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

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PART 11

Italy expected to gets its fair share of the spoils of war – money, land, colonies. Only a massive amount of those three sources of wealth could possibly justify the horrendous casualties inflicted on the Italian Army and the immense economic strains caused by the war.

Naturally, a few stumbling blocks stood between the Italians and the spoils of war. Now that the conflict had come to an end, the British and French weren’t keen on keeping their promises to Italy made in the secret Treaty of London signed on 26 April 1915. Why should they? They hardly needed Italy anymore and if they stiffed them, what could the Italians do about it, anyway? Indeed the whole sordid business about how the British and the French had bought Italy’s allegiance smelled like rotten fish since Italy had simply auctioned herself off to the highest bidder.

Said the Italian Ambassador in the first negotiation with the British foreign office in 1915 as quoted in Peacemaking 1919 by Harold Nicolson.


“You speak as if you were purchasing our support.”

Replied the British Undersecretary, “Well, and so we are.”

Nicholas II of Russia with the family (left to right): Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. Livadiya, 1913.

Worse, everything so laboriously negotiated in 1915 had ceased to be secret since the Bolshevik government of Russia had published the treaty in 1918 to embarrass and infuriate everyone and it had the intended affect. Imperial Russia, one of the signatories of the secret Treaty of London, had been swept away by the war. The Tsar and his family had been stood up against a basement wall of a private home in Yekaterinburg, a provincial backwater of a town in central Russia, and shot on the night of 17 July 1918. (For those who believe Anastasia somehow survived, I fear I must report the Grand Duchess Anastasia was present in the basement and shot dead with the others.)

Nor could the Italians complain to the Americans. Why? Because the Americans were adamantly opposed to every promise made to Italy in the treaty and further the secret nature of the treaty also violated the spirit of Point One of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points:


First World War.com

I) Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.

These fourteen points were outlined by President Wilson in a speech to Congress on 8 January 1918.

Many thought them naïve in the extreme and many were. Nonetheless, these points expressed American idealism at its best. When an exhausted Imperial Germany began to search for a way to end the war, she did so by accepting the Fourteen Points as the basis upon which peace between the nations would be established and that being agreed to, Imperial Germany signed the Armistice.

[Image 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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