Humbert I, Count of Savoy

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)[2] 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; the territory came to be known as the county of Savoy.

Humbert I
Count of Savoy
The cenotaph of Humbert I of Savoy in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Cathedral
SuccessorAmadeus I
Died1047 or 1048
BuriedSaint-Jean-de-Maurienne Cathedral
Noble familyHouse of Savoy
Spouse(s)Ancilla (?)
FatherAmadeus, Count of Belley



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] It is also likely that Humbert was related to Ermengarde of Burgundy, second wife of Rudolf III.[8]

Humbert initially held lands around Belley and in the county of Sermorens,[9] before gaining lands in Aosta and Valais.[10]

Humbert and empire

After Rudolf III’s death (1032), Humbert I swore fealty to Emperor Conrad II.[11] He supported Conrad II in his campaigns against Odo II, Count of Blois, and Aribert, Archbishop of Milan.[12] In return, Conrad II appointed Humbert count of Savoy and granted him Maurienne, Chablais and perhaps Tarentaise.[13] These imperial grants to a loyal supporter secured key passes through the Alps, controlling trade between Italy and Western Europe, which would be the core of Savoy power for centuries.[14]

Marriage and children

Humbert married Ancelie (Auxilia or Ancilia). She may have been Ancilla of Aoste, the daughter of vir illustris Anselme of Aoste[15] or 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.[16] 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.[17] More recently, it has been suggested that he died by 1042.[18]


  1. History of House of Savoy
  2. 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[1]
  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. Ripart, Les fondements idéologiques du pouvoir, I, p. 54.
  9. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ pp. 223-235
  10. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19ff., 90ff.
  11. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 32f.
  12. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 19, 30ff., 35, 41; Hellmann, Grafen, pp. 8ff.
  13. Ducouthial, ‘Géographie,’pp. 235-238. By contrast, Hellmann, Grafen, p. 3 argues Humbert possessed Maurienne long before this.
  14. Cox 1967, p. 18-19.
  15. François Demotz, La Bourgogne, dernier des royaumes carolingiens (855-1056). Roi, pouvoirs et élites autour du Léman, Lausanne, Société d’histoire de la Suisse romande, 2008, 764 pages (ISBN 978-2-94006-606-3), p. 308
  16. 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.
  17. Previté-Orton, Early History, pp. 39f., 69; Hellmann, Grafen, p. 10
  18. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie,’ p. 231


  • Cox, Eugene L. (1967). The Green Count of Savoy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. LCCN 67-11030.
  • C.W. Previté-Orton, The Early History of the House of Savoy (1000-1233) (Cambridge, 1912), accessible online at:
  • S. Hellmann, Die Grafen von Savoyen und das Reich: bis zum Ende der staufischen Periode (Innsbruck, 1900), accessible online (but without page numbers) at: Genealogie Mittelalter
  • Die Urkunden der burgundischen Rudolfinger, ed. T. Schieffer, MGH DD Burg (Munich, 1977), accessible online at: Monumenta Germaniae Historia
  • C. Ducourthial, ‘Géographie du pouvoir en pays de Savoie au tournant de l’an Mil,’ in C. Guilleré, J- M. Poisson, L. Ripart and C. Ducourthial, eds., Le royaume de Bourgogne autour de l’an mil (Chambéry, 2008), pp. 207–246.
  • Laurent Ripart, Les fondements idéologiques du pouvoir des comtes de la maison de Savoie (de la fin du Xe siècle au début du XIIIe siècle (unpublished PhD thesis, Université de Nice, 1999).
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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