Wednesday, July 29, 2015

King Umberto I, Remember

On this day in 1900, King Umberto I of Italy was assassinated by an anarchist. During his reign, the Kingdom of Italy had secured alliances with major powers and first expanded overseas in East Africa. He fought in the Italian Wars for Independence, helping make Italy a free and united nation. His life and times should not be forgotten.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

King Ferdinando I of the Two-Sicilies

The reign of the Spanish over southern Italy and the island of Sicily, in its last instance, can be traced back to their seizure from the Austrian Hapsburgs during the War of the Polish Succession. At that time, the son of King Philip V of Spain, Charles, was placed on the throne. He had previously been Duke of Parma before moving to Naples as part of the constant struggles and trade deals between the great powers over the states of the Italian peninsula. Eventually, he succeeded his brother as King Charles III of Spain (Carlos III) and so he passed the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily to one of his sons, Ferdinand, who had been born in Naples on January 12, 1751. He was to preside over a time of immense tumult, trepidation and transition in the history of southern Italy, ending ultimately in the creation of a new political entity called the Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies. Little Ferdinand was only in his eighth year when he became King Ferdinand IV of Naples and III of Sicily when his father became King of Spain. King Charles III was forbidden by treaty from continuing to rule over all three kingdoms personally so choosing his third son to succeed him in Naples was a way of ensuring that the Spanish Bourbon dynasty would still retain the crown.

Obviously, as a small child at the time, actual power remained in the hands of the King of Spain or those officials appointed by him to administer southern Italy. At the head of the local government was a council of regency led by Bernardo Tanucci, a native of Tuscany and servant of the King of Spain who had fully embraced the “Enlightenment” ideas that were sweeping the educated elites of society in those days. Tanucci wanted to keep power centralized in his own hands, “reform” the Catholic Church and make government and society more “rational” as he saw it. His efforts to establish state supremacy over the Church earned him an excommunication from Pope Clement XIII, which he responded to by seizing a couple of Catholic monasteries. Unfortunately, his control of the government also gave him considerable power over the upbringing of his young monarch and he was certainly not a positive influence. Because he wished to hold on to power for himself as much as possible, he made sure that King Ferdinand IV learned only what he wished him to know. He encouraged the boy to be frivolous and concentrate on indulging rather than educating himself. Tanucci did, however, make sure that the King grew up with his sense of values.

Due to this, King Ferdinand IV was more adept at sports and other pleasurable pursuits than he was at administration by the time he reached his majority in 1767. As an absolute monarch, Ferdinand IV could rule as he wished but he still kept Tanucci on his council. His first action as King of Naples and Sicily was to expel the Jesuits from his domain, an act which undoubtedly pleased Tanucci greatly. His second priority was to find a suitable wife to ensure that the Bourbon reign would continue. The choice ultimately fell on Archduchess Maria Carolina, the daughter of Empress Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary (making her, of course the sister of Emperor Joseph II and Queen Marie Antoinette). More like her brother than her mother, Queen Maria Carolina was also receptive to the new ideas of the “Enlightenment” and favored what would become known in monarchial history as “enlightened despotism”. She was like her mother in that she was strong-willed and assertive. In 1768 she and King Ferdinand were married as part of an Austro-Spanish alliance and by the terms of the treaty the Queen was given a place on the governing council where she made her wishes known. This caused a clash with Tanucci, who was used to being in charge, but the Queen emerged triumphant over the old courtier.

Many came to believe that the Queen was the real ruler of Naples, a charge not without some facts to support it. King Ferdinand had been discouraged throughout his youth from taking much interest in government and was known among some of the public as il ré lazzarone which, while hard to translate exactly, could be understood as the ‘peasant king’ or someone who behaves in a very low-class way. He was not known for his great virtue but he and the Queen certainly had a productive marriage if not a happy one as they had eighteen children. Rather remarkable considering that both, at various times, said they found the other unattractive and stayed together only out of a sense of duty and obligation. Still, the King could have his fun while the Queen worked to consolidate her own position of power. Naples was effectively still being ruled by the King of Spain through Tanucci until the Queen succeeded in having him dismissed over the issue of the Freemasons (Tanucci banned them, the Queen wanted the ban lifted). The Queen took her advice from her Austrian homeland, such as strengthening the navy, and took the country much closer to Great Britain through the influence of an Englishman who was one of her favorites (and about whom there was no shortage of gossip). She also tried to patch up relations with the Catholic Church.

