Showing posts with label Vittorio Emanuele III. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vittorio Emanuele III. Show all posts

17 December 2022

Remains of exiled monarch returned to Italy

Repatriation of Vittorio Emanuele III sparked anger

Vittorio Emanuele III's original funeral, which took place in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947
Vittorio Emanuele III's original funeral, which
took place in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947
The remains of Italy’s wartime king, Vittorio Emanuele III, were returned to Italian soil on this day in 2017, 70 years after his death in exile in Egypt.

His body had been buried in St. Catherine’s Catholic Cathedral in Alexandria since 1947, when he died at the age of 78, a year and a half after abdicating in favour of his son, Umberto II.

His remains were flown to Italy by military aircraft for reburial at his family’s mausoleum at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, a church in the province of Cuneo, Piedmont. At the same time, the body of his wife, Queen Elena, who had died in France in 1952, was flown to Italy from Montpelier, so that they could be buried side by side.

Vittorio Emanuele’s coffin, draped in a flag bearing the coat of arms of the Savoy family, was taken from the plane at Cuneo’s small Levaldigi airport and escorted to the Sanctuary solely by local officials, including the prefect vicar, the local village mayor and the president of Cuneo’s Chamber of Commerce. Only a handful of people were allowed in the church for the interment ceremony. 

Vittorio Emanuele III, pictured with Mussolini (left) and Hitler in Rome in 1938, was a flawed figure to many Italians
Vittorio Emanuele III, pictured with Mussolini (left) and Hitler
in Rome in 1938, was a flawed figure to many Italians 
For all that it was a low-key affair, the repatriation made headlines, and much of the reaction in Italy was critical.

Vittorio Emanuele enjoyed popularity at times during his 46-year reign, enjoying the nickname Re soldato - the soldier king - after Italy’s victory in World War One, and Sciaboletta - little sabre - because his diminutive size - he was only five feet tall - required the sword of his military uniform to be shortened.

But his reputation was fatally damaged by the decisions he took during the time of Benito Mussolini’s Fascists.

When Mussolini's Blackshirts marched on Rome in 1922, he not only refused the government request to declare martial law, he then handed power to Mussolini, inviting him to be prime minister.

Many refused to forgive him for signing Mussolini’s 1938 racial laws that harshly discriminated against Jews.

He did order Mussolini’s arrest in 1943 when it became obvious that Italy’s war was going to end in defeat. But he attracted more criticism for taking 40 days to agree an armistice with the Allies, which gave the Germans time to entrench themselves in northern Italy and even to free Mussolini from his house arrest in the mountains of Abruzzo.

Vittorio Emanuele as a baby with his mother, Queen Margherita
Vittorio Emanuele as a baby with
his mother, Queen Margherita
Vittorio Emanuele then fled Rome, which was seen as an act of cowardice. His decision to hand power to his son in 1946, shortly before the referendum in which Italians would vote to become a republic, was a desperate attempt to save the monarchy.

It was not enough to persuade Italian voters, however. Following the referendum result, all male members of the monarchy and their descendants were ordered to leave the country in a ban that remained in place until 2002.

The decision to bury the late monarch in relative obscurity attracted criticism from members of his family. Italy’s first two Savoy kings, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, and its first queen, Margherita, were all buried at the Pantheon in Rome. 

Emanuele Filberto, Vittorio Emanuele III and Elena’s great-grandson, was quoted as saying that while he was pleased with the return of his ancestors to Italy, he believed that all members of the House of Savoy deserved to be in the Pantheon.  

But this was strongly opposed by historians, on the grounds that the circular former Roman temple was traditionally a place where Italians of high esteem were laid to rest.

It also provoked an angry response from Rome’s Jewish community. Like other Italians of Jewish heritage, they could never forgive the king’s co-operation with Mussolini. But they were also sensitive to the proximity of the Pantheon to the city’s former ghetto, which saw more than 1,000 residents rounded up and sent to their death in concentration camps in 1943.

