Incompetence, Stupidity, and Cowardice: The Royal House of Savoy and the Governance of Italy, 1861-1946

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PART 10

When last we left the Kingdom of Italy, she had stumbled out of World War One with over 1,240,000 of her subjects dead which amounted to roughly 3.5% of the population. At that same moment, the curse of the Spanish influenza pandemic descended on the country. In less than a year, the flu killed over 600,000 people, almost the same number of Italian soldiers killed in the war.

This figure, which is probably understated, suggests that from Italy’s entrance into the war in 1915 until the end of the year 1919, approximately 5% of her population perished. Fortunately, she had won her seat at the victor’s table. Unfortunately, only a fool would think losing 5% of one’s population as a victory. Government debt was at unsupportable levels and social unrest, to put it mildly, had broken out.

Benito Mussolini and Fascist blackshirts during the March on Rome in 1922.

Luckily for the Royal House of Savoy, they retained the loyalty of the paramilitary Carabinieri as well as the majority of army officers, the vast number of whom were from Northern Italy which still formed the power base of the monarchy.

A growing ultra right wing Fascist Party led by one of history’s most evil knaves, Benito Mussolini, had arisen and was demanding the Italians get every single thing that they had been promised to come into the war. So the Kingdom of Italy was in a difficult position. Italy needed her share of the spoils of war and needed them right away. That was not to be.

In the City of Light, beginning in January of 1919, there was taking place the Peace Conference which was to draw up the treaty, or actually treaties, of surrender between the victorious Allied powers and their defeated foes, Germany, Austria, and the handful of their confederates such as the Bulgarians and the Ottoman Turks. On 11 November 1918, only an armistice, or temporary cease-fire, had been signed. The war to end all wars had not yet officially ended. Only the shooting had stopped. For this cessation to be permanent, there had to be peace. And making peace, as we have all painfully learned, is much more difficult than making war.

To the great misfortune of untold millions, the peace talks in Paris simply produced conditions which made another war inevitable.

Council of Four at the Versailles Peace Conference: (from left to right) Lloyd George (UK), Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (Italy), Georges Clemenceau (France), President Woodrow Wilson (USA). 27 May 1919.

[Images courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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