Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

High Life

Article excerpt

At ten minutes past four on the afternoon of 28 April 1945, a plumber by the name of Moretti shot and killed a prematurely aged man and a youngish woman, who was not wearing any underwear, in front of the Villa Belmonte, near Lake Como. Next to Moretti, who was later tried for theft and other misdeeds, was one Colonel Valerio, whose submachine-gun had jammed while trying to shoot the defenceless couple.

Millions of words have been written about the last moments of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, but until now not a single writer - not even the definitive biographer of the Duce, Nicholas Farrell - has managed to discover correctly Benito's last words to Clara just before he was cut down by the cowardly communist assassin. This is a Spectator exclusive, Mussolini's very last words - alas, words that I am not at liberty to reveal how I came to discover. (A hint.

The Churchill family. ) Here they are verbatim but translated by me: 'What shit (merda) this Honours Forfeiture Committee is. Can you imagine, the shitty (merda) British have stripped me of my knighthood.'

As everyone knows, Valerio left the corpses of the assassinated couple lying on the road, to be later transported to Piazzale Loreto, in Milan, to be hanged upside-down from the girders of the roof above a petrol station. The cheering mob even had the courtesy to tie a rope to la Petacci's skirt to hide her nakedness. But no one until now has ever managed to find out what the Duce was so depressed about on that horribly rainy day when he was shot like a mad dog. The forfeiture of his knighthood by faceless British mandarins had haunted him throughout the war and left him a broken man. Well, now we know. Musso's knighthood had been awarded to him in 1923 and rescinded in 1940. The Duce stayed angry and depressed thinking about it day and night, which at times made him impotent. I hate to think what that poor Fred the Shred is going through.

As irony would have it, exactly the same thing happened to Nicolae Ceausescu on his last night on earth. Ceausescu had his knighthood revoked by the faceless British committee the night before his execution by firing squad in 1989. The Romanian dictator wanted to have one last you-know-what with his wife - who was also shot in the brave tradition of Romania and Italy - but both were too upset over the loss of the British honour to perform, no matter how hard they tried. Their guards were visibly embarrassed. The impotent strongman was still trying when they were dragged out and shot at dawn. …

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