Friday, April 29, 2022

Guest Post: Assassination of Il Duce

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.


April 7, 1926 - Tragedy at Piazza del Campidoglio

Italy's Fascist leader Benito Mussolini was fatally wounded as he walked among the crowd in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome. He had just left an assembly of the International Congress of Surgeons, to whom he had delivered a speech on the wonders of modern medicine. Ironically, those wonders would not save him, and he passed away from blood-loss less than two hours later.

The assassin was a fifty-year-old Anglo-Irish woman called Violet Gibson, the daughter of Lord Ashbourne, Lord Chancellor of Ireland. Because she was lynched on the spot by an angry mob, her true motivations remain unclear. Despite the wave of sympathy, his Partito Nazionale Fascista was unable to remain in power unquestioned. The next prime minister would also feel the ever-present power of the king and the generals, and the country was fortunate for a ready-made replacement in Pietro Badoglio. His welcome return from Brazil, where he had been exiled by Mussolini, provided a balance of firm leadership coupled with democratic intent.

Like the late Duce, many Italians felt strongly that they had not received the rewards of the other victory powers. As a Great War general, Badoglio understood the Great Powers better than most. He realized that nobody got what they wanted out of the Great War and wanted a rematch. Revisionist pressures came to a head at the Stresa Conference, which Badoglio hosted on the banks of Lake Maggiore in Italy. He stood resolutely behind Britain and France at the critical moment when German strongman Adolf Hitler's intentions had been unmasked. Complicit in Dollfuss' assassination, the existence of the Luftwaffe and 500,000 troops directly contravened the terms set in the Treaty of Versailles.

The Stresa Front declared that the independence of Austria "would continue to inspire their common policy." The signatories also agreed to resist any future attempt by the Germans to change the Treaty of Versailles. Nevertheless, the continent reluctantly headed to war, and, to universal surprise, the French Republic capitulated after a disastrous six-week conflict. Fortunately, the Allies managed to squeak a win out of the Battle of Britain; afterward, all eyes turned to the third military partner in the western alliance. As a war-time leader, Badoglio'a Royal Italian Army, supported by British and Commonwealth forces, tenaciously fought a long-running battle down the Italian peninsula. The turning point would be the weighty destruction of Monte Cassino. Italy would become a major theatre after the United States entered the war. Allied forces would ultimately win the prolonged Battle of Italy and launch their counter-invasion via the north and also southern France. Italian forces would be at the spearhead of troops that captured the German capital of Berlin, placing modern Italy at the very centre of the new Europe.

Author's Note:

In reality, Mussolini was wounded only slightly, dismissing his injury as "a mere trifle," and, after his nose was bandaged, he continued his parade on the Capitoline Hill. The assassination attempt triggered a wave of popular support for Mussolini, resulting in much oppressive legislation, consolidating his control of Italy. Violet Gibson spent the rest of her life in a psychiatric hospital, St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton, despite repeated pleas for her release. Meanwhile, the Fuhrer solicited the approval of the Duce, to whom, in return for his acquiescence, he would be forever grateful, as Hitler professed; "Tell Mussolini, I will never forget this."

Provine's Addendum:

Following the defeat of Germany, the Allies turned their attention to the Empire of Japan. Hitler had gambled that a war in the Pacific would distract the United States, but his urging of Japan to provoke the U.S. with a sneak attack at Pearl Harbor only proved to wake a sleeping giant. The war ended with the first use of atomic weapons, one of many heralds to a new era. Empires declined as France and Britain granted independence to colonies, but a new form of globalism raced ahead with economic unions and internationally-backed Fascist parties to establish trade-friendly governments. While the rest of the world leaned right politically, the Soviet Union hid behind what Churchill called an "Iron Curtain." Proxy wars and bush wars dragged on through the twentieth century in China, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe as neither side wanted to risk a "World War III," especially with Germany now standing alongside Italy, France, and Britain in an European Union.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter