Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Edda Mussolini Ciano – A Marriage in the Spotlight


Edda’s father was a man incapable of being faithful to one woman & she chose a man with similar proclivities for her husband. Edda met Count Gian Galeazzo Ciano on 27th January 1930, on his return from a diplomatic posting in China. She had already met his sister Maria, who introduced the couple. Ciano was the only son of Count Constanzo Ciano, Minister for Communications & a hero of the Great War. A quick worker, Ciano asked Edda to marry him on 1st February 1930[i]. Upon formal request to Mussolini for his daughter’s hand in marriage a bemused Ciano was informed that Edda could not cook.

Edda Mussolini & Galeazzo Ciano were married in San Guiseppe Via Nomentana Church in Rome on 24th April 1930. They spent their honeymoon on Capri, interrupted on the first night by a panic attack – Edda locked herself in the bathroom & had to be talked out by her husband[ii].
On the 1st September Ciano was appointed Consul General in Shanghai & for the next two years the couple lived in China. Their first child Fabrizzio was born on 1st October 1931. He was quickly nicknamed Ciccino by Edda, who, called her husband Gallo[iii] (she had a tendency to give people nicknames). During the 1931 Sino-Japanese conflict many foreigners left Shanghai, but Edda & Galeazzo remained; Edda watching the fighting from the city walls. While in China Edda lost large amounts of money playing poker (not the last time this happened)[iv].
In May 1933 the Ciano’s returned from China, moving in with Count & Countess Ciano. Edda disliked her mother-in-law, calling her ‘the Ape’. Her husband was appointed head of her father’s press office in June. At some point in the year the Ciano's moved to Via Angelo Secchi in Rome into two apartments - one for them and one for children & governess. Raimonda, called Dindina, was born in December 1933. After Dindina’s birth Mussolini paid a rare visit to his daughter’s home to see his granddaughter (he rarely if ever visited anyone including family)[v].
Sometime in 1934 Edda met the Marquis Emilio Pucci, later to become an internationally known designer, on the ski slopes at Cortina d’Ampezzo[vi]. Ciano was known for his liaisons with women & at some point Edda thought about leaving her husband. Following a talk with her father, another womaniser, she changed her mind[vii].  Edda was reproved by her mother-in-law for her indiscretions & she replied characteristically to the effect that Signora Ciano had persuaded herself that Madam de Pompadour & Madam de Maintenon were spotless in character compared with Edda[viii].
The couple’s last child Marzio, nicknamed Mowgli by his mother, was born in December 1937, again followed by a visit from his grandfather. The couple received congratulations from Hitler, Goering, Hess, Goebbels, Crown Prince Umberto, and the Italian Queen.