All of this caused a great deal of bad feelings amongst the Spanish Royal Family. The Queen had appointed an Englishman to power at around the same time King Charles III was going to war against Britain alongside France and the fledgling United States. Ties with Austria and Britain increased to the extent that one could easily wonder which country really held power over Naples. For the average Neapolitan, however, none of this might have mattered. They were used to doing things their own way and would ‘keep calm and carry on’ no matter which foreign dynasty happened to be ruling them at the moment. However, the experiments with the philosophy of the “Enlightenment” undermined traditional reverence for the monarchy. In some countries, this had no immediate effect so long as the country was well governed. Unfortunately, under King Ferdinand IV, Naples was not being well-governed. The Queen’s English favorite had actually done considerable harm to the administration of the country. So it was that a perfect storm was brewing in Naples when word came of the outbreak of the French Revolution, culminating in the horrific regicide of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.

The effort, nominally by King Ferdinand IV, to be an “Enlightened Despot” came to a screeching halt and the King and Queen turned in a decidedly reactionary direction due to the alarming events in France. In 1793 Ferdinand IV pledged the Kingdom of Naples to the War of the First Coalition against republican France and began trying to root out any hint of republicanism or republican sympathy in southern Italy wherever it could be found. However, when he was obliged to make peace with France in 1796 revolutionary agitation at home started to increase again. Queen Maria Carolina persuaded King Ferdinand to declare war on France again in 1798 and though Neapolitan troops briefly marched north and occupied Rome, it was a complete fiasco with the army retreating at the first sign of a French advance (the Neapolitan army had a very poor reputation in this period). The revolutionary forces in Naples saw their chance and began to rise up in imitation of their radical French counterparts. The Royal Family, fearful of sharing the fate of the French King and Queen, immediately fled to Sicily with help from Britain.

Once ensconced in Palermo, King Ferdinand showed his fangs and began massacring any suspected republican he could get his hands on. However, back in Naples, the middle and upper classes that had supported him had been left to the bloodthirsty mob and so quickly called on the French for help. The result was the occupation of southern Italy by French forces and the establishment of the ridiculous contrivance known as the Parthenopaean Republic. In response to this outrage, and in an illustration of how far he had back-peddled from his “Enlightenment” days, King Ferdinand turned to one of the most dashing and fascinating characters of Italian history, the rich, religious, royalist reactionary Ruffo, that is His Eminence Fabrizio Cardinal Ruffo. I must admit here to my partiality as Cardinal Ruffo and his exploits have always been a favorite of mine. The Italian cleric landed in Calabria and raised a counterrevolutionary force of irregulars he dubbed the ‘Army of the Holy Faith’ (they were commonly known as the Sanfedisti). With artillery from Britain and some additional support from Russia, Cardinal Ruffo went after the revolutionaries Old Testament style and his cohorts of religious royalists soon had the whole of southern Italy in an uproar and eventually forced the French to agree to an armistice and wash their hands of the region. It was a glorious and unexpectedly successful operation that was also a colorful adventure, with pious as well as gruesome elements to it.

By July of 1799 King Ferdinand IV had moved from executing republicans in Palermo to executing republicans in Naples, so things were moving in the right direction. However, Napoleon was not going to permit a Bourbon monarchy to remain on the continent he wished to dominate and soon French troops were on their way back led by the Emperor’s brother Joseph. Once again, in 1806, King Ferdinand and his retinue fled to Palermo and Joseph Bonaparte was appointed King of Naples by his brother. Still, the French were constantly having to deal with guerilla attacks and were issued a stinging defeat by the British in the south though the British expedition withdrew afterwards. In 1808 Ferdinand IV received a new nemesis when Joseph Bonaparte was withdrawn to become King of Spain and replaced by Marshal Joachim Murat. He did not have much sense but he was more of a threat as he was more popular than his predecessor, mostly because of his ambition which pushed him toward Italian independence rather than French domination. This naturally led to problems with Napoleon and eventually Murat was defeated by the Austrians and after he fled to France, the Austrian Imperial Army marched in to Naples and announced the restoration of King Ferdinand IV to his throne.

During this time, the Bourbon King and Queen had been having problems of their own in Sicily. The British had given them a subsidy and a garrison to guard them and naturally expected no small amount of influence to coincide with this protection. They tried to steer the country in the direction of a Burkean constitutional monarchy, to encourage popular support for the establishment by having people invested in it rather than for fear of being shot. King Ferdinand was more of the “better dead than red” persuasion and ultimately this resulted in the Queen being exiled and the King forced to issue a classical liberal constitution and make his son regent. However, once Napoleon was defeated and the British had pulled out, King Ferdinand reversed all of that, went back to absolute monarchy, enlisted the help of Austria in regaining his throne in Naples and had Murat shot when he made a bid to restore himself.

At the Congress of Vienna, King Ferdinand IV of Naples abolished the Sicilian constitution and declared himself King Ferdinand I of the Two-Sicilies. All previous agreements were annulled, all enemies or potential enemies of the regime were executed and the Austrian army remained to garrison southern Italy and enforce his rule. He also appointed an Austrian commander-in-chief of the Neapolitan army. All of this caused increasing resentment among the populace and a growth in the revolutionary secret society known as the Carbonari. In 1820 there was a mutiny among the army and an attempted military coup led by General Guglielmo Pepe which forced King Ferdinand I to issue a constitution while at the same time sending troops to stamp down a rebellion for independence in Sicily. All of this chaos drew the attention of the great powers of the Holy Alliance who feared a revolutionary outbreak could spread. King Ferdinand repudiated, again, the constitutional concessions he had made, further damaging his credibility and winning himself no friends amongst the other crowned heads of Europe for his antics. In the end, Prince Metternich sent another Austrian army to occupy southern Italy, defeating the Neapolitan rebels and securing Ferdinand I on his throne once again.

In the end, as before, King Ferdinand abolished the constitution and tried his best to have all revolutionary elements executed but he depended on the Austrian military to sustain himself and, as before, this came at a price. By the end of his life, Austria was effectively ruling southern Italy in his name through the Austrian ambassador Count Charles-Louis de Ficquelmont. King Ferdinand I of the Two-Sicilies, at the age of 73, gave up the ghost in Naples on January 4, 1825. He had started his reign with his country being ruled from Madrid and had ended it with his country being ruled from Vienna. In the intervening years there had never been any shortage of people, all outsiders, wishing to do his job for him. At first he had been content to leave matters to his wife but the horror that swept Europe after the outbreak of the French Revolution  changed all of that. Today he is often remembered as a rather crude and brutal man, constantly being propped up by foreign bayonets to maintain himself. He is the man who ate spaghetti with his fingers at the opera and had lots of people executed. However, before judging him too harshly, one should keep in mind the fact that he was intentionally raised to be disinterested in government and not really prepared for the task. Thus, it is no great surprise that he wasn’t terribly good at it. Also, after going along with the “Enlightenment” trend, his later penchant for putting people to death was a reaction to a very real fear that what had happened to his fellow Bourbon monarch in France could happen to him. What is unfortunate is that he too often broke his own word, damaging his reputation among his subjects and the other courts of Europe. It was a tendency that would be repeated with his successors and the pattern of his reign would, unfortunately, be repeated in a number of ways until the Bourbon reign over the Two-Sicilies came to an end.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Italian-American Hero Francis Vigo

One Italian who became a celebrated hero in the American War for Independence was Francis Vigo. A Piedmontese, he was born Giuseppe Maria Francesco Vigo on December 13, 1747 in Mondovì, Italy. Originally a soldier of fortune, like many Italians at the time, he came to America as part of the Spanish army stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana. When his service was finished he opened a fur trading business in the (then) frontier town of St Louis, Missouri in 1772. In 1783 he moved to Vincennes, Indiana and opened another fur trading business there, buying and selling among the Native Americans and the local settlers. When the American War for Independence broke out, Vigo aided the patriot cause and is most famous for his work as a scout and what we would today call an espionage agent for George Rogers Clark, leader of the rebel forces on the western frontier. While gathering information for Clark, Vigo was captured by Native Americans in service of the British Crown and handed over to the local British Governor, Henry Hamilton (aka "Hamilton the Hair Buyer" for his policy of rewarding Natives for the scalps of rebels).

Hamilton suspected Vigo of aiding the American rebels but as he was legally a subject of the King of Spain, he could not be held and as a possible traitor and so he was paroled but kept under close watch. However, Spain and France were both sympathetic to the American cause and there was also religious solidarity on the part of Catholics on the frontier in opposition to Protestant Britain. So, Father Gibault, the local Catholic priest, organized the French population of Vincennes to protest to the Governor for Vigo's release, even threatening to cut off the supplies sustaining the British garrison at Fort Sackville if Hamilton refused. Hamilton released Vigo but made him promise not to "do any thing injurious to the British interests on his way to St. Louis." Vigo was nothing if not honest and so he returned to St Louis first and then traveled to Kaskaskia to inform Colonel Clark of the British defenses at Vincennes. He had kept his word not to do anything to harm British interests "on his way to St Louis" while still carrying out his mission on behalf of Clark. Because of the information he provided, Clark was able to take Vincennes in 1779.

Vigo was also a very successful businessman and he was the leading financial backer of the American cause in the old northwest (as what is today known as the midwest was called at the time). He willingly exchanged paper promises from the Continental Congress for hard currency that was actually valued and useful. Unfortunately for Vigo, he was never repaid so his support for the cause of independence was a complete sacrifice for him. After the war, he continued his business, expanding his trade network to the east coast and in the early 19th Century was responsible for the establishment of Vincennes University as well as becoming the commanding colonel of the Knox County Militia before his retirement in 1810. He died on March 22, 1836, an honored and respected figure in the community but still not compensated by the American government for the great losses he incurred on their behalf. A monument in his honor today stands in the George Rogers Clark historical park in Vincennes, Indiana.

