• Introduction

    By Andronico Barbero

    At the present day, the Kingdom of the Italians (as the Greater Italian Federation is most commonly known) is one of the most fascinating and self-contradictory countries of the world. A constitutional monarchy made up of Kingdoms, Republics, Free Cities and Principalities, united in its multi-layers divisions, the only parliamentary democracy where the King is not only a mere figurehead, one of the world's economical and scientific powerhouses, home of the most brilliant world politicians in one of the most endemically corrupted political systems, the country where clear oxymora like Secular Catholicism and Individualistic Socialism are a real thing, Italy is a fascinating mystery to everyone- Italians included. As Massimo d'Azeglio once put it: "Joseph the Maistre wrote that any people has the government it deserves. It would seem that the Italians deserved many."
    A common myth originated in the "Risorgimento", is that this was the Italians' destiny since the beginning of time, strengthened by the seeds of centuries of division and oppression. But is it so? It certainly was not in the eyes of the ones who lived in the many statelets in which the Italian peninsula had been divided by the Congress of Vienna. Back in those times, Italy was really "a mere geographical expression", as the (in)famous quote by Clemens Von Metternich goes. And, if many among the literates wanted a united Italy, there seemed to be no consensus on how (or even when) this unification was to be achieved: a radical Republic (as envisioned by Mazzini and Garibaldi), a Federal, somewhat liberal Kingdom (as Cavour desired), or a Confederation led by the Pope (as Gioberti dreamed)?
    In the end, they all won, they all lost, and it can be said that the Italian Unification is the best example of the saying "a good compromise leaves anyone somewhat dissatisfied". This goes against the myth that portrays that generation of heroes that made Italy as a compact, united front. They were not. Some of them did not even ever met, some condemned others to death, and even the ones who had a strong relationship quarreled a lot (one could write a book just out of the fights between Cavour and Ferdinand I, despite their attested mutual friendship). It took a lot of pragmatism, blood, and sheer luck to forge all these differences into a nation.
    But how could it happen? The purpose of this book is to give a partial answer to this question in a somewhat unorthodox way. We will try, as much as we can, not to tell History but the histories of the men of the "generation who made a nation". It is hard to describe "the history of a soul" but we have enough material to give it a humble try.
    Of course, we will have to make choices. We will focus on the men who took actual decisions who shape the destiny of Italy. We will spend a great deal of time seeing on how pivotal were their changes of mind and moment of pragmatism, since, as Cavour wonderfully put it: "There is no principle, however just or reasonable, which, if exaggerated, cannot lead us to the evilest of consequences".
    Unnecessary it might be, let us give them a brief introduction. First, we will have Ferdinand, last King of Sardinia and First King of the Italians, or, as he is usually referred to, the Gentleman King. What would have happened of him (and of Italy) had not his elder brother Victor Emmanuel tragically died in flames on September 16th, 1822 (just two months before Ferdinand's birth) is anyone's guess. Someone says that Ferdinand felt a cadet all his life and that this was one of the reasons for his strong and friendly relationship with Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, First Prime Minister of Italy (a second son himself) who will of course also feature in this book. For him, we will highlight how a passionate and risk-loving man he was, in contrast with the cold-blooded, highly rational image that the later propaganda gave of him.
    We will of course have Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Republican who gave his life to enlarge a kingdom. To give an account of the life of this man, who was a sailor, a spaghetti-seller in Brazil, Admiral of the Uruguayan Navy, one the best guerrilla warfare commander of all times, we would need a book of its own. Things being so, we will focus on his contribution to the Italian cause, and particularly, his last and fatal achievement, the Endeavor of Zara.
    Finally, Giuseppe Mazzini, the man who made a King the Permanent President of a Republic (although, in one of history's most controversial resurrection of ancient titles, formally the King of the Italians is the Princeps of the Roman Republic).
    These are the man who made the impossible possible, the Fathers of our Nation.

    One of the first trauma in anyone's life is to discover that our parents are no superheroes: they cry, they hurt and get hurt, they contradict themselves, they changed their mind they make mistakes. Sometimes, it is their failures that make us better human beings, while some of their successes may make us weaker. But after the initial shock, we should ask ourselves: Is this a delusion, or a blessing?
    We would say, a blessing and a warning. A blessing, because any of us may capable of great deeds and endeavors. A warning, for successful we might be, we will never be fully in control of the events, and may well end up being remembered for something we never wanted in the first place. And if so, (this is the core question we should ask ourselves), is it that bad?
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    #2: Some OOC explanation
  • Hi everyone! Welcome to my second attempt at a timeline. It explores the path of a different Italian Unification. The POD is the early death of Victor Emmanuel, making Ferdinand the last King of Sardinia and the First King of the Italians. The general goal of this TL is to create a federal Italy, that is monarchical to the present day, and somewhat more successful than OTL. The chosen format is an in-universe book published in 2020 by a renowned historian modeled on OTL Professor Alessandro Barbero, whose online conferences and lessons greatly influenced my thoughts and knowledge on the subject. That being said, I am no historian, no writer, no native English speaker, so I welcome any constructive criticism and discussion. I hope you like it!
    #3: Ferdinand, the early years (1822-1840)
  • Ferdinand, the early years (1822-1840)

    To understand a person as complex as the first King of the Italians, one has to understand first the environment in which he was born and raised. Here, we will need a digression on his father Charles Albert, dubbed by some as the “grandfather” of Italy. The keyword to describe him, curiously, is not an adjective nor a nickname, but rather an adverb: “nearly”. Charles Albert was nearly a liberal (as far as royalties could be liberals back then) who then turned nearly a reactionary conservative; and, on that fatal date of November 13th, 1822, nearly a suicide. The death of his firstborn Victor Emmanuel in the mysterious fire of his nursery on September 16, 1822, summed with the delusion for having being identified as the culprit of the conspiracy (speaking of which, one could say that he was nearly a conspirator) brought the young prince on the brink of self-annihilation. The confirmation of his rights as heir to Charles Felix at the Congress of Verona in October 1822 did little to lift his spirit. He wrote to in his diary “If the child growing in Maria Theresa’s womb is not a healthy boy, it is a sign of God Almighty’s disdain for my actions. I could not bear it. Maybe the most sinful of sins could be my only possible atonement.”
    Luckily for him, and, in hindsight, for the future of our Nation, after a relatively smooth labor, Ferdinand was born. Charles Albert took this as a sign: his mission was to prepare the reign of his son. He would say on many private occasions “Anyone calls me “your Majesty”, but I am but a mere Lieutenant wearing a crown”. This attitude was encouraged by the fact the young Prince soon proved himself a smart student, with a passion for mathematics and science. This is not to say that Ferdinand grew surrounded by affection. His education was a military one, particularly strict, and the more he proved himself capable, the more his father wanted from him. If Ferdinand suffered from this, he hid it very well. As he once said to his younger sister Maria Cristina (born in 1824, after Charles Albert international rehabilitation due to his participation in the repression of the Spanish rebellion of 1823): “I was not conceived to be a King, and yet, I was born to be one. I must work every day to become the best King our sacred Kingdom ever had. I owe this to God, to Father, and the ashes and blood of poor Victor.”
    It is of course hard to tell which ones of the many anecdotes regarding the young prince childhood were true and which ones were later propaganda forgery. While the tale of the eleven-year-old Ferdinand pointing out a mistake in the computations of Luigi Menabrea, Lieutenant of the Army Corp of Engineers while supervising the reforming of the fortress of Bard in 1833 is probably a myth, it is unquestionable that Ferdinand actively lobbied his father to enhance the Artillery and the Army Corps of Engineers, whose budget was significantly increased since 1836. Menabrea became the scientific mentor of the Prince, and the two would spend hours studying together, tackling both theoretical and practical problems. Some members of the court urged Charles Albert to make Ferdinand dedicate himself to more princely activities, as the cavalry corps. General de Sonnaz, who as the first military instructor of the Prince had considerable leverage on him, cautiously suggested this to the Prince himself. Calmly, Ferdinand replied: “Ticino, Mincio, Adige, Piave, Isonzo.” “What of them, Your Highness?” “What good is a dragoon prince if our Army cannot cross them in points our enemy does not expect, or without the proper artillery barrage? It is past the time of kings that are knights in shiny armors. I want my army to shine instead.”
    However, the burden of the studies and the first govern duties Charles Albert was slowly but definitely starting to entrust to his son was starting to take its toll. It was then decided for the Prince, at the young age of 16, to take his Grand Tour through Europe.
    Of particular importance was his visit to London. There, the young Ferdinand would make a really good impression. As Queen Victoria would write in her diary: “Prince Ferdinand is the perfect match between the noble, glorious past of his House and our brilliant, scientific present. I do wish him the best for his future”. Ferdinand would make a point to personally meet, among others, Charles Babbage, and inviting him to Turin (visit that would later happen in 1840, during the Second Meeting of Italian Scientists). The glory of London and the British Empire made Ferdinand utterly aware of the need of modernizing his soon-to-be Kingdom, and that the gradual reforms of his father, while effective, were far from enough.
    However, the most pivotal event of 1838 was the encounter with one of his father’s subjects, and Ferdinand’s future Prime Minister: Camillo Benso of Cavour. Due to Charles Albert's dislike of the fellow, Ferdinand was cautious at first, but out of the restriction of the Sardinian Court (from which Camillo was by all means banished, among other things) the relationship between the two became soon of a close friendship. Ferdinand wrote in his diary: “Camillo is a force of Nature. A second son, like me, with the wits and strength of a thousand firstborns. If there is someone that can help me in turning Turin into more aristocratic London, that is him, and only him.” We will get back later to this relationship, which had many ups and downs (mainly due to Cavour’s temper).
    As soon as Ferdinand got back to Turin, it was decided that it was time for him to marry, and he dustily obliged by marrying his first cousin Maria Adelaide of Austria in 1840, the same year as Victoria of the United Kingdom whose marriage to Prince Albert Ferdinand attended. The occasion was taken to strike many deals with English companies for railways development in the Kingdom of Sardinia and the quiet purchase of military equipment. When word of this reached Maria Adelaide, the princess wrote to his groom-to-be against whom he wished to use them. Cryptical, Ferdinand replied “Against no one, my love. But as our Roman forebears put it: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”.

    And, truth to be told, war was soon being prepared.
    #4 Ferdinand, 1840-1845
  • Ferdinand, 1840-1844

    It is hard to imagine a youngster as busy as Prince Ferdinand in the early 1840s. Divided between his roles as a member of his father’s Council, Commander of the Artillery, and his studies (after meeting Charles Babbage in Turin in 1840, he made a failed attempt to make the Analytical engine to work), the legend says that the Prince only slept with his wife Maria Adelaide (and, given the fact that the couple was soon blessed with a son, Umberto, born in 1841, and a daughter, Vittoria, in 1843, even in that occasion he was hardly given any rest). Although their match had political reasons (Charles Albert was trying to get closer to Austria, going as far as to sign a defensive pact with the Emperor, and urged his son to marry one of his cousins for this very reason, although Ferdinand would have preferred to choose a foreign bride) the couple got on well together. Ferdinand famously did not take any mistress, which not prevented Maria Adelaide from occasionally complaining. She wrote in her diary: “If only I could be jealous of a pretty face, a white bosom. Another woman, I could easily outcompete; but a whole kingdom? Or, should I say, an entire Peninsula…” She went as far as to issue a formal complaint to Charles Albert, who famously responded: “Are we really talking about this? If there is a problem, it’s Ferdinand's friendship with that damned Jacobin!” The “Jacobin” in question was no-one less than Cavour, whose open mockery of his page’s suit in his youth had gained him the eternal hatred of Charles Albert. The King forbade a return to Court of Camillo, and thought of formally forbidding Ferdinand to see a “preposterous fellow who has no love for our Kingdom.” The answer of the young Prince was: “Your Majesty loves his Kingdom with the affection of father; Camillo loves it with the passion of a lover.” Begrudgingly, Charles Albert relented, although more than Ferdinand’s quip he might have been influenced by the report “On the role of the railways in the development of the British Empire”, written by Ferdinand with the extensive help of Camillo. The report convinced Charles Albert to finally give answers to the many voices in the kingdom advocating for the construction of railways since 1826. Priority was given to the line Turin-Genoa, to connect the main port of the Kingdom with the capital. The line was to pass through Alessandria, from which a further line to Novara was started. Ferdinand also pointed out the necessity of the national production of steam engines, not to depend only on imports. The active support of the crown led in 1845 to the creation of the company Ansaldo, whose first factory, the Sampierdarena, was operative in 1847. Meanwhile, the first line of the Sardinian Railways (the Turin-Moncalieri) was inaugurated in 1844, on the occasion of the marriage of Maria Cristina of Savoy to Henri of Orleans, second youngest son of Louis-Philippe of France. This marked a shift in international politics for the Kingdom of Sardinia. This new pro-French direction was dictated by the tensions with Austria following the first works of the railway Alessandria-Novara, which was meant to get to the lake port of Arona, creating a commercial route that would damage the existing one through the Austrian Adriatic ports.
    However, this is not to say that there was no love involved; on the contrary, the young couple fell in love almost at first glance. The two met in 1844 after Ferdinand, who had heard that Henri was in Naples to meet (and potentially marry) Maria Carolina of Naples, invited Henri (whose acquaintance he had made during his Grand Tour) to Turin “to tell the tale of his heroic military feats against the Algerians”. Having a great love for his sister, he feared that Maria Carolina would suffer in a marriage with one cousin or another- and that she was likely to make his husband suffer, too. In fact, Maria Cristina was nothing like the average, pious Savoy princess. She was smart and somewhat of a rebel, to the despair of her mother, who once wrote to her father “I have no idea from where did this child come from. She is nothing like any of us, and she seems to be born to spurn me! She should thank God she was born pretty.” At the age of eighteen, Maria Cristina was a ripe, sensual, wild beauty, described by many as a “Princess of Lombards, or maybe the Franks, or the Herulians”. Henri, previously set on the delicate, angelical Maria Carolina of Naples, was immediately charmed by the Savoy princess. The two fell in love when Henri promptly extinguished the fire Maria Cristina had accidentally set on her dress to hide a cigarette. Showing no embarrassment at all, Carolina laughed and reportedly said “I hope Your Highness is as good at turning fires on”, at which the Prince blushed and uttered a few words in what "sounded more like Ostrogoth than French", as Maria Cristina wrote in her diary. It is Henri's diary, however, that tells us what was really thinking: "I will marry her, and only her. I am a soldier, and she shines with the beauty and the danger of the most glorious of battles." The marriage was soon agreed, with Ferdinand actively taking part in the negotiations, although the hardest of the job was to convince his mother that it was best for all (Charles Albert was thorn between the political opportunity of the match and the embarrassment for his daughter's behavior, and in the end, had Maria Cristina solemnly swear in front of a notary that she would never ever smoke again. She complied-for a while. ).

