NEW from 11 February 1929: Draft of a speech by Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi, as Governor of Rome, announcing the Lateran Accords

Commemorative medal for 1929 Lateran Treaty by Attilio Silvio Motti. Reverse shows Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and Benito Mussolini. Image: Numismatica Ranieri Asta 14 Lot 123 9 Nov 2019

An illustrated essay by Madeleine Dreiband (Tulane ’23)

It was a Monday afternoon—11 February 1929—and raining on Rome’s Campidoglio when the city’s Governor, Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi, appeared at the balustrade of the ornamental staircase of the Palazzo Senatorio to make a startling announcement. 

At 1200pm that day, with no public notice, Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini and Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, then serving as Camerlengo (“chief officer”) and Secretary of State under Pope Pius XI, had signed in the Lateran Palace a treaty that solved the decades-long “Roman Question” between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy See. For the first time since the Pope became a “prisoner of the Vatican” on 20 September 1870, the Holy See now recognized Italy’s statehood with Rome as its capital. And Italy granted to the Holy See its own territory, over which it confirmed the sovereignty of the Pope.

Palazzo Senatorio; Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s 11 February speech will been delivered from the top of the staircase at center. Image: Google Arts & Culture (Touring Club Italiano partner site)

The Governor’s speech that presented the long-awaited, historic but still surprising Lateran Accords to the people of Rome was a short one, emphasizing the spirit of the settlement rather than the details. While announcing the momentous treaty, Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s speech lavishly praised the accomplishments and power of Italy’s Fascist government. It was published the next day in Italy’s national newspapers, and a few weeks later was reprinted in the February 1929 issue of the Governatorato’s own magazine, Capitolium

Detail from Capitolium 5.2 (February 1929) p. 57, with text of Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s 11 February 1929 speech as edited and delivered.

Thanks to the efforts of HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, the original handwritten draft of the speech has emerged, showing many changes to the text, including significant cuts. What it reveals is that the Prime Minister of Italy, Benito Mussolini, personally edited the Governor’s address. For on the last page of the manuscript of the speech, there is a note that states “the corrections in pencil were done by Benito Mussolini.” 

Detail from page 3 of Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s draft announcing the Lateran Treaty (11 February 1929), noting that Benito Mussolini edited the manuscript in pencil. Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome. 

In the handwritten draft, Mussolini removes sentences, strikes an entire paragraph celebrating Pope Pius XI and two of his anniversaries of 1929 (including the seventh anniversary of his coronation, which fell on the next day), and rephrases Boncompagni Ludovisi’s words in the margins. These revisions reveal with striking clarity how Benito Mussolini wanted his leadership and Fascist government to be portrayed to the Italian people and beyond, and his eagerness to downplay the Pope’s role in the accord.

Commemorative medal for 1929 Lateran Treaty. Image: Bertolami Fine Arts E-Auction 90 Lot 2209 26 Oct 2020

It must be remembered that the Governor of Rome had a highly unusual personal link to the upper reaches of the Vatican. Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi was the 9th great grandson of Pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni (1572-1585). And, more immediately, his father Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi was Monsignor and (since 1921) Vatican Vice-Camerlengo, and so the second most important official in the Apostolic Camera after Cardinal Gasparri. As Michael McGillicuddy has pointed out on this site, “the relationship between Ugo Boncompagni Ludovisi and his son Francesco illustrates a quiet back-channel of communication between the Vatican and Italy that…was used to facilitate negotiations between the two powers.”

This little-noticed fact, combined with the recent discovery of the original manuscript of the Governor’s Lateran speech, deepen our understanding of the momentous events of 11 February 1929. In particular, Mussolini’s previously unknown revisions to the Palazzo Senatorio address of Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi offer powerful insight into the crafting of this announcement of the Lateran Treaty, which obviously was meant to communicate the Accords not just to a Roman audience on the Campidoglio but also to a national and international public. 

A transcription (with evident interventions by Mussolini marked in bold type in the Italian text) and translation follow below.

Page 1 of Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s draft announcing the Lateran Treaty (11 February 1929). Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome. 

