The Last Stand of the Italian Bourbons

THOSE of us whose memories recall the early months of 1861, which ushered in our civil war, may be interested in synchronizing with that gloomy period of our history the salient events which at the same time were inexorably closing the career of Bourbon royalty in Italy.

In the previous November, Victor Emmanuel had entered Naples. Garibaldi, refusing all honors, titles, wealth, — half in patriotic pride and half in bitter indignation against Cavour, on account of the pressure which had constrained him to turn over his conquest to the king without completing his programme by an assault on Rome, — had sailed away to Caprera in a fishingsmack. Hero and very child that he was ! What he had conquered by the unselfish greatness of his soul he would certainly have lost through the simplicity of which certain volunteer aulic councilors — Alexander Dumas, the elder, for instance — were thronging to Naples to take advantage. Cavour saved at once the dictator and his work by taking affairs out of his hands. As to a march on Rome, it would not have been a simple contest with Lamoricière and his papal zouaves, but an assault on the flag of France, which would have involved Italy in a French war. A Garibaldi could gallantly shut his eyes to all this, for he scorned diplomacy. The Italian statesman appreciated him none the less while he breathed more freely when the hero abdicated and withdrew in wrath to his island home.

The week subsequent to the entrance into Naples, Francis II., defeated on the Garigliano and at Capua, took refuge, with his young Bavarian queen and younger brothers and sisters, in Gaeta, where he was at once besieged by Generals Cialdini and Menabrea. On this last promontory between the Neapolitan and the Papal States young Bourbon royalty stood gallantly at bay. The investment could be maintained, however, only on the land side. No Italian naval force was permitted to coöperate, for a few French vessels rode at anchor in the harbor, representing Napoleon’s persistent interference in Italian affairs ; and, though themselves taking no active part in the defense, the fleet kept open the communications from without by which Francis received such supplies as he might need, as well as provided an ever-open door of departure.

The young king showed himself, during this siege, in no respect wanting in soldierly courage ; but, apart from this, he did nothing to win the affections of his defenders, the regard of his quasi allies, or the respect of his assailants. A siege carried on under these circumstances could be very little more than pro forma ; and the attention of those who watched and waited in Rome was far less occupied with the operations of the Italian army than with the presence of the French fleet and with the ebbs and flows of French politics.

That Napoleon was hopeful, or even desirous, of saving the falling dynasty no one imagined, — probably not even Francis himself. That the French emperor was anxious only to retard the progress of Italian nationalization, and to retain his influence in Italian politics, in the faint hope that some unexpected turn of fortune would put it within his power to secure the throne of South Italy for his cousin, Lucien Murat, was plain then to not a few, and is now, of course, well understood. He yielded this aim and policy only as he saw more and more clearly its utter hopelessness, and the cost to him of the attempt. Early in December, it was said that Napoleon had written to Francis ; condemning, indeed, the course of the Italian government, but advising him to make no further resistance. Yet the French vessels continued none the less to occupy the bay of Gaeta. The Italian admiral could take no part in the siege, and it dragged on ; or, rather, the issue was frankly turned over to diplomacy.

In the mean time the fever of political excitement was increasing in Rome. The vanguard of the Piedmontese had advanced, in September, as near as Tivoli ; and this was enough to turn the heads of the populace. About the 21st of November, there appeared, moreover, a French pamphlet, Le Pape et l’Empereur, actually discussing the limits of Napoleon’s duty to the Pope ; and, close upon this, it was rumored that the Count of Moray had come to Rome, bearing an ultimatum for his Holiness, and announcing the approaching withdrawal not only of the French vessels from Gaeta, but also of the French troops from Rome. Napoleon was, as it would seem, once more upon the Liberal tack.

There was not a very exalted estimate current that winter, certainly not in Rome, of the motives of the imperial policy, whichever way it might veer. The pro-papal leanings which had been evident in the autumn and the presence of the French vessels in the bay to Gaeta were quite as often attributed of the inflnence of the Princess Metternich as to any settled principles of Statesmanship ; and it was now whispered in semi-diplomatic circles, on the authority of a monsignore, “ who knew the facts,” that, to secure a change in the councils of St. Cloud, Count Cavour had had recourse to female counterdiplomacy, and, taking a hint from the dealings of Louis XIV. with Charles II., had sent a certain fair countess from Turin to Paris, in the hope that she might supplant the princess in influence with the emperor.

It is strange — or at least it seems so to us now — that many of the Americans and English at the time resident in Rome not only were skeptical of the ultimate success of the Italian revolution, but even sympathized with the old régimes which were then, one by one, giving way before it. The enthusiastic new-comer was quietly assured by the better informed old resident that the apparently rising tide would soon ebb again, as in 1849 ; and that the inevitable reaction would reëstablish more firmly than before the thrones now placed in seeming jeopardy.

But whether Napoleon was or was not then feeling his way towards a radically anti-papal policy, both in Rome and in France, he did, at all events, give Francis notice that he could no longer extend to him even a negative support. The siege of Gaeta was suspended from the 9th to the 11 th of January ; the French vessels departed ; Admiral Persano at once invested the port by sea ; and the attack was now pressed in earnest on every side.

The capitulation of Gaeta, on February 13th, relieved the long suspense. The ex-king and queen of the Two Sicilies withdrew by sea to Rome. Simultaneously with these tidings from the south came news of the vote in the Prussian Chambers that it was neither the interest nor the policy of Prussia to place any obstacle in the way of Italian unity ; and also of language addressed by Napoleon to the Corps Législatif, which implied that his policy at Gaeta and at Rome was and must be the same.

By the early Italian spring of 1861, therefore, it seemed certain that the revolution which had rolled downwards from the Alps and surged upwards from Sicily was now at last about to close in upon Rome itself. To meet this threatened catastrophe by counter-revolution, to stem the tide of coming perils, all the subtle statesmanship of Antonelli, reinforced by such strength as could be contributed by Bourbon doggedness and by the lingering hopes of the Lorraine dynasty of Tuscany, was now put forth. Rome became from this time, in the language of a French writer, “ a hot-bed of conspiracies, of attempts at restoration, and of organized brigandage in South Italy.” There was thenceforward, all this spring, ever a si déce on the Piazza di Spagna of some consultation or plotting of Antonelli with Francis, General Bosco, and representatives of the dispossessed princes of Central Italy.

A considerable number of the disbanded Neapolitan troops had betaken themselves to the valleys and villages of the Abruzzi Mountains, and thence kept up a guerrilla warfare, with frequent banditti incursions upon the peace of the nearer provinces; sorely harassing the new government in their efforts to bring Piedmontese order out of Bourbon chaos. That these brigands were supplied with money by Francis, and that they were encouraged, and even on occasion protected, by the Roman authorities, was well known. In vain the national forces attempted to protect the country or to break up these bands; for whenever hard pressed they took refuge across the nearer frontier in the “neutral territory of the Holy See,” whither the soldiers of Victor Emmanuel could not follow them without embroiling the Italian government with Napoleon, yet whence, if they were nominally disarmed and interned, they invariably “ escaped,” armed, into the Abruzzi again, as soon as the way was clear to them, to resume operations once more.

While Antonelli thus threw himself into the intrigue to restore Bourbon rule at Naples, Pius IX. welcomed the late royal family with somewhat ostentatious hospitality. The Quirinal Palace was placed at their service for such time as they might need a residence at Rome. The shadow of a court gathered round them there. Some grim festivities were said to have been observed on certain state occasions ; and during the rest of the winter and in the spring which followed they were not infrequently seen driving in the Villa Borghese or on the Pincio. The young queen ever won upon the kindly interest and sympathy of every one who looked upon her almost girlish figure, her fair face and placid brow, and who thought what it must be to be the wife of an exiled king of Naples. Francis sat silent, gloomy, saturnine ; not a man from whom, as he grew older, his late kingdom could apparently have had much to hope as an improvement upon his father, the unlamented King Bomba.

But had all the ex-royalty of Italy been concentrated bodily in Rome, and had the Quirinal been a very Vesuvius of reactionary energy and activities, it would have availed nothing. The political genius of Cavour, sustained as it was by the confidence and resolution of the Italian people, was irresistible. The Italian Parliament met on the 18th of February, and accorded to Victor Emmanuel the title of King of Italy. On the 20th of the month following, the cabinet was reconstituted so as to include representatives from the whole nation, and especially from the southern provinces. In April, Cavour spoke the famous words, “ Libera Chiesa in Libero Stato,” and Rome was formally declared to be the capital of Italy.

In Rome itself popular patriotism was now seething. Patient it had ever been, and all-enduring; but occasionally, at all risks, it was not able to deny itself an opportune “demonstration.” Even so early as December, when the news came that Napoleon had forewarned Francis of the early withdrawal of his vessels, on the morning of Tuesday, the 18th, a number of tri-colored placards bearing the audacious legends, “ Viva Vittorio Emmanuele ! Viva l’annessione ! ” were discovered, by the horrified police, posted in different parts of the city, on the walls of houses in the Piazza di Spagna, in the Corso, and even on the Propaganda. They were of course promptly torn down, and only those early abroad had the opportunity of seeing one: but they were the talk of all Rome before night, and how they could have been so posted in such places was a puzzle which no one could solve. In Liberal circles, however, of which many Americans enjoyed a sort of honorary membership, the mystery was soon explained. Not all the cardinals kept their own carriages ; and therefore certain livery establishments were, it seems, provided with the proper equipage to supply to them, — a large, ponderous, old-fashioned red coach, blazoned on its panels with a cardinal’s hat, and by its color proclaiming its character from afar. Now, some daring wits had, in the name of one of these princes of the church, hired such a carriage on this night ; and some inside, and others, disguised in livery, on the box and behind, drove about the city during the small hours almost with impunity. Those inside pasted the placards and handed them out through the windows to the lackeys behind. The driver chose suitable places, and, turning the carriage so as to bring the back near the walls, — a very easy thing to do where there were no sidewalks,— the lackeys could quickly affix the placards while the coach drove on without stopping. No papal police would think of watching a cardinal’s carriage; and if any one of them noticed it, he would only suppose that there was some pressing business going on at the Vatican.

The police afterwards, however, owed the Liberals a bitter grudge for thus outwitting them; and when Gaeta fell they were on the keen watch for patriotic bursts. The Italians were indeed, as one of the Liberals said at the time, “ in the highest glee and the Neri in most dolorous mood.” This particular patriot added that he was himself “ invited to eat macaroni in three places, in honor of the fall of Gaeta.”

“ That evening,” to quote a journal entry for the 15th, “ there was quite a touching demonstration on the Corso. About dusk, or a little before, it was filled with the best dressed people, ladies included, walking. No noise, no excitement; everybody intensely pleasant, greeting everybody else with a ‘ Buona sera ’ or a ‘ Bella serata ; ’ saying nothing else, but tacitly sympathizing with each other in the general happiness.” It would seem as though such a demonstration would be harmless enough, even in the eyes of the papal police, and certainly offer no ground for repressive procedure. But no : “ soon a company of dragoons came in to clear the Corso, when the people quietly opened everywhere before them, and the whole assembly melted away down the side streets.” Later in the same evening, a homeward-bound pedestrian, coming up the Condotti, was suddenly startled by a green Bengal light succeeded by a white light blazing out high up on the Spanish Steps. There was undoubtedly also to have been a red light, to make up the national tri-color; but probably the match failed which was set to ignite it. The whole neighborhood was of course illuminated, instantly and brilliantly, — the long ascent of the steps, the piazza below, the piazzetta in front of the church above. The police were promptly on the spot, but no one was to be seen.

Four days after this, however, —that is, on the 19th, — it was noted in the journal just quoted that “ some fifty persons had just been exiled by the government: some say, for taking part in the quiet demonstration upon the Corso, on the evening of the 14th ; and some, for eating macaroni that night in honor of the fall of Gaeta.” The government, not being obliged to give any reason, left it in doubt which was the ground of action ; but it was evident that if its strict and eminently paternal regimen could not forestall tins patriotic wit of the Roman Liberals, they would at least be brought afterwards to strict account. Such discipline did not, at all events, do much to conciliate the good-will of the Roman people towards the papal government.

The popular enthusiasm at the progress of a revolution which was to bring back to Italy a golden age had additional reason in the great distress among the lower classes, which had been witnessed during the winter and spring. This distress was produced largely by the heavy taxes and by the monopolies in the sale of some of the necessities of life, by which the government supplied its treasury, rewarded ostentatious political devotion, or, as was popularly believed, sustained the brigands, through whom they hoped to set up Bourbon rule again in Naples. “ The suffering from starvation is terrible,” wrote a lady : the men who carry bread from the bakers are often stopped in the streets and the bread forcibly taken from them. All provisions are dear and beyond the means of the poor: but I hope this is almost over now. The Romans are wonderfully patient and enduring.” It was currently reported, and, whether true or not, believed at the time, that when some one remonstrated with Cardinal Antonelli for giving such a monopoly to his brother, on the ground that the people had scarcely bread to eat, he replied, with a sarcastic laugh, “ Let them eat hay, then ; or grass, since spring is coming.”

Not always, however, could this characteristic Roman patience be depended on ; for the record is found under date of February llth, but two days before the fall of Gaeta, “ There have been two flagrant cases of robbery committed lately upon Americans. Young Mr. C. was, on Saturday night, attacked in his own entry by two men armed with knives, and robbed of all he had about him, — watch, gold chain, diamond pin, and purse. Some one else, last night, was attacked in Mr. R.’s entry, in the same manner ; but he was strong enough to defend himself, and put the fellow to flight.” But, however sternly prompt to punish sympathy with the national movement, to “ irregularities ” of this kind the police paid no attention. An American seized a thief who had just robbed him, in the midst of the crowd on the Corso, during the carnival,— seized him with the stolen purse still in his hand; and, holding him by the throat, marched him up to a policeman, and delivered him then and there into custody. The policeman merely restored the purse, and, telling the thief that he was a fool to allow himself to be caught in this manner, let him go !

Small wonder that the Roman people gave little welcome and scant greeting to the young ex-king and queen of Naples, with whose presence in Rome they so closely associated the miseries of that weary spring! The royal pair occasionally drove through streets silent of any vivas for them ; they assisted at some function of the church, protected from possible insult more by the Swiss guard of the Pope than by any popular sympathy with the expiring cause of which they were both the representatives and the victims.

Another, and so far as the writer is concerned a last glance at this hapless pair, thus passing out of history, is found in the following extract from a journal description of the ceremonies at St. Peter’s on Thursday of Holy Week of the same year : —

At the lavanda, — that is, the formal pontifical foot-washing, — “ I remained long enough to see first the pilgrims come in, and then the royalties. Of the latter, first came Queen Christina of Spain, accompanied by her son.”— she, by the way, on whom, of all royal womankind, the Pope had bestowed the golden rose! . . . Next came the Neapolitan royal family, — the king in his uniform, and the queen, of course, in black and a veil. He had a very disagreeable look ; something malignant about it. He looked even worse than in the photographs ; for in these his features are in repose. He seemed to be near-sighted, and kept contracting his brow most loweringly and repulsively. With the queen we were all pleased. She is perhaps not beautiful, but very bright and interesting,—a face full of spirit. Near Francis were, apparently, his three brothers, every one of whom was better looking and had a better expression than the king. His four or five young sisters also were, all but one, pleasing-looking girls. General Bosco, the only one of his prominent generals who was faithful to him from first to last, was with him ; his stepmother, also, I believe.”

These last Bourbon royalties of Italy remained in Rome for some years, vainly hoping and attempting to create a favorable occasion for stirring up a reaction, or at least a conspiracy of one kind or another, in the late kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Certainly, nothing that the Pope or Antonelli could do to aid them in these laudable efforts was left undone. At last, one by one, they left Rome for Austria or for Bavaria. Bourbon rule in Italy was at an end forever. Exeunt omnes.

William Chauncy Langdon.