Friday, March 23, 2012
Once again, after World War II began, the Allies approached Italy with big promises if she would abandon Germany and switch sides to join the Allies. They promised that when the war was over and Germany destroyed that Italy would be ceded the Tyrol, all of Austria, parts of southern Bavaria and that they would make good on the territorial promises which were made to Italy during the First World War but which were never delivered. We can assume roughly that this meant the Litoral region and Dalmatia at least. However, as we know, Mussolini did not accept the offer saying, "The Italy of 1940 is not the Italy of 1914. We've heard that story before, much to our regret. Why should we believe you now?" This was obviously a reference to what had happened in the First World War when Italy, previously allied to Germany and Austria, was persuaded by the Allies to come into the war on their side against the Austro-Germans with promises of extensive territories in the Tyrol, the Adriatic coast and a share of captured German colonies in Africa. After years of hard fighting and the loss of hundreds of thousands of men only a small portion of these grand promises were actually kept. As such, Italy took the attitude that, 'fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me'.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
First the Prince and his party traveled to Oslo, Norway (then called Christiania -this was when Norway was united with Sweden) where he bought a whaling ship which he named the ‘Polar Star’. The Duke was an accomplished sailor as well and they braved the icy seas to reach Archangel in northern Russia. Donning their best finery they were welcomed by the local Tsarist governor, civil officials and a colorful collection of foreign representatives present at the frosty port of call. Special celebrations were held in honor of the royal visitor and the international gathering in the Russian port were treated to a special performance of a play set in the Middle East followed by the orchestra striking up the Italian royal anthem in honor of their guest. Before departing the Catholic Italians were invited to attend an Orthodox Divine Liturgy and finally they set sail for Franz Joseph Land where they planned to wait out the worst of winter before going by dog sled to the North Pole. Unfortunately, the Prince lost two fingers to frost-bite during the grueling winter which made him unable to handle a dog sled, forcing him to leave the last leg of the expedition in the hands of his subordinate Captain Umberto Cagni.
Prince Luigi had also trained with the Royal Italian Navy and by 1911 held the rank of vice-admiral and from 1911 to 1912 was given the post of Inspector of Torpedo Craft. This was more significant than it probably seemed at the time as free-swimming torpedoes were a recent innovation and would not actually sink a ship until a German u-boat did the job for the first time in 1914. However, this was an area that the Italians would later excel at and would achieve some stunning successes against the formidable British Royal Navy using tactics that began with those first torpedo craft developed under the Duke of the Abruzzi. When World War I broke out in 1914, Italy joining the fight a year later, the Duke was given command of the Italian Adriatic Fleet at Taranto with the formidable battleship Conte di Cavour as his flagship. As in the North Sea though, there was little combat between the main battle fleets of Italy and Austria-Hungary, each being content to keep the other side as inactive as possible while small-scale raids probed for weakness. However, Prince Luigi and his ships performed one of the great missions of the war when the rescued the long-suffering Serbian army which, in a combined German-Austrian-Bulgarian offensive, had been driven from their homeland. Were it not for the timely arrival of the Duke and his Italian fleet the Serbs would have been wiped out completely. Their rescue enabled them to rejoin the fight at the new Allied front in Greece and ultimately go on to see Serbia liberated from Austrian occupation.
The Duke of the Abruzzi had led a life most men would only dream about. The only thing lacking was a romantic interest he could carry off into the African sunset. There had been an earlier romance with an American woman named “Kitty” Elkins, the daughter of a wealthy West Virginia Senator. She was likely the one great love of his life but his cousin King Vittorio Emanuele III was adamant that no prince of the House of Savoy could marry a commoner. Prince Luigi was frustrated by this but, since the relationship could go nowhere, his brother, Prince Emanuele Filiberto Duke of Aosta (a hero of the Great War) convinced him to give the girl up and move on. This he did, only finally marrying a Somali woman named Faduma Ali toward the end of his life when he was no longer concerned with the consequences. He died in Jowhar, Somalia on March 18, 1933 at the age of 60 and, as per his wishes, was buried near a local river. Missing no opportunity to put himself forward, Benito Mussolini presided at his funeral, hailing the Duke of the Abruzzi as the last in a long line of great Italian explorers history would never forget.
This may have been an exaggeration, but if so, it was only a slight one. Prince Luigi-Amedeo simply had the misfortune to be born into a time when there were not many untouched corners of the world left for mankind to conquer. Had he been born earlier it is certainly easy to imagine him being counted among the great Italian explorers of history such as Marco Polo, Giovanni Caboto, Amerigo Vespucci or Christopher Columbus. It was simply his nature to strive for the seemingly unobtainable, to go to the places most difficult to reach and to prove that he was equal to any challenge the land or the sea could throw at him. Hopefully, in the end, he finally found what he was looking for in all his travels to the farthest reaches of the earth.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Buon Compleanno Italia!