    The full account of the War in Algeria (Ferdinand was not of the sort that lets an occasion of learning something; he became famous for the sentence “There is no such thing as a useless knowledge” that he said to his wife after she said that his beloved math was, by all means, useless) made a great impression on the young prince, who resented a lot the lack of any chance to test the reforms he, his father and Menabrea had been implementing. However, after thinking on the subject, he concluded that this way, the skills of the Sardinian Army would be a surprise to their enemies as well. And he added, “Let us hope that they will be more surprised than us.”
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    OOC: What has changed so far
  • So, since I do not like OOC footnotes very much, I believe it is worth making some comments. We are now 22 years after the POD, and on a large scale, the world is pretty much the same as OTL. Broadly, the main differences are the State of the Sardinian Railways (we are some 4/6 years ahead of OTL) and of the Sardinian Army, which has a fairly better Artillery and Engineer Corps due to Ferdinand's effort (joint with Menabrea). On a personal level, Ferdinand is more assertive and decided than OTL (both because he is his father's heir and for Charles Albert personal belief that his own reign is a sort of Lieutenancy for Ferdinand's) and he is friends with Cavour (who will then enter the political scene a little bit sooner than expected). Also, we have the invented character of Maria Cristina, Ferdinand's younger sister. She and her husband Henri of Orleans will play an interesting role ITTL. That being said, things will start to diverge more and more from OTL from 1847 onwards.
    A question regarding OTL First Italian war of Independence
  • So, while starting to write about the "liberal years" 1845/1847 (which may feature or not some narrative interludes), I am starting to think about the possible dynamics of the upcoming war. Now, I have the usual problems in finding good source material, and form what I gather, to understand the war the best book available is "Storia militare del Risorgimento" by Piero Pieri. I found this passage online (in Italian) which resumes the three strategies he thinks were feasible:

    "Delle tre possibilità che a giudizio del Pieri si presentavano all'esercito sardo ("operare dalla montagna attraverso il Trentino sbarrando la via dell'Adige e collegandosi per Rovereto e la Vallarsa con Vicenza e colla pianura veneta… varcare ed eventualmente forzare il Mincio e l'Adige… mantenendo una testa di ponte sulla destra dell'Adige… porsi a sud del Quadrilatero, colla sinistra appoggiata al Po… la destra a cavaliere dell'Adige, al di sopra di Legnago, in modo da comunicare con Vicenza e con Padova"), C. A. non ne scelse nessuna, e ritenne invece necessaria la conquista delle città fortificate ancora occupate dagli Austriaci."

    Basically, he identifies three routes: going through Trentino blocking the way of the Adige, then linking up with Vicenza through Rovereto, fording the Mincio and the Adige, with a bridgehead on the right of the Adige, our going south of the Quadrilatero, Po on the left, right through the Adige north of Legnago. The last option seems to be pretty much de Sonnaz's proposal, who wished to link up with the pontifical armies and make Venice the main base. This strategy also allows dealing with Nugent before he links up with Radetzky.
    Now, my question is: would it be possible to detach a force north to block the communications between Radetzki and Austria, which was effectively a tiny corredor on the eastern shore of the Garda Lake, or to do this, one had to take Peschiera? What do you guys know/think about this?
    #5 Ferdinand, the “Liberal Years”: 1845-1847
  • Ferdinand, the “Liberal Years”: 1845-1847

    To be fair, our title is a bit misleading. The expression “the liberal years” is to be more properly referred to the shift towards liberalism that Charles Albert’s politics took in 1845 and skyrocketed after the election of the “liberal” Pope Pius IX in 1846. For if this led to a general upsurge in Italian nationalism and flourishing of proposals to unite somehow Italy, for Charles Albert it was the clear occasion to conciliate his faith with his own political goals (with the former being far clearer than the latter). But what about Ferdinand? Was he the whole-hearted, gallant liberal we are taught in elementary school? He probably became something close to this bright image at a young age, but this is not to say that he was born that way. There is an illuminating passage in his diary, dated February 1846:

    “I have always been better with ideas and things rather than with people. Complicated they may appear to most, theorems and artillery pieces are way simpler to understand. They do not get angry, they do not feel hunger, they do not cry, they do not bleed. They have a simple, stark beauty. I could have lived a happy life as a scholar, even as an artillery commander. But I am to be king, and a king has to care and provide for his people; and to do this, a king needs to understand his people. I am not sure Father does. I wish he had had some good friends (or any friend at all) like me to help him through. I would not be the man I am today without Camillo and Albert.”

    Camillo and Albert being, of course, Camillo of Cavour and Albert of the United Kingdom. While the relationship between Ferdinand and the former is more celebrated, it may be argued that the (mostly epistolary) friendship with the latter was just as important. Albert was a liberal and an innovator at heart, and his views on social and educational matters were largely reflected by Ferdinand’s later politics as a King. But truth to be told, for the years 1845 through 1847 Ferdinand’s main concern was the Army, with little to no intervention on the political and social reforms his father implemented from 1845 onwards. The only documented direct intervention by Ferdinand was to urge his father to sign the preliminary agreement of the Customs Union proposed by Pope Pius IX in 1847 to the Kingdom of Sardinia and the GranDuchy of Tuscany. Charles Albert was indeed dubious whether to sign or not, for his commitment “body and soul to the cause of the Italian Unification” (as he famously wrote to Cesare Balbo) was shifting to a commitment to somehow enlarge his own Kingdom. Ferdinand simply pointed out the contradiction of proclaiming oneself adept to the neo-welf ideals by Gioberti (who envisioned a confederal Italy led by the Pope) as his fathers did and at the same time, forestalling the Pope’s very first initiative to unite the Peninsula. Besides, Ferdinand continued, Sardinia-Piedmont was the one who would benefit the most (despite the bad harvests of 1845 and 1846 and the subsequent economic setback that hit Europe, the northern Kingdom had by far the largest economy of the three soon-to-be members). The final argument was maybe the most decisive: if Sardinia was to expand, it was eastwards, at the expense of the Austrians, so what harm could there possibly be in an economical agreement whose only possible outcome was to make all of Central Italy into a Sardinian economic satellite? And the agreement was signed. The events of 1848 then prevented the Custom Union to be fully enforced, let alone show its benefits. However, given the outcome, we might say that in this case, God, more than laughing at the plans made by man, was merely smiling.

    This particular episode shows that Ferdinand’s view of the Italian Unification was a careful, federal approach, with Northern Italy united from Nice to the Isonzo, with the possible addition of the Emilian Duchies. As Cavour wrote in 1847: “When I was young and ambitious, it was natural for me to think that I would wake up, someday, as the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy. Now that I am a more sensible grown-up, I might be as happy waking up as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Upper Italy (Regno dell’Alta Italia).”

    It must be pointed out that all of these proposals and ideas would have probably remained such (or a wet dream at best) if it weren’t for the gradual yet steady reforms the Sardinian Army had been undergoing since 1840. In this respect, Ferdinand’s role was pivotal as was his choice of collaborators. His frequent voyages and confrontation with international friends (chiefly his brother-in-law Henri, in this regard) made him utterly aware of the fact that the Sardinian Army was lagging behind the rest of Europe in terms of doctrine, tactics, and weaponry. His main contributions, which proved to be crucial in 1848, were in each and any of these directions. It was him who suggested abandoning the Napoleonic-style three-line tactic in favor of the modern two-line tactic for the infantry, which favored firepower and gave a greater ability to maneuver on the field. The first to implement this idea was LaMarmora, with his Bersaglieri. Created by LaMarmora himself in 1836, this elite light infantry corp was created to overcome the Sardinian lack of cavalry. The adoption of the two-line tactics, which itself increased firepower, and their enhanced weapons (of which we will give a more detailed account shortly) made the Bersaglieri on of the finest troops in Europe, to the point that Radetzki had to admit that they were “light artillery with handguns, light cavalry without horses, demons without horns but with black feathers.”
    This would have not been possible if not for the introduction of better weaponry, in the form of needle guns and the Verdi bullet. The Verdi (oblong, flattened at one extremity and with a hole running through most of the bullet) was an adaptation (conceived under Menabrea’s guidance in the School of Artillery) of the Greener bullet invented by London gunsmith Mr. William Greener. The Greener bullet had come to Ferdinand’s attention in 1840 when the Prince went to buy a hunting rifle in Greener’s shop and got interested in the craftsman job. The gunsmith, flattered by Ferdinand’s interest and impressed by the Prince's knowledge of weaponry, showed all his creations to him.
    This episode is largely instructive on the man Ferdinand was: good at understanding things (not even the British government had seen such potential in a bullet) and always keen on learning something, even when going on a hunt.
    Narrative Interlude #1: Italy is an artichoke
  • Narrative Interlude #1: Italy is an artichoke

    Ferdinand was tired. He was many things at that very moment, but chiefly, he was tired.
    He got back studying the tons of paper that covered his desk. It was a mess, it was chaos, but it was his chaos. That one, he could manage; more than that, it was necessary for his mind to work. He called it “his inner chaos”. The outer chaos, however… “One problem at a time. One problem at a time.”, he whispered to himself. The hour was late, but he would not dare sleep; too many things may happen and he had to be ready. He even wondered if he was already asleep, dreaming. A smile cracked on his face at that silly thought. It was his usual half smile: it reached only his right cheek, it did not show his teeth, it did not brighten his eyes. It was a good thing, for a king, to be able to conceal his own emotions. He silently said a prayer, thanking God that he was not yet a King. He also had to thank his persuasion capabilities. Or was it cynicism? It did not matter; what mattered, was that he, and he alone, had managed to dissuade the King from the idiotic idea of the abdication. He always thought of him as “the King”, or “His Majesty”; never as “Father”. The latter concept implied love, affection, and from Charles Albert, he had had none of those. Not that he complained; he was not a child anymore, he had children of his own, and soon, a Kingdom to rule. He felt his day would come shortly; just not today. If he were in the mood to complain about something related to his childhood, he would have complained about the essays the King had him write to test his abilities. Why, for Heaven’s sake, instead of “Can a Prince take part in horse-sale?”[1] he had not chosen more useful subjects such as “How can the Crown Prince dissuade his King from abdicating in the middle of the biggest chaos Italy had seen since Napoleon?”.
    And bigger it would grow by the day; Ferdinand was sure of that. The situation all over the peninsula was escalating exponentially. Everybody knew the facts; everybody knew how it all started. On January 12th, the birthday of his namesake Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies, Sicily had risen in rebellion. People fighting in the street, calling for a Constitution, chanting the name of Pius IX. To everybody’s surprise, the other Ferdinand conceded it on January 29th. Ferdinand knew that that was the real turning point: now the choice of every Italian Royalty was between Constitution and Revolution. He also knew that many were looking at him, in case the King (as it was feared) would prove unable to make such a choice. Surprisingly, one of those was Charles Albert himself.
    He could not help but remembering the short yet crucial meeting with His Majesty. The King looked trapped and vulnerable, torn between the oath he had sworn to Charles Felix some twenty years before to abide by the rules of the Monarchy and the opportunity he sensed to finally make history. But then, he had done what he had always done: he had found a loophole.

    “Ours has never been truly a reign, dearest son. It has not even been a Regency, but a mere Lieutenancy, waiting for you to grow and flourish. Our Lieutenancy is finally over. It is time for you to become King. We have everything ready; we shall sign Our abdication today. Today, we shall not sin; today, we make atonement.”

    Ferdinand knew that His Majesty genuinely believed that this would somehow settle things. He would preserve his honor, he would not sin again. That was the key: sin. Ferdinand would have loved the King to see sense, to carefully plan the future of the nation and be ready to rip those plan apart if needed (Necessity, that ancient, terrible Goddess the Ancient Greeks called Ananke, still ruled the life of all men, from the lowest peasant to the highest king). But that was foolish wishful thinking, the king would not be able to accept this logic. Then words came to Ferdinand’s mouth without even thinking; they were flowing, natural as breathing, sharp as razors, light as feathers, healing as God’s Grace.

    “Your Majesty, one does not atone from his sins by committing a bigger one. For abandoning our beloved Kingdom now, depriving it of Your wisdom and guidance in the direst hour would be a sin, not even the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on Earth would dare forgive. And what about the rest of Italy? Everywhere, people are out in the streets to fight not for revolution, but for the Throne and the Altar, for Pius and Charles Albert, for the rulers, temporal and spiritual, who may be wise enough to grant them the measure of freedom they deserve, and whose swords shall protect them from foreign tyranny. The voice of the people announces the fall of the tyrants and the rise of the worthy rulers. Your Majesty, my time shall come; but not today. I do not lust for a crown, I want only to do my duty, supporting in every possible means my king and father, and I pray that God will grant strength to my arm and sharpness to my brain so that I will never be a disappointment to him."

