On 1900, Sunday July 29th at 10 PM Gaetano Bresci an Italian anarchist from Prato, near Florence, killed the king of Italy Umberto I firing him four shots while he was moving on an open carriage to the Villa Reale (Royal Villa) in Monza, near Milan, where he spent his summer vacation. At the time of his death Umberto was fifty-six years old and was a king for twenty-two years, from January 9th, 1878. Less than a year later they "killed himself" Gaetano Bresci in the penitentiary of the island of Santo Stefano.
Gaetano Bresci was born in Coiano, a hamlet in the municipality of Prato, on November 10th, 1869, a day before Umberto's son, who became king at the death of his father with the name of Vittorio Emanuele III. According to Rivista Anarchica (1971) Bresci was actually born the same day as Vittorio Emanuele, but after the regicide his birth date was changed, to avoid the coincidence. Petacco supports the same thesis and writes that the original date can still be found in the municipal registers of Prato. Actually, the recent publication on the State Registry Offices website (link) of the birth records written by the municipality of Prato, including that of Bresci, (1st part and 2nd part), allows to verify that the registration of the newborn Gaetano Bresci was performed on 13th November by the midwife, who declared his birth on 10th November, 1869 at 10 am.
Even the parish baptism register reports November 10th as birth date, and is completed with two additions by canon A. Valaperti, written after the regicide: one in Latin: "melius erat ei si natus non fuisset homo ille" ("it would have been better if that man wasn't born") and then "ad perpetuam rei memoriam" ("for perpetual memory of the offender") and one in Italian: "questo infame la sera del dì 29 luglio 1900 a Monza assassinò con 3 colpi di rivoltella l'ottimo Re nostro Umberto d'Italia. Sia pace all'anima benedetta di lui ed obbrobbrio sempiterno all'infame assassino" ("this infamous man on the evening of the day July 29th, 1900 in Monza murdered with 3 revolver shots our excellent King Umberto of Italy. Be peace with the blessed soul of Him and everlasting disgrace to the infamous murderer").
The native home of Gaetano lies in Coiano in the locality "I Ciliani" in via delle Girandole, 58, currently named via del Cilianuzzo (according to Santin and Riccomini the current name is via Baracca). Gaetano was the youngest of four children of Maddalena Godi, housewife aged fourty-four, and Gaspero (or Gaspare), farmer aged fourty from Capezzana, owner of a small farm. The first-born son Lorenzo was born on October 13th, 1856, he worked as a cobbler, and was married with Stella Magri; the second-born son Angiolo, born 1861, was a lieutenant in the 10th artillery regiment stationed in Caserta; the third-born daughter Teresa was born June 18th, 1867, she was a housewife, and in 1890 she married the carpenter Augusto Marocci from Castel San Pietro (Bologna).
Gaetano started to work as a cobbler with his brother Lorenzo, when he was a kid, then in 1880 his father made over the most part of his arable land to Hans Kössler in order to get a place as apprentice weaver for him at the "Fabbricone" ("the big factory") in Coiano di Prato, established in 1888 by the German firm Kössler, Klinger, Meyer & C. (Borsini). Eleven years old Gaetano worked fourteen or fifteen hours a day, as he himself declared in the trial. (Zucca) On Sundays he attended the municipal school of arts and trades of textile and dyeing at Prato, becoming a silk decorator, and as soon as fifteen years of age he was a skilled worker. He worked as a weaver at Vannini company in Florence, in Compiobbi and in Gello, with Cesare Zeloni firm. On February 26th, 1891 he lost his mother Maddalena. Gaetano began to frequent the anarchist associations of Prato, and in December 1892, at the age of 23, he joined the first strike, then repressed by the military occupation of the factory, following which Bresci resigned. The police then kept a file on him as "dangerous anarchist", and he was sentenced on December 27th, 1892 by the magistrate of Prato for "contempt and refusal to obey the public force" to a 20 liras fine and 15 days of imprisonment, later remitted. He was found guilty of defending vehemently, at 10 pm on October 2nd, 1892, a butcher boy who the municipal police wanted to fine (Galzerano, pag. 115). According to other sources it was instead a baker who was keeping the shop open after the closing time (Marzi). From the report drawn up by the police it appears that Bresci told the policemen: "It would be better if you went on your way, and leave this poor worker alone. Weren't you workers? But sure, now you're not anymore! Now you are the exploiters' servants. You are a bunch of spies and vagabonds! " Bresci would have refused to declare his personal information, but the following day he was reported together with his comrades Augusto Nardini, Altavante Beccani and Antonio Fiorelli (Zucca).
He was again detained, "for public safety measures", in 1893 and 1895, and assigned for more than a year to confinement in Lampedusa along with 52 other anarchists of Prato, in application of the repressive laws issued by Francesco Crispi. He was freed, together with his comrades, in May 1896, thanks to an amnesty granted for the defeat of March 1th, 1896 in Adwa battle, in the Ethiopian War.
On December 22nd, 1895 Gaetano lost his father Gaspero, who was aged sixty-five (link with the death records of Prato municipality). In the following years he found difficult to be hired for his criminal record , and he frequently changed employment, although one of his employers testified at the trial: "I must honestly allow that I had few workers like him". After having sought in vain a job in Prato, he moved to Ponte all'Ania, a hamlet of Barga in the upper part of Lucca province, where in 1896 he was hired by "Michele Tisi & C." textile factory.
In Ponte all'Ania it seems that he often went on the banks of Ania creek to shoot the pebbles, showing he had excellent aim. In summer 1897 he had a son from (Maria or maybe Assunta Righi), a coworker, and at the beginning of autumn he returned to Coiano to borrow thirty liras from his brother, to contribute to the expenses for the baby (the so-called "baliatico"). Then he returned to Ponte all'Ania for a few weeks; at the end of October he resigned from Tisi company, then came back again to Coiano, where he announced that he would go to America.
Despite being self-taught, Bresci always showed an excellent cultural level and a multiplicity of interests, which went beyond politics. The Santo Stefano prison doctor, Francesco Russolillo, told that his eyes "concealed burning flames and abysses" and that Bresci "had a culture and a soul that, hadnt they been turned to evil by a work of moral destruction, would have made of him the best of intelligent workers." (Galzerano, pag. 803)
Bresci left Genoa with the steamer "Colombo" on January 18th, 1897, landing on January 29th in New York where he was hosted by his comrade Gino Magnolfi. As soon as he arrived he found a job in Pennsylvania, and a year later at Givernaud & Co. and Schwarzenbeck silk factories in West Hoboken (currently Union City), in New Jersey, where he stayed for about three years. Then he moved to Hamil and Booth Co. silk factory in Paterson, also in New Jersey, about 20 km from West Hoboken and 21 miles (34 km) from New York, and then to Emelburg. He stayed in Paterson the entire week, dwelling at Bartholdi's Hotel and having dinner at Both boarding house, on 345, Straight Street, also named Italians Road, and returned on Saturdays at West Hoboken, where he had kept his home, on 263, Clinton Avenue, and where in August 1898 his partner Sophie Knieland came to live with him. She was born in New York in 1865 and she had Irish origin and they met in April in Weehawken park. According to a deposition issued by Sophie after the regicide, she and Gaetano had married before a justice of the peace. Gaetano and Sophie had two daughters, the eldest, born on January 8th, 1899, was called Maddalena (Madeline), like her paternal grandmother, and the younger, who was born after the attack, on September 28th, 1900, was named Muriel, also known as Gaetanina.
