April 20, 2009

2009 NYC Battle of Bitonto Commemoration

Sun. May 31, 2009 (12 p.m. — 4 p.m. weather permitting)
Bill Brown Memorial Playground Bocce Court, Bedford Ave. & Avenue Y, Bklyn.On May 25, 1734 the Spanish forces of Carlos de Bourbon defeated the Austrian Hapsburgs on the field of battle near Bitonto, Puglia. The victory is significant to us because it represents a key moment in the founding of our independent southern nation. After centuries of foreign dominance the Bourbons restored the sovereignty of the ancient Regno delle Due Sicilie.

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters back home, Il Regno will be organizing the first ever Battle of Bitonto celebration in NYC.

The intimate gathering will be an opportunity for members of the diaspora community (and friends) to shoot-the-breeze, play bocce and enjoy some sunshine. A raffle will be held to help raise money for the victims of the earthquake in L'Aquila, Abruzzo. Il Regno remains dedicated to the preservation of our culture and our heritage.

April 17, 2009

Recommended Counter-Revolutionary Reading List

Recommended Counter-Revolutionary Reading List will be periodically updated so please remember to check back.

Philippe Bénéton:
• Critics of the Enlightenment

Louis de Bonald:
• The True and Only Wealth of Nations
• On Divorce


Edmund Burke:
• Reflections on the Revolution in France

Donoso Cortes:
• Readings in Political Theory
• Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism


Charles A. Coulombe:

• The Pope's Legion: The Multinational Fighting Force that Defended the Vatican

Nicolás Gómez-Dávila:
• Scholia to an Implicit Text

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn:
• Menace of the Herd or Procrustes at Large
• Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Times
• Leftism Revisited: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Pol Pot  


Desmond Seward: 

• The Monks of War: The Military Religious Orders
• Italy's Knights of St. George

Thomas Steven Molnar:
• The Counter-Revolution
• Utopia, the Perennial Heresy
• The Decline of the Intellectual
• Authority and Its Enemies
• Politics and the State
• God and the Knowledge of Reality


Plinio Correa de Oliveira:
• Egalitarianism: The Metaphysical Value and Religion of Our Days
• Revolution and Counter-Revolution
• Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites: A Theme Illuminating American Social History

