State Secretariat (Duchy of Savoy)

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Coat of arms of the House of Savoy

The State Secretariat of the Duchy of Savoy was a government agency that existed as a unified organization from 1521 to 1717. Initially only entrusted with the conduct of the ducal correspondence , with notarial duties and with keeping the register, it soon developed into the central ministry , which carried out most of the government business on behalf of the duke. Since the Dukes of Savoy became kings of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1720 , and these then kings of Italy in 1861 , today's Italian ministerial administration emerged from the State Secretariat of the Savoy. The Italian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior in particular can trace their history back to the ducal State Secretariat.


Dominion of the Savoy in the 16th century

The Duchy of the Savoy was a heterogeneous structure that essentially comprised Savoy , Piedmont and the county of Nice on both sides of the western Alps . The capital and residence city was initially Chambéry , then Turin from 1563 . The more influential old nobility came from the French-speaking west, while the duchy's economic strength was concentrated in the Italian-speaking plains in the east. The division into two different linguistic and landscape areas brought difficulties, especially for government work, since authorities that belong together in principle often had to be divided. Another solution was the exercise of rule through travel , which was not uncommon in Europe at the time . Characteristic of the territory of the Savoy and their affairs of government was the linguistic inconsistency and the rivalry between Savoy and Piedmont until 1861. The nobility from the Aosta Valley usually had a compensatory effect .


In the late Middle Ages , the Counts and Dukes of Savoy maintained a body made up of influential aristocrats, which mainly had advisory tasks, but also took on administrative and judicial tasks . This council was regulated by Amadeus VIII in his Statuta Sabaudiae in 1430 and designated as consilium nobiscum residens or consilium cum domino residens ; so he had to be at the respective whereabouts of the duke. From this council a secret council ( consilium secretum ) arose around 1500 to conduct or support government affairs and a judicial council ( consilium iusticie ) as the highest court . The latter was finally settled permanently in Turin. The wandering Secret Council, also known as the Council of State, became increasingly less important and was subsequently dissolved and re-established several times.

As early as the 13th century there were notaries, state clerks and secretaries in the wake of the Counts of Savoy and their consilium nobiscum residence . Around the year 1200, under Thomas I , a notarius comitis and two scriptores comitis appear in documents , a century later several secretarios et scribas nostros ("our secretaries and scribes"). Later on, some of the secretaries and clerks had to be notaries at the same time. They were called "ducal secretaries".

In 1329, Count Aymon of Savoy created the office of Chancellor of Savoy, who as Grand Chancellor and keeper of the seal remained the chief administrative officer and highest-ranking member of the consilium nobiscum residens until the 16th century . The secretaries and state clerks were subordinate to the Chancellor. De facto , however, they retained a special position as they were not yet in permanent employment. The secretaries were paid by the Duke after administrative procedures or notarizations were completed. In addition, they were allowed to work as notaries for the general public. The decisive factor for further development, however, was that in many cases they also served the counts and dukes as private secretaries . In this way they also worked on private and secret affairs of the ruler, which required a particularly close relationship of trust.

In 1461, Ludwig of Savoy limited the number of secretaries who were allowed to travel with the consilium nobiscum residens to 16. The six most capable secretaries were responsible for property and financial affairs, and at the same time they often managed parts of the financial administration. The remaining ten secretaries had to deal with all other duties, including foreign affairs. Additional, specially qualified notaries were called in as ducal secretaries only in exceptional cases. In this context, there were soon demands to maintain a regional proportionality with regard to the areas of origin of the secretaries.

Due to different qualifications and relationships of trust, an internal hierarchy was formed among the secretaries, which Duke Charles II (III) confirmed on November 4, 1521 with the institutionalization of the State Secretariat, in so far as he created the leading position of "First Secretary" at the same time, the number of subordinate secretaries ( secretarios ignaros et ineptos ), sometimes referred to as “incompetent”, was temporarily reduced to eight or ten. The First State Secretary became the Duke's most important collaborator, reducing the influence of the Grand Chancellor.


With the reform of 1521, Jean Vulliet (also called Jehan or Giovanni Vulliet) also officially received the office of First Secretary, which he had in fact held for several years. Vulliet was not a nobleman and had obtained his position by buying offices around 1508 . He stayed in office for four decades and then passed it on to his son Pierre-Hercule Vulliet (also Pietro Ercole Vulliet), who continued it until the death of Charles III. held in 1553.