    Charles Albert was deeply impressed by his son’s speech, but yet, he took some time to relent. He dare not be an oath-breaker. A different loophole had to be found, in the form of a formal absolution from his oath.[2] After all, if a repentant murderer could be forgiven through confession by any drunken parish priest, why could not a King be dispensed by a foolish oath extorted from another, short-sighted King nearly twenty years before (on his deathbed, a nice dramatic touch)?[3]

    Of course, he had phrased this differently in front of the King. The catastrophe had been avoided, for now, and the path to the Statute- another loophole, calling it so, instead of Constitution- had been taken. Camillo had highly praised Ferdinand’s feat.
    “Where did Your Highness find such, ehm, sensible words?” he asked.
    “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I thought: what would our sharp-tongued friend, the Count of Cavour, say? And then, I did the opposite.” It was a joke, and a good one at that (it was the last real laugh Ferdinand would have in some months), but like any good joke, it had some truth in it. Camillo would probably have said something like “A King should know when to abdicate”[4], a terrible move in that particular moment. The two of them were very different. After all, it was the very reason their friendship worked so well.

    A question lingered in the air. What was next? War, Ferdinand was sure. Against whom? There was only one option available. The outcome? Hard to predict, Italy being such chaos. But then he remembered that Italy was no mess; it was not a mere geographical expression. It was an artichoke. To his ancestors, it meant that it was to be eaten one leaf at a time, starting from the outside, and maybe, one day, until its very core. Lombardy-Venetia could well be a leaf, and a big, juicy one at that, he thought, while staring at the topographical map on his desk, half-buried between books, diaries, and paper notes. But what if… Nothing, he thought. He got himself back to work.
    Even solving one problem at a time, or eating one leaf at a time, needed several possible solutions, from which the most elegant and simple was to be sorted out. He knew he would not find it alone, but he would not look unprepared. He cleared the mess on his desk: only the map and a sheet of paper would survive. Another half-smile, another silly thought. Amused, he started to write:
    “Essay: What is the best way to successfully invade a neighboring country with whom we signed a defensive pact? Discuss at least three workable plans in no less than ten pages.”


    Believe it or not, I did not make this up-this is OTL.
    [2] This is inspired by what happened OTL. Charles Albert wanted to abdicate, and VE dissuaded him.
    [3] Charles Felix had CA solemnly swear an oath to forever respect the "fundamental laws of the Monarchy", implying that he would never concede any Constitution. On February 7th, 1848, CA was "absolved" from the oath by the Archbishop of Vercelli.
    [4] As he did say to VE II OTL in 1859.
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    #6: Ferdinand, January-March 1848: The Springtime of Peoples, the flourishing of a Prince
  • Ferdinand, January-March 1848: The Springtime of Peoples, the flourishing of a Prince

    The year 1847 had been apparently uneventful. Yet another year under the European order established by the Congress of Vienna. However, small cracks on the façade of such order had started to open. In Milan, riots would explode on the nomination of an Italian as Archbishop after Von Gaisruck’s death; in Sicily, statues of King Ferdinand would be found blindfolded, the ears stuffed with cotton. A breeze of moderate reforms would start in Turin and Florence, letting some freedom of the press. Journals started to sprout in the Kingdom of Sardinia and the GranDuchy of Tuscany. What names were those journals given? We mention just two, but our reader will get the gist: Cavour’s “Il Risorgimento” in Turin and Ricasoli’s “La Patria” in Florence. Having the privilege of hindsight, and of reading of those events instead of having to live them, we may well smirk and laugh at the people (some Italian Monarchs chief among them) who could not read the signs. It would be most unjust; we read through the lines those people were writing with their breath and blood (most of times, without even knowing it). And to be fair, until January 12th, 1848 (when the Sicilian Revolution started), most people had no reason to believe it would be any different from 1847.
    It is not a coincidence that in Italian there are two idiomatic expressions regarding this most fateful year: “Fare un quarantotto” (literally “to make a forty-eight) and “subire un quarantotto” (“to get a forty-eight). And Ferdinand was the one who made a forty-eight if there was any. It has been argued that Ferdinand’s gamble in 1848 and his fast thinking and decisiveness were a reaction to Charles Albert’s internal torments and moral struggles. As Carducci put it later: “Only in our sacred Italic land could Hamlet father Scipio.” Although the latter affirmation is hyperbolic, it describes well these two pivotal figures, so different that it is sometimes hard to believe they were father and son.
    Be as it may, it is worth telling the events before commenting on them. The echo of the Sicilian Revolution in Turin was feeble at first. The real turning point was the concession by Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies of the Constitution on January 29th. This move by “the other Ferdinand”, as he is infamously known, was by and large aimed at hitting his “liberal” fellow monarchs, Pius and Charle Albert. And hit them it did. In fact, how could they refuse a constitution, now? Bound by his infamous oath to his predecessor Charles Felix, Charles Albert felt trapped. He genuinely thought his moderate reforms would have been enough. But appetizers of democracy do not satiate the hunger for liberty; they merely stimulate it. Torn and shaken, the King went as far as to take every provision to abdicate. The only thing that was left was to sign the decree. It was only Ferdinand’s intervention, during their famous meeting on February 5th, that avoided this which would have been an insensible move. His moral doubts placated by the absolution from his oath at the hands of the Bishop of Vercelli on February 9th, Charles Albert started the talks about the Statute (calling it a Constitution still sent him shivers from his failed endeavor in 1821) on February 10th. His most prominent concerns were two: that the Catholic faith is recognized as the official religion of his Kingdom and that the rights of the Monarchy be established. It was the Throne and Altar all over again. Ferdinand ostensibly took a low-profile approach to the matter, not meddling too much in the writing of the Statute. The reason was clear: Ferdinand’s main concern was the Army. From his diary, we know that he started to make plans for his Lombard campaign as soon as he got back from the meeting with his father. However, to that point, there was nothing that could justify any mobilization of the Army (although Ferdinand had quietly informed some trusted high-ranking officials, chiefly LaMarmora and Franzini, that they should best be ready “to serve the Fatherland”) and even the mobilization o the full strength of the Bersaglieri (now 8000 strong) could hardly be justified, even if as an excess of zeal. The official reason for the mobilization ordered by the King (but supervised by the Crown Prince, who was the acting Commander-in-Chief) on February 25th was the situation in France, where, following the riots of February 22nd, King Louis-Philippe had abdicated and left France on the 24th. On that very day, Henri resigned as Governor of Algeria and left with Maria Cristina for Turin, where they arrived on March 1st (it was later revealed that the Princess was with child).
    And so we get to the fateful March of 1848. Once the Statute was granted on March 10th, the events in Northern Italy spiraled outside of control. When word of this and of the insurrection in Wien (March 13th) reached Milan, the until then somewhat peaceful revolt against Austrian rule (the famous “tobacco strike”, aimed at hitting the Austrian government’s revenue) started to take a different direction. Here, a less-known aspect of Ferdinand played an important role: cynicism. It was with the Prince’s blessing (and through the Prince’s purse) that Lombard political dissenters who had taken refuge in Turin started to trickle back in Lombardy, carrying their voices, their ideas and more importantly, arms. The speed of the Sardinian mobilization (which was deeply surprising Charles Albert) was growing every passing day, to reach its full on March 14th.
    Meanwhile, Milan and Venice were turning powder kegs, and finally, ignited on March 17th. Violence erupted in the streets, and the rebels, although unorganized at first, managed to inflict grievous losses to the Austrian troops. Barricades were built, and an unknown sharpshooter, called “Toni” by the insurgents, started to bring havoc between the Austrian officers (who preferred to call him “Der Teufel”, the Devil). No one could find him, but he seemed to be equipped with a superior gun, for he could strike with deadly precision from seemingly anywhere-or nowhere, which was where he was to be found. The angered Austrians gave no quarter to the rebels, and Charles Albert (or better said, Ferdinand through Charles Albert) declared war on Austria “to protect his fellow Italians from foreign tyranny” on March 19th. On that very day, the Piedmontese vanguard of Bersaglieri and Dragoon, led by LaMarmora, crossed the Ticino River, headed to Milan. News that “the entire Sardinian Army” was approaching the city made the fighting on the streets grow bitter and bitter, with heavy casualties on the Austrian side.
    Truth to be told, most of the Piedmontese crossed the river only on the 24th, an impressive feat on itself, due to the use of the railway to Alessandria and Novara (ironically build thanks to the defensive treaty between Sardinian-Piedmont and the Austrian Empire). Smaller detachments, headed to Varese and Como, would cross on the 20th, while the bulk of the Sardinian Army would march on Cremona.
    Radetzky was finally forced to leave Milan on March 22nd, when the Piedmontese vanguard was in sight of the city. Instead of entering the city, Lamarmora’s vanguard would follow Radetzki, who was retreating to the fortresses of the “Quadrilatero”, the four cardinal points of Austrian defense in Northern Italy (Peschiera, Mantova, Verona, and Legnago). The first mistake made by Radetzi was to underestimate his foe. The small rearguard he left was annihilated by a superb pincer move performed by the Bersaglieri at Treviglio. While a relatively small confrontation, Treviglio showed not only that the Austrians could be beaten, but also gave the Bersaglieri the baptism of fire they needed. As La Marmora wrote in his diary, after Treviglio his men would be willing to storm the very gates of Hell, and he was tremendously proud of them.

    Lastly, after Treviglio, the details of the movements of the Austrian Army were now in Piedmontese possession. Messengers were sent to the Sardinian second wave, 15000 strong, commanded by the Crown Prince Ferdinand himself (his second-in-command was his brother-in-law Henri d’Orleans, who was granted a commission as a general in the Sardinian Army). After crossing the Ticino on March 22nd, the Prince had entered Cremona; there Lamarmora's messengers found him, and gave the news: the whole of the Austrian Army was going to cross the Mincio at Goito. Truth to be told, Ferdinand was already planning to head there; call it an educated guess, but the Prince had deeply studied the cartography of Lombardy-Venetia, and Goito seemed the obvious choice. Although, the Austrians were proving faster than he thought. Besides (and the most senior members of his staff were keen on remembering the Prince of this all the time) they still outnumbered his force, even combined with Lamarmora’s; the bulk of the Army, under the King’s command, were two, maybe three days behind.
    Ferdinand, always the careful planner, a man who held personal hate of gambling (unique among the nobility), in this case, went full gambler. A man of reason and wit, he felt that the Austrians were not just making a strategic retreat, but fleeing towards the safety of a fortress after having been chased out of a city over which they had lorded for more than 30 years. He explained his reasons for the dash to Goito to his top officers during a dinner in Cremona (which would then became famous as the "fatal Cremona", the fateful Cremona) and concluded with these words: “During another regimental dinner I attended in London, the colonel gave a toast that I liked so much I made an effort to memorize it, and which I want to share with you all, being very fitting with the task we are undertaking. He fears His fate too much / Or his desserts are small / Who dares not to put it to the touch / to win or to lose all”.
    In order to make his march as swift as possible, Ferdinand made a difficult choice for a former Artillery commander: he left most of his artillery behind before rushing towards Goito. It was a risky move, another gambit, but one must strike while the enemy is vulnerable. And surprise him, too, not only once, but twice, if possible.

    And another surprise would come, this in the form not of a gamble, but of a pure act of faith and glory.
    To Caesar what's Caesar's
  • And to @LordKalvan what is LordKalvan's, whose countless and precious contributions (ideas, pieces of information, explanations, corrections, feedback, honest and constructive criticism) to this TL are so many that I consider him a coauthor. Since there is no official way to acknowledge coauthorship, I found it appropriate to have a post highlighting and declaring this fact and to give my honest, wholehearted thanks for all this invaluable help.
    #7: The Battle of Goito
  • The Battle of Goito

    “Of all the birds that roam the blue sky, only one dares to fly higher than the eagle: the crow. Clad in his shiny yet humble black feathers, high up between the clouds he goes, challenging the dominion of the noblest among the birds of prey. The crow even dares to attack the eagle, pecking at her neck, trying to make her bleed. Contemptuous, the eagle barely responds: she simply flies higher, towards Heaven, trying to take the crow’s breath away. Over and over again, barely scathed, the eagle would win, but not on this fateful day of March the 24th, 1848 came. Today, the Italian crow has pecked the Austrian eagle so hard, made her bleed so hard, that she will never again try to cast her tyrannical shadow on our sacred land.”

    Over the past 170 years, million of words have been used to describe the Battle of Goito, the first and the most decisive battle of the Italian War of Liberation. However, none of those are as famous as the few lines quoted above. Ironically, they were written by the only journalist present on the battlefield which was not meant to be there (1), Guglielmo Stefani. An ardent Italian patriot, Stefani had been arrested after the riots at the famous “Caffè Pedrocchi” (2) in Padova and taken to Venice. He then managed to escape jail along with Manin and Tommaseo and decided to head back to Padova. Upon hearing of Radetzki’s retreat from Milan, and delighted by the rumors of a swift Sardinian advance into Lombardy, he decided to ride into the lion’s mouth. Guided by his instinct and educated guess, he went to Goito and arrived just in time to see the epic charge of Lamarmora’s Bersaglieri on the eastern bank of the Mincio. Seeing the eagles on the Austrian banner and the shiny black feathers on the Bersaglieri’s helmets (although they were, in truth, black capon feathers), he had “the clear vision of the crow and the eagle, but this time, I was sure the crow would gain the upper hand”. And right he was.

    The Battle of Goito was a resounding victory for the Sardinian forces, one that would leave Europe shocked and silent - at least for a couple of days, it was 1848 after all. Many detailed accounts of the Battle written by eyewitnesses on either side and by future historians (we recommend Prince Ferdinand’s own account, which can be found in his diaries (3), which is by far the sharpest and most devoid of rhetoric, as well as von Moltke's "The Campaign of 1848 in Northern Italy (4)), so here we will limit ourselves to a brief account of the battle.