April 11, 2009

Around the Web: Why We Are Neo-Bourbons

HM King Carlo di Borbone
On the cold afternoon of December 27, 1894, in the town of Arco, province of Trento, Francesco II of Bourbon, the last king of the Two Sicilies, died. The Bourbon dynasty no longer governed Southern Italy after a reign of 126 years. One hundred years after the death of King Francesco, nobody remembers the Bourbons anymore except as a negative symbol of the past. Never has history been so maliciously falsified as it has been with this king and with this dynasty. 126 years of prestige and of glory, of art and culture, of theatres and factories, of laws and achievements, of public works and archeological excavations, of order, of security, of riches, and of generosity have all been cancelled from our collective memory.
The Piedmontese, with the self-interested complicity of the English and the French, invaded the peaceful Kingdom of the Two Sicilies which extended from Latium to Sicily over all of Southern Italy. Francesco II, at 24 years age, found himself fighting an unexpected and undesired war against his "Italian brothers." Notwithstanding the betrayal and corruption of many in high places, the Neapolitan army fought valiantly alongside its king and its heroic queen, Maria Sofia, who was barely nineteen. It surrendered after 93 days of siege in the fortress of Gaeta, at dawn on February 14, 1861. Thousands of heroic citizens of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies died on the battlefield. In the same way, thousands of men, women, and children were shot in the campaign against Southern Italy — they were called "bandits" or "brigands", but they were, in fact, the last soldiers and defenders of a history, a tradition, and a culture that would die with them forever.
HM King Ferdinando I
But how were they before this fatal unification of Italy? Certainly everything was not perfect, but it is worth noting that Naples was the capital of a kingdom born seven centuries earlier. Together with London, Paris and Vienna, Naples was an essential point of reference with regards to both political and cultural affairs in Italy and in Europe. Then, suddenly, it became a unimportant province of a faraway and enemy kingdom. It is a fact that Southern Italian reserves held twice the amount of gold and silver than all the other Italian states combined.
It is a fact that Piedmont carried away 80 million ducats cash from our banks (more than $ 1,000,000,000). It is a fact that we had more than 5000 factories (among the great nations in the world). It is a fact that the streets of our beautiful cities were full of tourists that came from every part of the world. It is a fact that the Piedmontese made us pay more than twice the level of taxes we paid before unification. Only after unification, due to widespread hunger, more than five million emigrants left their families and homes and would never again see their native land. In the streets of our cities, we no longer saw tourists. Our factories, sooner or later, were closed and still today we buy, eat, drink, wear, and use only produtcs that come from Nothern Italy. One cannot say today that Southern Italians live well; the average income of a Nothern Italian is twice that of a Southerner; the ten poorest cities in Italy are all in the South. With unemployment, poor services, government crisis, and the collapse of a flawed system, a rosy future for our children is highly unlikely. Still, from the elementary school texts to those used by college students, we hear a tale much different than the truth. In 140 years, they have made us ashamed of being Southerners. They have said that our dialects were "vulgar," that our traditions were uncivilized, that being a "Southerner" or a "Bourbon" meant to be backward, nostalgic, ignorant, or uncivil. We have begun, as Tacitus wrote two thousand years ago, to "admire their way of life, of dress or of speech, forgetting our own and thinking that their's was civilization when it was only a ploy to dominate us."
HM King Francesco I
Until 1860, the citizens of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were respected and esteemed in all the world beacuse they were citizens of an ancient and prestigious kingdom — the kingdom of the Normans, the Swabians, the Anjous, and the Aragons. We were respected and esteemed because we were subjects of a king that belonged to the Bourbon dynasty — an ancient dynasty but one capable of governing with wisdom and love. Upon all of this is the unbearable weight of the destruction of our historical consciousness, of our culture, of our traditions, and of our identity — the pain of the destruction of our white flags with gold fleurs-de-lis, our national anthem, and of all the symbols that were respected by the ancient and glorious Neapolitan nation. The Bourbons showed all the pride and dignity of being Southerners until the very end, when, on the earthworks of Gaeta, they behaved as heroes and fought night and day beneath the violent and incessant bombardment of the Piedmontese invaders. They wanted to defend, right until the end, 126 years of glorious and splendid history — 126 years of Bourbon civilization.
Francesco II left Naples amidst tears and embraces to avoid a massacre of his people — a people he knew so well, whose language was his own. Many people got rich with the unification of Italy, but not the Bourbons. Francesco II —little Francesco or "Franceschiello" as he was affectionately called — left his kingdom without taking with him one dime of his own money. The Italian government never gave back that which belonged to his family, and even today has never done so. Francesco II never returned to Naples. He died at age 58 in a hotel room in Arco di Trento comforted only by his great faith in God and by a profoundly Christian sense of acceptance, but without ever forgetting, even in the last days of his life, the country of his father and of his grandfather — his own native land. Only since 1984 does he lie next to his wife and his tiny daughter Maria Cristina in the Bourbon chapel of the Church of Santa Chiara and few are those who remember him — he who was a symbol of a "risorgimento" that could have been different; a symbol guilty only of having been on our side, among the defeated.
HM King Ferdinando II
Why then be a Bourbon today? Because the time has finally come to understand who we were and who we can be. The time has come to begin to uncover our lost roots and to give to our children the roots they never knew — to give to them at least, a sense of pride in being Southern Italian. To be a Bourbon means to have understood history. To be a Neo-Bourbon means to have understood history with the desire and drive to construct a new history on the base of the old for all the people of Southern Italy. Certainly the Bourbon period was not the "Golden Age" and one cannot say we would have entered into a "Golden Age" if the Bourbons had continued to reign, but no one can deny that, during that cold winter of 144 years ago, the people of Southern Italy ceased to be a People. 144 years ago, Southern Italy ceased to be a nation. The historical memory and consciousness, whether it be Greek or Latin, Norman or Swabian, Anjou or Aragonese, began to be extinguished on the battlements of Gaeta.
Some may call us "nostalgic", but how can one not be when one walks through the streets of our run-down and degraded cities or passes before our ancient buildings, churches, and monuments, now lost or forgotten? Yes, we are nostalgic and proud of being such, only that our looking back serves a purpose. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to understand what are the real causes of our current problems in Southern Italy and how we can find the road toward a better future. The system and the ideology that have governed our politics and our culture for more than a century have demonstrated that they are based on a deliberate lie. Southern politicians and intellectuals over the last century, closed off in isolation from the world around them, soiled the memory of the House of Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, but also demonstrated their incapability of representing or loving their own South.
HM King Francesco II
Honesty, dignity, loyalty, courage, religious faith, wisdom, respect for history, love of art, affection for the land and the people of the Two Sicilies — these were the fundamental characteristics of all the Bourbon kings of Naples. Fortified by these examples and by these symbols, by new ideas and new values, we can and must liberate ourselves from the systems and ideologies that are already collapsing into ruins and are responsible for having destroyed the past and the present of an entire people and of putting their future in jeopardy.
Let us reconstruct our historical memory — reconstruct our pride in being Southern Italian — and walk together on the long road towards the salvation of our ancient nation and of our ancient dignity.
"Why We Are Neo-Bourbons" was reprinted from Movimento Neoborbonico – Associazione Culturale Neoborbonica: L'Orgoglio di essere meridionali. (www.neoborbonici.it/portal)

Around the Web: National Anthem of the Regno delle Due Sicilie



Ritornati dal passato
(Neapolitan lyrics)

Dio ti salvi, cara patria
che ti distendi in questo antico mare d'eroi,
millenaria culla del pensiero
che nacque in Grecia
e in questa terra rifiorí.
Cancellata dalla Storia,
le tue bandiere vengono rialzate da noi.
Sulle sacre torri di Gaeta
scriviamo ancora la parola: Dignità.
Soldato del Volturno
che cadesti qui,
nessuno per cent'anni
il none tuo scolpí.
Dai figli che visti non hai
l'onore tu riavrai.
Ritornati dal passato,
chi in noi crederà stavolta vincerà.
Va avanti, tamburino,
suona come allor:
assente la fortuna
non mancò il valor.
Il Fato che un dí ci tradí
adesso ci riuní.
Ritornati dal passato,
chi in noi crederà
stavolta vincerà.

Musica di Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816)
Testo di Riccardo Pazzaglia


Back from the past
(English translation)

Let God save you, dear homeland
that stretches out in this ancient sea of heroes,
cradle of thought
that, born in Greece,
in this land flourished anew.
Erased from history,
we are once again flying your flags.
On the sacred towers of Gaeta
we write again the word: Dignity.
Soldier of the Volturno,
you that fell here,
no one for a hundred years
has engraved your name.
The children you never knew
will return honour to you.
Back from the past,
those who believe in us this time will win.
Go ahead, drummer,
beat like you once did:
without luck
but not without courage.
Fate that betrayed us
now reunites us.
Back from the past
those who believe in us
this time will win.