The following Duke Emanuel Philibert was initially in the service of Emperor Charles V as a military leader . In the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis , he received his French-occupied duchy back for his military services . Emanuel Philibert was also accompanied abroad by his secretaries who supported him in the peace negotiations in 1559. On this occasion, they were no longer referred to as secretaries, but officially as state secretaries , putting them on a par with their counterparts from Spain and France . Hugues Michaud held the post of First Secretary of State from 1553 to 1560. Giovanni Fabri (also Jean Fabri) followed him until 1575 .

Emanuel Philibert returned to his duchy, relocated its capital to Turin in 1563 as part of extensive reforms and established Italian as the official language . With the establishment in Turin and the reorganization of the administration, the traveling rulership of the dukes decreased, and with it the role of the Council of State (the former consilium nobiscum residens ), which was hardly convened. In a certain way, this strengthened the role of the State Secretariat, whose legal basis from 1521 was confirmed by Emanuel Philibert in 1559 and further specified in 1568. On the other hand, the duke reduced the number of state secretaries who were directly involved in government affairs to about four, all others had their title de facto only on account of honor. This corresponded to Emanuel Philibert's autocratic mentality, who liked to listen to the opinions of the most varied of experts, not only those of his state secretaries, but then made the decision on his own.

The duchy from the 16th to the 18th centuries

His son Karl Emanuel I gave the State Secretariat some freedom because of frequent absences. In particular, he left several important tasks to the able First Secretary of State, Bernardino Baretti, between 1608 and 1610. Then the rise of the Carron de Saint-Thomas family (also Carron di San Tommaso ) began in the State Secretariat . They came from the Bugey and then became citizens in Chambéry . Jean (Giovanni) Carron was the first of the family to enter the ducal service and in 1610 became Secretary of State for Finance. Since this position usually went hand in hand with admission to the official nobility , the Duke made him lord of Saint-Thomas-de-Cœur (today Aigueblanche , Savoy) in 1617 and then of Buttigliera (Piedmont) in 1619 . In 1625 he became First Secretary of State, initially together with Gian Tommaso Pasero, who took over the official business in Italian. Such joint administration of office occurred repeatedly for political or practical reasons. Often, however, it was only a matter of formal participation, in other cases it was also used for induction. In 1641, Jean Carron's son Guillaume François ( Guglielmo Francesco ) took over the office, presumably under the guidance of his father, who died in 1649. This was the beginning of the custom of sopravvivenza , a somewhat milder form of official inheritance , which is particularly common in France. The transfer took place here only with the consent of the duke.

Probably the most outstanding First State Secretary was Carlo Giuseppe Vittorio Carron di San Tommaso, Count of Buttigliera. He led the State Secretariat from 1663 to 1696 and was also given the additional title of Minister for the first time . The ambassador and later Doge of Venice Marco Foscarini wrote about him that he was one of the most extraordinary talents that the 17th century had given Europe. The same could not be said about the last successor Giuseppe Gaetano Giacinto Carron di Buttigliera. Viktor Amadeus II often preferred subordinate state secretaries to him, from 1701 in particular Ercole di Priero (Priè). Carron had to give up his post completely in 1717, also because the State Secretariat was to be reformed.


With the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, Viktor Amadeus II received Sicily and thus the royal dignity . Although he had to exchange the island for Sardinia in 1720, he still belonged to the relatively small group of European kings. His new status prompted him, among other things, to initiate administrative reform along the lines of some large monarchies. In February 1717, he divided his State Secretariat into two independent authorities: a State Secretariat for foreign affairs and one for internal affairs. A welcome side effect was that he could not only push the clumsy but influential Giuseppe Carron out of his office, but also elegantly outmaneuver or at least limit the almost traditional claims of the Carron family to the highest post in the State Secretariat. The policy of divide et impera was reinforced by the fact that the previous Secretary of State for War was given his own State Secretariat on February 17, 1717. At the same time, a new finance council was set up in which, among other things, the general delle finanze was represented, who headed the finance administration and was considered the actual finance minister. The Grand Chancellor and keeper of the seal, who had been marginalized since the 16th century, also went through a transformation and was ultimately at the head of the administration of justice. The state and administrative reforms of Viktor Amadeus II resulted in his kingdom having one of the most progressive administrative apparatus in Europe in the 18th century. The foundations for the development of the classic departments for external affairs , internal affairs , war , finance and justice were created.

