Gendarmes and the State in Nineteenth-Century Europe

By Clive Emsley | Go to book overview

II
VARIATIONS: CARABINIERI

In Italy the Piedmontese Carabinieri was transformed into the Italian Carabinieri as the peninsula was itself transformed into a united nation state. For most of the first thirty years of its existence the Piedmontese corps was principally concerned with the routine tasks of day-to-day patrolling to maintain the king's peace. Like the French and the German Gendarmeries, it made the same division of its service into ordinary (funzioni abituali ed ordinarie) and extraordinary (servizio straordinario) duties. Following the successes of the Napoleonic Gendarmerie, clashes with bandits in the mainland part of the kingdom were never particularly frequent and increasingly declined. Nevertheless, between February 1828 and June 1829 the bandit Domenico Adriano left at least four Carabinieri dead around Cuneo and Alessandria, before being forced to surrender following the siege of a village church in which he was holding the local priest hostage.1 On the island of Sardinia banditry continued to be a serious threat throughout the century.

Dealing with bandits was a traditional problem; dealing with ideas could be considerably more difficult, especially when some members of the Carabinieri themselves were infected with the liberal aspirations fostered by the French Revolution and Napoleon. While Victor Emanuel I had attempted to turn the clock back there was pressure for reform from members of the aristocracy as well as from among men of property and of the professions; representatives of all of these groups mixed in the liberal secret societies, in the Carbonari, and the Freemasons. The attempt to establish a constitution and to declare a Kingdom of Italy which flared in Piedmont in March 1821 began among the military-- including some Carabinieri--and professional men in Alessandria, and spread rapidly to Turin. Charles Albert, second in line to the throne and apparently sympathetic to the rebels, was proclaimed regent on the abdication of Victor Emanuel. But Charles Albert's behaviour was equivocal, and after a few days he left the capital with a Carabinieri escort and

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1
AMSC Morto in Servizio, schedi 40 ( Michele Gastant), 41 ( Tommaso Camisass), 45 ( Pietro Meinardi), and 46 ( Francesco Bourlot).

-191-

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