Paterson was a city of immigrants, with a strong Italian presence, and was an important anarchist center in the USA, where Bresci found many fight comrades he met in Italy. According to The New York Times of December 18th, 1898, two thousand five hundred out of ten thousand Italians residing in Paterson, declared themselves anarchists and three thousand five hundred purchased regularly the anarchist journal in Italian language "La Questione Sociale" (Mazzone). One week after his arrival, Bresci enrolled in the Society for the Right to Existence; a month later he bought ten one-dollar shares of "Era nuova" publishing company. Bresci collaborated with "La Questione Sociale", for a period directed by Errico Malatesta, who arrived in Paterson in August 1899, coming from London, via Tunisia, reached after escaping from his confinement in Lampedusa, on the night between April 29th and 30th, 1899.
Bresci took regularly part in meetings, even if he did not talk frequently, and when he did so he spoke calmly and without raising his voice. He often began with the foreword "a little observation", which became a sort of nickname with which he was called.
In Paterson Malatesta, a supporter of the collectivist tendency, had arguments with the individualist anarchist Giuseppe Ciancabilla from Rome, director of the other anarchist newspaper of the town, "L'Aurora", who until 1897 was a socialist, collaborator of Socialist Partys newspaper "Avanti!". On August 30th, 1899 in Tivola and Zucca's Saloon, on Central Avenue, West-Hoboken the two anarchists clashed in a virulent quarrel, during which Bresci would have saved Malatesta's life, tearing the revolver from the anarchist barber Domenico Passiglis (according to others "Pazzaglia") hands, who had attacked Malatesta, wounding him in a leg.(see the news on "Avanti!" of 18 September). The same Bresci, during the regicide's trial, testified that he wasnt there during the argument (Galzerano, pag. 106), while in another interrogatory confirmed that he had disarmed the barber, while Ciancabilla wasnt there (Galzerano, pag. 118). The newspaper "Gazzetta di Torino" of August 2nd, 1900 presented the event as no less than "an American revolver duel". In the ideological controversy between the two Bresci was closer to the individualist positions of Ciancabilla, whose newspaper "LAurora" applauded the regicide of Monza, while Malatesta, in an article entitled "Cause ed effetti" didnt subscribe to Brescis deed, though identifying its causes in social injustice.
of the attack
In February 1900 Bresci disclosed to Sophie his impending trip to Italy, and on May 7th, he resigned from his job in the factory and on May 10th he asked two comrades to buy him a ticket. He embarked on May 17th, 1900 on the French steamer "La Gascogne" of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, traveling in third class and taking advantage of the 50% discount for the visitors of the Exposition Universelle in Paris. At the end of May Bresci disembarked at Le Havre and then went to Paris, where he visited the Exposition. Later he made a stop in Genoa, and on June 4th he reached Prato, where the police commissioner rejected to grant him a firearms license. From 20th June to 8th July he was in Castel San Pietro (province of Bologna), where his sister Teresa lived with her husband, who was also Bresci's workmate at the Fabbricone. In Castel San Pietro he stayed at the Osteria della Palazzina, managed, together with her husband, by Stella Magri's sister, wife of her brother Lorenzo. On July 8th he went to Bologna to attend the commemoration of Giuseppe Garibaldi, by the monument to the hero, which had been inaugurated less than one month before, then returned to Castel San Pietro, on July 19th and on July 20th he was in Bologna, then in Parma, Piacenza and on July 27th, he arrived in Monza, where Umberto stayed since the Saturday of the previous week, July 21st. Bresci arrived in the morning in Monza railway station and found an accommodation not far from there, in a boarding house in via Cairoli 14.
Some student deem that Bresci developed the idea of attacking the life of Umberto as he disembarked in Italy, but the prevailing thesis is that he had left the USA specially to carry out "the wicked plan of the execrable regicide", as can be read in the decree of commitment for trial. The anarchist practiced at the National Firing Range of Galceti, in Prato. There are testimonies of how Bresci was proud of his aim, and how he frequently gave practical demonstrations of it, using bottles as a target, which he managed to break by passing the bullet from their neck.
On the evening of July 29th, Bresci went to the training field of the Gymnastic Club "Forti e liberi", in via Matteo da Campione, very close to the Villa Reale, where the king had to reward the athletes at the end of a gymnastics exhibition. The anarchist at 9:30 pm saw the king arrive on a Daumont carriage pulled by two pairs of horses. but he did not attempt the attack and just identified Umberto, to prevent confusing him later with the other passengers of the carriage. The anarchist was elegantly dressed, with a straight collar, a black necktie, a pocket watch with chain and a ring on his finger. He had the Hamilton & Richardson, "Massachussets" of 1896 five shot revolver with him, which he had bought for 7 dollars in Paterson on 27th February, on each bullet he had made with scissors several incisions, as they told him the American bandit Jesse James used to do, in order to increase their dangerousness, making the penetration easier in case the king had worn an armor, and making easier the wounds to infect.
At 10:30 pm, after the prizes awarding ceremony, the king went back into the carriage and was about to leave the gymnasium field, heading for the Villa Reale, a few hundred meters away. Lieutenant General Emilio Ponzio Vaglia, minister of the Royal Household, and Lieutenant General Felice Avogadro di Quinto, first aide-de-camp were with Umberto. In the map published by the socialist newspaper "Avanti!" the place of the attack is shown, and a cross marks the position of the carriage. The king was standing inside the open carriage and about to sit down, when Bresci fired the four shots being only a few steps away.
Umberto was reached by
the first shot in the back side of his neck, then he turned instinctively,
and was hit by two more shots in the chest, in the cardiac region,
while the fourth bullet was found, without blood traces, on the
bottom of the carriage, and therefore it didn't hit the target,
maybe because it was deflected by a punch that the Marshal of
the Carabinieri Giuseppe Braggi gave Bresci's arm. Umberto collapsed into the carriage and ordered
the coachman: "Go ahead, Go ahead!" and, asked
how he felt, replied: "I don't think it's anything serious".
He was taken to the Villa and laid down on his own bed,
where after fifteen minutes after the attack he died.
The three shots out of four that hit the target testify to the good aim of Bresci, while the fifth cartridge in the revolver was not fired, and was found in the cylinder, along with the four casings of the bullets which were fired.
The artist Flavio Costantini (1926-2013) depicted the regicide in several works (1 , 2 and 3). The weekly journal "La Domenica del Corriere" published a picture of Umberto which indicated as a possible last photo taken to the king.
attack was made?
The motive of the attack was the revenge for the massacres of workers, ordered to repress uprisings of protest, like those in Conselice (province of Ravenna) in 1890, in Sicily and in Lunigiana in 1894 and in Milan in 1898, where the Army fired on the protesting crowd, assassinating hundred of persons (the exact number has never been assessed). The Milan rising arose from the ill-famed "grist-tax" which provoked a huge increase of bread and flour prices, whence followed the assault to the bakeries and the hardest repression, carried on even by means of guns. In addition to the slaughter of workers, also the massacre of 9,000 Italian soldiers in the catastrophic Ethiopian War of 1896 planted the seeds for the regicide.
The anarchicot Amilcare Cipriani in the booklet "Bresci e Savoia" of September 1900 wrote: "from the immense crowd of victims of misery and massacres of Lunigiana, Sicily and Lombardy an avenger arose, Bresci" (Galzerano, 2001, pag.41). It's clear that the support given by Milan bourgeoisie to the repressor troops, with the slogan: "Tirez fort, visez juste" ("shoot hard, aim right") had been received by Gaetano Bresci, who declared at the trial: "after the state of siege in Sicily and Milan, illegally established by royal decree, I decided to kill the king to avenge the pale victims".
