The son of King Emmanuel II and his consort, Adelaide, Umberto I was born in Turin, Italy, in 1844. Following a military education he spent most of his life as a soldier. He succeeded to the throne in 1878.
Early in his reign Umberto served with courage and generosity when Italy was struck by both plague and earthquake, earning the name “Umberto the Good”. Three actions taken by Umberto would have lasting consequences.
First, he undertook a buildup of the Italian military, with the goal of invading and conquering Ethiopia. He failed, signaling the end of Italian colonialism. Secondly, he promoted Italy’s alliance with the newly united Germany. Third, he extended the same support to Austria-Hungary as he did Germany. The second and third actions would have ramifications on the Italian people for almost half a century.
The first caused an explosion of social unrest that led to rule by martial law. Using the social unrest and martial law to their advantage the antimonarchists united against Umberto. An anarchist assassinated him on July 29, 1900. Shortly after his death, thwarting the antimonarchists, his son was installed as King Victor Emmanuel III.