    The whole Austrian Army under Radetzki was crossing the Mincio at Goito. The river was in flood and the fords nearby were useless, so the crossing had to be made across the only bridge available. There were plans to blow up the bridge after the crossing, but the Austrian sappers had not yet placed the charges: having 20 thousand men, hundreds of civilians and horses and their baggage cross the river with just a single bridge available was a time consuming and frustrating process, and by the time Ferdinand’s forces arrived, only a third of the Austrian Army had made it to the other side. The first critical mistake made by Radetzki was to assume that he was confronting the Piedmontese vanguard formed by Lamarmora’s Bersaglieri. This meant two things. First (and in this he was correct, though he had had no word of Treviglio), his rearguard had been annihilated and was not crossing at that God-forsaken bridge some ten km to the north he had ordered them to. Second, the Sardinians were foolish enough to engage a full army (tired from days of vicious street fighting and somewhat short of officers, yes, but a full-strength army nevertheless) with a mere vanguard of “feathered buffoons”, as he said to his aide. The FieldMarshal could take the opportunity to teach them a sharp lesson (5). Morale was as important as tactics or strategy, even more so if the damned Corsican could be trusted, and with every single rebellion in Lombardy-Venetia being successful to this day, it was important to cut these… Italians down as fast as possible. He had a numerical advantage, and even if he was light on the artillery side, the attackers had little or none; most importantly his back was protected by the river, the only bridge firmly in his hands. Why not? He took the command of the rear and ordered the crossing to continue, but not to start the march toward Verona, just in case.
    When he realized that he was confronting the Sardinian second wave, 15000 strong, it was too late: the Sardinians were quick to seize the lightly guarded town, and the superior Verdi bullet in the hands of Sardinian sharpshooters quickly started to break havoc, targeting Austrian officers. An Austrian counterattack was repulsed, but it effectively prevented the Sardinians from fully encroaching the Austrians. At this point, Radetzki could still have made an attempt to disengage, leaving a sacrificial rearguard to hold the enemy; however, the pennants clearly indicated that that commanding his enemies was no one other than the Crown Prince himself. Seeing an opportunity to end this madness for good, he called for reinforcements from the other side of the river andordered an all-out attack against the apparent location of the Sardinian command, with the full support of his few artillery pieces. The prince was ready for this, though, and immediately ordered the three squadrons of light cavalry he had available (Carabinieri dragoons under Major Alessandro Negri di Sanfront, effectively Ferdinand’s Lifeguards) to counter-charge, breaking the Austrian line. The whole Sardinian command joined: the sight of the beloved Crown Prince and the gallant Prince Henri on the first line, personally risking their lives, gave new momentum to the whole Sardinian Army. Prince Ferdinand then ordered an all-out attack, leaving the cavalry charge under Henri’s command. When seeing the eager look on his aide's face (who was Augusto Cavour, the twenty-year-old nephew of his friend Camillo Benso), the Prince let him join.
    Another officer of the Prince retinue later recounted in his diary the following monologue (the Prince was known for talking to himself) :
    “I would never make my sister a widow, nor have my friend mourn his beloved nephew, but there are moments when it is foolish to hesitate”. (6)
    He then took out his pocket watch.
    “Ten minutes ahead of schedule. I need to figure out a counter-move should we need one”.
    The officer had to bit his tongue not to ask… Ten minutes ahead of what, exactly?
    And then, all of a sudden, the distant echo of trumpet and the battle cries of what sounded like one hundred thousand men filled the air. The Austrian line started to break. Curiously enough, part of it running from the Sardinians… and some towards them.
    “Oh, my bad: I should always have full confidence in Alessandro (7): he is my rock. Well, I guess it won’t hurt to have a hero of a brother-in-law, and Camillo will be bursting proud of his nephew as well: he’s earned himself a medal today”.
    The battle cries and the sound of trumpets heralded the Bersaglieri’s charge on the other side of the Mincio. This had been Ferdinand’s gambit-and genius move: after Treviglio, he had ordered Lamarmora to advance, cross the river at that very “God-forsaken bridge some ten kilometers to the north” (8) and surprise the Austrians on the wrong side of the river. Lamarmora’s steadiness and the bravery of his men did the rest. The battle was over well before noon, when a still incredulous and shocked Field Marshal Radeztki surrendered to Ferdinand. Upon yielding his saber to the Prince, said “I fought many times against Napoleon, I served the emperor of Austria on the field for 40 years. Until today, I thought I had seen everything on a battlefield. (9)
    Smiling, Ferdinand replied: “I know. That is why I took inspiration from Murat, and why I had so much confidence in my Bersaglieri ”.
    (1) There were two other Italian journalists at Goito: Giovanni Bottero, born in Nizza, who became MD, but had always a keen interest in journalism. When he moved to Turin, he started writing articles for "L'Opinione", a newspaper to the left of center. When he got wind of La Marmora was assembling his troops to cross the Ticino and be the vanguard of the Sardinian army, he was able to wrangle a place on his staff (an MD is always useful) and followed him to Treviglio and Goito and beyond, always reporting back to his newspaper by telegraph; the other one is Pier Carlo Boggio, born in Turin and a close friend of Augusto Cavour, with whom he studied in Geneva. Augusto was introduced to Camillo Benso by Augusto, and worked for The Risorgimento, Cavour's newspaper. When Augusto enrolled for the war, Pier Carlo followed him and was embedded in Ferdinand's corps from the beginning to the end. At Goito there was quite a rivalry between the three journalists, and there is even a legend that they almost came to blows at the telegraph office of Goito on a matter of precedence. This may be true or not, but the three young men became fast friends and after the war founded AGI, Agenzia Giornalistica Italiana: something like a Italian Associated Press. Their articles fired up hearts and minds not just in Italy, but all over Europe, in particular in Paris and London. Ferdinando is reported to have said (half in jest) that the three journalists were worth to him as an extra battalion of Bersaglieri.
    (2) The "Caffe' Pedrocchi" was first opened in 1772 in Padova; in 1831 the son of the founder, Antonio Pedrocchi, greatly expanded the facilities and Caffe' Pedrocchi became a byword in Padova. Padova has been for many centuries a university town, and the students easily gravitated toward this establishment, which quickly became a hotbed of radicalism and anti-Austrian sentiments. On 8 February 1848, a student was wounded there during a police raid, and this was the spark for a first insurrection attempt in Padova. Guglielmo Stefani was arrested and imprisoned in Venice after these events.
    (3)"Ferdinand's Diaries became public domain 50 years after his death, although some portions of them are still redacted
    (4) Von Moltke was in Magdeburg in 1848, a newly promoted colonel in the Prussian army. He was a keen student of Ferdinand's campaign, wrote a book about it and later on in his life he also wrote that "Ferdinand dash to Goito and his acceptance of the risk of confronting the Austrian army with converging columns was a brilliant move: the best way of fighting a war is to march separately and fight the enemy together. After Goito, I always kept this precept as foremost in my mind in all the campaigns that I planned and fought for the King of Prussia"
    (5) Radetzki blamed himself in his "Memoirs" for making such a blunder
    (6) Similar words can be found also in Ferdinand's diary
    (7) Alfonso is obviously Alessandro La Marmora, who created the Bersaglieri elite corps, and lead them to victory after victory during the War of Italian Independence
    (8) Ferdinand is referring to the bridge located in Marmirolo, some 10 km upstream of Goito
    (9) The same passage can be found in Radetzki's "Memoirs", with a very telling addition: “I fought many times against Napoleon, I served the emperor of Austria on the field for 40 years. Until today, I thought I had seen everything on a battlefield. Today I lost all of Italy in a single morning: Pride Goes before a Fall" . Radetzki died in 1854, on his estates in Bohemia, a broken man blaming himself for Austria's misfortunes. The passage quoted above is the last entry in his memoirs, and in his will he asked that "Pride Goes before a Fall" be carved on his tombstone
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    Narrative Interlude #2: What dreams may come...
  • Narrative Interlude: What dreams may come…

    “To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”
    Charles Albert could not help but repeating to himself those immortal words while he could not get himself to sleep. Villa Pindemonte, his son’s makeshift headquarters nearby Verona(1), was bursting with night activity, mainly couriers coming in and out, but this had nothing to do with his insomnia, which was about…everything. Goito. Goito. Goito. He had read the reports, listened avidly to the accounts of his son and heir, of his son-in-law, of the other officers, and yet… It had to be true: he had met with Radetzki, after all. But how did it come to happen? This question burned down deep within his soul. This question he had asked to his son, and not just one time, during their long afternoon meeting. Ferdinand, with his usual clarity of mind, had brilliantly explained his tactic, his gamble, his reasons, his plans for the future, but yet… He guessed that one must live some realities to grasp them, and not depend on someone else’s account. But aspects of this new reality were there for everyone to see. A king, one of those kings from the tales of ancient times, the kings whose touch could heal and whose sword could summon spring in the middle of winter, had taken his beloved son’s place. Was this what victors looked like? Or was this an after-effect of bravery? No, it could not be just that. In his own life, he had been a coward Regent and a brave soldier (2), and the latter had hardly made up for the former. Be as it may, the real problems lay ahead. What would come next? Ferdinand seemed to have clear goals in mind. Some he could agree with, some others he could barely understand, one or two were utterly alien. He sent several silent prayers to the Almighty, for guidance, for a sign. And then, as in answer to his prayers, a voice in his head started to whisper. “Abdicate… or not to abdicate, that is the question.”(3) He could feel a reproach in this whisper, but also see the truth in it. There was a kind of flash… and suddenly he was on a battlefield, sitting on his horse, impatient. Why were his orders not being carried out as swiftly as he wished? They needed to break the Austrian line! And then… the charge of the Carabinieri, and he with his general staff joining, victory shining in the faces of everyone, the Austrians retreating, breaking, fleeing, and then… he could hear himself saying “Enough for today.”(4) No, you fool! Dare! Pursue… Do not hesitate. But he would not listen to himself. Defeat after defeat, unavoidable abdication, a bitter departure for exile. He summoned his son and heir, but… Who was this young man? Short, slightly plump, a slightly vacuous yet ferocious expression in his eyes….This was not Ferdinand! Another flash, and suddenly fire broke out, consuming the man who said he was his son… Another shift, another change of place: it was a nursery now. A cradle, a healthy baby sleeping under the curtains, breathing regularly, peacefully. Charles Albert went to look at him. A handsome toddler, a boy, ripe with potential, full of expectations ,of happiness. He could be anything, become anything… And then the fire flared up, again. Charles Albert screamed, reaching for the boy, trying to save him. He grasped him with his left arm, and suddenly he felt pain. In his arm, in his chest… The smoke would not let him breathe. He went, looking for a door, but no door was to be found, nor a window. Filled with desperation, he sat on the floor, hugging the boy, trying to protect him from the heat, the flames, the smoke…. They were doomed. He had failed. He closed his eyes, kissing the child’s front. And then… A fresh touch on his left shoulder. A hand! He opened his eyes, and he saw Ferdinand in front of him, his usual shy half-smile on his face. Ferdinand touched his arm, and the pain eased. His arm… the child! The boy had disappeared. He was lost for words. Ferdinand took his hand and helped him to stand. Never before had they been so close. Silently, Ferdinand lead Charles Albert out of the room, through a door which had just appeared out of nowhere, and they were… Where? It looked like the Garden of Eden, or maybe the Arcadia of the ancient pagan poets. Beautiful trees, the greenest grass he had ever seen, the bluest sky on earth, birds singing. On and on would Ferdinand lead, until finally they reached a crossroad. From there, three roads would depart. “Where do we go, son?” he finally managed to ask. Smiling, Ferdinand would not respond: instead, he pointed to the middle road. Suddenly a lion roared not far away, but for some reason there was no threat, no challenge: it was a welcome, a greeting, a promise for the future. Everything became clear, all at once, and finally Charles Albert understood. Without further hesitation, he stepped on the middle road, murmuring “So be it”.
    He woke up soaked in cold sweat, his arm and chest sore with pain. But he knew what to do now. He called for a doctor and his confessor. He prayed and confessed for over an hour, and only then called for his son. Ferdinand rushed to his side, worry evident on his face. Charles Albert asked him to kneel beside his bed. Ferdinand obeyed, a strange, knowing look in his eyes.
    “Now rise, Ferdinand of House Savoy, Lieutenant of the Kingdom and Supreme Commander of the Army”.
    Ferdinand arose, and stood at attention, before giving his father a crisp military salute and replying: “Obbedisco”. (5)

    1. A beautiful residence in Isola della Scala, nearby Verona
    2. A reference to his courageous behavior at the battle of Trocadero in 1823
    3. Yes, we are taking the “Italian Hamlet” thing this far
    4. This part of the dream is a short account of OTL charge of Pastrengo, after which the charge of the Carabinieri and Henri in TTL Goito is modeled
    5. Wouldn’t be an Italian TL without this reference, would it?
    OOC disclaimer: Chapter Written four-handed by Tarabas and @LordKalvan
    Narrative Interlude #3: A child no more
  • 25 March 1848, Turin
    Maria Cristina of Savoy-Carignano, duchess of Genova, was eagerly reading all newspapers she could find which gave detailed accounts of the battle of Goito. She was a bit disheveled, her slim fingers smeared with ink, her face and neck flushed, and, surprisingly enough for anyone who knew her, there was a glint of moisture in her eyes. She was filled with pride, no doubt about that: pride for the achievements of her brother, pride for the courage demonstrated by her beloved Henri, the French dashing knight who had appeared at the court of Turin 4 years ago to sweep her of her feet and teach her the meaning of love. There was also worry, though, eating away at the edges of her pride: everything had gone well at Goito, Ferdinand and Henry had crushed the Austrian army, and both of them had come out of the battle unscathed, but there would be other battles and other dangers. Maria Cristina took a deep breath, her decision was made: "Letizia (1), I am tired to be stuck in Turin while everyone else is away working marvels. I want to go to Goito, see my husband and my brother, visit the soldiers who have been wounded in the battle. I want to be in the center of things! Please talk to my majordomo and ask him to make all necessary arrangements" in haste: I want to leave tomorrow, and without a large retinue. We have to travel as quickly as my brother did!"
    She felt better now that she had reached a decision. After wiping her ink-stained fingers with a wet cloth, she lighted a cigarette and started to write: a letter to Henri and another one to Ferdinand; her father too deserved a letter of praise, but she wouldn't say anything about her decision to travel: father was quite often unwilling to accept that she was no more a child.

