Showing posts with label Galeazzo Ciano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Galeazzo Ciano. Show all posts

21 October 2018

Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta

Cousin of Italy's wartime monarch died in a POW camp

As Governor-General, the Duke of Aosta led the East Africa Campaign
As Governor-General, the Duke of
Aosta led the East Africa Campaign
Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who died in a British prisoner-of-war camp after leading the defeated Italian Army in the East Africa Campaign of the Second World War, was born on this day in 1898 in Turin.

After distinguished military service in the First World War and seeing action as a pilot in the pacification of Italian Libya in the early 1930s, Amedeo had been appointed by Mussolini as Viceroy of Ethiopia and Governor-General of Italian East Africa in 1937, replacing the controversial Marshal Rodolfo Graziani.

Italy’s entry into the Second World War on the side of Germany in June 1940 meant the Duke of Aosta became the commander of the Italian forces against the British in what became known as the East African Campaign.

As such, he oversaw the Italian advances into the Sudan and Kenya and the Italian invasion of British Somaliland.

However, when the British launched a counter-invasion early the following year, the Italians were put on the defensive and after fighting desperately to protect their territory were beaten in the Battle of Keren. The rest of Eritrea, including the port of Massawa, fell soon afterwards.

Amedeo pictured with Umberto, Prince of Piedmont, the future King
Amedeo pictured with Umberto, Prince
of Piedmont, the future King
Amedeo attempted to save such resources as he still had by deploying his remaining troops to defend a number of strongholds, putting himself in charge of 7,000 Italians at the mountain fortress of Amba Alagi.

He was forced to surrender on May 18, his forces besieged by 9,000 British and Commonwealth troops and more than 20,000 Ethiopian irregulars, although their gallant resistance was noted by the British, who allowed them to lay down their arms with dignity.

The Duke was sent to a prison camp in Nairobi, Kenya but died there the following March, reportedly from complications caused by tuberculosis and malaria.

Born Amedeo Umberto Isabella Luigi Filippo Maria Giuseppe Giovanni di Savoia-Aosta, he was the third Duke of Aosta and a first cousin, once removed, of the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III.

His parents were Prince Emanuele Filiberto, second Duke of Aosta, and Princess Hélène, who was the daughter of Prince Philippe of Orléans. His great-grandfather was King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, making him a member of the House of Savoy.

An exceptional tall man, standing at 6ft 6ins (1.98m), he towered over the king, who was barely 5ft 0ins (1.53m).

Prince Amedeo and Princess Anne of Orléans in the Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples on their wedding day
Prince Amedeo and Princess Anne of Orléans in the
Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples on their wedding day
Educated in England at St David's College, Reigate, Surrey - about 40km (25 miles) south of central London - he cultivated British mannerisms, spoke Oxford English, and even enjoyed the pastimes of fox hunting and polo.

He joined the Italian Royal Army after attending the Nunziatella military academy in Naples.  He travelled widely in Africa after leaving the army in 1921, which gave him knowledge of the area he would later govern.

Widely known and respected for the gentlemanly way in which he conducted himself, Amedeo became Duke of Aosta on the death of his father

Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Foreign Minister under his father-in-law Mussolini, said that with the Duke's death “the image of a Prince and an Italian - simple in his ways, broad in outlook, and humane in spirit - died with him."

Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia applauded the respect and care shown by the Duke to the exiled Emperor's personal property left behind in Addis Ababa.

Amedeo was married in November 1927 in Naples, to his first cousin HRH Princess Anne of Orléans (1906–1986).  They had two daughters and although both married royal princes - Margherita married Robert, Archduke of Austria-Este and Maria Cristina wed Prince Casimir of Bourbon-Two Sicilies - the lack of a male heir to Amedeo meant the title Duke of Aosta passed to his younger brother, Aimone.

The Nunziatella complex in the Pizzofalcone district if Naples, near the city centre
The Nunziatella complex in the Pizzofalcone
district if Naples, near the city centre
Travel tip:

The Nunziatella Military School of Naples, founded in November 1787 under the name of Royal Military Academy, is the oldest military school in the world among those still operating. Located in Via Generale Parisi in Pizzofalcone, it takes its name from the adjacent church of the Santissima Annunziata. In addition to Prince Amedeo and King Vittorio Emanuele III, the alumni include one former director of the European Union military committee, two chiefs of defence staff, four army chiefs of staff, two navy chiefs of staff, one air chief of staff, two commanders general of the Guardia di Finanza and two commanders general of the Carabinieri, as well as three prime ministers.

The beautiful Castello di Miramare near Trieste, where Prince Amedeo's daughter Maria Christina was born
The beautiful Castello di Miramare near Trieste, where
Prince Amedeo's daughter Maria Christina was born
Travel tip:

Prince Amedeo’s younger daughter, Maria Christina of Savoy-Aosta, was born at the Castello di Miramare, near Trieste, in 1933. Located on the end of a rocky spur jutting into Gulf of Trieste, about 8km (5 miles) from Trieste itself, the Hapsburg castle was built between 1856 and 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, based on a design by Carl Junker.  The castle's grounds include an extensive cliff and seashore park of 22 hectares (54 acres) designed by the archduke, which features many tropical species of trees and plants.  Legend has it that Ferdinand chose the spot to build the castle after taking refuge from a storm in the gulf in the sheltered harbour of Grignano that sits behind the spur.