S.P.Q.R.

Romani!

Il Fascismo, nel nome augusto del Re e sotto la [incomparabile] guida del Suo [[indistinct]] Duce, prosegue solenne, di vittoria in vittoria, la marcia incontrastata ed incontrastabile sulle vie luminese dei nostri destini.

Quel che sembrò [vano] sogno di poeti e fu, invece, canto [e speranza] e palpito della nostra gente, vaticinio [sublime] dei nostri Grandi, diviene realtà magnifica nell’anno VII del Regime! 

Chiesa e Stato si conciliano oggi, a maggior gloria della Fede, [a maggiorper la più superba grandezza d’Italia. 

[Romani] Romani!

Dall’alto del Campidoglio, simbolo e sintesi di quella romanità “onde Cristo è romano,” riassumendo nel mio cuore la esultanza della vostra anima cattolica ed italiana, innalzo con Voi il pensiero reverente alla Santità di N(ostra) S(ignore) Papa Pio XI.

[A Lui, nel giorno fausto che inizia così radiosamente, nella pienezza di paterni affetti, l’anno giubilare del SuoSacerdotale Ministero, salga da Roma, Capitale consacrata d’Italia, l’augurio più possente e più fervido della Cattolicità.]

[Romani!]

Alla Augusta Maesta del Re, al [nostro] [grande] Capo [e condottiero] Benito Mussolini, [da Roma, Capitale consacrata d’Italia], ripetiamo [incon spirito di disciplina e di amore illimitati—fieri ed orgogliosi di questa grande Italia, una nel nome d Dio e del Popolo—il grido appassionato delle Legioni littorie.

[Dal Campidoglio 11 febbraio 929 VII. 

Il Governatore, 

Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi]

Pages 2-3 of Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi’s draft announcing the Lateran Treaty (11 February 1929). Collection of †HSH Prince Nicolò and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome. 

S.P.Q.R. (i.e., Senatus Populusque Romanus = the Senate and People of Rome)

Romans!

Fascism, in the august name of the King and under the [incomparable] guidance of His [[indistinct]] Duce, solemnly continues, from victory to victory, the unchallenged and unchallengeable march on the luminous paths of our destinies.

What seemed the [vain] dream of poets and was, instead, the song [and hope] and heartbeat of our people, the [sublime] prophecy of our great men, becomes a magnificent reality in the seventh year of the Regime!

Church and state are reconciled today, for the greater glory of the Faith, [the greater] for the most proud greatness of Italy.

[Romans] Romans!

From the top of the Campidoglio, a symbol and synthesis of that Roman spirit “whereby Christ is Roman” [cf. Dante, Purg. XXXII 102], summarizing in my heart the exultation of your Catholic and Italian soul, I raise with You reverent thought to the Holiness of our Lord Pope Pius XI.

[To Him, on the auspicious day that begins so radiantly, in the fullness of paternal affections, the jubilee year of his priestly ministry, may there rise from Rome, the consecrated capital of Italy, the most powerful and fervent augury of Catholicity.]

[Romans!]

To the august Majesty of the King, to [our] [great] Head [and warlord] Benito Mussolini, [from Rome, the consecrated capital of Italy], let us repeat [in] with a spirit of unlimited discipline and love—proud and boastful of this great Italy, (which is ) one in the name of God and of the People — the passionate cry of the lictorial (i.e., Fascist) Legions.

[From the Campidoglio 11 February 1929 (Fascist Era year) VII, The Governor, Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi]

Maddy Dreiband is a rising junior at Tulane University pursuing a major in Art History and International Relations as well as a minor in Italian. This spring (2021) she is an intern in the Archivio Digitale Boncompagni Ludovisi. This is her first published research project, and she hopes to continue her research in Italian history. She thanks Professor T. Corey Brennan for suggestions on the topic and HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi for generously making her family archive open to research.

Commemorative medal (one of only three minted) for Lateran Treaty of 1929 by Ludovico Pogliaghi. Image: Bolaffi Auction 30 Lot 2309 7 June 2017

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