Monday, June 22, 2015

General Rino Corso Fougier

Rino Corso Fougier was born on November 14, 1894 in Bastia, France. In 1912 he enlisted in the Regio Esercito (Royal Army) and showed promise. He took the reserve officer student training course and in 1914 was commissioned a second lieutenant in command of a platoon of bicycle-mounted Bersaglieri. When the Kingdom of Italy entered World War I the following year he served with the Seventh Bersaglieri Regiment and was wounded in action on June 23, 1915 by a mine explosion while carrying out a reconnaissance mission. He pushed forward and earned the Silver Medal for Military Valor for his heroism. However, his aspirations caused him to look to the skies and he began training as a combat pilot at the Battalion Airmen School of Venaria Reale in Piedmont, earning his license in 1916 and becoming a combat pilot the following year. Posted to the 113th Squadron, he saw action in numerous air battles. He earned his second Silver Medal after taking on three enemy planes on May 20, 1917 over the Austrians' Banjšice Plateau, a fight in which he was wounded again. He served in other squadrons and was promoted to the rank of captain, earning a third Silver Medal along the way. After the war he was appointed to command his own squadron.

Previously, he was still officially a Bersaglieri officer but in 1923 the Regia Aeronautica (Royal Air Force) was officially established and in 1927 Fougier was promoted to lieutenant colonel. From 1928 to 1933 he commanded the First Wing and was singled out for praise by Air Marshal Italo Balbo. In 1930 he established the first school of aerobatics which would become a famous institution and during World War II the Italian pilots would be widely known for their aerobatic skill. In 1931 he was promoted to colonel and from 1933 to 1934 commanded the 3rd Air Brigade. Subsequently he saw colonial service as commander of the air forces in Libya until 1937. He commanded Italian air forces in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and saw action again in the Spanish Civil War in which Italian air power played a critical role. Afterwards, he was made inspector of air force training schools and had a couple of other assignments before Italian entry into World War II. Despite being pioneers in air warfare, Italy entered the conflict with some considerable disadvantages. Success in previous campaigns with older aircraft meant that innovation was not given the priority it should have and most Italian aircraft were outdated when Italy entered the war. The industrial capacity of the country was also insufficient to meet the demands of a world war.

In 1940, General Rino Corso Fougier received his most famous assignment; command of the Italian air forces operating in the Battle of Britain (see Italians in the Battle of Britain). Although they are not often remembered in histories of the Battle of Britain, the Italians actually did quite well, especially considering how outmatched their maneuverable but slow CR.42 biplanes were by the British Spitfires. The Italian pilots flew numerous missions, performed very well in air-to-air combat and inflicted about as much damage on the British as they lost themselves. Italian bombing raids on coastal installations also did considerable damage and forced the British RAF to divert resources which would have been better employed in fending off attacks by the German Luftwaffe. It was a campaign that deserves to be more widely known because the Italian pilots performed very well and were not without successes. At Felixtowne, Harwich and Ramsgate, the initial Italian air attacks went very well and the daylight raid on Ramsgate resulted in only five Italian aircraft being damaged by anti-aircraft fire. In air-to-air combat with the RAF the outmatched Italians generally gave as good as they got, inflicting as much damage as they incurred. Counting fighters and bombers, the Italian forces lost 15 aircraft in the Battle of Britain but destroyed an equal number of British aircraft in the process while dropping 54 tons of ordinance on the enemy.

Eventually, however, Mussolini determined that Italy's resources had to be focused on the Mediterranean (though there was the diversion of forces to Russia) and so the Italian Air Corps in Belgian operating against England was withdrawn. After the dismissal of General Francesco Pricolo, General Rino Corso Fougier was promoted to Chief of Staff of the Regia Aeronautica and Secretary of State. In 1942 he was promoted to General of the Army (Aviation) but his military career came to an end the following year with the downfall of the Fascist state and the armistice with the Allies. Because the Regia Aeronautica had been born in the Fascist era there were those who harbored suspicions about the whole organization and General Rino Corso Fougier was stripped of his post and left the military to retire to civilian life. Nonetheless, he had finished a remarkable career of service to his King and his nation. He died in Rome on April 24, 1963.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Case for Italian Unification

Some time ago it was brought to my attention that I had never set down my exact thoughts on Italian unification. It has certainly been covered here, the facts are there for all to see, the sequence of events, etc. I would think most regular readers would be aware that I favored it, even if the way it came about is not what I would consider ideal. However, my overall thoughts on the subject have been lacking and since this is something which tends to divide monarchists (one of oh-so-many things), I thought I might as well put forward my opinions and make a case in defense of the unification of Italy since not a few (non-Italian) monarchists tend to take an extremely hostile view to the very existence of a united Italy. I will try to refute the most common arguments against unification that I have encountered and try to explain why I think it was a positive development and could have been even more positive had it been done sooner.

