Who wants desperately to occupy Italy's defunct, empty throne? two royal cousins do

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Italy is bracing itself for an unseemly court battle over who has the right to call himself the head of the country's royal family.

While the titles and honours of the Italian royal family have not legally been recognised since 1946, when the republic was founded, Prince Victor Emmanuel, 70, has ruled over the House of Savoy since the death of his father, Umberto II, in 1983. [See Savoy family tree.]

However, his cousin Amedeo, 63, the 5th Duke D'Aosta, strenuously maintains it is he, not Victor Emmanuel, who is the true heir to the defunct monarchy.

Last summer, Amedeo declared that he had changed his name to Savoy and would assume power. However, his attempt to seize control will be fiercely fought by Victor Emmanuel in a closed hearing at a court in Arezzo at an undisclosed date this month.

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