The ex-monarch's tomb at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte
The ex-monarch's tomb at
the Sanctuary of Vicoforte
Travel tip:

The city of Cuneo, which developed at the confluence of the Stura and Gesso rivers, is set out in a grid system with a large, elegant central square, Piazza Galimberti, one of the largest squares in Italy, after Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples. Surrounded by neo-classical buildings, it has a large statue of Giuseppe Barbaroux, the author of the Albertine Statute that formed the constitution of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont in 1848. The square is named after Duccio Galimberti, one of the heroes of the Italian resistance in the Second World War.   Cuneo had been acquired by the Duchy of Savoy in 1382 and remained an important stronghold of the Savoy state for many centuries.

The Pantheon in Rome, built in AD 118, contains the remains of many notable Italians
The Pantheon in Rome, built in AD 118, contains
the remains of many notable Italians

Travel tip

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome is considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building. It was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century. In addition to Vittorio Emanuele II, his son, Umberto I, and his wife, Queen Margherita, the Pantheon contains the tombs of the painters Raphael and Annibale Carracci, the architect Baldassare Peruzzi and the composer Arcangelo Corelli.

Also on this day:

546: Rome falls to the Ostrogoths

1538: Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII of England

1749: The birth of composer Domenico Cimarosa

1859: The birth of painter Ettore Tito

1894: The birth of WW1 pilot Leopoldo Eleuteri

1981: Red Brigades seize NATO boss Dozier


1 June 2018

Iolanda of Savoy - banished princess

Sister of Italy’s last monarch lived quiet life in seaside villa

A photograph of Princess Iolanda of  Savoy as a young woman
A photograph of Princess Iolanda of
Savoy as a young woman 
Princess Iolanda of Savoy, the eldest daughter of Italy’s wartime king Vittorio Emanuele III, was born on this day in 1901 in Rome.

Along with the other members of the Italian royal family, she left the country in 1946 after a referendum over whether to turn Italy into a republic gained the support of 54 per cent of those who voted.

The new constitution specifically banned the male heirs of the House of Savoy from setting foot on Italian soil.  Her brother, Umberto II, who had been made king when his father abdicated in May 1946, shortly before the vote, had the crown for just 27 days. He left for Portugal, never to return to his homeland.

The decision to send male members of the family into exile was essentially the new republic’s punishment for Vittorio Emanuele having allowed the Fascist leader Benito Mussolini to run the country as a dictator.

Vittorio Emanuele, who was king for 46 years, was tainted in particular by his approval of Mussolini's anti-semitic race laws by which all Jewish students were expelled from schools and Jews were banned from public office and forbidden to marry outside their race.

The collapse of the monarchy meant a dramatic change of lifestyle for Iolanda, who was one of five children born to her mother, Queen Elena of Montenegro.

The King and his young family: from the left Iolanda, Queen Elena, Maria Francesca, Mafalda and Umberto
The King and his young family: from the left Iolanda, Queen
Elena, Maria Francesca, Mafalda and Umberto
There were once plans to put her forward as a suitable match for the Crown Prince of England, the future Edward VIII.  In the event, Edward VIII gave up his throne for Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee, and Iolanda, a sporty girl who excelled at swimming and riding, was courted by Count Giorgio Carlo Calvi of Bergolo, a cavalry officer who would go on to become a general in the Italian army.

They were married at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome in 1923 and lived in a Savoy residence in the town of Pinerolo, southwest of Turin, where they raised a family of five children.

Calvi was one of the officers closest to Vittorio Emanuele during the Second World War and was placed in control of Rome as it became an “open city” following the armistice the Italians signed with the Allies in 1943.

He was arrested by the Germans towards the end of the War and interned in a hotel in Austria before being allowed to join Iolanda and the family, who had by then moved to the relative safety of Switzerland.

Giorgio Carlo Calvi of Bergolo, who was married to Iolanda in 1923
Giorgio Carlo Calvi of Bergolo, who
was married to Iolanda in 1923
After the constitution was announced, Iolanda, Calvi and their children joined her father in exile in Egypt, where Vittorio Emanuele died in 1947.

Unlike the male descendants, who would remain in exile until Umberto II’s son, also called Vittorio Emanuele, and grandson Emanuele Filiberto, were allowed back in 2002, the female descendants were able to return to Italy without restriction.