More reading:

Umberto II, the last King of Italy

King Victor Emmanuel III abdicates

Why Galeazzo Ciano died in front of a firing squad

Also on this day:

1581: The birth of the Baroque master Domenichino

1928: The birth of the anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli


11 January 2017

Galeazzo Ciano - ill-fated Fascist politician

The son-in-law Mussolini had shot as a traitor

Galeazzo Ciano, pictured at his ministerial desk at the Palazzo Chigi in 1937
Galeazzo Ciano, pictured at his ministerial desk
at the Palazzo Chigi in 1937
Galeazzo Ciano, part of the Fascist Grand Council that voted for Benito Mussolini to be thrown out of office as Italy faced crushing defeat in the Second World War, was killed by a firing squad in Verona on this day in 1944 after being found guilty of treason.

The 40-year-old former Foreign Minister in Mussolini's government was also his son-in-law, having been married to Edda Mussolini since he was 27.  Yet even his position in the family did not see him spared by the ousted dictator, who had been arrested on the orders of King Victor Emmanuel III but, after being freed by the Nazis, later exacted revenge against those he felt had betrayed him.

Ciano, a founding member of the Italy's National Fascist Party whose marriage to the Duce's daughter certainly helped him advance his career, had largely been supportive of Mussolini and was elevated to Foreign Minister in part because of his role in the military victory over Ethiopia, in which he was a bomber squadron commander. Yet he expressed doubts from the start over Italy's readiness to take part in a major conflict.

In his diaries, which Edda was later to use without success as a bargaining tool as she tried to save her husband's life, Ciano recalled that he had tried to persuade Mussolini against committing to an alliance with Hitler, but in vain. He wrote: "At first he agrees with me - then he says that honour compels him to march with Germany."

Ciano, centre, to the right of Hitler and Mussolini, to the left of  Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, in Munich in 1938
Ciano, centre, to the right of Hitler and Mussolini, to the left
of  Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, in Munich in 1938
His entry on June 10, 1940, when Mussolini declared war on Great Britain and France, included the words: "May God help Italy!"

Ciano clashed with the leader again in January 1943, urging him to seek terms for an armistice with the Allies rather than see Italy, which had already suffered significant damage in bombing raids, exposed to the destruction of a full-scale invasion.  This time he and his fellow cabinet members were all sacked.

At the meeting of the Grand Council on July 24, convened by Mussolini himself after news reached him of the Allied landings in Sicily, it was Mussolini's announcement that the Germans were thinking of abandoning southern Italy that prompted fierce argument, culminating in a vote on whether Victor Emmanuel III should take back his full constitutional powers, in effect sidelining Mussolini.  The count was 19-8 in favour.

Mussolini was arrested the following day after appearing to disregard the vote and arriving at his office as if he would continue to be in charge.  It was at this point that Ciano made what would prove a fatal mistake.

With anti-Fascist sentiment growing in Italy, he feared that he too might be arrested by new prime minister Pietro Badoglio's incoming government regardless of his vote against the Duce. He fled to Germany with Edda and their three children in late August, seeking sanctuary.

What he did not know was that Hitler was furious that Mussolini had been ousted. The German leader had Ciano arrested and detained, and when he restored the Italian leader to power in his new Italian Social Republic, having first sent paratroopers to rescue him from house arrest at the Gran Sasso mountain resort in Abruzzo, one of his first acts was to send Ciano back to face trial for treason.

Emilio Pucci
Emilio Pucci
Edda, meanwhile, had enlisted the help of her friend Emilio Pucci - later to become a major fashion designer - in offering Ciano's diaries, which contained much sensitive material, to the Germans in return for her husband's release.  The offer was turned down.  Pucci helped Edda escape to Switzerland - with the diaries - but was himself detained and interrogated, released only on condition that he tracked Edda down in Switzerland and warned her that if she ever published the diaries she would be killed.

Ciano, who had been born in Livorno in 1903 and had joined his father, Costanza, an Admiral in the First World War, in supporting Fascism from the outset, was tried in Verona along with four other members of the Grand Council. After guilty verdicts were returned, the five were tied to chairs and shot in the back.  Ciano's last reputed words were: "Long live Italy!"

Edda, who died in Rome 51 years later at the age of 84, never forgave her father.  While she was in Switzerland, she was tracked down by an American war correspondent who ensured that her husband's diaries were published in London in 1946.  Evidence from them was used in the prosecution of Hitler’s Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, during the post-war Nuremberg Trials.

Travel tip:

Livorno, where Ciano was born, is an historic port on the Tuscan coast, notable for the area built by the Medici family in the 17th century around the town's canal network that has become known as Quartiere La Venezia - the Venice Quarter. Originally comprising warehouses and some impressive houses built by merchants around Piazza della Repubblica and Via Borra, it is nowadays a popular area for nightlife, with many bars and restaurants.

Titian's Assumption of the Virgin in the Duomo at Verona
Titian's Assumption of the Virgin in
the Duomo at Verona
Travel tip:

Verona is most famous for the Roman amphitheatre known as the Arena in Piazza Bra, a lovely square ringed by bars and restaurants, and for the Casa di Giulietta - Juliet's House - which was supposedly the location of the balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, although there is no actual  evidence that it was.  There are many other genuinely historic buildings, including the 14th century castle Castelvecchio, which sits on the banks of the Adige river, and the Duomo, which was rebuilt in the 12th century after the 8th century original was destroyed in an earthquake, in which the artworks include an Assumption of the Virgin by Titian.

More reading:

Republic of Salò was Mussolini's last stand

Mussolini freed by Nazis in audacious Gran Sasso raid

How fashion designer Emilio Pucci helped Mussolini's daughter escape the Nazis

Also on this day:

1975: Birth of Italy's Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi

(Picture credit: Titian painting by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia Commons)