Milan, Italy · October 27, 1922

On this date in 1922 in Italy, riots instigated by Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party (Partito Nazion­ale Fas­cista) erupted in sev­er­al Ital­ian towns. The Fas­cists called on the govern­ment to resign. The next day four columns of Mus­so­lini’s para­military Black­shirts (Camicie nere, or squadristi) began a march from the North­ern Italian city of Milan to Rome, Italy’s capital. Con­sisting of nation­alist intel­lec­tuals, former army officers, and dis­gruntled former sol­diers, the Black­shirts may have num­bered 200,000 by the time of Mus­so­lini’s March on Rome. (In Ger­many, Adolf Hitler adopted this model for his “Storm Troopers” in the Nazi Party’s Sturm­ab­teilung, who were issued brown shirts and were col­lo­quially known as “Brown­shirts.”) Italy’s King Victor Em­man­uel III refused the govern­ment’s request to declare mar­tial law; in­stead, he invited Mus­so­lini to form a new govern­ment and sent a special train to bring the marchers to the capital. As both prime min­is­ter and foreign min­is­ter, Mus­so­lini headed a govern­ment con­sisting of Cath­o­lics, Social Demo­crats, Liberals, and four mem­bers of his Fas­cist Party. In the 1924 gen­eral elec­tion, Mus­so­lini gar­nered the support of 65 per­cent of Ital­ian voters, but his im­pres­sive sup­port was based on a com­bi­na­tion of bluff, vio­lence, and intim­i­da­tion. In 1926 he dis­solved Par­lia­ment and estab­lished an author­i­tarian dic­ta­tor­ship that entered into a mili­tary pact with Ger­many and Japan (the Tri­par­tite Pact), which dragged Italy into World War II. Mussolini remained at the helm of state until the long-dor­mant Grand Coun­cil of Fascism deposed him on the night of July 24–25, 1943. This was just days after the start of Opera­tion Husky, the Allies’ am­phib­i­ous and air­borne in­va­sion of Sicily that opened the way to the Allied in­va­sion of the Ital­ian main­land. King Victor Em­manuel, who had allowed Mus­so­lini to “man­age” his king­dom for 21 years, ordered the Cara­bi­nieri to arrest him on the even­ing of July 25, 1943. To head his new govern­ment, the king appointed Marshal Pietro Ba­doglio, former Supreme Chief of the Ital­ian Gen­eral Staff. On Septem­ber 3, 1943, a week before the Allies’ in­va­sion of the main­land, Ba­doglio entered into a secret armis­tice with the Allies, and the next month, on Octo­ber 13, steered his govern­ment into war with Italy’s erstwhile ally, Hitler’s Germany.

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Benito Mussolini and His Fascist Power Grab, Italy in the 1920s

Mussolini speaking to Fascist Party Blackshirts, Naples, October 24, 1922Fascists approaching Rome, October 28, 1922

Left: Three days before riots broke out in Milan, Musso­lini (middle, with sash across chest) addressed a large gathering of Fas­cist Party Black­shirts, the Volun­tary Militia of National Security (MVSN), in Naples, October 24, 1922.

Right: Fascist marchers, who numbered less than 30,000, approached Rome on October 28, 1922.

Dapper Mussolini, October 28, 1922Mussolini & Co. at head of March on Rome, October 28, 1922

Above: A dapper but stern-looking Mussolini during the March on Rome, Octo­ber 28, 1922, flanked by three of his quadrium­viri (princi­pal advisors): Emilio De Bono (on Musso­lini’s right), Italo Balbo (Musso­lini’s left), and Cesare Maria De Vecchi (with riding crop). De Bono became Minis­ter of Colonies; Balbo, former Air Marshal and Musso­lini’s “heir appar­ent,” became Gover­nor Gene­ral of Libya in 1933; and De Vecchi became Gover­nor Gene­ral of Ital­ian Somali­land (1923–1928). Balbo was killed by friendly fire when his plane was shot down over Tobruk, Libya, on June 28, 1940, by Italian anti-aircraft guns.

Fascists assemble at royal palace during March on Rome Official greeting between king and Mussolini, November 4, 1928

Left: Fascists parade in front of the Quirinal Palace, the offi­cial resi­dence of King Victor Em­man­uel III. The monarchy was abol­ished in 1946 and the palace became the offi­cial resi­dence and workplace for the Presidents of the Italian Republic.

Right: A photo published in a newspaper shows King Victor Em­man­uel offi­cially greeting Musso­lini on Novem­ber 4, 1922, several days following the Fascists’ March on Rome.

Silent Film Showing Mussolini and His Blackshirts of the National Fascist Party Marching on Rome, October 1922