There was no public role for Iolanda, but she and her husband were able to start a new life at a maritime villa on the coast of Lazio on the Copacotta estate, formerly owned by the Savoy family before being taken over by the state. She died in a clinic in Rome in 1986

Fate took Iolanda’s sisters on very different paths. Mafalda, who was a year and a half younger, married a grandson of the German Emperor Frederick III and went to live in a castle not far from Frankfurt.

Her husband was a member of the Nazi party, yet she was suspected by Hitler of being a spy, or at best a subversive, and after Italy’s surrender in 1943 she was arrested and placed in a concentration camp, where she died the following year from wounds suffered in an Allied bombing raid on a nearby armaments factory.

Iolanda's sister, Mafalda, whose life  was to end tragically in 1944
Iolanda's sister, Mafalda, whose life
was to end tragically in 1944
Giovanna survived but was possibly lucky to do so.  Born in 1907, she married Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria and while living in Sofia she helped facilitate the escape of many Jews from the country after Bulgaria announced they were siding with the Axis powers in the War.

After her husband died in 1943, suffering unforeseen heart problems soon after a meeting with Hitler, she remained in Sofia until the end of the conflict, only to be told by the new Communist government in 1946 that she had 48 hours to leave. She too went to Egypt, and from there to Madrid and finally Portugal, where she lived with her exiled brother, Umberto, who kept a house there for 37 years.

The youngest sibling, Maria Francesca, married Prince Luigi Carlo of Bourbon-Parma and lived in Cannes, France. Although she and her husband were briefly imprisoned by the Germans before the Allies liberated France, their life was relatively uneventful.

The Cathedral of San Donato at the heart of Pinerolo
The Cathedral of San Donato at the heart of Pinerolo
Travel tip:

Nestling in an attractive setting among hills and valleys with an Alpine backdrop, Pinerolo is about 50km (31 miles) southwest of Turin. Positioned on what was an important trade route between Italy and France, the small city has a well preserved medieval centre and several important museums. The Cathedral of San Donato is an interesting church, having a symmetrical facade in three parts, featuring rose windows and a gothic style entrance with two statues. The city has a strong sporting tradition. It was a base for the Winter Olympics in 2006 and is a frequent stage in the Giro d'Italia cycle race.

The beach at Copacotta is a rare stretch of unspoilt sand
The beach at Copacotta is a rare stretch of unspoilt sand
Travel tip:

The old Savoy hunting estate of Copacotta, which can be found only 25km (16 miles) or so to the southwest of Rome, not far from Ostia, is now part of the presidential estate of Castelporziano, one of the three residences of the President of the Italian Republic, together with the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome and Villa Rosebery in Naples. Adjoining the estate is Copacotta beach, a long sweep of natural, undeveloped shoreline that includes the best preserved unspoilt area of sand dunes in the whole of Italy.

More reading:

Vittorio Emanuele III abdicates

Umberto II, the last king of Italy

Mussolini's last stand

Also on this day:

1675: The birth of the great dramatist Francesco Scipione

1819: The birth of Francis V, the last reigning Duke of Modena


24 April 2018

Giuseppe Panza - art collector

Businessman amassed more than 2,500 pieces

Giuseppe Panza collected more than 2,500 works of art between the 1950s and 1980s
Giuseppe Panza collected more than 2,500 works of art
between the 1950s and 1980s
The art collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, whose fascination with postwar art, particularly American, led him to build up one of the world’s most important collections, died on this day in 2010 in Milan.

A businessman who succeeded his father in making money from wine and property, Panza acquired more than 2,500 pieces in his lifetime, many of which he sold or donated to museums and art galleries.

Some he parted with for millions of dollars, although he always insisted that his motivation was never financial gain but the love of art.

Approximately 10 per cent of his collection remains in the 18th-century Villa Menafoglio Litta, his family home at Varese, north of Milan, where he created 50,000 square feet (4,600 sq m) of exhibition space.

He had an astute eye for talent, often identifying unknown artists who would go on to become collectible long before their works commanded premium prices.

For example, he anticipated the popularity of Minimalism in the 1960s, snapping up works by Donald Judd and Dan Flavin well before their careers had really taken off.

Panza's collection was one of the  largest assembled
Panza's collection was one of the
largest assembled
Born in 1923 in Milan, Panza had a comfortable background. His father, Ernesto, was a wine distributor who invested in real estate and who in 1940 was given the title of count, which Giuseppe inherited, by King Vittorio Emanuele III.