First of all, I think it is a mistake to consider opposition to Italian unification to be something reactionary. Yet, this tends to be how support or opposition to unification is framed; the revolutionaries were for it, the reactionaries were against it. However, Italian nationalists were not trying to establish something new at least in terms of having a united Italy under one government. Long before there was a Grand Duchy of Tuscany, a Papal States, a Kingdom of the Two-Sicilies or a Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, there had been a united Italy ruled by one government in Rome. It was the Roman Empire, the Roman Republic with a history stretching back to traceless antiquity. It had also lasted quite a long time. In wishing to have all of the Italian peninsula united together under one government in Rome, the nationalists were aiming to restore something that had already existed rather than construct something totally new. Of course, the government itself would be new but the idea of unification itself was not. The history of Imperial Rome loomed large in the collective memory of all Italians as it was bound to. When a good chunk of your historical timeline consists of a period when you ruled practically the entire known world, that is something that casts a very long shadow.

All throughout the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages and the rise of the city-states and especially the color, chaos and culture of the Renaissance the legacy of Imperial Rome was ever-present. It spoke clearly to every Italian that they had been and were capable of being so much more than a patchwork collection of feuding city-states and a battleground for foreign powers. This is also proven by the fact that Italian unification was a dream for a great many people long before the Nineteenth Century. During the Renaissance, it was often the Popes who took the lead in trying to reestablish a united Italy under their control. It was the French and the Germans that the “Warrior Pope” Julius II referred to when he fought his wars to drive the “barbarians” out of Italy. Ultimately, he got much farther in realizing his goal than anyone would have thought possible. Later on, Pope Clement VII tried the same thing but with much less success. Even back in the Middle Ages there had been a foreshadowing of these struggles when Pope Alexander III called for Italian unity and formed the Lombard League to thwart the invasion of the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

The primary point here though is that Italian unification was not, in itself, a “revolutionary” idea. It was a concept with more history and tradition behind it than in any other European nation-state. The difference, of course, was in what sort of form a united, or re-united, Italy would take. Many of those who object to the existence of the united Italy, formerly the Kingdom of Italy, base their position on their dislike of the sort of state that existed in Piedmont-Sardinia under the House of Savoy and what is sometimes seen as a Savoyard conquest of Italy rather than a unification such as was seen in other countries. However, things were not so neat and clean in those other countries either and Italy always seems to be held to a different standard in this regard. There is no comparable objection, after all, to united nation-states in France, Britain, Spain or Germany; why is Italy different? Why are the Italian people considered singularly unworthy of something so many others take for granted?

After all, no one would claim that France or Spain or Germany absolutely cannot be unified and must be ruled by outsiders. Are the dialects of Turin, Florence and Naples more alien to each other than Catalan and Castilian, English and Cornish, Welsh or Gaelic, High and Low German? Are the divisions imposed on Italy by foreign invaders more legitimate than the divisions that resulted from the foreign invasion of Spain? There seems to be no equivalent. Most seem to agree that the French were understandably opposed to a large portion of their country being ruled by England and that the Spanish were understandably indignant at being ruled by Moors and yet some seem to think that Italians should have been content to see their homeland being ruled by Spanish, French and German authorities. The divisions in Italy were very old, it is true but the regimes that existed at the time of the Italian Wars for Independence were not so deep-rooted as some seem to think. Certainly none could match the history of the venerable House of Savoy which had been ruling some patch of ground, be it great or small, for many, many centuries longer than most of the other royal houses represented on the Italian peninsula had existed even in their own homelands much less on Italian soil.

The rule of the Spanish Bourbons over Parma came as recently as 1847. Their rule over Sicily came in 1735 prior to which more than ten different dynasties in their turn had reigned over the island before them. Hapsburg rule over Modena dated only since 1814 with time for only two to reign. Likewise, the Austrian Hapsburgs had ruled over Lombardy-Venetia only since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and which they had gained, not by inheritance or marriage but by negotiation with the First French Republic, later confirmed by the Congress of Vienna. All of these were fresh-faced newcomers compared to the royals of the House of Savoy who had ruled over their own homeland since at least 1003 and over Sardinia since 1720. No power on the Italian peninsula had a deeper tradition and a longer history in the region than their own save for one, which was, of course, the Papal States. The Papal States are probably the easiest thing to point to in an effort to explain why Italy is treated differently from other countries in regards to unification. Politics and conflicting nationalities can be trouble enough but add religion to the mix and you get a very volatile cocktail indeed.

