, and then approached Alessandria, where he intended to stay the night.27 Deputising for the Governor of that city, the Count of San Michele, accompanied by two carriages, preceded by a horseback postilion and followed by several servants in livery, rode out to welcome the honoured guest, and met the prince’s party near the river Bormida, which was crossed by a custom-made pontoon bridge.28 The Count alighted, and together with his officers approached the right door of Edward’s carriage and, following to the letter the instructions imparted by protocol,29 he delivered the King of Sardinia’s homages, offering residence to the foreign guest in the Government building of Alessandria and an escort. Prince Edward gratefully accepted and invited the Count to join him in his carriage, proposing to him the seat to his left. Ghilini and Balbis, the Count’s officers, took their seats in the second carriage of the prince’s retinue, allowing St John and Boothby to stay with Edward. Shortly' afterwards, the cortege was joined by George Pitt, 1st Baron Rivers (1721-1803), who then served as British Envoy-Extraordinary' to the Kingdom of Sardinia in Turin. ’" The Count of San Michele offered his place to him, but the Duke of York refused his proposal, ordering St John and Boothby to move to the second carriage instead.31 These arrangements clearly were not random, but in fact meeting the need to define a hierarchy and to establish the role of every person in that specific social context.32
On his arrival in Alessandria, Prince Edward was welcomed with 30 cannon shots.33 At the city gate, the guards presented their arms and performed the aux champs with the drum roll, ’4 and a guard of 80 men, led by high-ranking officers as well as the regiment’s oboists, greeted him at the Government Palace.35 A large group of noblemen and officers bowed when Prince Edward descended from the carriage and accompanied him inside. There, he was introduced to the Bishop of Alessandria and to the city’s nobles and officers; then, to the sound of music from a nearby gallery, the foreign guest's reception took place in the Chamber of Alcove. Prince Edward asked to be called simply The Mister Earl of Ulster and entertained the ladies with small talk.36 A table was set up to seat 20 people, and the supper went on far beyond midnight.37 Afterwards, the Duke of York was accompanied by his table companions to the Theatre Ball, and after a few dances, he took his leave.38
The next morning, together with George Pitt and the Count of San Michele, the Duke of York visited the Citadel of Alessandria, on the left side of Tanaro river, where he showed himself very' interested and impressed by the grandeur of the complex.39 A battalion of the regiments of guards honoured him by presenting arms and then paraded in front of him performing a march, followed by the cavalry. Incessant rain, however, forced the prince to return to the Government Palace, where a gala dinner was set up for 16 table companions.40
Having thanked the Count of San Michele for all the attentions received, the Duke of York left for Asti, which, due to impeccable preparations, he reached early. Here, he was greeted by 20 cannon shots.41 Edward took up residence in the house of Count Koero di Settime. That night, he received the local authorities and noblemen as well as the Bishop of Asti, and then went to a ball, which had been organised in his honour and included a supper on a table set up for 24 persons.42 The next morning, Edward apologised to the Count of Settime for having imposed on his schedules and was assured that the Count had done his duty.43
After just over three hours of travel, the Duke of York arrived in Trofarello, five miles from Turin, the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Francesco Antonio Vacca di Piozzo was waiting for him, accompanied by the Sub-Introducer Knight Caissotti di Chiusano, a Master of the Horses, four court pages on foot, and two carriages drawn by six horses each.44 Originally, this meeting and a breakfast had been scheduled to take place in Poirino, but it seems that Edward preferred to reach Turin as quickly as possible instead.45 It is important to note that it was possible to make changes in the planned schedule even at very short notice, according to circumstances. Shortly afterwards, the Duke of York arrived in Turin.
In order to contextualise Edward’s sojourn in Turin from a historical and social perspective, it is important to say a few words on how the Sardinian capital appeared to be in the eyes of foreign visitors throughout the age of the Grand Tour.
During the reign of Victor Amadeus II and the first two decades of the reign of his son, Charles Emmanuel III, Turin was described by some English and French travellers as a city characterised by a notable architectonic linearity, elegance, and majesty, but at the same time as austere, melancholy, bigoted, and, above all, boring. These characteristics reflected the Court of Savoy, whose activities were distinguished by the rigid formalisms and the notable impositions of a ceremonial that was certainly out of step with the times.46 In order to extenuate the climate of austerity and rigour typical of his court and to bestow upon Turin a more cosmopolitan tone, which could align it with both other big Italian cities (such as Venice, Florence, and Rome) and the most important European capitals, Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia had allowed the ambassadors to open the doors of their palazzi to the local nobility and to foreign visitors and had given a tacit consent to the establishment of many salons in which aristocrats and middle-class people could meet.4' Although these changes apparently went unnoticed by the foreign guests (Edward Gibbon, who visited Turin in 1764, actually confirmed those judgements and prejudices expressed on the city by earlier British and French travellers), there is no doubt that when Prince Edward approached Piedmont for the first time in February of that same year, he found a more open and dynamic social and cultural context than others had encountered in the past.