He began reading books about art as an adolescent recovering from illness but it would be some years before he had the chance to develop his knowledge.  In the meantime, he fled wartime Italy for Switzerland in 1943, fearing that his misfortune to be living in the north of the country would lead to him being conscripted to fight on behalf of the Fascists and the Germans against the partisans in what already appeared to him to be a losing cause.

On his return to Italy after lying low in Lucerne, he enrolled at the University of Milan to study law, but never practised. Instead, he joined his father in the family business, although with no great enthusiasm. However, it was on a business trip to the United States in 1954 that he bought his first paintings and set forth on what would become a lifetime’s obsession.

With his wife, Rosa Giovanna Magnifico, he began a collection that included some work by European artists but which focussed primarily on the American artists who had captured his imagination. He bought his first work by the abstract expressionist Frank Kline, entitled Buttress, for $500. Years later, it was part of a collection of 80 works he sold for $11 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Panza paid $500 for Frank Kline's Buttress, which he later sold as part of a $11 million collection
Panza paid $500 for Frank Kline's Buttress, which he later
sold as part of a $11 million collection
He and Rosa were among the first patrons of Pop art, Minimalist and Conceptual Art, collecting works by Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden and Robert Morris among others.

They brought their paintings back to their home in Corso Porta Romana in Milan, originally intending to stop at 100 but finding themselves unable to resist the lure of finding new works by new artists.

By the 1980s, Panza began to dismantle the collection.  His intention at first was to sell to Italian museums and galleries so that the pleasures he had derived from from assembling it over 25 years and more could be shared with his fellow Italians, but Italian institutions were not wealthy and there were few takers.

Instead, many works went back to America.  In addition to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, he struck a deal with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, which acquired, as part of a $30 million package, more than 300 Minimalist sculptures and paintings in the 1990s.

The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art also have substantial Giuseppe Panza collections.

Nearer home, he donated more than 200 works to the Lugano Cantonal Art Museum in Italian-speaking southern Switzerland and gave the Villa Menafoglio Litta to the Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian equivalent of the National Trust.

He was survived by Rosa Giovanna and their children, Alessandro, Maria Giussepina, Federico, Giovanni, Giulio and Maria Luisa.

The Porta Romana in Milan stands on the site of one of the original Roman gates into the city
The Porta Romana in Milan stands on the site of one
of the original Roman gates into the city
Travel tip:

The Corso Porta Romana in Milan runs from the remains of the Porta Romana, one of the city’s traditional gateways, to Piazza Giuseppe Missori, in the city centre, a short distance from Piazza del Duomo. The visible remains of the gateway dates back to the 16th century Spanish walls, although there was a corresponding gate in the Roman walls. Indeed, Porta Romana was the first and the main imperial entrance to the city and the starting point of the road leading to Rome.

Piazza Monte Grappa in Varese
Piazza Monte Grappa in Varese
Travel tip:

Varese is a city in Lombardy, 55km north of Milan and close to Lake Maggiore. It is rich in castles, villas and gardens, many connected with the Borromeo family, who were from the area. Lake Varese is 8.5km long, set in low rolling hills just below Varese. Many visitors to the city are drawn to the Sacro Monte di Varese (the Sacred Hill of Varese), which features a picturesque walk passing 14 monuments and chapels, eventually reaching the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte.

More reading:

Giorgio de Chirico's scuola metafisica

The Futurist art of Carlo CarrĂ 

Flaminio Bertoni - sculptor from Varese who turned his talents to car design

Also on this day:

1859: The birth of coffee maker Luigi Lavazza

1966: The birth of footballer Alessandro Costacurta


30 September 2017

Angelo Cerica - Carabinieri general

First job was to arrest Mussolini

General Cerica was hand-picked as the  Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Cerica was hand-picked as the
Carabinieri commander to arrest Mussolini
General Angelo Cerica, the police commander tasked with arresting the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed as party leader in 1943, was born on this day in 1885 in Alatri, in the Ciociaria region of Lazio, about 90km (56 miles) south of Rome.