First of all, as should be obvious at this point, the total opposition of pontiffs such as Gregory XVI and (belatedly) Pius IX to Italian unification was the innovation. In the past, it was the popes who had often most longed and worked for Italian unification such as with Alexander III and the Lombard League or Clement VII and the League of Cognac along with others. Of course, in those days, while the Papal States may not have had considerably more political power than in the time of Pius IX, the Pope certainly had more prestige and would naturally have been the leader of any sort of Italian confederation. By the 19th Century the political strength of the Catholic Church had been all but eliminated, partly because of the enemies of the Church but also partly by papal policies themselves. On the international stage, even many devoutly Catholic countries had come to view the papacy as being unreliable and all but incapable of impartiality. One of the primary reasons for this was the lack of Italian unification itself. Looking back, it put the political power of the Pope at odds with the power and prestige of the Catholic Church as a whole even if few could look past their own interests to see it that way.

Pope Alexander III giving a blessed sword
the Doge of Venice
Consider the course of history: Once the popes gained political control of Rome and central Italy their primary goal in foreign policy was to maintain and expand that control. However, because the Papal States could never be powerful enough to withstand the major powers of the time, the pontiffs adopted a policy of playing one against the other, usually France and Germany/Austria. The Spanish were involved as well but eventually as a subsidiary of either the French or Germans. The pattern is replayed over and over throughout the centuries. One pope supports the Germans against the French, then when the Germans become too powerful, another pope supports the French against the Germans. Of course, the popes were not the only cause of this as the French, Germans and Spanish were also always eager on their own to fight over territories in an attempt to dominate Italy. There were so many of these conflicts that a number of them have simply been grouped together by historians and named “The Italian Wars”. Naturally, all the energy, lives and treasure poured into these conflicts by the Catholic monarchies could have, from a Catholic point of view, been better spent fighting the Turks or later the Protestants. Lutheranism might have been crushed in its infancy had not the German Emperor Charles V devoted so much of his forces to fighting the Pope and his French ally. The Turks, likewise, might have been defeated had not the French allied with them in order to thwart the Germans.

This was a common theme for practically the whole of history from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire until the reunification of the Italian peninsula, since before the time that Charlemagne clashed with King Desiderius of the Lombards until the Battle of Solferino between Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and French Emperor Napoleon III the Italians have seen their country serve as the battleground, fought over by those great Catholic powers to dominate them with the Pope usually in the middle of it, supporting one side or the other. There had also been Italian states and rulers that fostered the division, supporting whichever side seemed strongest at the time and which would offer the most to them for their allegiance. Many popes complained about this habit of their countrymen, not that they were not above behaving in a similar fashion but because the small states tended to support whichever side was stronger (often the German Emperor) while the Pope tended to oppose that same side as it would pose the greatest threat to his continued rule over Rome. When Catholics think about this long and ugly succession of wars, the “Investiture Dispute”, the “Italian Wars”, the “Sack of Rome” there must surely be some, even among the most partisan, who can at least understand the wish that Italy had simply been left to the Italians and had all the Catholic powers concentrate on their common enemies rather than fighting each other endlessly for control of the Italian peninsula.

Opposites who agreed Mazzini would be a disaster
Even to the very end, when Catholic France and Austria were both about to be surpassed by Protestant Prussia they still found themselves drawn into conflict over Italy because each side feared that their loss would be the other’s gain. Likewise, as the Italians themselves tired of this cycle, opposition to at least the political power of the Church if not the Church itself began to grow in Italy as people came to see the Church as being on the side of their oppressors. Why did women have to be flogged in Milan by Austrians so that the Pope could continue to rule in Rome? Past papal support for unification abruptly turned into adamant opposition, partly because of an understandable level of paranoia that persisted after the French Revolution. However, Italians had finally had enough and if the Pope would not be with them, they would be against him. This gave rise to the dangerous movement of Giuseppe Mazzini and his radical republicans. However, the Italians were not alone in this unfortunate move to the left. It happened in other countries as the Pope stood opposed to any disorder even if it meant Catholics being ruled by non-Catholic foreigners in countries from Ireland to Poland. The difference was that in Ireland and Poland the Pope could be more easily ignored than in Italy where he ruled.

By the time that Pius IX came to the papal throne Italian unification was probably inevitable. It was going to happen, the only question was which form would it take; a radical republic or a constitutional monarchy? In regards to the Church, there was, early on, also a choice between a secular republic or a monarchy/confederation of monarchies in which the Pope would have a leadership role. This was an idea supported by a fair number of people but which the Pope ultimately opposed, even placing the book which suggested it on the “Index of Forbidden Works”. Papal foreign policy also worked to create an impossible position for the Papal States. Pope Pius IX, a devout and saintly man without question, had an extremely erratic foreign policy that caused Italians who had revered him to come to view him as being under the power of others or else extremely unreliable while at the same time alienating his strongest supporters so that, ultimately, his political power rested solely on the armed force of a regime which staunch Catholic monarchists regarded as illegitimate. So erratic were his policies that it can leave one wondering at times if even he knew which “side” he was ultimately on.

