Today is the “birthday” of the Italian republic, marking the day in 1946 that the referendum was held which abolished the Savoy monarchy in favor of the current republic. It was such a grossly undemocratic charade of the order that only democratic republicans seem capable of producing. There remains a great deal of confusion and misinformation about this referendum which brought down the Kingdom of Italy and it deserves being closely examined. The first myth that should be exploded is the idea that the Allies, (of whom the ‘big three’ were Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union) were completely impartial in the question of whether the monarchy would be preserved or overthrown in favor of a republic. It goes without saying that the Soviets were opposed to the monarchy on principle and while they had no forces on the ground in Italy they were certainly supporting the communist partisans in the north of the country whose leaders took their marching orders from Moscow. U.S. General Maitland Wilson, who took over for Eisenhower in 1943, sided with the American political leaders who wanted an immediate abdication, however, President Roosevelt sided with British Prime Minister Churchill who favored keeping King Vittorio Emanuele III on the throne, so long as he made no trouble, for the time being in order to avoid political distractions when they still had to focus on defeating the Germans.
In terms of who supported and who opposed the monarchy there remains some confusion to be cleared up. One misconception is that the Vatican was opposed to the monarchy and favored a Christian Democratic republic under Alcide De Gasperi who was a very popular man in the Vatican. However, this is simply not true. De Gasperi indeed had many friends in the Holy See but he kept mostly silent about the debate over the monarchy and most in the Vatican favored the monarchy. King Umberto II was very well regarded in the Holy See and the monarchy was seen as the only bulwark capable of keeping the revolutionary communists from gaining a foothold and taking over the country. Far from being in opposition, the Catholic Church actively encouraged people to support the monarchy and vote for the King. Another popular misconception is that the Crown and the Fascists were, and always had been, good friends. Quite the contrary, there was no place more opposed to the monarchy than those areas where support was strongest for the Italian Social Republic (Mussolini’s puppet state in the north) where the most diehard Fascists had migrated at the end of the war. The Fascists themselves launched a propaganda campaign against the monarchy, accusing it of betraying the nationalist movement from the time of unification to push a reactionary agenda on Italy.
The vote was held from June 2-4 and the returns that came in were very telling. Most expected the more conservative south to be more pro-monarchy just as most expected the north, where the communists and fascists were concentrated, to be most republican, however, the resulting returns were extremely dubious. Starting in the south, the returns on June 2 favored the monarchy. By June 3 the returns were even more pro-monarchy and no doubt the republicans were beginning to get nervous. Even in the early hours of June 4 the returns favored the monarchy moving toward the north. However, all of a sudden, support for the monarchy seemed to stop completely and the returns became almost unanimously republican. Reports almost immediately surfaced from northern areas of monarchists being assaulted by communist gangs to prevent them from casting their votes for the King. Yet, immediately the government went to King Umberto II to report a victory for the republic, claiming that the votes from less than one day were more numerous than the monarchist majorities of the more than 2 days previous.
There were, of course, those who urged Umberto II to use any means necessary to oppose this obviously fraudulent referendum. With so much support for the monarchy in the south, it was proposed to send the King to Naples, raising his flag there and leading a separate regime, holding a last bastion of monarchy on the Italian peninsula with the ultimate goal of reuniting the country again. However, Umberto II, after witnessing the horrors of World War II, could not bring himself to take any action that would provoke a civil war. Already there had been monarchist demonstrations in Naples, Taranto and Rome that were bloodily suppressed by the republicans and quickly hushed up by the pro-republic press. King Umberto II stated his objections, refused to abdicate or recognize the clearly improper referendum and then peacefully left the country after which the republican authorities showed how shaky their hold on power was by their paranoid persecution of the Savoy Royal House. This was the shameful beginning of the Italian republic and the end of the Kingdom of Italy which had created the united nation in the first place. No honest observer could ever claim it was a free and fair exercise of the democratic process or a true reflection of the will of the Italian people. It was a blatant example of gross injustice from start to finish and the sooner it is repudiated and the lawful monarchy restored the better Italy will be.