A look under the world’s hood: Italy

Tuesday, Nov. 16, 1943

Americans didn’t want to become the world’s policemen but events demanded otherwise. Driving out the Nazis as the Allies north in Italy was leaving a void. Not since the fall of the ancient Roman Empire had the Italian peninsula been a unified country. Without ancient Roman might to guard it, the country was gobbled up piecemeal by competing powers. In the early 1800’s, for a brief time Napoleon Bonaparte had offered hope of independence by driving out the Bourbons and other rulers. Yet even Napoleon couldn’t resist recreating monarchies for his own family. When Wellington defeated Napoleon in 1812, he restored a monarchy. Revolutionaries such as Garibaldi fought for unification and independence. The Royal House of Savoy had unified and ruled Italy since 1861. Now, Benito Mussolini was out of the picture. The Allies had anointed an interim government under General Pietro Badoglio but tolerated the monarchy as part of a transition from Fascism to — what? Italians saw their chance to finally decide for themselves. Would they choose a monarchy? King Victor Emanuel III was in disgrace despite having initiated an armistice with the Allies. He abdicated in favor of his son who became King Humbert II. Would the Italians keep hiom? Decide on a democracy, a republic, or something as yet unknown? As the Nazis dug in and fought, the outcome was death and destruction everywhere. Ultimately, though, one more monarchy bit the dust. In 1946, Italians finally got to vote in a referendum and created a republic – an outcome Garibaldi had dreamed of 100 years earlier.

 

 

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