    (1) Letizia Taffini, countess of Savigliano and Acceglio. Best friend and chief lady-in-waiting for Maria Cristina

    Made in @LordKalvan
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    Narrative Interlude #4: Faber homo quisque fortunae suae
  • Narrative Interlude: Faber homo quisque fortunae suae

    April 3rd, 1848, Villa Pindemonte, Isola Della Scala (outskirts of Verona)

    Ferdinand was sitting at his desk, concentrated on the mechanics' problem on the paper in front of him. He was pleased with his solution: it was rather elegant, beautiful because it was simple. Many problems, in mathematics or real life, appeared like conundrums, and most people seemed to believe that complicated problems required complicated solutions. Ferdinando had a different approach: complicated problems admitted simple solutions. It was only a matter to look at a problem in the right way, that was the complicated part.
    A knock on his office’s door woke him from his mathematical divertissement. “Let him in”, he said. A slightly portly, well-dressed man , some ten years his elder, entered the room, bowed somewhat clumsily, and said: “Your Supremacycy.”
    Ferdinand burst into laughter, a rare thing to see.
    “Camillo, I have been missing your sharp tongue so much.” He could not help but think that he was one of the three people in the world with whom he could still be Ferdinand. Not the Crown Prince, the hero of Goito, the new Scipio, the Italian David, the Prince of the Italians, the eagle-slayer, or whatever the pen of the journalists or the people’s imagination would call him; simply Ferdinand, a twenty-five-years old who loved mathematics, his wife, and all his children, alive or not.(1)
    Camillo smiled in return; without being invited, he took a seat.
    “My earnest apologies; I was unsure of the etiquette. “Your Highness” did not seem enough, “Your Majesty” premature, so…”
    “I guess “Ferdinand” will do for this meeting, my friend. Have you seen Augusto?”
    “I have. I am so proud of my nephew, he hardly seems to be my brother’s offspring. He’s so young, so eager, so brave… I asked him why he left his position to take part in the charge. He simply said: “I wanted to do my part, Uncle”(2)
    “And sure he did. Besides, I promoted him to full lieutenant, awarded him a citation and made him one of my aides for his service at Goito.”
    “Thank you. He is most happy about this, but feels that it is too much for just doing his duty.”
    “So, my dearest Count of Cavour, what brings you to Isola Della Scala, besides your nephew?”
    “A rather dull question from the smartest person I know. I want to do my part too, it should be obvious. As far as daring cavalry charges or genius tactical moves go, I might be of little use, but…”
    Ferdinand smiled again. It was so like Camillo to make a stingy remark followed by a compliment like that, always with a hint of irony when he was trying hard to be gentle. God bless that Grand Tour in London who had permitted their friendship, away from Father’s dislike for Camillo, whose fault had been to be… honest. Rudely honest, maybe, but truly those page uniforms made the poor youngsters who had to wear them look like lobsters, after all. (3) He had had the same thought, but never dared to speak his mind. A two-edged sword, but a sword he was more than eager to yield: he could always rely on Camillo to give good advice, but also to sharply point out any blunder he might be commit in the future.
    “Do not worry about that. The war is as good as over, but the road to the peace is still murky: I need to win the peace now and for that I need you to be my very own Bersagliere, armed with the heart of a lion and the cunning of a fox.”
    “Your Lieutenancy flatters me. It is an honor; I am yours to command.”
    “As though if anyone could believe that.”
    “You know me too well, but I guarantee you will not be displeased by the results I will get in Paris and London.”
    This was one the best things about Camillo, Ferdinand thought: he was always one or two steps ahead. Still, he decided to play a little game.
    “What makes you think I want you there?” He donned his usual half-smile. Camillo stood up and started to talk while slowly pacing around.
    “It is just an educated guess based on the current situation, but I am quite confident in my analysis.” A dramatic pause, before continuing. Ferdinand did not say anything; he simply nodded, curious to see if his friend’s analysis agreed with his own.
    “This war has three fronts, and you are currently in full control of only one of those: the military. If my appraisal is correct, you are blockading Verona, the only fortress with some meaningful Austrian forces to speak of, and you sent Alfonso Lamarmora with a mixed force of regulars and volunteers towards Trento, and beyond if it is feasible. I am not confident enough of my information on the situation in Veneto: I understand that all the main cities have successfully insurrected, and there are no significant Austrian forces in the field. I guess you will press your advantage further. As far as you can, and even a little more, I would say.”
    “That is correct. I will tell you more about the situation in Veneto, and beyond: my visit to Venice has produced unexpected but very welcome results. Go on with your analysis.”
    “On to the political theatre then: the hands of the Austrians are tied, and they have plenty internal troubles of their own: Metternich has resigned, Vienna and Prague are still controlled by the insurgents. Then there are the.. Italians. There are Provisional Governments in the duchies and the rulers of Parma and Modena have left their states. Piacenza has already petitioned the king for annexation to Sardinia. The Legations are stable for now, the Cardinal Legate is a canny man, who has not antagonized the liberals, although there are reports of unrest in Romagna. The Pope has sent troops to help in the war, they should be in Ferrara by now, but I had a confidential report from a friend in Rome: there may be trouble there pretty soon, and the interests of the Pope may not be well aligned with ours. The Grand Duke of Tuscany is a canny old fox, or maybe he simply has not yet decided where to jump: I'd go as far as to say that after Goito he has to make a decision, just straddling the fence is no more of an option for him. Ferdinand of Two Sicilies is a fat snake with a forked tongue: I understand that there are no news of the arrival of the Neapolitan troops he promised, and I'd not be surprised if their departure hasn't happened yet. Good riddance, I never had any confidence in him. The real problem is that rising in rebellion to get rid of the Austrians and to obtain a constitution is fine and dandy, but what shall they do when the dust settles? Be annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia? Become part of a Confederation led by the Pope, as that fool Gioberti dreams? Heck, there are even some crazy radical republicans who would get rid of all of us to create a federal republic! (4)”
    “And wouldn’t you be of use to solve this conundrum?”
    “Oh, I would and I will. But before that, there is the third front: the international stage. We need to win allies there before even dreaming of deciding what to do with… whatever this peninsula may become. The German states are a hot mess, Prussia has plenty of its own problems, Russia is too far away, and Spain is just… Spain. This leaves us with France, which is likely to become a republic again, and Great Britain, the only one who seems untouched by unrest or revolution. These two might help us, more the latter than the former, I would say. But things change by the week if not by the day in our modern times. I will need to gather information in Geneva, before going to Paris and London. I love to gamble, most of the time I win, but sometimes I lose. This is going to be a game with very high stakes, not at all a game I intend to loose”
    Ferdinand rose, and almost clapped his hands in admiration. That was just perfect, as he expected.
    “And loose you will not, but I’d rather have you stay awhile here before leaving for foreign countries. We need to choose one of a hundred different plans.”
    “And be ready to tear it apart and improvise if need be.”
    “Let’s just hope we won’t need to improvise too much. I have been a gambler only once in my life, and I was lucky; it is statistically unlikely I will be so lucky twice. Pour us some brandy, Camillo"
    “What are toasting to, my Prince?”
    “To perfect planning and to intelligent improvisation.”
    “And, if I may, to Fortune, who helps the daring ones.”
    Fortuna audaces iuvat, Ferdinand thought, but above all, wasn’t “Faber homo quisque Fortunae suae?”(5)

    1. As of 1848, Ferdinand has had Umberto (b. 1841), Vittoria (b. 1843), Maria Cristina (b. 1845) and Margherita (1847, died in childbirth)
    2. OTL, Augusto Cavour said these words to his grand-grandmother when asked why he was so eager to go to war
    3. This is OTL
    4. A reference to the Milanese patriot and writer Carlo Cattaneo
    5. Latin for “each man is the maker of his fortune”
    Made in Tarabas & @LordKalvan
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    Narrative Interlude #5: A regular Prime Minister's Tuesday
  • Interlude
    Torino, 29 March 1848

    Count Cesare Balbo, Prime Minister of the kingdom of Sardinia, rubbed his tired eyes and sighed: the days of a prime minister were always busy, but today had broken all previous records. Truth to be told, records did not last long those days. His thirteen-day-long tenure as PM had seen nothing but insurrections all over Italy, Goito... And now, the day had opened with the news that the Duchess of Genova had suddenly decided she had to go to Isola della Scala: it would have been a reasonable request in normal times, after all her father, her brother and her husband were there. However, there was a war in progress, and Verona was still held by Austrian troops. The duchess had not been receptive to any advice: she had to go to "the center of the things", as she put it, and the prime minister could not change her mind in any way. In the end, he was forced to agree: he couldn't have her arrested, could he? She would have found a way to escape anyway, probably convincing the ones sent to arrest her to escort her to Isola. Princesses and Princes of these modern times were made of a strange stuff, no doubt about it. Then there was the appointment with the French charge' d'affaires (the French Provisional Government had not yet appointed a new minister at Turin): the French diplomat wanted to deliver a letter from La Martine, the French minister for Foreign Affairs. Stripped of diplomatic niceties, the letter was just stating that France was friendly, and would the kingdom of Sardinia please tell us which are their goals in the war against Austria? An hour wasted for no result.
    Count Cesare had barely the time to start sorting his latest correspondence, when came the request of the British Minister in Turin for an urgent meeting. The Hon. Ralph Abercromby was a polished career diplomat, had been in Turin for 8 years and had generally been quite friendly, so time had to be made for him. When the minister arrived, his request was a curious one: he wanted to travel to the war front, and appraise himself of the situation. Why would an ambassador make such a strange request? If he wanted first hand information, he could well send his military attache' rather than travelling for 200 km himself. Still, asking for an explanation would have been very gauche. He had to agree, but he could take back something for his side by suggesting that the ambassador could travel with the retinue of the duchess of Genova, who was departing for Isola della Scala on that very same day. The ambassador looked very pleased, and was quick to accept. The Prime Minister couldn't but think that something else was afoot: which was the real reason for this extended trip?
    After the departure of the British minister, Count Cesare had a couple of hours to read most of the dispatches on his desk: the war was going good, more supplies were required for the army (another headache, the treasury was not as full as it should have been), prince Ferdinand had left for Venice (a very bold move, but was it truly necessary? Wasn't, say, Milan a far more pressing issue?) and the king asked him to appoint someone to travel to the duchies of Parma and Modena, and produce a report on the situation there. Now, Balbo was pretty in agreement with this last directive: according to his information, the duke of Modena had bolted like a hare as soon as the news of Milan's insurrection had reached Modena, and by this time he was probably in Austria; the situation in the duchy of Parma was somehow more confused, though. Apparently, both Piacenza and Parma had gone up in insurrection, Charles III had appointed a council of regency, but it had folded in a couple of days. There was a provisional government in Parma, while Piacenza had petitioned for annexation to the kingdom of Sardinia: this was good news, Piacenza had been a goal of the Savoy for quite a long time. Curiously, the duke was still in Parma, although he was stripped of all power, but his son and heir had left Parma with a retinue of 500 lancers "to go to the war". The Prime Minister couldn't refrain from asking himself: "On which side?". Sending someone to assess the situation first hand was a very good idea, and he knew exactly who should be sent: General Menabrea, a reliable and practical man who could be relied upon not to indulge to flight of fancy,and a close and estimeed collaborator of Prince Ferdinand. He paused to admit to himself that he would not have cared that much about Menabrea's latter quality a mere three days ago; things were escalating fast, really fast. As if all the events of the day had not been enough, Count Balbo had not yet finished congratulating himself for finding a good solution to a reasonable problem that a page entered his room:
    "Your Excellency, the Apostolic Nuncio has requested an urgent meeting"
    "Did he suggest a time and date?"
    "Your Excellency, he is just outside, waiting to enter."

    Count Balbo paled a bit: why such an urgent meeting? What might have happened? Bishop Antonucci was as a rule quite a reasonable and pleasant man, barring only his close friendship with Count Solaro della Margarita (1).
    "Ask him to enter, I am at his immediate disposal".

    Count Balbo rose from his chair and went toward the door to greet the Apostolic Nuncio, bending to kiss his proffered ring.
    "How can I be of service, Your Eminence?"
    The Nuncio's face was pinched, and a mixture of worry and anger lurked in his eyes. He sat on a chair, before answering the Prime Minister:
    "Count Balbo, I've been instructed to signify to you the concern of His Holiness and the Curia with the current events in Northern Italy.
    The Pope has been greatly saddened by the news of the bloody battle which happened at Goito just a few days ago. Cardinal Antonelli (2) has, with much regret, decided to resign from his position as Secretary of State, feeling he cannot in good conscience condone the slaughter of Catholic soldiers by equally catholic soldiers, the more so since this is not simply a war between secular rulers, but it is becoming more and more a vicious attack against Throne and Altar. His Holiness is praying and fasting, asking God for guidance. The Secretary of State ad interim, card. Orioli, has instructed general Durando not to cross into Veneto for the time being."
    "Your Eminence, that is dire news for my kingdom. His Holiness blessed himself the troops departing Rome for northern Italy and my own king went to war for Italian freedoms comforted by His Holiness support. The war is not yet over, and I know that my king is relying on the support of other Italian states, and most of all on the blessing and the benevolence of His Holiness to bring the war to a successful conclusion."
    "Your King... and your Prince, will have to wait with patience for His Holiness to come to a deliberation. I'm afraid there is more, though, Mr. Prime Minister: we have information that a Sardinian subject, Massimo d'Azeglio (3), has travelled to Romagna, in order to foment again unholy rebellion against the rule of the Holy Father. Do you have any knowledge of this?
    "Your Eminence, Massimo d'Azeglio has been fighting against the Austrians, he was at Goito."
    "That is as it may be, Prime Minister. I will come back to visit you soon. In the meantime remember that His Holiness is the spiritual father of all the Catholics."

