Marco Ferrari: Rosalia Montmasson - The Angel of the Thousand

Marco Ferrari
Ed. Mondadori, Milan 2019
pp. 213

The author, journalist and writer, narrates, in this essay, the life and deeds of the only woman who participated in the expedition of the Thousand: Rosalie Montmasson.

Born on 12 January 1823, in the village of Saint-Jorioz, in the French region of Savoy, she lost her mother when she was only seventeen. And so, the father, for economic reasons, was forced to seek accommodation for his eight children. The first to leave was Rosalie.

Her uncle found her a job with a wealthy family in Marseille, a city where many Italians arrived in the following months and where Mazzini had founded the Giovine Italia in 1831.

In Marseille, in 1849, she met Francesco Crispi who, having had an important role in the riots of '48 in Sicily, after the reconquest of the island by the Bourbons, was forced to flee with other rioters and chose Marseille as a destination.

The meeting between the two was casual and was immediately attraction. He though "He hid from her that in Palermo he had a son, little Tommaso, and a woman who was waiting for him, Felicita." Then, together, they moved to Turin. Here "The climate was the right one for both of us: he was among political refugees, she was among his countrymen." To support himself, he collaborated with some newspapers. She was a laundress, she took care of the management of the house and "He also began to have a political role alongside his partner, becoming essential to the whole group of expatriates."

On 7 March 1853 Crispi was arrested. Indeed “On February 6, the uprisings inspired by Mazzini broke out in Milan, severely repressed by the occupiers. In order not to see relations with the occupiers worsened, Piedmont was forced to arrest and then expel the exiles of political extremism, including Francesco Crispi, even if officially he did not belong to the Mazzinian group. " His destination, like that of most of the expelled Piedmontese, was Valletta. Here, later Rosalie joined him.

Crispi was also expelled from Valletta for his anti-British spirit. Before leaving again, however, on December 27, 1854, Rosalie and Francesco married.

On 13 January 1855 Crispi arrived in England, where, in London, he was able to meet Mazzini, of whom he became a trusted man. Later came Rosalie, who became Mazzini's relay runner to deliver her messages in France to the conspirators. The couple moved to Paris and then moved back to London again.

Rosalie continued to be a "postwoman", delivering messages to Sicily, Malta, wherever it was needed.

The landing of the Thousand was being prepared. “By now it was all a ferment and she was a fundamental piece of it. Mazzini praised her talents and abilities. [...] Rosalie did not miss a mission. "

In Genoa, against her husband's wishes, Rosalie asked Garibaldi to be allowed to participate in the expedition. Thus he embarked on the Piedmont where "He did not sleep to help this or that Garibaldino who was seasick."

Landing in Sicily, she worked hard to treat the affected volunteers. "For many, his smile was the last thing they saw before they died." Thus it was that he became the Angel of the Thousand. "She was a sister, she was a mother, it was all the wounded."

In 1861 Crispi entered parliament. The couple continued to change cities, following the movements of the capital: Turin, Florence, Rome. She decided to remain by his side, even after the monarchical conversion of her Francis, initially not believing in the newspapers, which told of his female acquaintances. "According to her, her husband was engaged in many other battles than pulling up skirts." But the truth was that he was cheating on her. And when she became aware of his betrayals, their relationship clearly cooled. He, who in the meantime had made two of his lovers mothers, Luisa del Testa and Lina Barbagallo, began to hate her. But he could not publicly break that relationship, he would face a media scandal; he therefore wanted to force her into a private separation. She, however, initially did not want to know. Until, one day, Crispi's sister went to her “Announcing her brother's intention to denounce her for manifest guilt and treason if she did not accept a consensual and private separation to bring. He also told her that there were witnesses ready to describe her gallant adventures, including those with the servants. All this involved, therefore, a separation without maintenance. Instead, if she accepted her brother's proposals, she would have received a very substantial monthly allowance. "

An agreement was reached that provided for the administration of a monthly sum to Rosalie. Thus she left the house. Many Garibaldians, mindful of Rosalie's exploits, took up her defense.

Now, for the Honorable Member, another question remained to be resolved. To avoid the scandal of the accusation of bigamy, having married Lina Barbagallo in 1878, he had to prove that his marriage, contracted in Malta with Rosalie, was null. Crispi, who in the meantime had become Minister of the Interior, severely attacked by the newspaper "Il Piccolo" of Naples, had to resign. Rosalie kept aloof from the controversy. "He didn't want to talk to anyone, he didn't grant interviews, he hid himself in a dignified silence."

During the investigation, which ended with the verdict of "no room to proceed", due to the illegitimacy of Malta's marriage and completely rehabilitating, in the eyes of public opinion, Francesco Crispi, Rosalie continued to claim to be her the legitimate wife of his François. But after the sentence “She disappeared from the news, from politics, from re-enactments. […] Rosalia was wounded but above all she remained tied to her François. [...] She had loved him, had lived and fought with him, but she had lost him. "

It also disappeared from the literature of the Risorgimento. “When her heart became fragile and she was hospitalized, an unexpected miracle happened. Once discharged, having to stay still in bed, she often dozed off with the cats lying on the blanket. One day she opened her eyes and found her handsome François beside her. " He, now almost blind, hinted that he had appreciated "His silence on the occasion of the Neapolitan trial, his sacrifice as a necessary act for the political advance of the left."

Crispi died on 11 August 1901. She followed him three years later, on 10 November 1904. "No official and military authorities attended the funeral"

She was buried in the Verano cemetery. “Before the hearse sank among the graves of the cemetery, an old Garibaldian shouted the name of Rosalia Montmasson three times and three times people replied“ Present! ”.

Gianlorenzo Capano