Music by Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816)
Lyrics by Riccardo Pazzaglia


"Ritornati dal passato" was reprinted from Movimento Neoborbonico - Associazione Culturale Neoborbonica: L'Orgoglio di essere meridionali. (www.neoborbonici.it/portal)

April 7, 2009

Running with the Devil: The Biography of “Fra Diavolo,” Michele Pezza

Michele Pezza
By Niccolò Graffio
“The free man is a warrior. He tramples ruthlessly upon that contemptible kind of comfort that grocers, Christians, cows, women, Englishmen and other democrats worship.” – F.W. Nietzsche: The Twilight of the Idols, 1889.
Though Nietzsche obviously meant it philosophically in the context he wrote it, he could very well have had Michele Pezza in mind when he penned that quote. More than once in his short life on this earth, Pezza eschewed the creature comforts many of us today take for granted to “trample ruthlessly” upon those who he felt threatened his freedoms. It has been pointed out often enough “the winners write the history books”, and Pezza ultimately was not on the winning side. Thus, much of what we know about him comes from the pen of his enemies. The truth, sadly, depends on who you ask.

To some (like the French) he was a murderous brigand; to his fellow Campanians, on the other hand, his memory is enshrined as a folk hero. To many students of history he is remembered (as one author put it) “an inspirational practicioner [sic] of popular insurrection.” Since genuine objectivity is often lacking in articles of this nature, my purpose in writing this is to try to sift through the propaganda surrounding him in order to paint a clearer picture of this admittedly fascinating individual.

The controversies surrounding Pezza began with his birth. He was born on April 7th, 1771 in the town of Itri, in the Kingdom of Naples. According to many sources, he was “born of low parentage”. In light of modern scholarship, however, this hardly seems accurate, and was probably due to French attempts at denigrating the memory of a man who was instrumental in thwarting their attempted hegemonies on the Italian peninsula.

Pezza’s family owned some olive groves and was known to be active in the wool trade. He is known to have learned how to read and write, at a time when illiteracy was typical. All this strongly hints at some wealth in his family. Aside from this, nothing about his early life is known with certainty.

His nickname, “Fra Diavolo” (“Brother Devil”), was apparently bestowed upon him in his childhood. According to most sources: during a solemn religious occasion, Pezza, dressed in clerical robes, displayed such rambunctiousness that someone gave him the moniker, which stuck.

Pezza’s first run-in with the law occurred when, as a young man, he wound up getting into a fight with two other men over the affections of a local lass. Here the details are murky, obfuscated by the passage of time and contradictory recollections. Sympathetic sources claim the two had planned to “rough up” Pezza to get him out of the picture. Whatever the truth, Pezza, known to possess a bad temper and a strong physique, wound up killing both men.

Facing certain incarceration, Pezza fled to the hills and took up life as a brigand, an occupation that apparently suited him well. Eventually captured, he was tried for the two killings and convicted of manslaughter. Instead of being imprisoned, however, he was “allowed” to join the army. His first encounter with the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse came when he took part in the Neapolitan army’s disastrous attempt to liberate the Papal States from the French, who had invaded them and set up two puppet regimes in their territories: the Cisalpine and Roman Republics.

The French Army Entering Naples Under the Command of General Championnet by Jean Jacques Francois Taurel
The French and their Polish cohorts easily defeated the vastly outmanned and outgunned Neapolitans. Then, turning the tables, invaded the Kingdom of Naples itself, capturing the capital city of Naples on January 22nd, 1799 and proclaiming another puppet regime, the so-called “Parthenopean Republic”. Though the expedition ended in disaster, Pezza distinguished himself, first by ambushing the enemy, then by leading retreating troops out of harm’s way.

The event that probably pushed him “over the edge” and forever cemented his dark reputation came on December 30th, 1798, when French & Polish forces captured his hometown of Itri. They then gave themselves over to plundering and reprisal killings of the locals, which culminated on January 14th, 1799 when, to avenge the killings of two French soldiers by partisans, they robbed, raped and finally killed dozens of townspeople, including Pezza’s own father!

Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo
At this time the Neapolitan government-in-exile, de facto led by Queen Maria Carolina, the wife of King Ferdinand IV of Naples (and sister of Marie Antoinette), set up shop on the island of Sicily and began making plans for retaking the territories of the lost kingdom. Towards this end the Queen appointed Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo to organize a resistance movement. Ruffo sent out word to the “briganti” in Southern Italy to answer the clarion call to battle (and obtain pardons for past offenses in the process).

Pezza was one of the first to answer. Well-received in Sicily by the King and Queen, he was made a captain in the Bourbon army and dispatched north where he landed near Gaeta with a force of 400 men. Shortly afterwards (February 9th, 1799 to be exact) Ruffo landed in Calabria with a force of soldiers and volunteers said to have numbered 5,000. Soon its ranks swelled into a motley horde of soldiers, brigands, clerics, nobles, peasants, even women and children! Dubbed “The Christian Army of the Holy Faith”, what it lacked in discipline it more than made up for in tenacity, ferocity and a fervor in battle not seen since the days of the old Norse berserkers.

Pezza’s band likewise quickly grew in size and strength till it numbered around 4,000, so great apparently was the Southern Italian love for the Little Corporal’s brand of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Pezza’s force soon joined up with Ruffo’s, with Pezza serving as a subordinate commander.

The whole theme of this campaign seems to have been each side trying its best to outdo the other in terms of atrocities committed. The French and Polish forces engaged in reprisal killings of civilians (when they weren’t raping and looting). Ruffo’s forces engaged in atrocities against the enemy, and anyone suspected of collaboration. Pezza on the other hand, unfettered by the rules of war, indulged the bloodlust of his troops and his own desire for vengeance against the French (who after all, did murder his father and his paesani).
Making numerous raids on French outposts, he regularly tortured and killed captured French and Polish soldiers (including a French general!). He also terrorized locals suspected of collaboration. Soon the French paid “Fra Diavolo” the highest compliment: they put a hefty price on his head. Cardinal Ruffo, on the other hand, grew so concerned over Pezza’s behavior he forbade his force from entering heavily populated areas for fear of the slaughter they might leave behind.
The Christian Army of the Holy Faith
The Parthenopean Republic, which never enjoyed popular support, finally collapsed on June 19th, 1799 with the retaking of the city of Naples. Encouraged by both Queen Maria Carolina and her British ally Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, Pezza and his men entered the city, exacting a brutal retribution against the erstwhile republic’s Jacobin supporters. By late September Royal forces had largely driven the French from the kingdom, and shortly afterwards liberated the city of Rome, itself. Modern historians put the death toll of the insurrection (among Neapolitans) as high as 60,000.

For his services, Pezza was knighted the Duke of Cassero by the King and Queen, made a colonel in the Royal Army and given an annual pension of 2,500 ducats. The Queen reportedly even gave him a lock of her hair! Pezza then settled down near Itri with his new bride, Fortunata Rachele Di Franco, to the quiet life of a nouveau arrive. Over the next five years they produced two sons between them. By all accounts it seemed Pezza would simply rest on his laurels and eventually write his memoirs, but far to the north a would-be French Caesar had other plans.

Napoleon Bonaparte never accepted his defeat in Italy. On December 2nd, 1804 he had himself crowned Emperor of France at Notre Dame de Paris. On May 2nd, 1805 at Milan Cathedral he had himself crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of Lombardy. He then decided to put his brother Joseph on the throne of the Kingdom of Peninsular Sicily (Naples). In January of 1806 the French returned to Naples and this time they came loaded for bear! Over 32,000 French troops poured into the kingdom and on February 14th Naples fell to them, with the King and Queen once again being forced to seek refuge on the island of Sicily.
Fra Diavolo was quickly recalled to duty and ordered to organize a resistance, but the French assault was so great he was forced to fall back, eventually to join his sovereigns in Sicily. He gathered more forces and returned with the British to reinforce Gaeta. En route he befriended the British Admiral Sir Sydney Smith, who was one of Napoleon’s greatest foes. Smith saw in Pezza a kindred spirit, as well as someone who would be ideal to sow chaos among French forces.

