Garibaldi in London

Marcella Pellegrino Sutcliffe examines the political machinations behind a visit to England in 1864 of the Italian patriot and ‘liberator’, darling of the English establishment and radicals alike.

Garibaldi in Trafalgar Square

In 1864 Giuseppe Garibaldi, ‘the General’, leader of the Italian movement of national liberation, undertook a visit to England that would become legendary. From the outset it was clear to observers that the appearance of such a global ‘celebrity’ would carry extraordinary political weight. The charismatic patriot had achieved international fame as leader of the ‘expedition of the Thousand’ in 1860, freeing the south of Italy from the tyranny of the Bourbons and handing it to Victor Emanuel II. In 1862 his heroic reputation was further boosted by the news that, while heading an expedition to liberate Rome and complete the unification process, Garibaldi had been wounded by the army of the Italian king, whom he had honoured and empowered two years earlier. Halted at Aspromonte, the General retreated to his rural home on the island of Caprera off Sardinia. This soon became the destination for sympathetic admirers, who arranged for eminent surgeons from Italy, Germany and Britain to attend to his leg wound. As has recently been argued, Garibaldi’s two year convalescence on Caprera became a stage where his image as a ‘simple’, ‘honest’ man helped to broaden his international appeal.

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