The same Umberto I, to whom many people attribute the political responsibility of the massacre, awarded with the Grand Officer Cross of Military Order of Savoy and with the appointment as Senator of the Kingdom the Piedmontese general Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris, who had ordered the massacre, as Royal Special Commissioner with full powers, congratulating him for defending the civilization. The journalist Paolo Valera, a witness of the massacre, wrote in 1899: "In the phraseology of the general you always find something of the master who talks to his servant and something of the imbecile who has taken from the military school nothing more than the brutality of his trade". During the trial, Bresci recalled the massacres committed and the fact of having seen "the authors of the May massacres being rewarded instead of hanging them" as the cause of the regicide. The anarchist Armando Borghi remembers how after 1898 in the revolutionary circles, the killing of Umberto I was considered "a useful first step towards a republican revolution".
The intolerance of Umberto and above all of his wife, the Queen Margherita for the protests of the people, shared by many of the military top ranks and by the industrialists, brought to elaborate a project of institutional coup d'etat, which foresaw the dissolution of the Parliament, seen as inactive and infiltrated by the socialists, transferring the power to the king and to the most reactionary politicians.
The authoritarian turn of the end of the century was completed by a law which reduced the electoral body by 847,000 electors, lowering the voters' percentage on the total population of Italy from 9.8% to 6.9% (Feldbauer).
Bresci's attack was not the first assassination attempt against Umberto I: previously Giovanni Passannante, from Salvia di Lucania (province of Potenza), on November 17th, 1878 in Naples and Pietro Acciarito from Artena (province of Rome), on April 22nd, 1897 in Rome, on the Appian way, as the king was heading to Capannelle racecourse tried in vain to stab the king. For Acciarito the trigger of the attack was the indignation for the fact that the king had offered a 24 thousand liras prize to the winning horse, while many Italians, including Acciarito, were in serious financial straits (Centini).
Giuseppe Ciancabilla in Paterson's "l'Aurora" wrote "The mistakes made by Passannante and Acciarito taught us that today that a repeating handgun is more reliable than a dagger!", While the same Umberto I, after the two knife attacks, had foreseen that when the attackers will have left the dagger aside and grab the gun he would be doomed. (Felisatti)
The newspaper Il Messaggero of 18 May 1890 reports a deed demonstrating that Umberto was aware of the danger of a good gun shooter: when he visited a shooting competition he saw that a famous fencing master had obtained an excellent score in the shooting gallery, and he shook his hand, congratulating him and commenting: "much better than a sword!".
Umberto, who ascended to the throne on January 9th, 1878, was known, according to the iconography favorable to him, as "the good king", but the massacres he ordered or endorsed earned him the popular name of "grapeshot gun king".
According to the patriot and minister Silvio Spaventa King Umberto "is unfortunately ignorant: that is to say that he does not have the necessary and adequate culture for his time and degree". Umberto himself said to his son: "remember that it's enough for a king to know how to draw his own signature, read the newspaper and ride a horse" (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 147).
According to his aide-de-camp, lieutenant-colonel Paolo Paolucci delle Roncole, the king had no interest or cultural curiosity and no tendency for arts, he didn't read any book and even writing was painful and tiring to him (Silipo).
The anti-fascist historian Gaetano Salvemini (1873-1957) in Terrorismo e attentati individuali of 1947 wrote: "Umberto was a tyrant in the classic sense of the word, supporting the strangulation of liberties [...] Bresci's memory is surrounded by a halo of sympathy and gratitude in the conscience of many Italians [...] the great majority of the country found that Umberto had not stolen that revolver ball".(Sacchetti).
Francesco Crispi defined Umberto a chump who let himself be guided by false scruples of constitutionalism, the mayor of Rome Alessandro Guiccioli accused him of lack of will and of the clear insightfulness of the high and noble mission that [he] would be entitled to, while the President of the Senate Domenico Farini judged him to be scarcely frank, fickle, often ignoring anything, nor reading the newspapers. Once he had gone to talk about a serious government crisis, he realized that Umberto had fallen asleep, moreover, he didn't think anything else than hunting or women, leaving himself vulnerable to a thousand gossip. (Felisatti)
Umberto was known for his hectic sexual activity, in addition to his wife he had an official mistress, the duchess Litta, née Eugenia Attendolo Bolognini, who was also lover of his son Vittorio Emanuele and of Napoleon III,and who was involved in the financial scandal of the Banca Romana, and acquitted like all the other powerful persons under investigation (Lisanti). Umberto anyway also frequented Rosa Vercellana "la bela Rosin" ("the beautiful Rosie"), who had became official lover of his father at the age of 16. Umberto needed a continuous turnover of women, chosen from photographs, received at the palace and dismissed with an envelope containing money, which calls to mind more recent Italian rulers, as well as the passion for underage girls, for example the fourteen-year-old Cesarina Galdi, a Count's daughter, who he had made pregnant, as she herself reported after the regicide. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 147-155)
Bresci let himself to be arrested soon afterwards the regicide, whitout offering resistance, and declared: "I didn't kill Umberto. I killed the king. I killed a principle." At least eight people competed for the "credit" of having stopped Bresci; immediately after that some of the bystanders tried to lynch him, and the police avoided it happened. The anarchist always showed a calm demeanor, and three days after the attack a newspaper informed: "he always eats cynically". (Galzerano, 2001) Right after the attack the authorities established a kind of cordon sanitaire around Monza and the news about the regicide spread with difficulty. The first journalistic reports displayed that the regicide was a certain Angelo Bressi, then they corrected themselves and provided more details.
The criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), close to socialist ideas, in a text of 1894 had defined Passannante and Acciarito as insane and degenerate, while he classified Bresci as a "criminaloid", with mediocre intelligence, who had suffered the impoverishment of his family of origin. He was driven to crime by fanaticism, though not being part of a plot, incompatible with the indiscipline and the amorphism that Lombroso attributed to the anarchists (Galzerano, 2001, pag 838). Moreover Lombroso, speaking of Bresci, said that there were no signs of pathology or criminal traits (according to the pseudoscience of the time), claiming that for the regicide the urgent cause lies in the very difficult political conditions of our country blaming "the maximum guilt of the ruling classes [which is] not to heal the evils that spoil us but to inexorably strike those who reveal them. A strange remedy indeed, which would be enough by itself to show how deep have we descended. (Zucca)
Lev Tol'stoj so commented the regicide: "Those ones, you always see them in their military uniform bearing at their side the instrument of the murder, the sabre. Murder is a job for them. But if only one of them is murdered, then you'll hear them complain and be indignant".
The French socialist newspaper "L'Aurore", the same that on January 13th, 1898 had hosted the "J'accuse" by Émile Zola, that reopened the Dreyfus affair, published on August 1st a commentary by Albert Goullé that ended with "When a head of state orders the death of twenty, fifty, a hundred men of the people, the murdered are blamed as criminals. When a man of the people becomes an avenger of the murdered, he is the abominable murderer."
The anarchist activist Luigi Galleani defned Bresci as The sparkling archangel of popular revenge and social justice, while Armando Borghi in Errico Malatesta (Milan, 1947) wrote Bresci came to us from abroad armed with three requirements: an iron will, a precision handgun and excellent shooting quality" (Rosada).
The Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti, in his article "Due date" ("Two Dates") published on "Il comunista" of August 17th, 1922 wrote: "The violent death of Umberto was the surfacing, in a tragic and heightened form, of a deep conflict, of a contrast of real forces [ ] that is still up to the history to solve. In the firm hand and in the trustworthy eye of the individualist anarchist almost symbolically the will and the strength of the masses took their shape, angrily raised to protest against the power of the Italian State oppressor, starver, shooter and cop" (Affortunati, pag. 81).
Giuseppe Galzerano in his very complete work on Gaetano Bresci (2001), shows a review of comments published in various countries, after the attack, showing that several Italian who carried out attacks against heads of state were considered as heroes. The examples are Felice Orsini who had carried out an attack against Napoleon III, emperor of France, Guglielmo Oberdan, who had attempted to kill the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph, Agesilao Milano, who tried to assassinate the King of the Two Sicilies Ferdinand II, Antonio Carra, who had stabbed to death the Duke Charles III of Parma. Amilcare Cipriani, in the booklet mentioned above, commented: "I do not understand the reason why the same act, according to the person who commits it, or to whom it is aimed, is considered an act of heroism or a murder." (quoted by Galzerano, 2001, pag. 52)
Among the authorities
who presented their condolences for the death of Umberto was US
President William McKinley, who about
a year later, on September 14th, 1901, died as a result of the
revolver shots that eight days earlier the American anarchist
of Polish origin Leon Czolgosz had
fired to him in Buffalo, inspired by the gesture of Gaetano Bresci,
so much so that a newspaper clipping on Monza attack was found
Bresci was taken to Monza jail where he was interrogated and tortured, as reported by the anarchists, but also by the Socialist MP Filippo Turati, on "Critica sociale", and as can be guessed by various details, such as the blood stains left on the carriage that transferred him from Monza to Milan and as the way he moved limping. During the trial one of the attending journalists wrote "He still bears the markings of beatings on his face" (Petacco). The anarchist always maintained a calm demeanor, apart from the protests for the obligation to wear a straitjacket, motivated by the need to prevent him from committing suicide, which appears as an early building of an alibi, for the purpose of supporting the future sham suicide of Santo Stefano.
family after the attack
In 2020 Andrea Sceresini published on "La Repubblica" unpublished news about what happened to Gaetano Bresci's wife and daughters after the attack in Monza. Sophie Knieland changed her surname into Niel (Mazzone) and, after Gaetano's death, she moved to Cliffside Park, New Jersey, whose mayor in September 1901 ordered her to leave "to prevent any problems". Sophie remarried with trade unionist of German origin Joseph Mang and went to live in Newark suburbs, near New York. In 1912 Sophie and Mang separated and she moved to Chicago, where Muriel was entrusted to the custody of a group of anarchists, while Sophie and Madeline moved to Glacier Park in Montana, where the mother worked as a cook at a cafeteria. In 1913 the family gathered in Seattle, and after a year moved to California, where Sophie worked as a cook and her daughters went to work as cleaning ladies by families, then moved in San Francisco on Monterey Boulevard. Mother and daughters opened a food kiosk in the port area, at first they had problems with the local organized crime, solved thanks to the help of the dockers, later Sophie opened a beauty salon and the daughters founded a female musical group, the "Lorelei Syncopaters" (see picture, Madeline and Muriel are third and fourth from left). Sophie died in San Francisco in 1932 at the age of 67. Madeline married and died in San Francisco in 1974. Muriel married, had three daughters and moved to Fresno, in California, where she died in January 1981, and was buried in the local cemetery with the name of her husband, Mitchell.
During the interrogatories the Carabinieri police tried to compel Bresci to confess he had accessories, what the anarchist never allowed, explaining instead to his jailers the reasons for his deed. Bresci gave answers of an "unrivaled sharpness", irritating the Colonel of the Carabinieri for "the unfortunately convincing way with which he expressed himself." (Galzerano)
After the attack news and imaginary testimonies circulated on the world press about the appearance of Bresci in the most disparate countries, from Budapest to Barcelona, from Bratislava to Geneva, from London to Brussels, from Vienna to Fiume and no less than Buenos Aires.
The famous Italian-American detective Joe Petrosino had also investigated in the libertarian circles of Paterson to discover accessories and instigators of the Monza attack, concluding that the regicide was the result of a plot hatched by a group of Paterson anarchists affiliated with the "Black Hand" (which at the time still had libertarian implications) and that Bresci had been designated by drawing lots with the raffle numbers. (Toscano) During the investigation on McKinley murder, Petrosino interrogated and heavily mistreated Sophie Knieland, Bresci's partner. (Toscano)
During the investigations, in Italy and in the USA, a plethora of people came to light who witnessed, after the attack, they were informed in advance, by numerous and heterogeneous accomplices of Bresci, who often proved to be non-existent on public records. The Socialist newspaper "Avanti!" of August 26th, 1900 commented: "The accessories of the regicide are now more numerous than Xerxes' soldiers: red and black, yellow and blue, have prepared the crime." (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 341)
The upper echelons of State Security, and in particular the Minister of the Interior Giovanni Giolitti, followed with great conviction the lead of a plot managed by the former queen of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Maria Sophie of Bavaria, in exile at the time at Villa Hamilton in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris, whose parlor, in addition to aristocrats and intellectuals, hosted anarchists and socialist and republican revolutionaries, favorably viewed as anti-Savoy. For these acquaintances Maria Sofia was called by Marcel Proust "queen of the anarchists", although she was the sister of Elisabeth of Bavaria, called "Sissi", empress of Austria who was killed in Geneva in 1898 at the age of 61 by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. In addition to suspecting that Maria Sofia had funded and protected Bresci and other alleged conspirators, the Italian secret services, infiltrated among the Italian anarchists in exile, were convinced that a plan was in place to free Gaetano Bresci from his jail, and later from the penitentiary.
A further lawsuit for the murder of Umberto, dedicated to the alleged accomplices of Bresci, despite the wide number of people under investigation, even in a brutal way, failed to go beyond the investigation stage, for the absolute inconsistency of the evidence collected.
Years later, Pietro Acciarito, the failed regicide of 1897, when asked if Bresci had been instigated by someone, replied: "Whatever society cannot take a man and tell him to kill. I say that Bresci acted alone, if he ever had an encouragement, it was from misery." (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 345)
For many years, however, the anarchist Luigi Granotti, from Sagliano Micca (province of Biella), known as "il biondino" (although he was not blond) was pursued as an accomplice of Bresci. Granotti had come to Italy from Paterson two weeks after Bresci, and was with him in the days of the regicide at Monza, which he would have reached by train together with Bresci. Granotti would have searched an accomodation with Breaci in the same boarding house, and as he hadn't find it, he would have stayed at the locanda del Mercato, laying in the same area
Granotti fleed from Italy a few days later, crossing the Alps to Gressoney, and passing through Switzerland. Despite the sentence to life imprisonment in absentia received on November 25th, 1901 it is not at all certain that Granotti took part in the regicide or that he was aware of it in advance. Luigi Granotti was chased for decades, with numerous false sightings all over the world, from Shanghai to Buenos Aires, from London to San Francisco, from Chicago to Singapore, and in any case he never returned to Italy and died in New York in 1949. (link)
The regicide triggered the response of the most reactionary sectors of the country. The city of Prato, birthplace of Bresci and Monza, the unaware scene of the regicide, were hit by a sort of damnatio memoriae, so much so that the Royal Villa of Monza, habitual venue of royal vacations, was practically abandoned.