    After the departure of the Nuncio, the Count sat at his desk for a few minutes, thinking about these late developments. The Nuncio had certainly received instructions from Rome to deliver a clear message: the Pope was reconsidering his support to the Italian cause, and strong pressures from Austria were certain to be behind this wavering. Politics, not faith or horror for the bloodshed were behind it: Cesare Balbo was a good catholic, but he had also to live for the last 15 years in a Piedmont were the Societa' dell'Amicizia Cattolica (4) had been a power to be very wary of. Luckily the Societa' had lost the support of the king 3 years ago, and count Solaro della Margarita (the great and good friend of the Nuncio) had lost his dominant position in the cabinet, and had been forced to retire, but they were still a significant player in the political game, and Solaro was their public face, a magnet for all the reactionaries of the deepest die. The king and prince Ferdinand had to be forewarned immediately of this development, the prince more than the king; there was something in the way the Nuncio had said the word "Prince" that gave the Count a weird feeling. "The Altar is in no position to lecture the Throne" would have been a fit answer, but of course he had to bit that back. Wearily, Count Balbo started writing a precis of today's events, then he called his confidential secretary: "Put this in code, and send it by telegraph. Maximum priority, for the eyes of the king and the prince only. Send also a footman to gen. Menabrea: I need to see him immediately".
    Waiting for the general, Cesare Balbo allowed himself a little smile: his denial to know anything about the presence or not of d'Azeglio in Romagna had been perfectly parsed. The only annoying thing was that he truly had no idea why the British Minister wanted to go to Veneto.

    1. Count Clemente Solaro della Margarita was a reactionary aristocrat with some very strong character traits: intolerance for opinions which were not in agreement with his own, absolute fealty to the Catholic church, both in spiritual and temporal terms, confidence in knowing the only and one truth, absolute rigidity in judgments. He had been Sardinian minister in Spain during the civil war against the Carlists (whom he obviously favored), and he had always (although unofficially) taken care of the interests of the Holy See, even when they were at cross purposes with the Sardinian interests. He was recalled from Spain in 1837, to avoid a humiliating diplomatic incident with the Spanish loyalist government, but instead of being disciplined he was appointed to the king's cabinet as minister for foreign affairs and soon became the dominant voice in the government and openly supported the Carlists in Spain and the conservative cantons in the Swiss civil war, not just diplomatically but also with money and weapons. He also gained control of internal censorship, and set up a secret police to investigate potential "dissidents" (among those, were Cesare Balbo, Massimo d'Azeglio and Cesare Alfieri). His power started to wane after loosing the king's support, and after the election of Pius IX was forced to retire. He remained however the public face and the outspoken advocate of clerical and reactionary interests until his death.
    2. Cardinal Deacon Antonelli (who never took holy orders) was appointed Secretary of State on 10 March 1848. IOTL he resigned on 4 May 1848, and was replaced by the cardinal Orioli mentioned here; ITTL his first tenure is even shorter (Austrian pressures and the battle of Goito fired up earlier the dissent in the Curia between liberals and conservatives) and his resignation is a political statement, not a moral one. IOTL, Antonelli was again appointed as Secretary of State on 29 November 1848, and served Pius IX uninterruptedly until his own death on 6 November 1876. Who knows what will be his future ITTL.
    3. Massimo d'Azeglio was another Piedmontese aristocrat, who for the first part of his adult life lived in Rome, Tuscany and Lombardy. A prolific and popular writer (quite a prolific author, his bestseller was the historical novel "The Challenge of Barletta" in the 1830s), married a daughter of Alessandro Manzoni. In 1845 he was in Romagna, when the insurrection of Rimini happened, and returning to Piedmont he wrote a pamphlet "What happened in Rimini" which had an enormous success among the liberals. In 1848 he enrolled in the army for the war: ITTL he does the same, fights at Goito with Ferdinand (but is not wounded like IOTL) and is then sent to Romagna to assess the political situation there
    4. The Societa' di Amicizia Cattolica (Catholic Friendship Society) was a secret society of hardliner Catholics established in Piedmont in 1817, under the overall control of the Jesuits. The aims of the society were to defend the Catholic faith, defend the interests and the privileges of the Church, defend the sanctity of the Throne and the Altar against liberals and Jacobins (and obviously support the members of the society in whatever open or covert way possible)
    Made in @LordKalvan and Tarabas​
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    #8: After Goito: the Mincio is not enough
  • After Goito: the Mincio is not enough

    “The Earth astounded holds her breath…” Even though Alessandro Manzoni’s immortal words were originally written to commemorate a different event (1), they describe very well the reaction of all European chancelleries to the Battle of Goito. In Italy, on the other hand, the astonishment of rulers and governments was contrasted by the spontaneous celebrations which erupted in the streets all over the peninsula, as the news traveled by horse, word-of-mouth, and telegraph, even the coolest heads among the Italian patriots could non help but hold their breath and think: “What’s next?” The same thought paralyzed the Italian rulers- that is, the ones still sitting on their thrones, although most of them (2) were quick enough to hail the “the hero of Goito, the breaker of chains, the restorer of Italian freedom, PrinceFerdinand of Savoy”(3). A similar feeling of awe, astonishment and worry were common all over Europe, even in the countries (like Great Britain and, to a lesser degree, France) who were likely to be sympathetic to the Italian cause.
    For obvious reasons, the mood at Goito was quite different: the whole of the Sardinian Army, soldiers, and officers alike, was swept by a storm of adrenaline. As Augusto Cavour wrote in his diary, “We were all drunk on the sweet wine of victory, ecstatic, almost incredulous at what we had done, and at the same time eager to do more. In this hot sea of euphoria and pride, that could easily turn into hubris, there was only a single island of calm and cold reason: our leader, our commander, our Prince. When I went to congratulate him on our victory, he did not respond He stood perfectly still, his eyes focused on the bridge of Goito. Then he took a deep breath, and murmured: The Mincio is not enough, our task is just begun.”
    The first thing which was not enough was the number of troops at Ferdinand’s disposal: after the battle, he had just some 25000 soldiers fit for the field (less than 8,000 of them Bersaglieri) in dire need of rest after the dash to Goito and the battle. Couriers were immediately sent to the main Sardinian force under the King’s direct command, 30000 strong with the bulk of the Artillery. Ferdinand’s audacious campaign had left the rest of the Army some well behind, but it was vital to press the advantage Goito had so unexpectedly awarded, and the prince urged the king to speed up his march as much as possible and beyond. To the surprise of many,(4) Carlo Alberto obliged: six squadrons of cavalry arrived at Goito on March 25th, and 12 regiments of infantry, in excess of 12,000 men, marched in on the 27th. The balance of the army would follow at a more sedate pace and arrive at Goito a few days later (with the exception of 4 regiments and some siege artillery which had been sent to Mantova, to keep the Austrian garrison pinned in.
    Ferdinand never showed any concern, and immediately started to address his immediate strategic goals: first of all, to secure at least one bridgehead on the Adige River and to prevent any possible Austrian comeback from Verona, the main fortress of the Quadrilatero (the only one with a sizable field force, 10000 strong, besides the garrison), second to keep the two minor fortresses in check (5). To this end, 5000 Sardinian regulars and 5000 Tuscan volunteers (6) were sent forward to the soon-to-be-famous Isola della Scala and then to Zevio, to take the closest bridge on the Adige and to guard against any sortie from Verona toward the south and west. After a brief yet fierce confrontation in which the Tuscan “Battalion of the Students”(7) made a good show of bravery and discipline, the bridge at Zevio was firmly in Italian hands by March the 26th. At the same time, three regiments of Sardinian regulars, with the rest of the Tuscan volunteers as well as 2000 Lombard volunteers, were sent to secure the bridge on the Mincio at Valeggio: from Valeggio, both the northern approaches of Verona and the fortress of Peschiera could be kept under observation. A lesser force was detached farther east, to the town of Cerea, to secure another bridge on the Adige and to keep under observation the fortress of Legnago. All of these forces were given strict orders not to engage in any major confrontation, their task was to act as early warning and scout the land (for this reason, small cavalry forces and a few companies of Bersaglieri were attached to each of the vanguards).
    Prince Henri was left in command of the operations on the Mincio, which for the present mainly consisted of guarding the Austrian prisoners and instructed to keep the remaining Bersaglieri at Isola della Scala, where they would be the strategic reserve in case of an Austrian sortie to retake the bridge at Zevio (8).
    Prince Ferdinand himself, with a small retinue formed by a squadron of his Carabinieri lifeguards, his aide Augusto Cavour and the Bersaglieri Commander Alessandro LaMarmora, left on March the 25th for Vicenza.


    1. Namely, Napoleon’s death on May, 5th 1821
    2. With the remarkable but not surprising exceptions of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies and Pope Pius IX
    3. As Pier Carlo Boggio wrote in his account of the Battle of Goito
    4. The King himself chief among them
    5. The fortresses of the Quadrilatero (Verona, Peschiera, Mantova, and Legnago) differed vastly among themselves in size and modernity: Verona was the biggest and most modern, Peschiera and Legnago were small and outdated, while Mantova was very strong, being protected by lakes and a moat but sorely undermanned. OTL one of CA’s chief mistakes was to concentrate on the siege of the fortresses (achieving the dubious victory of subduing Peschiera) instead of pushing forward to secure a bridgehead across the Adige river
    6. OTL, Tuscany sent a force of 6000 men, chiefly volunteers. TTL there are more of them, arriving at the center of the action earlier than OTL
    7. Led by the mathematician and astronomer Prof. Ottaviano Fabrizio Mossotti, OTL this Battalion fought at the Battle of Curtatone and Montanara. The good professor was in the thick of the fight at the Zevio bridge ITTL, leading his students to take it.
    8. The Austrians happily obliged: after Goito, a sortie from Verona was never considered
    Narrative Interlude #6: A train of thoughts
  • Narrative Interlude: A train of thoughts

    “You know, Your Highness, I sometimes wonder what Napoleon could have done with trains at his disposal.”
    “I prefer to wonder what more we can do with them, Alessandro.”
    “Fair enough. My Bersaglieri are fast, but without the Turin-Novara we would hardly have had Treviglio, let alone Goito.”
    “Speaking of Treviglio, I wish I was there. All the reports depict it as a new Zama.”(1)
    “I am flattered, Your Highness. Truth to be told, it is an unfair comparison on both sides. A storm of seven Verdi bullets per minute (2) is worth ten thousand elephants and-“
    Viva Verdi..” (3)
    “-and there was no exotic cavalry to speak of (4). Still, I believe we can do better. I would like to test different terrains, with some hills and high ground to take, defend, or from which to unleash our charge.”
    “Well said. We can’t afford any Capua(5), here; the pleasures of victory are more dangerous than the wounds of defeat. Besides, the Empire might still strike back (6).”
    “Practice makes perfect, my prince. I did however noticed, at both battles, the rate of fire of our guns, as well as their effective range, and I am convinced that we should rethink our infantry tactics (7), which have not evolved yet from Napoleonic times.”
    Ferdinand was suddenly interested: "Tell me more about your ideas".
    "My thoughts have not firmed up yet on this subject. I'm convinced we could do much better, but I need time to digest all that has happened".
    Augusto had remained silent during this exchange, not daring to speak his mind, but for a second he truly wished he had been gifted withUncle Camillo’s wit. What kind of “practice” were Prince Ferdinand and general LaMarmora speaking of? They were sitting relaxed on a train, discussing warfare like professors and students in the Academy (8) traveling from a city that had freed herself alone from the Austrians to another which had done the same (9), their uniforms alone telling the world they were actual soldiers, the heroes of Goito, the… He stopped there , but… If “the Mincio was not enough”, why weren’t they on the Adige, on the Tagliamento, on the Isonzo?
    “Your Highness, I guess our young friend here is getting bored by our discussion.”
    “Is that a fact, Lieutenant Cavour?”
    Augusto could not help but blush. He took a moment to reply.
    “Your Highness, I was just listening and trying to learn.”
    “A wise answer, although your eyes betray you. However, Alessandro, you’re wrong. Our friend is not bored at all. He simply would be anywhere else but here.” The penetrating look Prince Ferdinand gave him hurt Augusto more than the words.
    “I guess we could send him with Alfonso (10). Taking down jaegers in the Alps should be exciting enough.” General Lamarmora did nothing to hide his amusement.
    “With all due respect, Your Highness, I-“
    “You had your first taste of blood, so you want more. You are looking forward to liberating Verona, maybe finding your Juliet there, amongcheering crowds and Austrian prisoners, or maybe marching toward the Brenner, to Trento and then Vienna, and yet… Here you are, sitting and chatting like at a ball in your father’s house.”
    The prince paused, an unusual full smile (which not revealed, however, his teeth) illuminating his face.
    “Fear not, my young (11) friend, for glory still lies ahead. But war is the projection of politics, just with different means (12): to wage the former, we have to first see clearly our path in the latter.”
    Politics. A necessary evil, if anyone had asked Augusto. The realm of dishonesty and deception, so distant from the pristine glory and honor of war… and just a moment before his mind could wander again, losing the train of thoughts, the train stopped. There they were: they had reached Venice.
    As soon as the train stopped, the crowd roared in welcome. It seemed to Ferdinand that the very Lion of Saint Mark was welcoming them to his city.


