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Savoy is a cultural-historical region in Europe roughly comprising the territory of the Western Alps between Lake Geneva in the north and Dauphiné in the south.
The historical land of Savoy emerged as the feudal territory of the House of Savoy during the 11th to 14th centuries. The historical territory is shared among the modern countries of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Installed by Rudolph III, King of Burgundy, officially in 1003, the House of Savoy became the longest surviving royal house in Europe. It ruled the County of Savoy to 1416 and then the Duchy of Savoy from 1416 to 1860.
The region was occupied by the Allobroges, a Gaulish people that the Roman Republic subdued in 121 BC. The name Savoy stems from the Late Latin Sapaudia, referring to a fir forest. The word is likely ultimately from Gaulish -- sapin itself is a blend of Gaulish sappos (fir tree) and Latin pinus (pine tree). It is first recorded in Ammianus Marcellinus (354), to describe the southern part of Maxima Sequanorum. According to the Chronica Gallica of 452, it was separated from the rest of Burgundian territories in 443, after the Burgundian defeat by Flavius Aetius.
Savoy or Sapaudia, stretching south of Lake Geneva from the Rhône River to the Western Alps, had been part of Upper Burgundy ruled by the Bosonid duke Hucbert from the mid 9th century. Together with the neighboring Free County of Burgundy (today's Franche Comté) it became part of the larger Kingdom of Burgundy under King Rudolph II in 933.
Humbert the White-Handed was raised to count by the last king of Burgundy, Rudolph III, in 1003. He backed the inheritance claims of Emperor Henry II and in turn was permitted to usurp the county of Aosta from its bishops at the death of Anselm. Following his support of Conrad II in annexing Arles upon Rudolph's death and suppressing the revolts of Count Odo and Bishop Burchard, he also received the county of Maurienne (formerly held by the archbishops of Vienne) and territories in Chablais and Tarentaise, formerly held by its archbishops at Moûtiers.
While the Arelat remained a titular kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire, Humbert's descendants—later known as the House of Savoy—maintained their independence as counts. In 1046, his younger son Otto married Adelaide, daughter of Ulric Manfred II, marquis of Susa. When she inherited her father's lands in preference to other, male, relatives, he thereby acquired control of the extensive March of Turin. This was then united with Savoy upon his inheritance from his elder brother.
The counts further enlarged their territory when, in 1218, they inherited the Vaud lands north of the Lake Geneva from the extinct House of Zähringen. In 1220, Count Thomas I occupied the towns of Pinerolo and Chambéry (Kamrach), which afterwards became the Savoy capital. In 1240, his younger son Peter II was invited to England by King Henry III, who had married Peter's niece Eleanor of Provence. He was appointed Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Earl of Richmond and had the Savoy Palace erected at London.
In 1313, Count Amadeus V the Great officially gained the status of Imperial immediacy from Emperor Henry VII. What was left of the Kingdom of Burgundy effectively ceased to be entirely under the authority of the emperor after the Dauphiné had passed to the future King Charles V of France in 1349 and Amadeus VI of Savoy was appointed Imperial vicar of Arelat by Emperor Charles IV in 1365. Amadeus VII gained access to the Mediterranean Sea by the acquisition of the County of Nice in 1388, his son Amadeus VIII purchased the County of Geneva in 1401. The extended Savoy lands were finally raised to a duchy in 1416 by the German king Sigismund.