After the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy was fragmented and divided up into various kingdoms. Battles routinely moved boundaries but, in the early 1800s, Italy was basically divided into 3 parts: the Bourbons in the south, the Pope in the center, and the Savoys in the north.
In 1848, a series of revolutions broke out in Europe. The masses were tired of being commanded by the conservative elite–having too much meant depriving others of having enough.
In Italy a move towards the unification of the country began which led to the Risorgimento and, subsequently, the unification of Italy in 1870.
The men given credit for this unification are Giuseppe Mazzini, Victor Emmanuel II, Camillo Benso count of Cavour, and Giuseppe Garibaldi. But, even though they all claimed to want a unified Italy, their motivations were not the same. Victor Emmanuel II and Cavour both wanted to unite Italy but as a monarchy under Piedmont rule. Mazzini wanted to unite Italy but as a republic. Garibaldi didn’t care if it was a monarchy or a republic just as long as it was united.
Garibaldi, the romantic rebel, was born in Nice. He grew up with the presence of the sea and it’s distant horizon that constantly beckoned him. He worked as a sailor and became a merchant marine captain.
In 1833, while heading towards Constantinople, the 36 year old Garibaldi met Emile Barrault, a follower of Henri Saint-Simon. Saint-Simon believed that man should adopt humanity as his homeland and fight for people struggling against tyranny. For whoever fought such a battle, more than a soldier, was a hero. Dazzled by these ideals, Garibaldi now had a new horizon—that of becoming a hero.
Followers of Saint-Simonianism believed in the importance of brotherhood. Some followers even encouraged the wearing of clothing that buttoned down the back. Needing help to unbutton your clothes symbolized your need for others in general indicating that our lives are all interrelated.
Now Garibaldi’s goal to be a hero had him participating in revolts and subversive activities not only in Italy but in South America as well. He was always on the run. And always in trouble. Nevertheless, Garibaldi was audacious and brave. The Argentine dictator Manuel Rosas once caught him and had him hung by his feet and whipped. The stoic Garibaldi didn’t complain or cry out in pain. For the oppressed and idealistic, there was no doubt that Garibaldi was indeed a hero.
In Brazil where the air smelled of revolution and intrigue, he continued to fight for just causes. But the life of a revolutionary, despite the people around you, is often lonely. Then he met Anita. Overwhelmed maybe more by his need to be loved than by Anita herself, he immediately whispered in her ear “You will be mine!” Convinced, she left her abusive husband and ran off with Garibaldi.
Together, in the name of liberty and equality, they fought many battles in Brazil.
But, in 1848, revolutions were exploding all over Europe and Garibaldi decided it was time to go back to Italy. As in Brazil, Anita was at his side and together they fought to defend the Roman Republic. But Anita, already pregnant and sick with malaria, didn’t have the strength to continue the struggle and died in her husband’s arms not far from Ravenna.
After 1848, Garibaldi modified his heroic image: Less hippy and more savoir faire. Less of a bandit and more of a gentleman.
Garibaldi is best known for the Spedizione dei Mille (Expedition of the Thousand) a crucial battle for the Risorgimento. In 1860, Garibaldi, along with 1000 volunteers, arrived in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to overthrow Bourbon rule. Despite the advantage the Bourbons had in numbers and arms, Garibaldi and his troops were victorious and the Bourbon ruler and consort, King Francis II and Queen Maria Sophie, forced to leave.
King Francis II and Queen Maria Sophie were destined for sadness. Sophia Maria, Empress Sissy’s younger sister, married Francis by proxy. When they finally meet in the bedroom, Francis ignore his bride and spent the night praying. In 1859 they become rulers of the Two Sicilies.
King Francis II is known mainly for being insignificant whereas Maria Sophie was considered a kind of heroine because of her efforts to care for and encourage royal troops during Garibaldi’s attack. Only 18 years old at the time, she had no problems picking up a gun and shooting at the enemy. Marcel Proust made reference to her in La prisonnière calling her a “soldier queen”. Gabriele D’Annunzio, instead, saw her as the “stern little Bavarian eagle.”
Maybe Maria Sophie just had a lot of pent up frustration to release. Francis II had a malformation that kept him from consummating the marriage with her. Frustrated, Maria Sophia spent much time bathing in the sea of Naples, smoking cigars, and riding her horse around town. After the couple was forced to flee to Rome, she had an affair with a Papal Guard (Zuavo), got pregnant, and was sent off to Bavaria to avoid scandal.
The situation was a mess especially considering that royalty made alliances via their off-spring and Francis was not doing his part. The family forced him to have an operation and viola, Marie Sophie got pregnant again but this time by her husband. Unfortunately, the baby did not live long (some say because of nanny’s incompetence). The couple was destroyed psychologically. Francis turned to God and Marie Sophie turned to lovers.
When the unification of Italy becoming more and more a reality, Francis and Maria Sophia were forced to leave Rome and wander from one royal home to another. Francis eventually gave up and died but Marie Sophie kept on trucking. Her Italian experience had provoked a need for revenge. Her desire to cause conflict in Italy as to break up the unification led to speculation that she was involved with Humbert’s assassination.
The Three Muskateers man, Alexandre Dumas, adored Giuseppe Garibaldi. Not even he could have invented such a character! Dumas wrote two Garibaldi related books: Mémoires de Garibaldi and I garibaldini. The French author was with the hero during the Expedition of the Thousand.
Garibaldi had another admirer—Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln asked Garibaldi to come help him with the American Civil War but, not feeling that the main purpose of the war was the liberation of the slaves, Garibaldi declined.
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896-1957) was the 11th prince of Lampedusa, an aristocratic Sicilain family that was slowly dissipating into nothingness. He grew up with an excessively unattached father and an overly attached mother. The company he most enjoyed was that of his books. Shy and introspective, at the age of 36 he married an aristocrat and psychiatrist from Latvia, Alexandra Wolff Stomersee, aka Licy. The couple begin their married life in Palermo living with Tomasi di Lampedusa’s mother. But the situation didn’t last long as Licy was too independent minded to be dominated by a mother-in-law and moved back to the family castle in Latvia. For years Licy and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa had a Marriage By Correspondence. After the mother-in-law’s death, Licy moved back to Palermo.
Tomasi di Lampedusa was an avid reader and most every day for 10 years would start his day off at a pasticceria followed by a visit to Flaccovio’s, his favorite bookshop. More bookshops and more cafes then he’d return home by bus. Licy, instead, slept all morning because her psychiatry practice kept her working until late at night.
Tomasi di Lampedusa always carried books with him with at least one Shakespeare because, if affronted by a disagreeable situation, reading Shakespeare for him was like taking a Valium.
Nearing the age of 60, Tomasi di Lampedusa felt the need to write the history of Sicily from his family’s point of view. The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) is the story of how the unification of Italy provoked the decline of the Sicilian aristocracy. The title comes from the family coat of arms that bears a leopard.
Protagonist of this tale is Prince Fabrizio de Salinas, a middle-aged aristocrat living in Sicily. Garibaldi has arrived on the island with his Redshirts and Don Fabrizio sees his world of privilege quickly crumbling away. He knows the change is necessary but, as for most all of us, change is not always easy to absorb. So, no longer able to identify with the events, he begins a process of alienation.
Garibaldi is not the only one who challenges the status quo. So do the nouveau riche. Don Fabrizio’s nephew, Tancredi, is engaged to the beautiful but crass Angelica whose father is a rich merchant. Tancredi is attracted to Angelica’s money and Angelica to Tancredi’s aristocratic status. They pretend to themselves that they are in love with one another when they are actually in love with their ambitions.
It is Tancredi who truly personifies what is happening. He says: if we want everything to stay as it is, we must change everything. The young aristocrat who has a title but no money knows he must adapt and adapt he does. So he becomes one of Garibaldi’s Red Shirts then part of the Royal Army then a member of the Parliament. He also marries for money and describes his fiancé as a beautiful amphora full of coins. For survival, Tancredi transforms himself when necessary.
The Leopard was published after Tomasi di Lampedusa’s death in 1958 and later made into a film by Luchino Visconti most notable for its 45 minute ballroom seen .
Garibaldi’s overthrow of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies has sometimes been called “the solution that didn’t resolve anything”. Don Fabrizio said that Sicilians didn’t want to improve because they saw themselves as perfect and their vanity was stronger than their misery.
The novel ends with Don Fabrizio daughters, all old maids, who desperately try to hold on to a reality that no longer exists. Resisting the inevitable, their life has become sterile, sad, and self destructive.
Boundaries are made to be moved.
The Garibaldi Family Tomb is at Verano Monumental Cemetery whereas Garibaldi himself is buried on his island, Caprera.