The press office was made a ministry in June 1935 & Galeazzo Ciano became a minister at the age of 32. In emulation of his father-in-law, whose mannerisms he began imitating, Ciano learned to fly. In 1935, probably not long before war was declared on Ethiopia, Ciano was given command of 15th Bombadier Squadron, stationed at Asmara, although he was not a particularly good pilot & had never been in the military. Mussolini declared that all ministers would be expected to participate in the war he was planning in Ethiopia in an attempt to gain an overseas empire[ix]. Victory in Ethiopia was declared on 5th May 1936 & in the same month Ciano was elevated to become a member of the Fascist General Council.
Prior to the invasion of Ethiopia Edda visited England, with instructions from her father to make sure that she informed any notables of Mussolini’s intention to invade. Ramsay MacDonald attempted to inform Edda of the consequences of such an action, but confirmed that the British would not go to war for Ethiopia. Amongst a crowded social itinerary Edda attended the races at Royal Ascot & met King George V[x].
On the 9th June 1936, after several broad hints from Edda, Mussolini made Ciano Foreign Minister. At the time of her husband’s promotion Edda was on a visit to Germany to see her sister-in-law, now married to Mario Magistrati - a diplomat posted to Berlin. Following the announcement of Ciano’s new job Edda met with Hitler at a tea hosted by Joseph Goebbels followed by a boat trip on the Wannsee. It was during this trip that Edda became intoxicated by the Nazi regime. Upon her return her husband demanded to know whether she had remained faithful to him during her trip[xi].
In October Ciano made his own visit to Germany & met Hitler at Berchtesgarden, being given an autographed copy of Mein Kampf. Unfortunately for Italo-German relations Ciano took an instant dislike to Joachim von Ribbentrop, an influential adviser to Hitler on foreign affairs.
In December 1936 came the abdication of Edward VIII, King of England. There were rumours in Italy that Ciano had had an affair with Wallis Simpson, on his first Shanghai posting, making her pregnant. The subsequent abortion had, allegedly left her sterile[xii].
By1937 Edda & Ciano were spending a lot of time apart; Edda staying at their home in Ponte a Moriano for much of the time, while Galeazzo worked in Rome. Edda was one of the first women in Italy to wear a two piece bathing suit in public. An intensly jealous husband was angry enough to slap her around the face becuase of the exhibition she made of herself[xiii].
 In July 1934 Mussolini thwarted a potential anschluss in Austria, following the assassination of Austrian Prime Minister Dollfuss, a friend of the Mussolini family, by moving Italian troops to the Italian-Austrian border. At the time Frau Dollffuss & the children were in Italy staying near the Mussolini holiday villa at Riccione[xiv]. But by the time of the Anschluss in March 1938, entrapped in Hitler’s web, Mussolini had already indicated to Hitler & his minions that he would not intervene in Austrian affairs again.
It was not until November 1938, after Reichskristallnacht, that Hitler finally persuaded Mussolini to implement a watered down version of the anti-Jewish legislation already in place in Germany. It was probably after this that the Ciano’s purchased a villa at Livorno at a knock down price from the Jewish owner. All of the Mussolini family were ambigious in their response to the legislation: Edda asked Galeazzo to help an ex-boyfriend of hers who was Jewish; Ciano asked for help for a man he had gone to school with; Vittorio & Bruno were worried about school friends, threatening their father with lodgers unless he helped their families emigrate. Mussolini himself assisted the emigration of his Jewish ex-lover Margareta Sarfatti to the States, despite being infuriated by the king’s mention of his compassion for the Jews three times in one meeting with his Prime Minister. Rachele pondered on the fate of Mussolini’s teeth, as the only dentist he allowed near them was Jewish [xv].


Riding high publicly following the ‘successful’ invasion of Albania in the spring, Ciano was cast down by the death of his father, who he idealised, on 26th June 1939. He fell into a depression, which was not helped by the increasingly obvious illness of his sister Maria, who was suffering from anorexia nervosa. On 24th July Edda was on the front cover of Time magazine, described as ‘One of Europe’s most successful intriguers & stringpullers’. She was credited with being the power behind many of Italy’s pro-German moves.
By now Italy was awash in rumours of the state of the Ciano marriage: Galeazzo taking his lovers from the Italian aristocracy; while Edda chose the company of athletic young men[xvi].

[i] My Truth by Edda Mussolini Ciano 1977, Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, Mussolini’s Shadow by Ray Moseley 1999, Yale University Press
[ii] Ibid
[iii] The short version of Galeazzo, gallo also means cock.
[iv] My Truth - Ciano
[v] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, Mussolini: A New Life by Nicholas Farrell, 2004, Phoenix
[vi] They were to become lovers in 1941
[vii] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[viii] Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[ix] Mussolini- Farrell, Mussolini’s Shadow - Moseley
[x] My Truth - Ciano
[xi] Mussolini – Farrell, Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth - Ciano
[xii] Mussolini – Farrell.
[xiii] My Truth – Ciano, Diary 1937-1943 by Galeazzo Ciano 2002, Enigma Books,
[xiv] Hitler 1889-1936 Hubris by Ian Kershaw, 2001 Penguin, Mussolini – Farrell, My Truth – Ciano, The Real Mussolini by Rachele Mussolini 1974, Saxon House
[xv] My Truth – Ciano, Mussolini by RJB Bosworth 2002, Arnold,  The Real Mussolini - Mussolini, Diary - Ciano
[xvi] Mussolini’s Shadow – Moseley, My Truth - Ciano


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