Saturday, June 30, 2012
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Most of the eastern areas of "unredeemed Italy" were major points of contention after World War I. For the most part, the Italian claim on these areas came from the legacy of the maritime empire of the Republic of Venice which had extensive holdings along the Adriatic Coast and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. These areas had belonged to Venice going all the way back to the Middle Ages, were populated by Italians (though certainly not exclusively) and even after so many centuries some level of Italian was still spoken. When Napoleonic France conquered northern Italy the Republic of Venice, by then in a weakened state, declared neutrality. However, Napoleone disregarded this and occupied Venice anyway during his war with the Austrians. When a peace was negotiated, the territories of Venice were divided between France and Austria, part becoming the eastern frontier of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and the rest, stretching down to the Dalmatian coast, became part of the Austrian Empire. When the Napoleonic Wars were ended the Congress of Vienna did not restore the Republic of Venice but simply handed over the French gains to the Austrian Empire as well. It was quite an injustice considering that Venice had tried to stay out of the conflict altogether only to be wiped from the map by Napoleone only to be handed over in total to the Austrians after the fact. After World War I some of these areas were regained by Italy but even into the 1940's there were still 55,000 Italians living in Dalmatia.
As for the areas under French rule, other than Corsica, the change-over was quite recent (in historical terms) and widely known. Nice had been ruled by the House of Savoy since the Middle Ages. In various wars France captured Nice a few times but it was always restored to Savoy rule. Likewise, after the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Vienna restored Nice to the House of Savoy (Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia) as well as the former Republic of Genoa. Garibaldi was, famously, a native of Nice. However, in order to gain French support in the Second Italian War of Independence, Savoy itself and Nice were handed over to the Emperor of the French, Napoleone III and has remained in French hands ever since (though there was brief hope of changing this during World War II). Corsica is a little different. The island belonged the Italian Republic of Genoa going back for many centuries but when Genoa could no longer afford the island, it shared the burden with the Kingdom of France. In 1729 the Corsican revolution broke out with an effort to obtain independence. The constitution was written in Italian and Italian was the official language. However, Genoa, having lost the island anyway, sold her rights to the Kingdom of France who sent in troops to crush the independence movement and Corsica has been a part of France ever since (though for a short time there was an Anglo-Corsican state in which the island was under the British monarchy).
That is the basic background for Italia Irredenta. It is untrue to claim, as many try to, that Italian efforts to regain these areas were due to baseless ambition. Doing so ignores the very long history and extensive colonial outposts (minor though they were) of the Italian city-states which reached from North Africa to the Middle East and Corsica to the Crimea. It seems particularly odd for those monarchists who denounce Napoleone as an illegitimate usurper to at the same time begrudge the Italians for trying to regain areas, historically Italian, that only fell into Austrian hands as a result of an agreement with the Emperor of the French over lands which were Italian going back to the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. Even if one does not agree with any changing of flags, one should at least be able to understand the Italian point of view and the basis for the Italian claim to these former holdings of Genoa and Venice.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
In addition, the tax-and-spend policies of the republican government have been digging Italy into a deep financial pit for decades. It was under the socialist prime minister (no surprise there) Bettino Craxi that the Italian national debt rose to be greater than the entire gross national product of the country -and that was in the 1980's! Things have hardly improved since as the current state of affairs clearly demonstrates. Recently, the European Union mandated that Italy would have to give help in the bail-out of Spanish banks and loan money to Spain at 3% interest. However, due to the fact that Italy herself is quite broke, Italy will have to borrow money to give that loan at 7% interest! What sort of economic and mathematical idiot thought up that "brilliant" plan? With leaders like that, is it any wonder that Italy finds herself on the brink of economic ruin? Probably not, considering that even the largely ceremonial office of President is currently held by a former member of the Communist Party, an ideology not known for creating economic prosperity around the world to say the least.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Happily, when Queen Maria Luisa arrived in Barcelona and met her young husband King Felipe V she was not disappointed. Despite the circumstances of their union the two had a successful marriage and a genuine romance. As she settled in to life in Spain her most constant guide and companion was the formidable Princess des Ursins who became head of the Queen’s household and, unofficially, the most powerful woman in Spain. It had to be a difficult time for her as the War of Spanish Succession broke out which placed her father, the Duke of Savoy, on the side of Great Britain, Austria and others in opposition to France and Spain. As fighting raged from northern France and the Low Countries to the Italian peninsula, King Felipe V had to leave Spain to defend family territory in Naples. This left Queen Maria Luisa in Madrid as regent for her husband for quite some time but she proved herself to be more than up to the challenge. She was extremely thorough in her work, listening to all sides, investigating every complaint and checking all reports herself. She helped to reorganize the government and rallied the Spanish people to unite in support of the war effort. The patriotism she displayed and the care she showed toward the people made her popularity soar and the population adored her, affectionately calling her “La Savoyana”.
The only problem for the Queen was her long-time ‘right arm’ Princess des Ursins who, one year after the King returned, was forced to leave the court because of pressure from King Louis XIV. This was mostly due to the fact that she had strongly advised the King and Queen to keep the French at a distance and surround themselves with Spaniards to make sure there was no mistaking that the new Bourbon monarchy would be Spanish and not simply an extension of France. Queen Maria Luisa was extremely distraught to see the Princess go who she had come to depend on so much. However, it was only temporary and to the great delight of the Queen the princess was able to return in 1705. Two years later the Savoy queen did her duty for the Spanish succession and gave birth to a son and heir, the future King Luis I. Two years later another baby boy followed but, sadly, did not live out the year. In 1712 the Queen gave birth to another son, who greatly resembled his mother. However, like the rest, his health was not robust (usually attributed to the degree of relation between the King and Queen) and he would die at only seven years old. In 1713 the Queen presented her husband with another son, the future King Fernando VI, who would thankfully have a long life and go on to enact many reforms in Spain and across the Spanish empire.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Thursday, June 7, 2012
|Bl. Pius IX and Vittorio Emanuele II|
|Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini|
|Pope Pius XII visits the Quirinale|
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Captain Corelli speaks Greek, takes an immediate liking to Pelagia and stays at their house in exchange for providing the doctor with medical supplies. Captain Corelli and his men are pretty much walking stereotypes. The are lustful, wine loving, opera singing artillerymen who have never fired a shot in anger and who would rather have a good time than fight or observe military discipline. They are the relaxed, fun-loving guys and the Germans (the few we see) are all rigid, militaristic jerks. The actors are all good but they have not been used to best advantage. A good example being Cage’s ridiculous attempt at an Italian accent. Personally, I think it is often better to just speak your own language without attempting an accent if you cannot master it properly. Mandras returns from the front and is nursed back to health by Pelagia and his mother (played by Irene Pappas who was also in the previously reviewed “Lion of the Desert”). He never wrote back because he is illiterate, which Pelagia did not know (and evidently he could not ask a friend to write for him after they read him the letters where she is clearly becoming forlorn and distraught at his silence but … oh well). Especially when compared with the novel, the characters in the film come off as extremely simplistic to the point of being rather flat.
The Nazi forces still promise to send all Italians safely home but Captain Corelli no longer believes them and so the Italian forces decided to resist and defend the Greeks and their island from the Germans. Working with the partisans, they distribute what weapons they have and deploy their forces to fight the German invasion. There is a short, fierce battle in which the Italians offer determined resistance but they have nothing to counter the German air attacks and are eventually vanquished. The Germans then gather together all the Italian prisoners and begin massacring them. Captain Corelli would have been killed but, keeping a promise to watch over him to Pelagia, one of his men shields him with his body and saves his life. Mandras finds him and brings him to the doctor and Pelagia and the doctor manages to save him even though he was very badly wounded. He stays hidden with Pelagia as the Germans kill any Italians and anyone found harboring Italians in a wave of brutality. Captain Corelli is finally smuggled off the island by Greek partisans and returns to Italy.
The movie is not as bad as the reputation it has gained as one of Cage’s more infamous stinkers. It’s just not very good either. It is heavy on stereotypes, everything is pretty predictable and it tells the sort of story most moviegoers have seen a hundred times. However, it can be moving at times, the characters are generally sympathetic and so on. The only ones I had a real problem with were Mandras and the German. Mandras because he simply comes across as being, well, not a terribly nice guy. If he loved Pelagia as much as he claimed he should have answered her damn letters, he admits he only saved Corelli for selfish reasons and he allowed a lifelong friend to be murdered just because she danced with a German (and I’m not going to say there was more to it because the movie didn’t show us any more). The German comes across as sort of an innocent guy who has been brainwashed but in the end he is just as brutal as the rest (though he does spare Corelli’s life) and we see no reason for this, no change in him or anything of the kind. However, as I said before, I will give this movie credit for at least getting more people to read about the real story of Italian heroism on the island of Cefalonia during World War II, something which received very little attention before the book and movie came out.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
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.