Palazzo delle Segreterie in Turin

These state secretariats were initially very small organizations. Immediately after the division, they usually consisted of a First State Secretary as the head of the authority, three further State Secretaries and three subordinate Undersecretaries. As a rule, you were responsible for different subject areas in three offices. Between the First State Secretary and his State Secretaries there was soon a “First Official” who took over the coordination of official business. Only in the course of time did a few employees join in for simpler tasks. In principle, the First State Secretaries were still only responsible for executing royal orders, which could be delegated to the subordinate employees.

The foreign office took over from 1717 to 1732 Ignazio Solaro di Moretta, Marchese del Borgo, who had already worked as a diplomat in the years before. The State Secretariat for Internal Affairs was headed by Pierre Mellarède de Bettonet from 1717 until his death in 1730, who was behind numerous administrative reforms. Of outstanding importance, however, was Carlo Vincenzo Ferrero di Roasio, Marchese d'Ormea, who became generale delle finanze or finance minister in 1717 , then took over the interior department in 1730 and also headed the foreign office from 1732 until his death in 1745. In 1742 he also became Grand Chancellor, but on this occasion had to forego the State Secretariat for Internal Affairs. For about ten years Ferrero d'Ormea had a position that came relatively close to that of prime minister .

From 1732, Viktor Amadeus II and Karl Emanuel III. build the Palazzo delle Regie Segreterie di Stato in Turin by the court architects Filippo Juvarra and then Benedetto Alfieri , in which from 1756 all the State Secretariats had their offices.

Further development

Kingdom of Sardinia from 1815 to 1860

A turning point was the Napoleonic occupation of the mainland holdings between 1796 and 1814 and the retreat of the Savoy to Sardinia. The rebuilding of the administration in Turin restored the pre-revolutionary organizations by 1816 , but with some adjustments and modernizations, which were then pushed forward in the following 50 years. The first small offices of the State Secretariats became "departments" ( divisioni ), and sometimes smaller supporting agencies were added. The number of staff remained very low: in 1816 the State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs had a total of 22 employees, in 1835 this number was 35, in 1848 it rose to 46.

In the wake of the revolution of 1848 and the imposition of Karl Albert's constitution ( Statuto Albertino ), the state secretariats were renamed ministries. In addition to the three State Secretariats for Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs and War, this also affected the State Secretariat for Finance, which emerged from the generalato delle finanze in 1817 , and the large chancellery from which the Ministry of Justice emerged . There was also the Ministry of Public Education established in 1847 and the Ministry of Public Works , Agriculture and Trade, which was also established in 1847 . The latter was split into two separate ministries shortly afterwards. These ministries became Italian in the course of the unification of Italy under the leadership of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1861 and extended their territorial competence to the entire new state. In 1865 they came to Florence , then in 1871 to Rome .


  • Alessandro Barbero : Il ducato di Savoia. Amministrazione e corte di uno stato franco-italiano. Laterza, Rome 2002, ISBN 88-420-6708-3 .
  • Carlo Rosso: Una burocrazia di Antico Regime: i segretari di Stato dei duchi di Savoia (1559-1637). Turin 1992.