If the behavior of the French in the Neapolitan Insurrection was bad, during the Calabrian War it was appalling! Reprisal killings now consisted of slaughtering entire villages of peasants without a single survivor! Going tit-for-tat, guerillas murdered French POWs en masse. Unlike the previous campaign, however, Pezza spared the lives of many if not most of his French captives, preferring to ransom them instead. There is even an unsubstantiated story of him showing courtesy to a group of captured French ladies. Why the change of heart? No one really knows. Perhaps his years living as a nobleman and family man finally civilized him.

"Fra Diavolo"
In any event, Pezza would not be as lucky this time around. The French were desperate to rid themselves once and for all of Fra Diavolo, and a huge bounty was placed on his head. Betrayed to his enemies at Baronissi on November 1st, 1806, he was captured and led back to Naples under heavy guard. Put on trial as a brigand, he indignantly pointed out to the tribunal he held the rank of colonel in the Royal Army of Naples and demanded(!) to be treated as a prisoner of war. The tribunal ignored this and sentenced him to hang as a common criminal. Admiral Smith desperately tried to trade a number of French prisoners for him, as did Queen Maria Carolina. It has been reported that even his nemesis, Colonel Joseph Hugo (father of Victor Hugo), appealed for clemency; all to no avail. Emperor Napoleon I wanted him dead. On November 11th, 1806 Michele Pezza, Duke of Cassero, was hanged in the public square of Naples. His last words were reportedly: “It pains me that I am condemned as a bandit and not a soldier.”

It would be easy for many to simply dismiss Pezza’s life and behavior in wartime as that of a barbarian, if not a psychopath. That would be doing this man and history a great disservice. His behavior should be understood in the context of the times (and the place) he lived in. As mentioned earlier, the behavior of French forces in the region could hardly be considered “chivalrous”, and in the light of objective research, by even the standards of the times was downright barbarous! Napoleon’s forces in the Neapolitan Insurrection apparently failed to grasp the wisdom of that ancient caveat about war: “Brutality invites brutality.” It should therefore be noted the Neapolitans and Calabrians were fighting off vicious invaders (who came in the name of a megalomaniac) with the only means available to them.

Out of all this chaos came Pezza. Intelligent, resourceful, patriotic, fearless, stern, warm, ferocious, adaptable, loyal and utterly ruthless! He was an example of how disparate qualities can exist in one man. His skills in battle, plus his later maturity as a soldier and human being, earned him the admiration of allies and the begrudging respect of enemies. Even later French historians lamented his hanging as an unjust act.* The campaigns he waged against the French were a lot more similar to today’s guerilla wars than many would like to admit. His impact on history is undeniable. Whatever your opinion of him, he is a historical figure worthy of note.

*- “Michele Pezza underwent the death reserved for highwaymen. Generals Hugo, Scribe and Dumas have made him unjustly into a bandit. The impartial historian can only see in this man a brave officer who although unfortunate in the course of his last campaign, did not deserve the sad fate inflicted upon him by a special tribunal.” – Edouard Gachot: Historie Militaire de Massena, pg. 240, 1911.

Further reading: John A. Davis: Naples and Napoleon: Southern Italy and the European Revolutions, 1780-1860.

April 6, 2009

Please Help the Earthquake Victims in Abruzzo

CONTACT: Joe Carella
Joseph J. Carella Associates Inc.
Public Relations—212-262-8800 ext 303

ITALIAN AMERICAN MUSEUM TO ACCEPT DONATIONS FOR EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS

NEW YORK, April 6—The Italian American Museum announced today that it will begin accepting monetary donations to assist the victims of the earthquake in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Checks should be made out to “IAM EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND 2009.” Checks can be dropped off or mailed to the Museum, located at 155 Mulberry St., New York, NY 10013. The Museum is on the corner of Mulberry and Grand Sts. in Little Italy. Donations can also be made by credit card by calling the Museum at 212-965-9000. Museum president Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa is requesting monetary donations only. Prospective donors are advised not to bring food, clothing or other items at this time, as there is no mechanism in place for delivery.

www.italianamericanmuseum.org