On the training field of the sporting society "Forti e liberi", in the exact point of the regicide, a memorial chapel was built in the form of a stele, called "Cappella reale espiatoria" ("Royal Expiatory Chapel") inaugurated in 1910, where a memorial stone can be seen in the crypt, placed on the exact spot where Bresci killed Umberto. The headquarters and the training field of the sporting society "Forti e liberi" were transferred and still lie in via Cesare Battisti, few meters away from the original place.
The revenge against Bresci by the reactionaries and the establishment also involved his family: his brother Lorenzo, a shoemaker, was persecuted and imprisoned until he took his own life three years later. The other brother, Angiolino, who had chosen the military career and was an artillery lieutenant, was forced to change surname, acquiring that of his mother, not to lose his job. Many other Italians named Bresci preferred to change surname to avoid reprisals and assaults. His brother-in-law, Augusto Marocci, worker at the Fabbricone, and the Union organizer Giulio Braga, together with other anarchists from Prato, including Luigi and Carlo Masselli, were also arrested, when surprised to tear off the insignia of national mourning.
The Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera of August 9th, 1900, in a correspondence from Paris, even blamed primary education as a factor of incitement to regicide, since it allowed the workers to read, and then to refer to subversive newspapers. The evidence would have been the failed attack to the Shah of Persia Muzaffar al Dîn in Paris, on August 1st, three days after Monza regicide, whose perpetrator, the anarchist François Salson, would have been instigated by reading about the deed of Bresci. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 217) The liberal philosopher Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) mentioned Bresci as "an anarchist who came from America" without even mentioning his name. (Petacco)
The reactionaries also attacked Republicans and Socialists and their clubs, while the forces of law and order not only avoid defending the assaulted people, but instead arrested them and beat them in turn.
For over a year hundreds of trials for justification of a crime were held, for facts that were totally negligible, if not ridiculous, but which often ended with convictions for the defendants, giving moreover the feeling that the Italian people as a whole were far from blaming the regicide and instead Bresci enjoyed a great sympathy and solidarity, especially among the lower classes.
The Catholic Church distinguished itself for an extreme coldness towards the mourning of the royal family and of Italy, with whom there were no diplomatic relations after the conquest of Rome, with the breach of Porta Pia on September 20th, 1870. The Pope Leo XIII, who was ninety years old, refused to allow any religious rites in memory of Umberto. The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano explained with an icy laconicity the hostile attitude of the Catholic Church towards the House of Savoy. Furthermore, several priests were sentenced for justification of the regicide.
The case was prepared for the trial in just one month, on August 17th the Prosecution Section issued the indictment verdict. By decision of President Luigi Gatti, the trial lasted only one day, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM of August 29th 1900, in the Court of Assizes of Milan, in the palace of the Captain of Justice, in Piazza Beccaria, heavily guarded by troops. The court refused the request of the defense to have a postponement of the trial to more serene times. Bresci asked to be defended by Filippo Turati, who, after a talk with him on August 20th, the next day informed him of his refusal, even because he hadn't been practicing for ten years. Turati described the prisoner as pleasant, without abnormal traits, but with "a detached and detemined person, almost glacial, so that he makes his thought impenetrable", but who cared about not looking like an ordinary criminal. The socialist leader, however, judged him to have a very poor intelligence. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 235)
Turati's ideas about the Monza regicide are clearly expressed in an article attributed to him, "La successione", published in "Critica Sociale" of August 1st, 1900: "one of those lunatics, who at all times poured out their impulsive irritation, and that in modern times - due to an ever more attenuating remnant of the psychology generated by bourgeois revolutions - sometimes still mislead themselves that they could modify something essential in the political device, killing those who embody its most superficial and decorative part" (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 445)
Turati recommended to Bresci to entrust his defence to the lawyer Francesco Saverio Merlino, from Naples, who in his youth had been an anarchist, formerly a political agitator in the United States with the task to organize the Italian workers, also in Paterson in november 1892, even if at the time of the trial his sympathies were for the Revolutionary Socialists, although he wasn't involved in political life. In 1895 Merlino, while he was detained, was nminated for the political election in Prato electoral constituency, supported by anarchists and socialists (Affortunati, pag. 59). Merlino was appointed the day before the trial, and asked in vain for a postponement to study the huge amount of papers, and to summon witness for the defence residing in the US, also to ascertain the possible existence of a plot born in Paterson of which Bresci would have been the actual executor. Merlino was flanked by lawyer Mario Martelli, chairman of the Milan Bar Association, who initially was the court-appointed lawyer.
The reporters of the bourgeois newspapers went wild with negative descriptions of Bresci, calling him "unpleasant", "wicked", "discouraged and overcome", "irritable and asymmetric", "repulsive", "viper", "wild beast", "degenerate", "reptile", "abject" and "pervert". Physically he was "rather ugly", according to others "very ugly", with "sunken eyes", "surly look", "evil stare", "big nose", "short and protruding (?!) chin", and even "long nails". Moreover he appeared "bony but not mighty", "skinny", showing "very marked facial features", characterized by "deep pallor of his face", "very weak and trembling voice", "lacking any physical and mental energy", not to conceal the fact that he "displays ferocity and induces repugnance", and that "the repugnance he provokes becomes aversion." (Galzerano, 2001, pp. 270-275) The newspaper Il Correre della Sera of August 31st, 1900 even got angry with Bresci's daughter, Maddalena, "frail and sickly, at eighteen months had not yet got her front tooth." (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 322)
Also during the trial
the public prosecutor, in the person of the locum tenens Attorney
General at the Court of Appeal of Milan Nicola
Ricciuti, tried to substantiate the thesis of an anarchsts'
conspiracy to kill Umberto, which in his opinion was proved by
the fact that the defendant came from Paterson, the location of
a big anarchist colony. Bresci however always maintained he acted
alone and on his own initiative.
Mr. Merlino arrived from Rome without being able to sleep because he had to study on the train the documents which were available, and was followed by plainclothes policemen. During the hearing he was interrupted several times by the court, by the public prosecutor and by the public, that according Naples newspaper "Il Mattino" was made of "journalists, plainclothed cops and carabinieri", and tried to make them all reflect on the fact that the violence of individuals was fueled rather than stifled by the violence and repression of the state, and on the utility of doing justice, rather than doing revenge, in order not to generate further acts of violent rebellion, such as the regicide.
Mr. Martelli in his brief defensive closing statement argued instead that Bresci, although not crazy, was obsessed with the wrong identification of the king with the state, and also asked him to do justice and not revenge.
Bresci was sentenced for the crime of regicide "to the life imprisonment, of which the first seven years in continuous seclusion in cell, to the perpetual disqualification from holding public office, to the legal deprivation, to the deprivation of the testamentary capacity, considering null and void a will which by chance he made before the sentence" (the death penalty had been abolished in Italy in 1889 by Zanardelli's Penal Code).
The article 117 of the same code established: "Any person who commits a deed targeted against life, integrity or freedom of the sacred person of the King is punished with life imprisonment" while the article 12 of the same Code established that "life imprisonment is perpetual. It is served in a special establishment, where the convict remains for the first seven years in continuous cellular confinement, with the obligation to work". It seems that his partner Sophie, when got the news of the condemnation, forwarded a petition to the queen mother, even if this circumstance was denied by the anarchist environments of Paterson.
Bresci refused to lodge an appeal against the judgment to the Court of Appeal; he was visited in jail by lawyer Mr. Caberlotto, a collaborator of Mr. Martelli, and declared that he was only appealing to the forthcoming Revolution. The judgment of conviction was affixed on September 8th, on the corners of Milan.
