Many people have never heard the story of King Umberto, the King of Italy in 1878 until his death in 1900. From the time he was crowned and beyond, he increasingly became more and more authoritarian and began to suppress radical elements that he was observing in Italy’s society. He would suppress members of anarchist movements the most.
On this day, July 29th, in 1900, King Umberto was shot and assassinated by an Italian American named Gaetano Bresci. Bresci was born in Italy, but resided in America before he decided to make a return to Italy to kill the King.
Bresci was looking for a better life in America, where he settled in the 1890’s with his family in New Jersey. He began working in a weaving mill while also taking part in Italian American radicalism that was becoming more and more popular in the city. In fact, he ended up co-founding an anarchist newspaper called La Questione Sociale. He would begin to pour in time and money into this newspaper, which were two things he didn’t have a lot of. However, it led to him being regarded as a committed and devoted anarchist and read with horror as he learned of the terrible things happening in his home country of Italy.
It was a tough year for Italians, as far as food goes. Crops weren’t doing very well and the peasants were starting to starve with no help from the government. To petition, the peasants actually made a march to Milan, where the King was, in hopes of relief. However, King Umberto didn’t seem to care. He ended up demanding the peasants disperse and when they wouldn’t, he forced the army to push them out of Milan. He did this violently, by firing cannons and firearms into the crowd of peasants and killing hundreds of them. Happy about his orders, the King didn’t know he was only writing a death wish to come at the hands of Bresci.
In 1900, Bresci took money from his newspaper and didn’t tell anyone why. He used the money to travel to Italy in hopes of getting close enough to the King, who was scheduled to make a visit to Milan. On this day, King Umberto is shot by Bresci three times. After the assassination, Bresci was arrested, tried, found guilty of murder and was then sentenced to life of hard labor. He was stationed at Santo Stefano Prison on Ventotene Island.
Bresci wouldn’t last long in prison. Maybe it was planned, or maybe it was something he did just out of the random. However, on May 22, 1901, Bresci was found in his cell dead. It was reported that he was most likely a victim of suicide.
Although convicted of murdering the King, Bresci was only doing what he thought was right. He wasn’t happy about how the King was treating the peasants he was supposed to be protecting. So, Bresci took matters into his own hands. Safe to say, justice was served that day.
Contributor & Chief Coffee Maker