Friday, November 18, 2011

How the Papal Rome became the capital of Italy.

The Italian peninsula in 1861.

Since the time of the first independence movements in the 19th century, the issue of the ineligibility of the political and spiritual authority of the pope arose. Napoleon III was approving the Italian unification and the restraining of the papal territories but in the same time as a leader of a catholic state he didn't want to see a pope growing weaker and weaker.Additionally the pope was the spiritual father of Napoleon's III son who would be the future king of France.

The Italians were discontent  with the existence of the French papal guard in Rome and didn't cease to remind the issue of Rome to Napoleon III. Napoleon III was trying to find a consenting decision than would satisfy the Italians and wouldn't infuriate the catholics in his country and the catholic bishops.

Napoleon III emperor of France
Paradoxically Garibaldi's conquest of the kingdom of Naples would trigger new developments on the matter. In 1861 Garibaldi encouraged secretly by the Italian government sailed to Palermo to recruit soldiers in order to march towards Rome and occupy it. However Napoleon III was so enraged that the Italians themselves attempted to stop Garibaldi . In 1862 in the battle of Aspromonte Garibaldi was captured and his army was scattered.The next days negotiations between Italy and France began and eventually ended in 1864 with the agreement of September. According to the agreement Napoleon III had to withdraw the french guards from Rome and the Italian king had to respect the papal authority. Victor Emmanuel the Italian king moved his capital to Florence phenomenically quitting from claiming Rome.

Napoleon III  worried about the reaction of the Italian minorities in France was tried to find a way to pay a compensation to Italy. He found a perfect pretext for this in the eve of the war between the Austrians and the Prussians.  Before engaging into war with Vienna, Bismark enquired Napoleon III about his neutrality in this war. Napoleon III told him that he would keep his neutrality and in exchange he wanted Bismark to cede Venice to Italy in case of a Prussian victory.

The Austrians also worried by the prospect of an alliance of the French with the Prussians negotiated to cede Venice to Italy and in exchange if they were victorious they would annex Silesia. Therefore a new situation was created by which Italy would be favoured one way or another.

Giuseppe Garibaldi
Although everything was favourable for Italy in the battlefield the Italian army and navy proved to be much weaker than the circumastances demanded.  Fortunately for the Italians the Prussians were victorious against Austria and set out peace negotiations as winners. Although Bismark didn't negotiate in favour of the Italians, Napoleon's III intervention achieved the annexation of Venice to Italy. This unexpected annexation made the Italians turn their eyes once again to Rome. However the French emperor who was the one who encouraged and supported the Italian unification was the main obstacle in the Italian claims about the political authority of the Pope over Rome.

Once again Garibaldi led a new expedition in 1867 against Rome but Napoleon III under pressure of the French catholics sent a French regiment to Italy in order to stop Garibaldi. The French were successful at stopping Garibaldi and this triggered a series of tensions between the two nations. The French prime minister's speech in the parliament made the situation even worse. He said : Italy will never conquer Rome.France will never tolerate such a violence against its honor and catholicism. The day that Italy will attempt to take Rome France will stand and defend it. 

However these words didn't seem to have much of  importance as three years later when France was in the verge of war with Prussia and negotiated with Italy about a potential alliance. Although the French were not negotiating the Rome issue, after the French defeat in the battle of Sedan and the capture of Napoleon III by Prussian forces the French guard of Rome withdrew and after a parody battle the Italians captured Rome and Victor Emmanuel moved his capital there. Later via a referendum the Italian king ratified the annexation of Rome to Italy.

Napoleon discusses with Otto von Bismark after being captured in the battle of Sedan
source: based on History of Europe by Serge Berstein, Pierre Milza

1 comment:

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