Bresci's detention and transfer procedures were always kept hidden for fear that his anarchist comrades would try to free him. The convict was first secluded in Milan's jail of San Vittore, then he was boarded in La Spezia on November 30th, 1900. and on January 23rd, 1901, at 7 o'clock he was disembarked by the Italian Royal Navy paddle wheel aviso ship "Messaggero"on Santo Stefano island, in the Pontine Islands archipelago (see my webpage), and at 12 he was taken on responsibility of the register of the penitentiary on the island.
During the sea transfer to Santo Stefano, the crew had order of not speaking with Bresci, but it seems that a sailor, Salvatore Crucullà, during the transfer by rowing boat from the "Messaggero" to the island, asked the anarchist why had he killed the king. Bresci would have replied: "I did it also for you", triggering the laughter of the crew, who did not understand the meaning of the sentence.
The arrival and departure dates are inconsistent with the relatively short distance between La Spezia and Santo Stefano, and this could be explained by a halfway detention, mentioned at the time by the newspapers, in Portoferraio penitentiary, on the Elba island. Bresci was detained in one of the twenty cells of the isolation section called "La Rissa", three meters below sea level, where Bresci, under a window, would have written the sentence: "the grave of the buried alive." The time spent in Portoferraio would have been the delay needed to set up the cell allocated to Bresci in Santo Stefano (Zucca), but according to Petacco the transfer was due to the solidarity of the other prisoners with Bresci, also due to the continuous detention in chains, which wasn't allowed anymore by law.
According to a report published by Naples newspaper "Il Mattino", written by Cavalier G. Di Properzio, who visited Santo Stefano two days after the official death of Bresci, the prisoner in disguise left Milan to reach La Spezia, with a direct train on the evening of January 21st, 1901, escorted by the Director General of Prisons Alessandro Doria and by five Carabinieri. From La Spezia station, always in disguise, and completely shaved, he would have been taken with a public carriage to the Arsenal, where he would have boarded the "Messaggero" towards Santo Stefano, arriving almost two days after.
In Santo Stefano a special cell was purposely modified for Bresci, the General Prison Department sent the plan to cavalier Vito Cecinelli, the prison manager: it was absolutely identical to the one Alfred Dreyfus occuped on Devil's Island since 1895 and which would have still occupied until 1906. In the cell previously had been buried alive Pietro Acciarito, the failed murderer of Umberto I in 1897, before being taken in 1904 to the Asylum for Insane Criminals of Montelupo Fiorentino, where he ended his days in 1943.
The cell was slightly smaller than common ones, and measured 3 x 3 metres: the only furnishings consisted in a wooden bed with a horsehair mattress (which during the day had to be lifted and tied to the wall with big leather belts), a stool fixed to the floor, a wooden washbowl, and the usual bucket. The cell was separated from the others, the cells on the two sides were taken up by the guards, and was placed at the end of a corridor built between the offices and the depots. Even the terrace for the exercise hour was isolated, so that the prisoner was kept away also when his confinement was attenuated. The terrace was the only point where his jailmates could theoretically see Bresci, but his exercise hour coincided with a moment in which his fellow prisoners were locked up: indeed they understood that Bresci had died just because their daily interdiction to go out during that hour ended (Mariani). On the terrace also two sentry-boxes were placed for the two guards who watched him in every moment.
On May 18th, inspector Alessandro Doria reached Santo Stefano, visited the prison, and ordered the director to prevent the prisoner from having available a low stool, since he could sit on the ground and lean his back against the bed, to forbid him to keep a handkerchief and wearing cotton sweaters, as well as buying bars of soap. He was also forbidden to write or receive letters from his partner Sophie. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 799)
Bresci had his feet chained and wore the uniform with a black collar, distinguishing lifers convicted of the most serious crimes, while the other inmates had a yellow collar. His daily meals consisted of a soup without meat and a loaf of bread. In addition he could buy groceries at the shop, but he did so rarely: out of the sixty liras deposited at the administration (sent from America by his wife) he spent less than ten. (Centini)
Even in Santo Stefano Bresci showed a calm behavior, and accepted the visit of the prison chaplain, Father Antonio Fasulo, but only to get some books. He received a copy of the Bible, and one of the Lives of the Fathers, which he did not appreciate, and therefore also required the Cormon and Manni French-Italian vocabulary, who was found open and crinkled in his cell when his dead body was officially discovered. Bresci also had at his disposal the monthly bulletin of the "Rivista di disciplina carceraria" ("Prison Discipline Journal"), conceived for the education of prisoners, containing edifying, moral and patriotic tales, the fourth and last book available in the small penitentiary library. (Zucca)
The registry office of Santo Stefano Royal Penitentiary recorded the death of prisoner "Gaetano Bresci son of the late Gaspero, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the king of Italy at Monza". Gaetano Bresci was thirty-two years old.
The gaoler Antonio Barbieri maintained he had found Gaetano Bresci dead at 3:00 PM on Wednesday May 22nd, 1901, after ten months of imprisonment. At 2:45 PM Barbieri had seen Bresci alive, reading close to the cell window. According to the official version Bresci would have strangled himself with a towel or a handkerchief (according to two versions, both official), hanging to the window bars, dodging the continuous peephole surveillance, while the watchman at 2:50PM had been away for a few minutes for physical needs, and without making any noise, despite having his feet locked in a long chain, fastened to a cell wall, which clinked at the slightest movement of the prisoner. The two guards Barbieri and De Maria were suspended from the service.
The second jailer, Giovanni De Maria, according to the official version was sleeping, and rushed at the call of Barbieri, together with the detainee Leonardo Tamorria, a blacksmith from Partinico (province of Palermo), who was free to go around inside the prison, since he handled general services. From the prison register it appears that the last inspection had been carried out at 9:30AM and the last check of the bars at 1:10PM.
According to the Anarchist journal Rivista Anarchica the first official version, which referred to a towel, was changed, when it was learnt that inmates were not allowed to keep towels in the cell, so they switched to a handkerchief, which anyway had to be large enough to hang oneself. Other versions refer to a tablecloth (nobody knows where it might come from, since Bresci neither had a table in his cell), to a necktie (it is unclear how a prisoner could get such a garment), tied to the towel, or to the livery collar or the trousers of the prison uniform cut into strips and knotted to make a rope. It doesn't seem that these objects have been found in the cell, on the contrary the prison doctor Francesco Russolillo, at the first examination of the corpse noticed that he wore the uniform with white and hazel stripes, and the pants were intact. Therefore there's a strong and grounded suspect that Bresci was murdered, maybe in a date previous to that officially declared.
The French weekly journal Le Petit Journal in a short article on June 9th, 1901 issue attributed the suicide to the desperate conditions of detention in isolation, and to solve the problem of the dodging of surveillance, hypothesizes that the jailers had voluntarily left Bresci to act, for humanitarian reasons, allowing him to put an end to his suffering.
Gaetano Bresci, as usual, had left aside for dinner a part of his daily food ration, that he received in the morning, a soup without meat with vegetables and pasta, and some grey bread, which does not make one think of a person on the point of committing suicide.
The prison doctor, Francesco Russolillo, who reported seeing the corpse of Bresci immediately after it was found, still with the "rope" around his neck, tells the typical framework of the death by strangulation. The anarchist Amilcare Cipriani, in the past detained for eight years in the penitentiary, deemed the hypothesis of suicide completely impossible, both for the continuous surveillance and because no prisoner could have handkerchiefs, towels or any other piece of cloth suitable for making a rope, furthermore lacking a support to which it could be hooked.