Since the Duke of York had expressed a desire to remain incognito during his stay in Turin, his arrival here was greeted by neither cannon shots nor even the House Guard.4'’ At the palace, which Charles Emmanuel III had prepared for him, Edward was received by the King’s Butler, the Marquis of St Alban, and several servants, and some officers were put at his disposal. He later received the greetings of some nobles sent by the members of the Sabaudian royal family and the foreign ambassadors.50 Vacca di Piozzo now reported to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and then informed Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia that Edward had asked for an audience with him. At the appointed time, the Duke of York was accompanied by carriage to the Royal Palace. Francesco Emanuele di Valguarnera, the court Lord Chamberlain, led him to the Queen’s Chamber, where the king was waiting, standing upright in the middle of the room, with hat and sword, and with his son and grandson, the Prince of Piedmont and the Duke of Chiablese, at his side. Entering together with Pitt, St John, and Boothby, the Duke of York greeted the king with a deep bow and, approaching, addressed him with a respectful compliment, which was reciprocated by Charles Emanuel III with kindness and courtesy. During their conversation, the king offered him to meet his older son, the Duke of Savoy, and his wife.51 Victor Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, warmly greeted Edward, invited him to sit in an easy chair (which Edward politely refused), and entertained with him in pleasant conversation.52 The Duke of York then visited the Duchess, who was waiting for him together with the royal children, paying them all ‘a lovely compliment’.53 After this, he returned to the king and took his leave.54
On the same afternoon, the Duke of York received an informal visit by the king’s nephew and grandnephew, Louis Victor and Victor Amadeus II Princes of
Savoy-Carignano. As the only furniture in the reception chamber of the palace was some tabourets (chairs without arms), Edward did not ask them to sit.35 For that night, the king had prepared a small box for him in the Teatro Regio, and Edward did not forget to go to the royal box to thank him. After this, the Duke went to the theatre every night, and he always remained standing during the performances, as was the local social custom followed by the King of Sardinia and the royal princes themselves.56
On the next day, Prince Edward reciprocated the visit the Princes of Savoy-Carignano had paid him. In Palazzo Carignano, he was received without formalities by the knights in the service of Luis Victor and Victor Amadeus II. The three princes sat on easy chairs arranged around a fireplace, with the best of these -at George Pitt’s request - was assigned to the Duke of York, while Pitt himself and the princes’ knights sat on some tabourets.57 At the end of the short visit, a diplomatic incident occurred: taking his leave, the Duke ofYork asked Luis Victor to introduce him to his wife, Christine of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, but the host either did not understand correctly or - according to an enigmatic remark in the report - did not want to understand the request, answering that Edward ‘would find la Signora Principessa in her apartment’.38 Pitt was not pleased with this answer at all and lodged a formal complaint. The matter, however, was not pursued any further, and overcoming this embarrassment, the Duke ofYork and George Pitt were led to the apartment of Princess Christine of Carignano for a short visit. She invited Edward to sit on a sofa, preparing a tabouret for Pitt.39
Over the following days, the Duke ofYork continued to visit the court occasionally and passed through the chambers without the guards presenting arms, respecting his anonymity.60 On 19 February, Edward organised a gala dinner for that evening, inviting the most illustrious people of the state, including the French Ambassador and the Count of Belgioioso, who had been sent by Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena and Keggio and Governor of the Duchy of Milan, to invite the Prince Edward to the Lombard capital.61
Prince Edward enjoyed the sightseeing in and around Turin. One day, he visited the Citadel,62 where he was received by the Governor of the fortress and his officers. He asked to see several elements of the fortification and climbed on the ramparts to observe the surrounding countryside. Then, he left the city to see the site where French troops had built the imposing circumvallation line to besiege Turin in 1706, during the War of the Spanish Succession.63 On another day, Edward went to Susa, where he was received with the usual celebrations, inspected the local fortresses, and joined an exceptionally sumptuous meal in his honour.64 Further excursions to Exilles, Fenestrelle, Pinerolo, Cavour, Saluzzo, Cuneo, and Demonte were cancelled,63 but instead the Duke ofYork visited the Arsenate, the University, and other public places in Turin, as well as the Reggia di Venaria Reale.66
On 3 March, the Dukes of Chiablese and Savoy called on the Duke ofYork in his palace, unannounced. Prince Edward was caught so off guard that he had no time to put on his sword and his hat, which had to be passed to him shortly afterwards. He did not hide his confusion to his guests, but nonetheless invited them to sit in two easy chairs. After a private conversation, the two guests took their leave. Edward accompanied them to their carriage and courteously helped the Duke of Savoy mount his horse.67
As the end of Prince Edward’s stay in Turin was approaching, the king honoured him by inviting him to an intimate gala lunch, reserved to members of the royal family only.68 During the meal,69 Edward kept a respectful reserve. Afterwards, the party retired to the Duchess of Savoy’s chamber, where cotfee was served. Following this, the king showed him the models of the fortified towns of his reign, also inviting Pitt, St John, and Boothby.70
On 6 March, his last day in Turin, Edward went to the court, together with St John and Boothby, to personally thank the king for all the attentions afforded to him, and he also bade farewell to the other members of the royal family.'1 In the evening, he repeated his expressions of gratitude in the theatre, when he called on and thanked them again.72
The following morning, Prince Edward left Turin,73 accompanied by George Pitt and the Count of Lagnasco, quickly reaching Chivasso, where he was greeted with 20 cannon shots. Having received the honours by a guard, he met the Commander of the town, who courteously offered his services, for which Edward thanked him with deep gratitude.74 In Cigliano, Pitt and Lagnasco took their leave from the prince and returned to Turin. Later, Edward arrived in Vercelli, where he found a House Guard of Grenadiers deployed in front of the post inn. The Marquis della Rocca, Governor of the city, welcomed him and invited him inside, where the Duke of York found a richly laid banquet table and gratefully asked all the dignitaries and officers to join him in the meal.75 Afterwards, Edward continued his journey and crossed the Sesia river, where the Governor of Vercelli had set up a guarded ‘rest stop’ for the prince’s convenience.76 In the afternoon, Edward arrived in Novara, where again he was greeted with 20 cannon shots by the Guard of the Door and by another Guard of 80 men. Invited by the Baron de Viry, Colonel of the Regiment of the Genevois Dragoons and Provisional Commander of Novara, to leave his carriage and partake of some food, the Duke of York declined and resumed his journey to Milan.77
The second journey (10-27 July 1764)
For his return to Turin, Prince Edward followed the same route as before. After leaving Milan on the night of 10 July, he was not received in Novara with the usual courtesies, because it was late. The Baron of Viry, meeting the prince’s retinue with torches, greeted the guest and again offered refreshments and help. Once more, the Duke of York thanked him, but continued his journey without stopping.78 Marquis della Rocca, Governor of Vercelli, sent out a high town official to wait for the honoured guest at the Port of Sesia and to inform him that the Governor would be waiting for him to offer him fresh horses, food, and drinks. Edward gracefully expressed his appreciation. Near the post inn ofVercelli, the Governor and a guard of Genevois Dragoons welcomed him with military honours. Edward alighted and accepted the dinner offered to him. Noticing that one of his squires was about to serve a glass of wine to the Marquis della Rocca, he insisted to ‘personally serve our Governor’. All the table companions applauded his attitude.7'’ Edward arrived in Chivasso soon the following morning and was saluted with cannon shots and greeted by the House Guard, as per the instructions.80 An hour later, he reached Settimo Torinese, to be welcomed back by Vacca di Piozzo and other dignitaries and officers, including Louis Dutens (1730-1812), British chargé d’affaires in Turin, to be escorted into the city.81
In Turin, Prince Edward was hosted in the same palace used during his first stay. Following the usual greetings, he met with King Charles Emmanuel III in the Royal Palace, exchanging graceful compliments with him and meeting the other members of the Sabaudian royal family.82 During the following days, the Duke of York repeatedly visited the court, receiving ‘every Day fresh Marks of Friendship and cordial Affection from the King of Sardinia, the Duke of Savoy, and the rest of the royal family’,83 and organised and took part in several dinners and balls.84 One of these took place at the Castle of Racconigi on the invitation of the Princes of Savoy-Carignano. On that occasion, two tables with 100 seats and an orchestra had been set up and after dinner and games, the guests were provided with several calashes for an excursion through the park, which was accompanied by the sound of hunting horns and other musical instruments. Afterwards, there was a ball as well as a sumptuous supper.83
In the afternoon of 26 July, before leaving for Genoa, Prince Edward went to the Court to take his leave of the king and the royal family, but received an invitation for supper by the French Ambassador. This delayed his departure for Asti and caused considerable inconvenience to the local Commander,86 but when Edward eventually arrived in the town early the next morning, he was nonetheless welcomed by cannon shots from the castle and received by a Guard of Gebennese Dragoons. After a few hours of rest, he attended a festive lunch.8'
As the prince approached Alessandria, the city’s Governor, the Count d’Atremont, and his son, the Baron de la Tour, went out to meet him at a farmhouse called Forse si forsi no. Due to the lateness of the hour, Edward was not greeted with cannon shots in Alessandria, but only by the Bridge Guard. However, a path of burning torches had been set up along the way from the city gate to the Government Palace. Entering the palace, Edward was introduced to the city officers, nobles, and ladies. The reception was followed by some games, music, and a supper for 27 guests. Complaining of being obliged to return to England, the Duke of York asked the Governor to convey his gratitude to the King of Sardinia for his arrangements and courtesies. Edward was then accompanied to the Bormida river by a cortege of men with burning torches and continued his journey to Genoa.88 On 17 August 1764, he set sail for England.8 ’