The Orsini Affair and the Crisis of 1858

Terry Jenkins explains why a failed assassination attempt on Napoleon III brought down the British government in 1858.

Four of the perpetrators were quickly arrested, although some of their accomplices managed to slip out of the country. It emerged that they were Italian nationalists, struggling to liberate their homeland from Austrian domination, who had sought retribution for what they considered to be Napoleon III’s betrayal of their cause. The ringleader, Felice Orsini, and his associate, Pierri, were executed by guillotine on March 13th, while Rudio and Gomez were sent to penal colonies for life.

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