The "Honest King"
For example, when considering why the Savoy monarchy prevailed in Italy when all others ultimately failed, one factor was King Victor Emmanuel II as the “honest king”. Does this mean he was more truthful and sincere in all his dealings than other monarchs in Italy? Certainly not, as even his most ardent admirers would have to admit. However, that reputation stems mostly from the fact that the Savoy monarchy was the only monarchy in Italy to grant a constitution and stick to it (the constitution being one which ultimately reserved considerable authority to the monarch and was vague enough to be interpreted in a number of ways). Everyone else, from Tuscany to the Two Sicilies to the Papal States themselves granted constitutions and then revoked them. This gave them all the public perception of being false and untrustworthy compared to the Savoy at the time. As stated, Pius IX was no exception. One could argue that he simply made a mistake in trying to make the Papal States a constitutional monarchy when trying to compartmentalize the papal offices of political ruler and spiritual ruler was extremely difficult to say the least. He also gave every indication of siding with the nationalists, and not necessarily the reluctant monarchist nationalists but the revolutionaries.

When he condemned Austria for violating papal territory in Ferrara, issuing a sharp rebuke that forced them to withdraw, he acted in defense of his own political power, which went hand-in-hand with the sovereignty of his estates. To the public, however, it was the patriotic Italian Pope driving away the German “barbarians”. Even the anti-clerical Mazzini was praising him as the most powerful man in Europe. When he granted a constitution to the Papal States it was based on that of the July Monarchy of the “Citizen-King” Louis Philippe in France. His chief ministers were revolutionaries, many of whom had been exiled or imprisoned by his predecessor but which Pius IX had set at liberty and appointed to high office. What was your average layman to think of all this? His most famous prime minister, the murdered Rossi, had supported Napoleon’s general Murat against the Austrians. When Murat was overthrown he went to France and was a supporter of the July Monarchy and came to serve the Pope after the downfall of Louis-Philippe. An earlier prime minister, of the Rovere family, had been exiled for rebellion against Gregory XVI as a revolutionary and who had not returned to Italy even when Pius IX granted an amnesty at his accession because he refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Pope. He later worked in the Cavour government in Piedmont-Sardinia for Italian unification under the monarchy. To replace him, Pius IX appointed Count Edoardo Fabbri, another former revolutionary who had been exiled and imprisoned by Gregory XVI.

The "Angelic Pope"
Since granting a constitutional government, Pius IX had appointed to leadership four men in succession who had each been punished as revolutionaries by his predecessor. Again, what message did this send to the public other than that the Pope supported the movement for Italian unity and independence which all of these men had in the past been punished as revolutionaries for fighting for? When the First War of Italian Independence broke out, Pius IX finally lost the love of the nationalist movement when he sent a papal army to the frontier, commanded by a Piedmontese general from the Savoy monarchy who was a passionate supporter of Italian unity and independence, only to then send orders after them that they were not to cross the frontier and not to engage the Austrians. To say the public was confused by this would be an understatement. They would have been even more confused to have read the message Pope Pius IX sent to the Austrian Emperor the following month in which he said:
…in Our Allocution of the 29th of last month, We asserted that to declare war would revolt Our paternal heart; and announced Our ardent desire to contribute towards the restoration of peace. Let it not be therefore displeasing to your Majesty that we should address an appeal to your piety and religion, and exhort you with paternal affection to withdraw your arms from a war which can never reconquer for your empire the minds of the Lombards and Venetians; and can only bring with it the fatal series of calamities that always accompany war, and are certainly both repulsive and detestable to yourself.
   “…We are confident that the German nation itself, being honestly proud of its own nationality, will not engage its honor in an attempt to shed the blood of this Italian nation; but will rather engage it in nobly recognizing her as a sister - for both are Our daughters and very dear to Us; let each of them be content to live within her own borders by honorable agreement and beneath the blessing of the Lord.”
So, here again was Pope Pius IX speaking of an Italian nation and asking Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph to withdraw his forces from Italy so that Italian-speaking and German-speaking Catholics might live peacefully in their own countries. They are words which illustrate the holiness and goodwill of the Pope as well as his inability to grasp the reality of power politics. The idea that the Austrian Emperor would have ever simply ordered his troops to leave Italian soil and march home, shaking the dust from their boots at the border, out of goodwill and Christian brotherhood is simply absurd. Yet, this same pontiff would later reverse all of that, encouraging Austria to send more troops to occupy even more of Italy (though they did not) and punishing as much as was in his power to punish anyone who backed the idea of an Italian nation. Is it any wonder that at some point many people simply stopped listening?

As stated above, past popes had been ardent supporters of Italian unification and removing all French or German presence from Italy. Yet, when events came together to make that a reality, the pope of the day reversed course and opposed it. Was it out of fear of losing his territory and what was, at that time, his primary source of income? For someone like Pius IX that hardly seems likely. Most likely it was due to his opposition to the policies of a “free Church in a free state” championed by Cavour and his fear of being dependent on the Italian government (and thus a future pontiff could become their instrument). However, if the Pope had at least tried to negotiate with the Piedmontese it is at least possible that the policies he disapproved of could have been amended or abolished. To have the papal blessing on the new Kingdom of Italy would have been hugely beneficial and the King at least showed a willingness to do almost anything to obtain his consent. However, by refusing to deal at all with the idea and later the fact of a unified Italy, the Pope left himself entirely at the mercy of his political enemies, not just the Italian nationalists in general but his very enemies of the radical, anti-clerical faction of the Turin government, which is exactly what his defiance was supposed to prevent.

That is one of the major problems, as I see it, that presents itself to those who say that the opposition of the Pope was necessary in order to maintain the independence of the Church. For one thing, the existence of the Papal States had not proven such a guarantee in the past. This was why popes shifted in their foreign policy constantly between favoring the French and the Germans in turn. It has certainly not been the case since the Lateran agreements. The Papal States have never nor is Vatican City today capable of using force to prevent it being conquered by a foreign power and the Pope today receives income from the Italian state. It was not the state of affairs that existed at the establishment of the Church in Rome or the earliest centuries of the existence of the papal position. Popes were then part of the Roman Empire and all depended on their own moral fortitude to not be the puppets of the Emperor and so most were not, many early popes accepting martyrdom rather than submit to un-Christian or anti-Christian policies. They did the right thing not because they had territory, taxes or an army at their command but because they chose to even if it meant their death if they did not. Of course, Pius IX nor any of his successors had to face such a choice. What they did face was the choice of which state to depend on for their security and freedom. There were not many offers but Pius IX chose to depend on Napoleon III of France. When the French army was withdrawn and Italian troops occupied Rome it was only by the grace of King Victor Emmanuel II that the Pope was left untouched in the Vatican, it having been proven by that time that no other power was able or willing to make war on his behalf. Would there not have been just as much risk of future corruption if the Pope had continued to depend solely on the French rather than the Italians? Given the subsequent course of French history, he may in fact have been much worse off.

In any event, trying to play a strictly legitimist game in this regard ultimately goes nowhere. The states of Italy were parceled out and shifted ownership from one monarch or state to another over the centuries based on force or mutual agreement. In the case of the Papal States one could go all the way back to the Dark Ages and the agreements between the Pope and the Frankish monarch in which each granted the other titles they themselves had no strictly legitimist right to bestow. One could go back farther and see the Pope submitting to the authority of the earliest King of Italy, Flavius Odoacer, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire while still being, in strictly legitimist terms, the subject of the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople with no thought being given then of any claim to independent sovereignty. At some point you have to accept the facts as they exist and go from there as best you can. In the case of Italy in the Nineteenth Century, the fact on the ground was that unification was going to happen, whether under a republican radical like Mazzini or Catholic monarch like King Victor Emmanuel II. I prefer the King.

As stated before, putting aside all of the details, I also see no reason why Italy should be denied what other peoples have not; to unite together and aspire to greatness. Unlike many others, the Italians have their Roman ancestors to look back to and it seems just as natural to me for them to do so as it would be for any people to look back to their period of greatest power and prestige and wish to emulate it as much as possible. The Germans tried to emulate the Roman example particularly and I can hardly see expecting the Italians to desist from doing the same considering it was their own ancestors that were being looked to. I have also been fortunate to speak to a number of praiseworthy Italian monarchists over the years who are carrying on a most difficult struggle and it pains me that they should be attacked from within as well as without.

If the royal houses involved as well as the Pope can be reconciled to the Italian nation, it seems hardly unreasonable to expect monarchists to do the same. National identity is something that is under attack these days, in Europe particularly by the internationalists of the European Union. There have been efforts to divide Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom and I have opposed them all. Italy has not been untouched by these efforts but, thankfully, there is still a strong sense of patriotism in Italy and I would hate to see monarchists make themselves the enemies of it. I would hate it both because it would be a betrayal of the valiant Italian monarchists and because I fear it would be yet another self-defeating position. Choosing to be a monarchist is difficult enough in this day and age, I would hate to see Italians who are inclined toward monarchy to be told that they must choose between their country and the cause of kings to be accepted by the monarchist community. The unification may not have come about in an ideal way but that is something rare in history. It did happen and I thank God it resulted in a Kingdom of Italy with a Catholic Royal Family rather than in a secular, Mazzinian republic. To see Italy restored as a strongly Catholic monarchy, based on Italian culture and traditions, is my sincerest wish. I hope that more monarchists outside of Italy would share it.