Some coincidences, when confirmed, could strengthen the thesis of a state murder: the Director General of Prisons Doria was promoted two months after Bresci's death and would have profited a redoubling of his salary (increasing from 4,500 to 9,500 liras a year). The anarchist prisoner Ezio Taddei, reported the story of an old lifer, according to which Bresci was strangled by an inmate, head-scullion Sanna, who two days after Bresci's death, was transferred to Procida and then freed by the grant of Sovereign Pardon, perhaps as a reward for the homicide. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 855)
The late President of the Italian Republic Sandro Pertini, in a speech of November 19th, 1947 to the Constituent Assembly said: "... I speak for personal experience (...). In jail, Honourable Minister, it happens this: a prisoner is struck; in consequence of the blows the prisoner dies, and then everybody worries, and not only the jailers who stroke the prisoner worry, but also the director, the doctor, the chaplain and all the prison crew do it. And then they make this: they lay the prisoner bare, they hang him to the window's grating and they let him be found hanging this way. The doctor comes and draws up a medical report of suicide. This was the end of Bresci. Bresci has been struck to death, then they hung his corpse to the window's grating of his cell at Santo Stefano, where I have been a year and half".
Ugoberto Alfassio Grimaldi, quoting testimonies of political prisoners, writes of Bresci: "That May 22nd three guards made him the "Santantonio": that is covering somebody with blankets and sheets and then beating him until his death; his corpse had been buried, in a place of which remained no trace in Santo Stefano archives, by two lifers who were sent purposely there from an other jail, and then immediately away; the penitentiary's commander had been promoted and the three jailers had been rewarded".
From the private documents of the former Prime Minister Francesco Crispi, it seems that already on May 18th, four days before the "official" date of the death, a representative of the government was in Santo Stefano, the aforementioned inspector Alessandro Doria. For this visit the prison manager asked the ministry whether should he allow Doria to see Bresci. Furthermore, on May 24th, two days after "official" death, the doctors who performed post-mortem examination found the body in an advanced stage of decomposition. According to the testimony of an ex-jailer, Bresci was killed no less than fifteen days before, on May 7th, so that a journalist who witnessed his burial reported that the body had a strong rotting smell. (Rivista Anarchica; Galzerano, 2001, pag. 843)
The corpse of Bresci underwent post-mortem examination by four medical examiners, including professor Corrado, holder of forensic medicine chair at the University of Naples and doctors Gianturco and De Crecchio. There is no trace left of the detailed report drafted by the doctors. (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 818)
The Italian-American anarchist newspaper L'Aurora of June 8th, 1901 (supplement to No. 34) imagines (or narrates?) that King Vittorio Emanuele III went incognito to Santo Stefano to ask Bresci to account for the murder of his father Umberto, that the anarchist's response had been disdainful, and the prison guards strangled Bresci in his own cell (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 845-848)
Gaetano Bresci shared with other prisoners the fate of being murdered by those who had to safeguard him. Among the others Costantino Quaglieri, murdered in Regina Coeli jail in Rome in 1894 (see my webpage on him), Romeo Frezzi, murdered in San Michele a Ripa jail in Rome in 1897 (see my webpage on him), the young Communist from Calabria Rocco Pugliese, murdered like Bresci in Santo Stefano in 1930 (see my webpage on him), and the anarchic railwayman Giuseppe Pinelli, thrown from a window of Milan central police station on December 16th, 1969, a hundred years and a month after Gaetano Bresci's birth, and never forgotten.
From the jail's register, which described life and death of any prisoner, a page is missing, bearing the number 515, corresponding to Bresci's matriculation number. Even in the Central State Archive in Rome nothing can be found about Bresci. According to Arrigo Petacco (1929-2018), the author of a successful biography of Bresci, even the contents of a file disappeared, which, between the "secret papers" of the Prime Minister Giolitti, included the unofficial documentation on Bresci's death.
Bresci's body was buried on May 26th, 1901 in Santo Stefano cemetary. According to unofficial sources, all his things were thrown along with him in the grave. According to other sources, instead, Bresci's body was thrown in the sea how the Naples' newspaper Il Mattino wished for in an editorial signed "Vagus". (Galzerano, 2001, pag. 837) The journalist and gastronome Luigi Veronelli (1926-2004) engaged himself in the quest of Bresci's grave, and drew a plan of the cemetery's burials, starting from hints he found on the graves, including those of the confinees of the fascist era, which, like the most ancient ones, did not bear indications. In september 1964 Veronelli pinpointed a cross bearing a scroll: "Gaetano Bresci 22 May, 1901" (ParmaDaily, Galzerano, 2001, pag. 821).
Just a relic of the anarchist's imprisonment was left, his prison cap: it was marked with the number 515, and it was kept in the small penitentiary museum together with the cap of another famous anarchist, Pietro Acciarito, who also tried to kill Umberto in 1897. Both caps were lost during a prisoners' riot broken out in Santo Stefano in November 1943.
In the Criminal museum in Rome other objects sequestrated to Bresci after his arrest are kept: the revolver he used to kill king Umberto I, a camera, chemical baths for photographic processing and two suitcases containing personal belongings.
On July 29th of each year, starting from 1901, the anarchists remembered Monza regicide and the figure of Gaetano Bresci, with special issues of newspapers and booklets, produced outside Italy, in areas where communities of Italian emigrants settled, like the United States, Brazil, Argentina, France and Switzerland. The publications, beyond being widespread locally, were also sent or introduced illegally in Italy, addressed to the anarchists of the native land.
Many of the commemorative texts had in common a feeling of disapproval of the Italian people, who had not seized the opportunity of regicide to rebel and overthrow an anti-popular and liberticide regime.
In honour of the anarchist from Prato the christian name of Bresci Thompson (1908-2004) was given, an U.S: painter and sculptor born in Manhattan and then moved to Chelsea.
On July 27th, 1947 the Lombard anarchist federation organized a demonstration in memory of Gaetano Bresci at the Cinema Astra in Monza, in via Manzoni (see the photo of the current modern building which lies there) attended by a thousand people. At the end a plaque was discovered, amidst "a jubilation of anarchist flags", a few tens of meters from the "Expiatory Chapel". The following day the police headquarters in Milan removed and seized the plaque. (link).
In 1971 the film critic and screenwriter Tullio Kezich (1928-2009) published the theatrical work W Bresci: storia italiana in due tempi, ("Hooray for Bresci: Italian history in two acts"), defined by the author as "grotesque psychodrama" which staged the historical events that led to the regicide of Monza, from the rejoicing of the Savoy court and the top military officials for the repression of the Milan riots to the echoes of a possible coup promoted by the same circles of the court and the ruling classes, to the slavishness of the press and of a theatrical company trying to stage the regicide, without upsetting the censorship, at the trial which lasted a day without leaving any chance to the defense. Kezich describes Vittorio Emanuele III as an opportunist who tries not to end up like his father with a wary and less violent policy, in contrast with his mother Margherita, advocate of a reactionary response. Kezich comes to the conclusion that all kings must be killed in people's hearts and minds, eradicating the faith in the principle of authority.
In 2002, on the occasion of the return to Italy of the male members of the Savoia family, after the removal of the ban provided for by the Italian Constitution, in Prato a writing appeared on a wall: "The Savoya are coming back ... Gaetano's comrades too" (Borsini).