It was on this day in 1861, with the work of unification (mostly) done that the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed to the world with HM King Vittorio Emanuele II of Piedmont-Sardinia likewise proclaimed the first King of Italy. In one of those twists that history tends to present, it was also on this day in 1805 that the Italian Republic, a creation of Napoleone Buonaparte and of which he was President, became the (Napoleonic) Kingdom of Italy, so it is an historic date indeed. Of course, in 1861, the work of reunification was not entirely finished. Much of the northeast remained under Austrian rule and the Eternal City of Rome was still occupied by French troops. However, for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Italian peninsula was united from the Alps to Sicily under one Italian government with one Italian monarch. Some areas remained to still be 'redeemed' but the most difficult first steps had been taken and the majority of the work accomplished. About ten years later King Vittorio Emanuele II would enter Rome to make the Eternal City again the capital of Italy but it would be left to his successors to see the remnants of the Italian nation still under foreign rule brought into the arms of their countrymen. This historic occasion should serve as an inspiration to all patriotic Italians to see that original monarchy restored, to see true independence restored and to see all Italians again united as one family in one common cause.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Monday, March 12, 2012
Criticism over how the war was conducted is another story. Italy was roundly condemned for using weapons which gave them an unfair advantage in the eyes of the world. The fact that every country, in every war always seeks to use any advantage they may have over an enemy is often ignored. Accounts of attacks against peaceful posts can also not always (and I say not always) be taken at face value. It is known, for example, that some of the missionaries (mostly Scandinavian Lutherans) were importing rifles hidden in crates of Bibles and that some things, like air attacks on hospitals, were exaggerated or outright fabrications. Noted English Catholic author Evelyn Waugh wrote as much in his own first-hand account of visiting Ethiopia. He noted how bored journalists were quick to inflate the most minor occurrence into something sensational in the hope of advancing their careers.
Thursday, March 1, 2012
I know many people at this point will be wondering how I could ask such a question. Libertarians, by and large, are not known for their monarchist sympathies. In America of course they have led the way in the revival of bashing poor old King George III and cheering American Revolutionary republicanism. “The Founders” are sacrosanct to most of them. However, when I was first told that there was a Tea Party in Italy, or as it was put to me, that there were actually libertarians in Italy, the first thought that occurred to me was that these people must surely be ardent admirers of the House of Savoy. After all, more often than not, the one thing more than any other that the Savoy monarchy is often attacked for is exactly what most hard-core libertarians uphold as the greatest virtue: self-interest. Since this is something the House of Savoy has long been accused of, I naturally assumed libertarians would salute them on the same basis. Now, perhaps I have more of a libertarian streak than I would like to admit but I never really understood the outrage directed at the Italian monarchy on the basis of acting in their own self-interest.
Whenever someone ridicules the House of Savoy for always acting only in their own best interests, surely Italian libertarians should join the monarchists in leaping to their defense. Of course, when this attack is usually made, it is divorced from the nation at large; that is to say, the Savoy kings are usually accused of acting in the interests of the monarchy and their dynasty rather than the nation as a whole. I would say that is untrue simply as it stands, however, a case could be made that many countries would have been better off if their monarchs had followed their own self-interest rather than listening to what was advocated as the “greater good”. After all, King Louis XVI of France had great reservations about intervening in the American War for Independence because he feared that it would encourage revolution against his own monarchy by aiding the enemies of another. However, his advisors convinced him that it would be in the best interests of France to see Great Britain humbled in North America. That ultimately didn’t work out well for the Bourbon monarchy or France as a whole which got the Revolution, the Reign of Terror and all the rest. German Kaiser Wilhelm II had similar reservations about helping Lenin get back to Russia, fearing that communist revolution could spread to Germany and threaten the House of Hohenzollern if it gained a foothold in Russia. For similar reasons he was prevailed upon that it would be better for Germany to get Russia out of the war no matter the method. Well, Germany lost the war anyway and the Kaiser lost his throne in the process.
Tea Party supporters and libertarians tend to be zealous individualists and this was precisely the argument used by HM King Victor Emmanuel III in denouncing the idea of republicanism. The Italians, he said, were too individualistic for republicanism to ever be successful in Italy. Yet, many libertarians and certainly most Tea Party people seem to think that republicanism is the only way. This, as we have pointed out before here, is quite absurd when one gives it more than a second of thought. Why should the benefits of private ownership over public ownership apply to everything except the highest office in the land? If the individual always does better than the collective, why do so many still insist on collectivism rather than individualism when it comes to the sovereign? If a parcel of land becomes worthless under public ownership but becomes profitable under private ownership, the same rule should apply for the country as a whole.
When a King does what is in his own best interests the country naturally tends to do better. When a collection of politicians, all claiming to represent the interests of the people, naturally do what is in their own best interest instead, all of their interests conflicting with each other, you get disaster. Or, you get the state of the Italian republic as it is today. Given the state Italy (and many others) is in today, I think some libertarianism, in any amount, would probably do them some good as far as their economy goes. For basically at least the last 90 years Italy has had a socialistic, state-run economy. Today we are witnessing the result of that so a little competition and respect for private property might be something they would want to at least consider.