Mussolini was arrested on July 25 as he left his regular meeting with the King, Vittorio Emanuele III, the day after the Fascist Grand Council had voted to remove him from power.  The monarch had informed him that General Pietro Badoglio, former chief of staff of the Italian army, would be replacing him as prime minister.

Cerica had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Carabinieri, Italy’s para-military second police force, only two days previously, succeeding General Azolino Hazon, who had been killed in a bombing raid.

He was hand-picked for the job by General Vittorio Ambrosio, who was party to secret plot among Carabinieri officers to depose Mussolini irrespective of the Grand Council vote.  They wanted a commander who would not oppose the anti-Mussolini faction and would carry out the arrest.

Cerica, in fact, shared their view of il Duce, blaming him for leading Italy into a ruinous alliance with Germany in the Second World War and eager for him to be removed, so that Italy could seek an armistice with the Allies.

He was comfortable, therefore, to position himself with a brigade of Carabinieri to arrest the dictator as he stepped out of the Palazzo Quirinale following the meeting with the King.

Cerica fought with partisans after German army swept into Rome
Cerica fought with partisans after
German army swept into Rome
He then instructed his officers to ready themselves for any public backlash against the arrest, although in the event the news was generally well received.

Later in the year, after the Badoglio Proclamation of September 8 informed the Italian population of the switch of allegiance, Cerica led a battalion of Carabinieri in a battle with German troops on the Via Ostiense in Rome.

The Germans’ superior firepower won the day but Cerica escaped and went into hiding, eventually joining up with partisans in Abruzzo and fighting on the side of the Italian Resistance movement.

Once the Allies had liberated the area, he rejoined the mainstream military, heading a department in the Army of the South, also known as the Italian Liberation Corps, until the end of the war.

In 1945, in Florence, commissioned by the Minister of War Alessandro Casati, he directed the liberation struggle against the Germans. After the war was over, he was presented with the Medal for Freedom Silver Palm by the US President, Harry S Truman. 

Cerica, born to Pietro Felice Cerica and Luisa Villa in Alatri, was set on a military career from an early age, entering a military academy soon after leaving school. In 1906, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the 74th Infantry Regiment, being promoted to full lieutenant in June 1909.

During June 1912, he was transferred to the Carabinieri Corps. He participated in the First World War, attaining the rank of captain. In September 1920, he was promoted to major and became a lieutenant colonel in 1927.

Allied tanks arrive in Rome
Allied tanks arrive in Rome
During the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, Cerica was appointed commander of the Carabinieri Legion in Asmara, an office he held from September 1936 to June 1939, eventually promoted to colonel.

Due to exceptional merit, he received the rank of brigadier general later that year, becoming the chief of Carabinieri forces in Italian East Africa. He served in the same capacity in Italian North Africa from July 1940 until February 1941. Cerica was posted back to Italy, attained the rank of Divisional General in June 1942.

After leaving the Carabinieri, Cerica served as the President of the Supreme Military Court from May 1947 to September 1951. He was also a Member of the Senate for the Christian Democrats.  

He died in Rome in April 1961, aged 75.

The church of Santa Maria Maggiore
The church of Santa Maria Maggiore 
Travel tip:

Alatri is a town in southern Lazio in the Ciociaria region notable for its acropolis, a Roman citadel built on the top of a hill surrounded by polygonal walls.  The old town within the walls contains many churches and ancient architectural structures, including the Cathedral of San Paolo, which dates back to the 10th century.  Outside the citadel, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the main square, built on the site of an early Christian temple of the fifth century, has a facade in the Romanesque-Gothic style and hosts a number of works of art, including a wooden statue of the Madonna di Costantinopoli of the 13th century and a fine triptych by Antonio da Alatri (15th century), in the left nave.

Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Porta San Paolo, where Via Ostiense leaves Rome
Travel tip:

The Via Ostiense follows the route of the Via Ostiensis, an important road in ancient Rome that ran west 30km (19 miles) from the city of Rome to its sea port of Ostia Antica, from which it took its name. The road began near the Forum Boarium, ran between the Aventine Hill and the Tiber River along its left bank, and left the city's Servian Walls through the Porta Trigemina. When the later Aurelian Walls were built, the road left the city through the Porta Ostiensis (Porta San Paolo). The modern Via Ostiense is the main connecting route between Rome and Ostia, passing the important basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.