The Kingdom of Italy was founded on this day in 1861 after Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia was declared King.The genesis of the Kingdom was a result of the unification of Italy, which the Kingdom of Sardinia played a major role in creating. As a unified state, the Kingdom of Italy was a strong force and a major player on the world stage alongside other expanding pockets of power.
After only a few years as a unified state, the Kingdom declared war on Austria in 1866. For throwing its support behind Prussia during the ordeal, the region of Veneto was gifted to Italy. It had been a territory of the Roman Empire up until the 5th century AD. It was annexed to the Congress of Austria following the Napoleonic Wars. As one of the richest and largest ports, Veneto was a lucrative possession.
Since 1848, the region had asked to be annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia. It was a long time coming, and Veneto even used the Italian flag colors to signal its desired unity, as well as its lack of loyalty to Austria. To bring it into the fold, the Kingdom of Italy fought Austria in the Third War for Italian Independence.
In 1915, the Kingdom of Italy entered the First World War. Austria offered Italy a neutrality agreement, but Italy decided on aligning themselves with the Allies at the invitation of the British. The Kingdom’s objective was the promise of two more regions populated by Italians that were under the Austro-Hungarian rule: Trentino and Trieste. For their war efforts, Italy earned a permanent position in the League of Nations.
It was not until the era of “Fascist Italy” that the Kingdom and its numerous territories were politically moving in lockstep. A political crisis erupted, as the fascist movement under the leadership of Benito Mussolini had grown in popularity. Mussolini usurped the seat of the prime minister after staging a dramatic show of support during the March on Rome in October 1922. King Victor Emmanuel II was faced with choosing the state’s fate. His siding with the Fascists affirmed Mussolini’s power and in a matter of days, a quiet revolution took place.
Mussolini wiped out all checks and balances, and consolidated power, clearing the way for his dictatorial role. In 1926, a law was passed that made the dictator responsible only to the King, while local autonomy was eradicated, and elected post heads were replaced by Mussolini appointed staff. By 1928, all opposition political parties were banned and parliamentary elections were overhauled to assert fascist control over the list of those who could be appointed. The Kingdom remained in place, but only to serve as a decoration. It was as useful as a stage front for a Hollywood movie set. The King’s rule finally ended in 1946 following a constitutional referendum.