On July 29th, 2004, in the 104th anniversary of the regicide, the Turin anarchists covered Umberto's monument up, lying on Superga hill, in Turin, and affixed a plaque in memory of Gaetano Bresci.
In the city of Carrara, heart of Italian anarchism, on May 2nd, 1988 a monument to Bresci was inaugurated, made by the artist Sergio Signori. The work, unfinished for the death of the artist, rises in Turigliano, in the gardens in front of the cemetery, dedicated to Gaetano Bresci, and was made under commission of the anarchist craftsman Ugo Mazzucchelli.
Several actors and musicians have remembered the sacrifice of Gaetano Bresci (see the links at the bottom of the page).
In close proximity of the Royal Expiatory Chapel built in Monza on the exact place of the regicide, two graffiti celebrating Bresci can be seen, one on the access lane and one on the enclosure wall.
Currently it seems that only one road has been dedicated to Gaetano Bresci in Italy, exactly in Prato, his birthplace, not far from Coiano, the hamlet in which his native home lies. The city council of Prato led by the mayor Lohengrin Landini on July 1st, 1976, decided to name a street after Bresci: it seems worthy of mention for reasons related to the Italian history of the early twentieth century and the meaning that in this context assumes the figure of this Prato citizen" and furthermore: "In a historical evaluation, his memory relies on the recognition that the act he performed led to a turning point in Italian politics in the social field, after the bloody and reactionary repressions that had followed the African war and the riots of 1898". The resolution was unanimously voted by the 38 participating councilors (Mazzone). Conversely in Prato, no street has been dedicated to the kings or other members of the House of Savoia (Santin and Riccomini).
On the island of Ventotene, the breakwater that protects the new harbour is covered with murals, among which two represent Gaetano Bresci, one with the sentence: "I only appeal to the forthcoming Revolution" pronounced by the anarchist during the trial, and the the other facing the nearby island of Santo Stefano.
- AFFORTUNATI Alessandro (2015) Fedeli alle libere idee : il movimento anarchico pratese dalle origini alla Resistenza. Zero in condotta, Milano,
- ALFASSIO GRIMALDI Ugoberto (1970) Il re "buono". Feltrinelli, Milan, Italy. p. 468-470.
- ANATRA Bruno (1972) Voce "Bresci Gaetano" In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 14. link
- ANSALDO Giovanni (2010) Gli anarchici della Belle Époque. Le Lettere, Firenze.
- ARUFFO Alessandro (2010) Gli anarchici italiani 1870-1970. Datanews, Roma.
- BENTHAM Jeremy (1787) Panopticon, or the Inspection-house. link
- BORSINI Edoardo (2006) Obiettivo il re buono. Microstoria n- 8 n. 45 (gennaio- febbraio 2006) p 18-19.
- CECCHINI Bianca Maria (2011) Il re, l'assassino. L'Italia dal 1861 al regicidio di Umberto I di Savoia. Sala delle Conferenze della Croce Verde., Pietrasanta, Lucca, Italy link
- CENTINI Massimo (2009) Come gli altruisti divennero terroristi. Gli anarchici secondo Lombroso. Storia in Rete, January 2009: 54-55 link
- CERRITO Gino (1977) Dall'insurrezionalismo alla settimana rossa : per una storia dell'anarchismo in Italia, 1881-1914. Crescita politica, Firenze.
- CIPRIANI Amilcare (1900) Bresci e Savoia : il regicidio. Tipografia della Questione sociale, Paterson, N.J., USA.
- DA PASSANO Mario (2005) Il «delitto di Regina Cli». Diritto e Storia, n.4 - In memoriam - Da Passano link
- DEL CARRIA Renzo (1977) Proletari senza rivoluzione - vol.II (1892-1914). Savelli, Rome, Italy. p.138.
- E.B. (1971) 29 luglio 1900. Rivista anarchica, anno 1 nr. 6 Summer 1971 link
- FASANELLA Giovanni, GRIPPO Antonella (2012) Intrighi d'Italia. Sperling & Kupfer, Milan, Italy, p. 161-187.
- FELDBAUER Sergio (1969) Attentati anarchici dell'ottocento. Mondadori, Milano.
- FELISATTI Massimo (1975) Un delitto della polizia? Morte dellanarchico Romeo Frezzi, Bompiani,Milan, Italy,
- FERRARIS Luigi Vittorio (1968) Lassassinio di Umberto I e gli anarchici di Paterson. Rassegna storica del Risorgimento, LV (1968) p. 47-64.
- FIORELLI Dino (1976) Fermenti popolari e classe dirigente a Prato: dalla caduta di Crispi all'armistizio del 1918. Bechi, Prato, p 27-36.
- FONTANA Carlo (1971) Perché venne inscenato il suicidio di Bresci. (intervista a U. Alfassio Grimaldi). Avanti, 13/03/1971, p. 3.
- GALZERANO Giuseppe (2001) Gaetano Bresci : la vita, l'attentato, il processo e la morte del regicida anarchico. Galzerano editore -Atti e memorie del popolo - Casalvelino Scalo - Salerno, Italy. phone/fax: +39.0974.62028 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Federazione Anarchica Italiana (F.A.I.) http://www.federazioneanarchica.org/
Biblioteca Franco Serantini - collezioni digitali - Gaetano Bresci http://www.bfscollezionidigitali.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/145
Biblioteca Franco Serantini - collezioni digitali - Luigi Granotti http://bfscollezionidigitali.org/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/951
Ministero della Giustizia, Museo Criminologico, Roma http://www.museocriminologico.it/index.php/documenti2/2-non-categorizzato/76-gaetano-bresci
Spunk Library, on-line anarchist library and archive http://www.spunk.org/texts/pubs/ran/sp001769.html
Senato della Repubblica (Italian Senate)- digital library - Avanti! http://avanti.senato.it/avanti/controller.php?page=archivio-pubblicazione
Digital newspaper library of the National Central Library of Rome http://digitale.bnc.roma.sbn.it/tecadigitale/emeroteca/explore
Digital library of the Library of Modern and Contemporary History in Rome http://digiteca.bsmc.it/#
Archivio Storico del Senato della Repubblica - I Senatori d'Italia - Senatori del Regno (1848-1943) http://notes9.senato.it/web/senregno.nsf/SenatoriTutti?OpenPage
Terre Protette - tour operator, Roma http://www.terreprotette.it/tp2/106
Provincia di Prato. Servizio Sistemi informativi - Ufficio SIT - Nome Scheda: Casa del Bresci - Numero scheda: 543 Compilatore: sc / Paola Donatucci link
Parma Daily - 29 luglio 1900: Gaetano Bresci uccide Umberto I di Savoia - 29 luglio 2017 http://www.parmadaily.it/308607/29-luglio-1900-gaetano-bresci-uccide-umberto-savoia/
Wikipedia, page on Gaetano Bresci https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaetano_Bresci
visited but currently not available:
Website www.ventotene.it http://www.ventotene.it/itinerari/carcere.htm
Spartacus Educational, United Kingdom http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbresci.htm
Archive of Metaforum.it, Forum of politics, culture, society http://www.metaforum.it/archivio/2004/index15b6.html?t4428.html
Istoreco (Istituto per la storia della Resistenza e della societá contemporanea in Provincia di Reggio Emilia) http://www.istoreco-re.it/isto/default.asp?id=326&lang=ITA
Marcello Botarelli, photographer http://www.marcellobotarelli.it/santostefano/index.htm
Anarchist Archives http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/
Books on Gaetano Bresci:
Songs and theatre about Gaetano Bresci: