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How Mussolini Took Power (And Destroyed Italy)

Initially, Mussolini took appointed office not only as premier but also as foreign minister and interior minister, and in the latter post appointed General De Bono as his new chief of police, with Balbo heading the Fascist Militia. He had Premier Facta escorted out of office by an 11-man Fascist honor guard because he had lost a son in the war.

Il Duce’s first cabinet meeting was held in his second-floor suite at the Savoy, a long way from his cheap apartment at 38 Foro Bonaparte, where he had left his family back in Milan.

As he had told his brother Arnaldo, “If only our father were alive!” His wife Rachele, upon hearing the news, exclaimed, “What a character!”

“I Forgave Him—and Took the Truncheon”

The next day, October 31, 1922, the marching Fascist columns finally arrived in Rome. On November 1, Mussolini had them march out again to the train station, so that they could all return home.

The withdrawing Fascist columns marched with palm leaves fluttering ahead past the Quirinale Palace in a five-hour parade that day, as the king, his new premier, and General Diaz reviewed it from the royal balcony. The king declared, “Mussolini has saved the nation. The House of Savoy must be grateful.”

The Roman population agreed. The lire fell in value, but the stock market improved. The Eternal City was swept by a holiday mood, with flag-armed crowds demonstrating their approval in front of the Quirinale and all florist shops quickly selling out their wares. Martial law was not declared, and Fascism was seen by most as the last resort to the feared alternative of anarchy and Red revolution, although there was, indeed, no such latter threat at all.

Benito Mussolini, the blacksmith’s son from the village of Forli, had been brought to office by the successive failure of several Liberal governments, a general apathy to politics, and the fear of high taxes and social reform on the part of the landed gentry that financed the Fascist Party.

The new first lady of Fascist Italy later told a story about an early visitor to her now famous husband: a Carabinieri sergeant who had brought a truncheon. He wanted to beg the Duce’s forgiveness for having arrested him during a demonstration in Forli and to offer him the truncheon he had whacked him with.

“I forgave him—and took the truncheon,” Mussolini had said, ”philosophically.”

This article by Blaine Taylor originally appeared on Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons