Victor Emmanuel II (1820–1878), king of Sardinia and the first king of unified Italy. He was born in Turin and came to the throne of Sardinia in 1849 when his father, Charles Albert, abdicated after Sardinia's defeat in a brief war against Austria. The young king negotiated a peace treaty that preserved Sardinia's prewar boundaries.

Victor Emmanuel kept the liberal constitution granted by his father in 1848. Assisted by his prime minister, Count Cavour, he strengthened Sardinia's economy through an improved system of government finance, promotion of industry, and a liberal trade policy. The army was reorganized and the power of the Catholic church was curbed. In 1853 Sardinia became an ally of France and Great Britain in the Crimean War.

In 1859, aided by France, Victor Emmanuel drove the Austrians out of the province of Lombardy. In 1860 the duchies of Tuscany, Modena, and Parma and the papal state of Romagna voted for annexation by Sardinia, while Sardinia ceded Savoy and Nice to France in exchange for acceptance of the annexations. The same year the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and southern Italy), freed from Spanish control largely through the efforts of Giuseppe Garibaldi, voted to join Sardinia. In 1861 Sardinia's parliament proclaimed Victor Emmanuel king of Italy.

He gained Venetia (Venice) from Austria in 1866 after allying Italy with Prussia in the Seven Weeks' War. In 1870 the French troops that had protected papal sovereignty over Rome were withdrawn, and Victor Emmanuel quickly annexed the city, ending the pope's secular authority over any significant Italian territory.

Victor Emmanuel II Victor Emmanuel II