Humbert I, Count of Savoy

Humbert I
Count of Savoy

The cenotaph of Humbert I of Savoy in the Cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne
Successor Amadeus I
Spouse(s) Ancilla of Lenzburg


Noble family House of Savoy
Father Amadeus, Count of Belley
Born c.980
Died 1047 or 1048
Buried Cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

Humbert I (Italian: Umberto I; c.980 – 1042 or 1047 x 1048), better known as Humbert the White-Handed (French: Humbert aux blanches-mains) or Humbert Whitehand (Italian: Umberto Biancamano)[1] was the founder of the House of Savoy. Of obscure origins, his service to the German emperors Henry II and Conrad II was rewarded with the counties of Maurienne and Aosta and lands in Valais, all at the expense of local bishops and archbishops; a territory which came to be known as the county of Savoy.



Humbert was the son of Amadeus, who may or may not have preceded him as count of Maurienne.[3] His brother was Bishop Otto of Belley. Humbert is the progenitor of the dynasty known as the House of Savoy. The origins of this dynasty are unknown, but Humbert's ancestors are variously said to have come from Saxony,[4] Burgundy or Provence. Given Humbert's close connections with Rudolf III of Burgundy,[5] it is likely that his family were Burgundian, and were descended either from the dukes of Vienne,[6] or from a Burgundian aristocratic family (such as the Guigonids, ancestors of the counts of Albon).[7]

Humbert initially held lands around Belley and in the county of Sermorens,[8] before gaining lands in Aosta and Valais.[9]

Humbert and empire

After Rudolf III’s death (1032), Humbert I swore fealty to Emperor Conrad II.[10] He supported Conrad II in his campaigns against Odo II, Count of Blois and Archbishop Aribert of Milan.[11] In return, Conrad II appointed Humbert count of Savoy and granted him Maurienne, Chablais and perhaps Tarentaise.[12] These imperial grants to a loyal supporter secured key passes through the Alps, controlling trade between Italy and the rest of Europe, which would be the core of Savoy power for centuries.[13]

Marriage and children

Humbert married Ancilla (Auxilia or Ancilia). She may have been Ancilla of Lenzburg, the daughter of the master of ceremonies of Burgundy. Alternatively, Ancilla may have been a daughter of Anselm and Aldiud, and thus a member of a northern Italian dynasty known as the Anselmids.[14] With his wife, Humbert had at least four sons:

  1. Amadeus I (died 1056), Count of Savoy, successor
  2. Aymon (died 1054 or 1055), Bishop of Sion
  3. Burchard (died 1068 or 1069), Archbishop of Lyon
  4. Otto (died ca. 1057), Count of Savoy, successor of his brother

Some authors believe that he had additional sons.


Humbert is often said to have died c.1047/8 at Hermillon, a town in the Maurienne region of present-day Savoie, France.[15] More recently, it has been suggested that he died by 1042.[16] Humbert was buried in the cathedral of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.


  1. The title was held to signify his generosity, but may have been a posthumous confusion of a late medieval record which referred to the walls of his castle (in Latin) as blancis moenibus[2]
  2. History of House of Savoy
  3. Hellmann, Grafen, p. 2. By contrast, according to a late medieval legend, Humbert's father was a Saxon noble named Berold, who was the grandson of Emperor Otto II
  4.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Savoy". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. For Humbert's relationship with Rudolf III, see Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 9, 13ff.,26, 38, 47ff,
  6. Previté-Orton, Early History
  7. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie du pouvoir'
  8. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ pp. 223-235
  9. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19ff., 90ff.
  10. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 32f.
  11. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19, 30ff., 35, 41; Hellmann, Grafen, pp. 8ff.
  12. Ducouthial, ‘Géographie,’pp. 235-238. By contrast, Hellmann, Grafen, p. 3 argues Humbert possessed Maurienne long before this.
  13. Cox 1967, p. 18-19.
  14. On the identity of Humbert's wife, see Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 10f., 19ff., 67f., 71; Die Urkunden der burgundischen Rudolfinger, p. 23 n.11.
  15. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 39f., 69; Hellmann, Grafen, p. 10
  16. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ p. 231


Humbert the White-Handed
Born: c.980 Died: 1047 or 1048
Regnal titles
New title Count of Savoy
Succeeded by
Amadeus I
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