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Andrea Provana da Leynì (or Leinì) was presumably born around 1520. The exact date is uncertain, but it is believed that he was born no earlier than 1519 (his parents married in 1518) and no later than 1524 (by the time his father died in 1545, he had already turned 21).

Andrea Provana became a page to Prince Ludovico of Savoy, the heir to the duchy. He accompanied Prince Ludovico to Spain when the prince was sent to the Iberian Peninsula for education.

Upon Ludovico’s death, Andrea Provana joined the court of the new heir, Emanuele Filiberto.

His return to Piedmont coincided with the invasion of the state by Francis I’s troops and the duke’s escape to Vercelli. Instead, Andrea Provana followed Emanuele Filiberto, who had moved to Nice in 1538. From that moment on, he faithfully accompanied Emanuele Filiberto on all his journeys.

The battles of Andrea Provana di Leinì

In 1545, he was with Emperor Charles V. In 1549, he traveled to England, and a year later, he was again with Emanuele Filiberto against the French. Subsequently, he accompanied him to Spain, and in 1553, he fought alongside him in the capture of Hesdin.

Andrea Provana di Leinì

During this period, one of the most celebrated episodes in the life of Andrea Provana da Leyni occurred. The city of Bapaume, in Artois, was under Spanish control but besieged by the French. Emanuele Filiberto’s plan to liberate the city involved coordinating an attack from both outside and inside the city. To do this, he needed a trusted man to enter the city. Andrea Provana volunteered. Disguised as a Frenchman, he managed to cross enemy lines and enter the city. After making arrangements with the governor of Bapaume, they executed the plan. The joint attack put the French to flight.

Between 1553 and 1554, while still in the service of the Spanish armies, Emanuele Filiberto tasked Andrea Provana with visiting the few remaining lands of the Savoyard duchy and then appointed him Governor of Nice. The two met again two years later in the Flanders, and the duke entrusted him with fortifying the port of Villafranca.

Andrea Provana di Leinì: Captain General

Subsequently, he worked on the forts of Nice and Montalbano. In 1559, in agreement with Emanuele Filiberto, he established a shipyard in Villafranca.

Upon returning to Piedmont, he married the widow Caterina Spinola, with whom he had two children.

In 1559, Emanuele Filiberto finally regained possession of his territories. Andrea Provana da Leyni went to Marseille to fetch him with a galley and brought him to Nice. The following year, Emanuele Filiberto appointed him Captain General of the Savoyard galleys and sent him to Paris on a diplomatic mission.

The naval fleet

From 1561, Andrea Provana primarily dedicated himself to creating a fleet to counter the Turks. In the subsequent years, he participated in Spanish expeditions along the African coasts, and in 1565, he distinguished himself in the defense of Malta, which was under siege by the Turks. As an admiral, he took part in all operations against the Turks.

Despite his commitment to leading the fleet, he maintained an interest in the kingdom’s politics, spending several periods at court. In 1568, Emanuele Filiberto bestowed upon him the Collar of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, the highest honor in Savoy.

In 1571, Andrea Provana da Leyni led the Savoyard fleet in the Battle of Lepanto, where he was slightly wounded. For this achievement, he received numerous commendations and recognitions.

King Philip II of Spain granted him a pension of 1000 gold ducats, and Pope Clement VIII assigned him a pension of 48 gold scudi and 40 Roman scudi, to be collected from the churches of Carmagnola and Saluzzo.

His excellent performance in the Battle of Lepanto and previous engagements contributed to making Provana the most influential man in the state.

In 1573, he was appointed Grand Admiral of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus. The following year, he accompanied the duke to Provence. Later, he was sent to suppress a rebellion in Geneva in 1577.

Emanuele Filiberto considered him a trusted and esteemed man until his death in 1580. His relationship with his successor, Charles Emmanuel I, was decidedly more difficult.

Nevertheless, he continued to spend significant time at court. He became a citizen of Turin in 153, arranged the marriage of Charles Emmanuel I to Catherine, daughter of Philip II, and in 1585, he accompanied the duke to Spain for the wedding.

The decline of Andrea Provana di Leinì

In 1588, he regained the Marquisate of Saluzzo following a French invasion. In 1590, he undertook a challenging diplomatic mission to Madrid seeking Spanish support for the annexation of the Marquisate of Saluzzo, but without success. The following year, he returned with Charles Emmanuel I, yet they still failed to convince Philip II.

The submarine Andrea Provana

These setbacks exacerbated the already difficult relationship with the duke. Leaving Turin for Nice, he passed away there in 1592.

Initially buried in Villafranca, his remains were later transferred to Frossasco in the family chapel. During the late 1700s, his remains were scattered during the French invasions.

The Italian Navy

Andrea Provana di Leynì is considered the founder of the Italian Navy. He was the one who, under the orders of Duke Emanuele Filiberto, created the first Savoyard fleet. He commanded its operations alongside the Spanish, defending Malta and participating in the Battle of Lepanto.

The name of Andrea Provana was also given to a submarine in the Royal Navy, which entered service in 1918. The submarine was primarily used for training and was retired from service in 1927. Its central part was utilized during the 1928 World Exposition.

Subsequently, it was acquired by the National Association of Italian Sailors (ANMI). Since 1933, it has been located in the Parco del Valentino.