    1. The reference is to the double pincer move the Bersaglieri performed at Treviglio, which annihilated the Austrian rearguard
    2. OTL, Alessandro Lamarmora proposed a model of breech loaded, rifled gun (the needle gun) to equip his Bersaglieri, who could effectively fire 7 aimed shots in a minute
    3. Another OTL joke, but anyway the new hollow bullets got this name to honor the composer and also as a misdirection for foreign spies. We will not stop here.
    4. Reference to the Numidian cavalry that effectively won the day at Zama
    5. The “Idleness of Capua”, which effectively made Hannibal loose his momentum during his Italian campaign
    6. And another OTL joke
    7. Alessandro Lamarmora is on the right path, even if he has not yet completed his train of thoughts. The superior performance of the rifled breech loading guns and the advantage of reloading them without standing will have a profound impact on infantry tactics and doctrine
    8. The Royal Military Academy in Turin
    9. From Vicenza to Venice. OTL, most cities in Veneto freed themselves alone from the Austrian garrisons, mostly without a fight; TTL is no different
    10. Alfonso LaMarmora, Alessandro’s brother, TTL he will be tasked with the liberation of Trentino and the blocking of the Brenner Pass
    11. Being barely six years older than Augusto, Ferdinand may sound ironic, but his responsibilities had aged him at a faster pace.
    12. A famous quote by Von Clausewitz
    Made in Tarabas and @LordKalvan
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    Narrative Interlude #7: A princess' voyage
  • A convoy of barges on the Po river - 30 March 1848

    Maria Cristina of Savoy-Orleans, duchess of Genova, exited her comfortable suite, stepped on the deck of the the well-appointed barge that was conveying her to Mantua, her two ladies-in-waiting following her one step behind, and looked around with pleasure. It was a beautiful day of spring, and the trees on the river bank on the near side of the river were already sporting the new green leaves. The river was almost full, replenished by the melting of the snow on the mountains, and the current was carrying them swiftly and at the same time smoothly. She spotted three men talking together at the prow of the barge, and started walking toward them. Her appearance on the deck didn't go unnoticed, and two of the men started to walk toward her: she recognized them immediately, the middle-aged one was the British ambassador, the Hon. Ralph Abernathy, the other one was the officer in command of her escort, captain count Rodolfo Acceglio from Cuneo.
    The ambassador bowed smoothly: "Good morning Your Grace. Allow me to thank you once again for your kindness in allowing me to share in your transportation arrangements"
    "Good morning to you too, Mr. Ambassador, it is truly a beautiful morning. There is no need to thank me: in first place, a convoy of barges was already scheduled to depart for Goito, to bring supplies to the army, and in second place I could confidently place a wager that the idea of attaching you to my retinue was suggested by count Balbo, wasn't it?"
    "It was, Your Grace, and I'm guilty of accepting such invitation"
    "Nonsense. We are travelling with a convoy of barges, and there is space enough and to spare. It is a very civilized way of moving around, I have to admit, in some way it is even better than the railway, although it is a bit slower. Do you know how much progress have we made?
    "According to the barge master, we are making good progress. By late afternoon we should reach Cremona"

    Later the same day, near Cremona

    Captain Acceglio had gone in advance to Cremona, to gather the most recent news, and now was back.
    "Good news, Your Grace. Mantua is in our hands, although there is still a small Austrian garrison holed up in the citadel. The first regiments of your father's army corps have reached Goito, and your brother has left for Venice, should be back in a few days. Your husband is in Isola della Scala, some 30 km south of Verona, where the main command post has been located. Would you prefer to stop for the night in Cremona or do you prefer to continue immediately?"
    "Let's push forward, Captain. I'm eager to see again my husband, and I am confident that the sentiment is returned"
    "At your orders, Your Grace"
    A few hours later, after the evening meal, the duchess and the ambassador were quietly talking in the main cabin of the barge.
    "You know, Mr. Ambassador, why I travel to Veneto is pretty obvious, my father, my brother and last but not least my husband are there and I want to embrace them and commend their achievements. Why are you going there, though? I do admit that it has been puzzling me all day".
    The duchess didn't miss the change of expression on the face of the ambassador: it became bland, non-committal but also non communicative.
    "The news of the Sardinian great victory at Goito has made the round of all European capitals. The Foreign Secretary has asked me to produce a detailed report on it".
    "Don't you have a military attache' in your staff? I would have thought that he should be the one to be sent to a battlefield".
    Only his many years in diplomacy prevented the ambassador from grimacing. The duchess was sharp and inquisitive: he had got to know her during his long stay in Turin, except only during the last few years when she was in Algeria with her husband. He had noticed the same puzzlement in eyes of count Balbo when he met him (his reasons for the trip to Goito were not really convincing after all), but the prime minister was constrained by the etiquette of diplomacy, while the duchess chose not to be.
    "The military attache' was indisposed, and the report had to be prepared urgently".
    The knowing look in the eyes of the duchess told him immediately that his second line of defense had fallen like the first. Never underestimate this young woman, thought the ambassador, she is intelligent enough and ruthless enough to be a splendid queen. It was a pity that it would not happen.
    "I understand Mr. Ambassador: you are doing your duty. But now tell me all the last news from London, the ones which are not covered by diplomatic secret, I mean".

    Isola della Scala, 1st April 1848 - Afternoon

    Duchess Maria Cristina was pretty tired: the last part of the trip had been as bad as the first part had been good. The roads in this forsaken corner of Veneto had been awful, and she had been obliged to travel by carriage: she was a good equestrienne, and riding would have been much more comfortable, but it would also have been faintly scandalous.
    Fortunately, even this part of the voyage was coming to an end. The coach turned into the driveway of a large, beautiful villa, and all her tiredness suddenly disappeared when she saw the man at the front of what was a small welcoming committee: Henri, her Henri at last. The door of the carriage was opened, she descended and a minute later she was in his arms.
    "I couldn't stay away from you, my knight", she whispered.

    Made in @LordKalvan
    Last edited:
    Narrative Interlude #8: For want of a Monarch...
  • Palermo, Palazzo dei Normanni (1) - 22 March 1848

    Ruggero Settimo (2) looked at each of the other seven men sitting around the table with him: four of them were moderate liberals in his own mold, he could rely on them in any circumstance; the other three were from the democratic wing of the insurrection committee. Though they had proved their commitment to the cause beyond any doubt, he feared that their idealistic bias made it difficult for them to plan the next steps in the struggle in a realistic way. Ideals may not bleed, but sure made men bleed more than rifles and swords.

    "Honorable members of the Provisional Government, I've called this meeting to share with you the momentous news I received yesterday evening from Genoa: Milan has revolted against the Austrian government and Milanese insurgents are fighting for their freedom, and similar events are reported also from Venice, Parma and Modena. Most importantly, king Carlo Alberto of Sardinia has sworn to support the insurgents, and declared war on Austria: Sardinian troops have crossed the border three days ago, marching towards Milan. These events are going to have a major impact on all of Italy, and on Sicily too: I am certain that in the end the outcome of the war in Northern Italy will decide the fate of our struggle for freedom and independence. "
    "Sicily has reached a forking in the road. On one side, there is an old, well-known and dark path: make peace with king Ferdinand, bow our back and trust his empty promises, as we have done in the past- to our chagrin. On the other side, there is a new path, a path which leads towards the unknown but holds a promise for freedom, for Sicily to secure a place among the independent, free nations of Europe. We have to choose now, without fear, without second thoughts, because only if we choose now we may able to sit at the table of the free nations. If we do not make a decision, Sicily will remain a pawn on the board of diplomacy, moved here or there without any possibility for us to influence the outcome."

    "What do you propose, Prince Ruggero?" This was Count Emerico Amari (3) , minister of Justice.

    "The Sicilian Parliament will be asked to vote on a declaration of war on Austria: Sicily must step into the fray, and there must be no doubt on the side we support. Signor La Masa (4), as minister of war I expect you to submit a proposal to this government addressing the need to send Sicilian volunteers to Northern Italy to join the fight.

    " If the proposal of Major Rosolino Pilo"(5) to form a Sicilian army had been heeded, it would be much easier to send troops to Lombardy." retorted La Masa.

    " I am not suggesting to send an army to Lombardy, just a couple hundred volunteers or so: even if we had a standing army, the logistics would be daunting. Major Pilo might be in command." Ruggero Settimo's tone was conciliatory. There was a need to throw some bones to the democratic faction, the more so since he had not yet disclosed his more outrageous suggestion, and he needed a united government behind it. "I would like a vote on my proposal to declare was on Austria."

    The vote was unanimous in favour, as was to be expected: the Sicilian Parliament had voted unanimously on 9 March to declare the decadence of Ferdinando of Borbone from the Sicilian throne, since the king had never accepted the conditions of the Provisional Government (6) and his counter-proposals sounded like empty promises: after taking this step, there was no way to broker an agreement with the king in Naples. Since that fateful day, the Parliament had heatedly discussed which form of government would be more suitable for an independent Sicily: monarchy or republic, first of all, and if the former was chosen, who would be offered the crown?
    Ruggero Settimo had stayed out of the fray until now: he clearly supported a constitutional monarchy, based on the Sicilian constitution of 1812 amended with an increase of the powers of parliament to reflect the changes almost 40 years had brought to the political landscape. Furthermore, a monarchy would have been easier for the lower classes to accept, being more familiar: the very idea of a republic frightened many of them. The problem with monarchy was that there was a veritable dearth of suitable candidates for the throne. An acceptable candidate had to be Italian, and not closely related to either the Borbone or the Asburgo families: this disqualified all candidates, with the single exception of prince Ferdinando, the son of Carlo Alberto. The problem with Ferdinando was that he was the heir to the crown of Sardinia: he might accept the crown, but he would rule Sicily from Turin, and this was another unacceptable thing. It took him almost a week to realize that there was another suitable candidate whom he had failed to consider: Princess Maria Cristina, Ferdinando's sister. It might have sounded a ludicrous suggestion to many, but the more prince Ruggero thought about it, the more reasonable it sounded: the crown of Sicily was not following the Salic law, and there had been at least two reigning queens in Sicilian history; the kingdom of Sardinia was the stronger state in the Italian peninsula and if this war was victorious, its strength would increase (blood ties would be a suitable guarantee of Sardinian support for the new Sicilian queen and her fledgling kingdom) ; finally, the princess was reported to be very intelligent and inclined towards liberal policies. "Beggars cannot be choosers, Ruggero " he thought "Now I've only to convince these gentlemen that it is a good idea".

    There was a moment of silence around the table, as if everyone was struck by the gravity of their latter choice.
    Prince Ruggero broke the silence: "There is another decision that needs to be taken at the same moment that Sicily will enter the war: how the state of Sicily will be governed. The Parliament has been discussing this issue for almost two weeks, and no decision has been made, although it has been clear that the proponents of a constitutional monarchy have a sizeable majority. At the same time, no suitable candidate for the throne has emerged. I would ask all of you to step above ideological constraints for this decision, and to decide on the basis of the most important needs of the people of Sicily: freedom, stability and prosperity, in this order. I propose that a form of constitutional monarchy be adopted, based on the Constitution of 1812, suitably amended to strengthen the powers of Parliament. I firmly believe that monarchy will be easier to accept for a large majority of Sicilians, and at the same time an improved constitution will be an effective shield for their freedom and a firm support for a rule of law."

    This time the silence around the table lasted longer, then signor Mariano Stabile (7), the Secretary of the Provisional Government spoke: " Your proposal is certainly in line with my own beliefs, Signor Presidente, but I heard yourself say that there is no suitable candidate for the crown. How do you reconcile this apparent contradiction? I am confident you are not going to propose yourself for the throne." A smile, to take out the sting from the joke, and a muted laugh around the table.

    " You do not need to fear the unthinkable, signor Stabile. The candidate I propose is her Royal Highness Maria Cristina di Savoia, daughter of king Carlo Alberto, and sister of Prince Ferdinando, the very same men who are leading the war against the Austrians."

    No silence followed this time, but rather a hubbub of questions:
    "A woman on the throne of Sicily? "
    "She is married to a son of king Louis Philippe: are we opening a door for a French influence in Sicily?"
    " Do we need to decide right now? Let's approve a constitutional monarchy under a regency until a suitable candidate is selected."
    "And who would be a suitable candidate to be Regent, Signore? You, mayhap?"

    Ruggero Settimo waited patiently for the questions to end:
    "Sicily has a tradition of reigning queens: Costanza of the house of Altavilla, in the 13th century, and Maria of Sicily, in the 14th. "
    "Louis Philippe has abdicated one month ago, and now lives in exile. In any case, the crown will be offered to Princess Maria Cristina, not to her husband, who has anyway joined the fight in Lombardy. By all accounts, Prince Henri appears to be a fine fellow and a stout soldier... At least, as fine as a Frenchman can be."
    " We must decide now! Declaring war on Austria, sending volunteers to the same war and offering the crown to Princess Maria Cristina are all facets of the same decision: to choose freedom, not servitude."

    It went on for another hour, but the tide was turning: Maria Cristina might not represent the best choice for everyone, but it was the most logic one, and the constitutional revision would do much to assuage the worst fears of the democrats.
    In the end the vote was unanimous.

    Palermo, 24 March 1848 - Palazzo dei Normanni

    Ruggero Settimo brought both proposals to the Parliament, sitting in joint session. He gave a long speech, explaining why he and all the government were firmly in support of the war against Austria, and unashamedly used all the rhetorical tricks that his long political career had taught him: as all newspapers reported, it was by far the best speech he ever gave.
    In the end, both motions passed by acclamation.
    Prince Ruggero murmured to his old friend Stabile: "Now the die is truly cast!"

    Later that day, Ruggero Settimo met ,separately, with the British and the Sardinian consuls: each of them was shortly briefed on the decisions of the Sicilian Parliament, and handed over a confidential letter for urgent dispatch to their respective governments.

    A printed version of the speech was sent to all the major cities and towns of Sicily, and within one week it started to appear in all the Italian capitals. It was generally praised, with a couple of notable exceptions: Naples and Rome.
    In Naples, king Ferdinando went into a fit of rage unusual even for him, shouting "Traitors, traitors all! I am surrounded by traitors!"
    Possession of the leaflet with the speech was declared an offense against the crown, but this did not stop its clandestine dissemination.
    The reception in Rome was more muted, at least at official level: the liberals and the democrats both praised the vision of Ruggero Settimo, and celebrated the commitment of the Sicilians to the fight for Italian freedom, but neither the Pope nor the Curia addressed this news in an official way. There were rumors, though, that the speech had been discussed at length in the Curia, and not in an appreciative way: the Sicilian process strongly smelled of Jacobinism, it went against the holy alliance between Throne and Altar. Homilies were preached in a number of churches in Rome the following Sunday, condemning the rash actions of the Sicilians, and urging prayers that they might find again the path of righteousness. The police markedly increased their activity, and informers were asked to report immediately any sign of a Jacobin plot being planned.

    Port of Palermo, 26 March 1848

    The Legione Siciliana, 200 men strong and commanded by Rosolino Pilo, embarked for Genova on a Sardinian steamer, accompanied by the delegation tasked with offering the crown to Maria Cristina, lead by Stabile, Ameri and La Masa. While watching the steamship disappearing in the horizon, Ruggero Settimo sent a silent prayer to the Virgin Mary: "Regina Caeli, I beg you, give us a Queen of Sicily. Mother of the Church, let her be mother to us all. Mary Morning Star, bless this dawn with the light of your wisdom, your love, your justice."

    1. Palazzo dei Normanni as we know it was built by the house of Altavilla in the 12th century, enlarging a X century palace built by the emirs of Sicily. It was used as Royal Palace since then.
    2. Ruggero Settimo, younger son of the prince of Fitalia, served with distinction in the Bourbonic navy before retiring in 1813 for health reasons. He had a long career as a politic and an administrator, although always from moderate liberal positions (his condemnations of royal actions forced him to leave the public scene a number of time, but his outstanding qualities allowed him to come back. In 1847, following the harsh repression of the botched insurrection of Messina, he became a leader of the Committees who planned the insurrection of 12 January 1848, and after the expulsion of Bourbonic troops from Sicily became the President of the Provisional Government (IOTL he was the head of the Provisional Government until the end of Sicilian independence in 1849 and supported the offer of the crown to Ferdinando di Savoia, then went to Malta in exile )
    3. Count Emerico Amari was a well-known and respected jurist. A moderate liberal, member of the Committees which prepared the insurrection of 12 January.
    4. Giuseppe La Masa was a democrat and a patriot. Exiled in Tuscany for some years, returned to Sicily to participate in the insurrection in Messina, then went to Palermo and was very active in the preparation of the insurrection and in the long fight to expel the Bourbonic soldiers from Palermo. (IOTL, he was again minister of war in the Provisional Government. After its fall, left Sicily for exile in Marseille. Worked in Cavour's Societa' Nazionale since 1855)
    5. Rosolino Pilo was also a democrat and patriot. Made a name for himself fighting in Palermo after the insurrection, and afterwards argued the necessity of creating a popular army for the island. (IOTL went also in exile to France, and was close to Garibaldi. Joined Garibaldi volunteers in the 1860 invasion of Sicily, and died in battle a few days after the landing)
    6. The conditions posed by the Provisional Government to king Ferdinando would have made Sicily effectively independent, even if Ferdinando di Borbone would have kept the crown
    7. Mariano Stabile was a professor of political economy, and a very close friend of Ruggero Settimo. He is leading the delegation to offer the crown, since the titular minister of Foreign Affairs, baron di Rudini', had been very sick and died on 24 March
    Made in @LordKalvan & Tarabas
    Narrative Interlude #9: When in Rome...
  • Roma, 28 March 1848 - Papal Department of State

    The Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Costantino Patrizi Naro (1), considered the other three men sitting with him in a well-appointed meeting room in the Papal Department of State with mixed feelings, even bordering on distaste, although no emotion creased his patrician face.
    For a curious coincidence, all three had been chosen as Secretary of State by Pius IX, in sequence like pearls on a string, and all their tenures had been quite short.​
    The first one had been cardinal Giovanni Gizzi (2): his tenure had been the longest of the three, almost 18 months, but the only result he was able to achieve had been to anger both the conservatives and the liberals. It was not a surprising outcome, considering his lack of political sensibility. A strange choice for a Pope who had been Secretary of State himself and knew what the office demanded, but possibly a bone tossed to the conservatives: although Gizzi was considered a liberal, Patrizi Naro was not fooled, the man was a conservative in disguise. His resignation for medical reasons, which was true enough, was a relief, though hardly a blessing.
    The second choice of the Pope had also been unusual: Cardinal Deacon Giacomo Antonelli was not born to a noble family, not even to a family of literati from Rome. He had been born in Sonnino (a true burino! (3)): his father had accumulated a fortune by participating in a large number of land sub-divisions and assorted shady deals, climbing the social ladder and becoming a leader among the so-called Country Merchants, the businessmen from Latium who controlled a big chunk of the Roman economy. The gentleman had sent one of his sons, Giacomo, to study in Rome: Roman College, then law studies at the university La Sapienza, finally an entry in the Prelatura Iustitiae (4). Giacomo was intelligent, hard-working and if he was a burino, by 1830 he had been spruced and trimmed up enough to make the smell of the countryside go away. Cardinal Lambruschini (4) had taken him under his wing, and his career had been meteoric. He proved to be a good no-nonsense administrator, and a financial wizard which managed to help the parlous state of Papal finances (and to help his family even better (5), but the Bible says "Don't bind the mouth of the kine..."). He had never taken Holy Orders, just a lay deaconate, but this had not stopped His Holiness from choosing him as Secretary of State, and Antonelli had tried to repay the honor by implementing what appeared to be the dreams of the Pope: he had been behind the ill-advised decision to send a strong contingent of regulars and volunteers to the Veneto border, and even to convince the Pope to bless them on their departure from Rome. However, if Antonelli was not a man of strong faith (if he has a god, he's named Mammon, mused Patrizi Naro) he proved to be a political animal: as soon as reports from Austria and the German states indicated a growing resentment against the Pope making a grand-stand for what appeared to be a liberal cause, Antonelli had smoothly started to distance himself from liberal positions, and had grabbed the opportunity to submit his resignation after the news of Goito reached Rome. A flawed man, like the other two, but at least his apparent flaw was a lack of conscience and an abundance of greed: therefore a man worth cultivating, a tool good for all seasons.
    The resignation of Antonelli had heralded the entry on the scene of Cardinal Orazio Orioli, who received the appointment as Secretary of State ad interim. Another man born to a family of modest means, and from the Legations, but at least a man of faith, whose allegiance had always been to the zealot faction of the Church: no fear that this man would be infected by liberal ideas, but also no hope that he might be gifted with the flexibility of mind that was required from a Secretary of State in these troubled times. His tenure was very unlikely to last long, but God had blessed the world with useful idiots, and he could well be one of those. One might hope that the fourth choice of the Pope would be more inspired (6).

    All these thoughts flashed across the mind of Patrizi Naro in a few seconds: when his attention returned to the room, Cardinal Orioli was still droning platitudes. Finally, he managed to come to what needed to be discussed today:​
    "Brothers in Christ, I have asked you to join me today to discuss the political issues which are sprouting almost by day in this troubled year. The very last one is the news coming from Sicily, concerning the rash actions of the self-elected parliament: Ferdinand of the Two Sicilies, a good king and a dutiful son of Mother Church, has been stripped of his God-given Sicilian crown, a new kingdom proclaimed and the crown offered to the daughter of Carlo Alberto of Sardinia. I feel that we have to assure Ferdinand of our support. I am also concerned that these events might incite the liberal and Jacobin elements in Rome and create a danger for the order in our city. However, as you well know, I have been appointed to this office just two days ago. I would beseech some sage advice from those who have preceded me in the same office, and from the Esteemed Cardinal Vicar of Rome too."

    Gizzi was the first to speak (those who have least to say are always the first to speak, thought Patrizi Naro):
    "We must certainly support Ferdinand as best as we can. His Holiness should strongly and publicly condemn these actions against a God-anointed king, and admonish the ill-doers in Palermo so that they may repent of their sins."

    Antonelli was more prudent in his advice:
    "Palermo is but the last wound on the body of the Holy Alliance, but not the greatest or the most dangerous. Everything hinges on the situation in Northern Italy, which is very troubling. The insurrections of Milan and Venice were but the beginnings, and opened the dam for similar insurrections in Parma and Modena. There are rumors of troubles in Romagna too, and even in Ferrara, where the long Austrian occupation was resented by the populace. All these news are disturbing, no God-fearing man could feel otherwise. I would remind you that similar outbursts of Jacobinism have happened in the past too, in 1821 and 1831 for example, and within a few months the order was established again. This year, unfortunately, discontent and insurrections are much more widespread. A king, an anointed king whom we believed to be a dutiful son of the Church, is waging war against the emperor of Austria, who has always been our shield against Jacobinism, and, even worse, he appears to be succeeding. I deeply regret to have supported His Holiness in his impulse to heed the voices of his children, and lead them: it was a mistake, I forgot that the lures of Satan can lead even the best men astray. I've tried to make amend for such a mistake, and I've instructed the Nuncio in Turin to admonish the Sardinian government, to let them know that the Holy Father is troubled by the news he receives from all of Italy, all of Europe and that papal support to an enterprise which threatens the very pillars of Order cannot continue. I'm not confident that this will be enough to bring them back from their madness, their pride is fired by the victory at Goito, and now the news from Sicily will add fuel to that fire. We have to be cautious, though, in order to avoid making the situation worse. Let us signify our friends and champions that we will guard their backs, that they can rely on us, but it should be done by confidential letters, not by proclamation. We must make sure that there will be not new disturbances in Rome, of course: the news from Palermo come on top of the news from Northern Italy. The Cardinal Vicar knows much better than me the best ways to make sure that the order in Rome is neither threatened nor disturbed. I also hope that His Holiness may soon reach a decision : a pronouncement from the Holy See would resonate strongly throughout Italy and Europe."​

    Patrizi Naro took a moment to make his intervention. He rose, and walked in the room, seemingly staring into the void. He then stopped to look with apparent interest to a beautiful painting on the wall, a delicate XVI century Pietà. In the meantime he was reviewing in his mind Antonelli's words:

    "You burned your fingers by supporting the Pope's urge to become a focus for Italian aspirations, and now you are doubly cautious. I noticed that you put all the responsibility to maintain order in Rome on my shoulders, little worm. But in fairness that is my task, and I know how to do it. I've to admit your advice was sound, though: let our friends know we are not deserting them, and at the same time let's avoid firing up the masses against us."

    He suddenly turned again, looking straight into the eyes of the three buffoons in the room, a sudden chill filling his voice-and the air.
    "Cardinal Antonelli's advice appears to be eminently sound. I suggest that Cardinal Orioli prepares suitable confidential letters to be dispatched, while I address the need of keeping Rome untainted by riots and insurrections. I have to talk to the Pope too: His Holiness must understand and accept that there is only one way to show the world that he is the Father of all Catholics, not just of the Italians. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo."​
    "Sempre sia lodato", the other three responded mechanically, with a slight, almost imperceptible tremor in their voices.


    1. Cardinal Costantino Patrizi Varo, born in 1798, was a scion of a noble family of the Roman patriciate. Intellectually gifted and backed by his ties to Roman aristocracy, his career in the Church was very fast: ordered as bishop at 30 years old, received the biretta of cardinal 8 years later. In 1841 he was appointed Cardinal Vicar of Rome (effectively governor of the city, with full control of the justice system and the police and wide discretional powers). He had always been a member of the conservative faction of the Church, and got some votes in the Conclave till the end. The new Pope confirmed him in his position (they had known each other since when they were both young monsignori climbing the ladder of power).
    2. Cardinal Tommaso Gizzi, born in 1787, to a well-to-do family from Frosinone, that later moved to Rome. His ascent in the Church hierarchy was not as meteorical as the one Patrizi Varo had, but he became a well-renowned jurist and diplomat. Nuncio in Turin in 1829 , he did fit very well in the reactionary court of Carlo Felice and then Carlo Alberto. In 1835, travelling from Turin to Bruxelles where he had been appointed as Nuncio to Belgium, he met prince Metternich in Vienna: the prince wrote in his diary that Gizzi was "a man who had given good proof of his ultramontane beliefs". He was a conservative always, and a good friend of Solaro della Margarita, but in 1837 he started to be regarded as liberal, following his tenure in Ancona during the riots of that time, and later on as Nuncio in Switzerland. He was made cardinal in 1844, when he was already 57 years old, and at the Conclave of 1845 was regarded as one of the leading lights of the liberal faction. The new Pope appointed him as Secretary of State, but the problems encountered during 18 months of tenure as well as his very bad health led him to resign on 5 July 1847, the day after having signed the act allowing the recruitment of a National Guard in Rome. The judgment that Patrizi Naro gives of him is a bit harsh, but in truth his tenure as Secretary of State was not a success, and the popular belief accused him to be the obstacle to the reforms that the Pope wanted to institute
    3. A "burino" is a rural bumpkin, smelling of onions and pig-shit
    4. Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini, theologian and philosopher, the leading light of the hard conservatives for all his life. He was Secretary of State in the 1830s, as well as the main contender for the conservatives in the Conclave of 1845.
    5. Cardinal Deacon Antonelli was appointed Treasurer General of the Church in 1845, and soon managed to solve in a satisfactory way a problem dating back to 30 years before, during the Congress of Vienna. The Papal States were required to compensate the princely family Beauharnais - Lichtenberg for there extensive possessions in the Papal State, but they were never able to fund the enormous payment (4 million papal ecus). Antonelli negotiated a bank loan, secured by the value of the lands, which were then subdivided and sold in parcels to repay the loan - and obviously to compensate the Antonelli family who had managed the subdivision and the sales. Let's say that the financial operation was beneficial to all sides :rolleyes:).
    6. IOTL, the subsequent choices of the Pope were even less inspired: Pius IX burned 6 Secretary of States in 30 months. In November 1848, Antonelli suggest to the Pope to leave Rome for Gaeta, where he reached him a few days later. It is rumored that Pius IX remained in Gaeta upon the advice of Antonelli, who dissuaded him from seeking an exile abroad. On 26 November 1848, Antonelli was appointed again to the position of State Secretary, and held it for the next 20 years.​
    Made in @LordKalvan e Tarabas