References and comments

  1. ^ "Savoy statutes", a collection of laws, partly also a kind of constitution.
  2. The wandering judicial council ( consilium iusticie ) had two appellate courts with permanent seats in Chambéry (since 1329) and Turin (since 1419) subordinate. The wandering judicial council eventually became affiliated with the Turin court. From 1529 to 1848 it was called the Senate , then until its dissolution in 1923 the name of the Court of Cassation .
  3. This Council of State has no direct reference to the Piedmontese and now Italian Council of State , founded in 1831, but can be viewed in a broader sense as a forerunner.
  4. Simonetta Sigot: Cancellieri e cancelleria nel ducato sabaudo (1440-1478) . University of Turin, thesis 2002 (PDF; 168 kB)
  5. Idem, Appendix (PDF; 168 kB)
  6. Vulliet's predecessor, Jean Dufour, criticized this purchase by a non-aristocrat. Between 1508 and 1513 he reciprocated the duke by placing forged documents in Switzerland, which imposed considerable financial obligations on the duke there. This process contributed to the decline of the duchy under Charles III. at. Jean Dufour in the Dizionario Bibliografico degli Italiani
  7. In France they were introduced in April 1547, since 1558 they were called Secrétaire d'État . Representation of the development in France on ( Memento of the original from August 14, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. ^ Giovanni Fabri in the Dizionario Bibliografico degli Italiani
  9. In the Middle Ages, the ducal authorities used almost only Latin, often with elements of vernacular. However, Italian could never fully prevail as the official language against French, because many high-ranking aristocratic officials came from the French-speaking Savoy. The predominance of France in Europe, particularly in terms of language and culture, also played a role in this context. Let us remember Frederick the Great , who always preferred French to German.
  10. ^ Bernardino Baretti in the Dizionario Bibliografico degli Italiani
  11. Turin State Archives: Note genealogiche sulla famiglia Carron di San Tommaso (PDF; 6.0 MB)
  12. Here the State Secretariat was de facto split for the first time for linguistic reasons: Carron was given responsibility for France, England, Switzerland, Savoy and all other French-speaking areas, Pasero took over the Italian-speaking areas of the duchy, the rest of Italy and Spain. Turin State Archives, Memoria concernente il carico di Gran Cancelliere e quello di primo Segretario di Stato (PDF; 8.3 MB)
  13. ^ Giuseppe Gaetano Carron in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani
  14. Spain had divided its state secretariat in 1705, then created four state secretariats from 1714. In France, too, there were extensive reforms at the time.
  15. ↑ At best, the Carron could lay claim to half of their previous power, but they were only taken into account again much later when Giuseppe Angelo Maria Carron was allowed to take over the State Secretariat for Foreign Affairs in 1773.
  16. Most official sources report that the State Secretariat for War did not emerge directly from the previous uniform State Secretariat. The predecessor was probably a separate office that developed at the end of the 17th century. Secretary of State for War has appeared in documents since the 1670s. When these were first appointed is unknown. Turin State Archives: Regia Segreteria di guerra .
  17. Turin State Archives (PDF; 239 kB)
  18. State Archives Turin on, p. 471 and 532 (PDF; 4.7 MB)
  19. However, this only applied to the properties on the mainland. Sardinia had given the Savoyard the royal crown, but otherwise they had no real interest in the island. Sardinia was only legally equated with the land possessions in 1848.
  20. The Secretary General, who still exists today in the Italian ministerial administration, emerged from the office of “First Official” in 1853 . He was and is the highest ministerial official and head of office (if no dipartimenti or main departments have been set up), who stands between the political leadership of the ministry (ministers and state secretaries) and the department heads and takes on coordinating tasks.
  21. Ignazio Solaro di Moretta in Dictionnaire Biografico degli Italiani
  22. ^ Pietro Mellarede de Bettonet in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani
  23. ^ Carlo Vincenzo Ferrero di Roasio, Marchese d'Ormea in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani
  24. Information on the Palazzo on
  25. According to the structure at that time, the divisioni were the highest organizational unit. This soon developed into the classic organizational structure of Italian ministries: direzione generale (department), divisione (unit) and sezione (subject area). This structure remained largely untouched in Italy until the turn of the millennium.
  26. As of the renaming, the terms state secretary and minister were used synonymously, while the undersecretaries kept their names. This explains why there are ministers and undersecretaries of state in Italy today. The rarely used term State Secretary stands for ministers. The constitution of 1848 officially did not provide for a prime minister, as the king and the ministers formed the government. Nevertheless, this office was established and a government dependent on parliamentary confidence. In the broadest sense, the first state secretaries of the ducal state secretariat can be regarded as the forerunners of the later prime ministers.
  27. Turin State Archives on the Generalato delle Finanze and its successor organization, p. 16 ( Memento of the original of July 1, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  28. This state was not “new” because in 1859/60 it was a major territorial expansion of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont and its simple renaming to the Kingdom of Italy (1861). The Kingdom of Italy (and also today's republic) is the successor to the Kingdom of Sardinia (and Corsica) from 1297, which fell to the Savoy in 1720. Cf. Francesco Cesare Casula: Sintesi di Storia Sardo-Italiana . Delfino Editore, 2011. pp. 58-60.