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King Umberto I and his ‘double’

The assassination of Umberto I, King of Italy, on June 29th 1900 is an historical fact, but there have been some strange allegations around King Umberto I and this fact that might require some more in-depth considerations.

Umberto I in History

Umberto Ranieri Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando Eugenio di Savoia was born on March 14th 1844. He ascended to the Italian throne at the death of his father, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy on January 9th 1878, with the name of Umberto I.

He had been the target of a first assassination attempt on November 17th 1878: in Naples, by anarchist Giovanni Passannante. Umberto warded off the blow with his sabre and the author of the attempted assassination was condemned to a life sentence (death penalty would have been the sentence if Umberto would have been killed) in a 1.4-meters high cell, with no sanitation and chains weighting 18 kg.; not a surprise that he died in a psychiatric institution….

King Umberto I was also the target of a second assassination attempt: near Rome on April 22nd 1897 by anarchist Pietro Acciarito. The police was warned by Pietro’s father, who was worried for his son’s behaviour. King Umberto I was attending to horse races just outside Rome, for the 29th anniversary of his wedding with Queen Margherita. Nevertheless, Pietro Acciarito managed to get close to the royal car, armed with a knife. Umberto noticed the weapon and was able to avoid the strike. Pietro would be immediately arrested. The subsequent investigations – with large amounts of torture – were the excuse for jailing political opponents, such as republicans, socialists and anarchists, including Romeo Frezzi (who would be guilty of having a photo with Pietro Acciarito).

Though often named as la belle époque, the reign of Umberto I was actually a period of social turmoil, as it was generally happening throughout Europe. And this was rapidly escalating….

Large demonstrations over the rising price of bread were held in Italy and, on May 7th 1898, the city of Milan was put under military control by General Bava-Beccaris. He ordered the use of cannon on the demonstrators and hundreds of people were killed, and about a thousand were wounded. Against most of the public opinion, King Umberto I congratulated Bava-Beccaris for the order restoration in Milan and even decorated him!

On the evening of July 29th 1900, King Umberto I was invited to Monza, near Milan, to honour with His presence the closing ceremony of a gymnastics competition. He wasn’t obliged to attend, but he was convinced because it was giving him an opportunity to congratulate with the teams from Trento and Trieste, at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire…. He was supposed to wear a chainmail under his shirt, but he didn’t, because of the heat and against his security advisors. When he decided to leave the ceremony, around 10:30pm, while he was reaching his car, Umberto was assassinated: he was shot at least three times by anarchist Gaetano Bresci in Monza, near Milan. Bresci claimed he wanted to avenge the people killed during the Bava-Beccaris massacre….

The alleged ‘double’

There are also allegations beside the official history….

On July 28th 1900, King Umberto I of Italy got into conversation with the owner of a restaurant he’d visited for dinner that night. Upon taking the order the two men realised they had a lot in common – for a start they were both named Umberto, but even stranger they both looked very alike, were both born on March 14th 1844 in the same town of Turin, and were both married to women named Margherita, who they married on the same day! Amazingly, the restaurateur opened his restaurant on the same day that King Umberto was crowned King of Italy. In a very sad turn of events, the very next day, while out in a public street in Italy, King Umberto learned to his horror that the restaurateur had been killed in an unexplained shooting; expressing his regret, suddenly at the same moment, an anarchist in the crown assassinated him.

This post – and others with a few minor variations – are easily retrievable form the Internet.

Apart from the fact that King Umberto I wasn’t shot in a public street, there are good chances that it is an hoax.

The first time this story came up can be traced back to the (Italian) website of the Thule association, which honestly qualifies itself as cultural society dedicated to Northern cultures; religious and spiritual events; Italian history, myths and local traditions; alchemy and esotericism…. There is an article in their September 2006 publication and no other web posting looks to be prior to this one: this article is pretty much the above paragraph, with no reference to any documentation at all.

Having said that, there are real facts in King Umberto’s father’s life which might have suggested such a legend. To the embarrassment of the Royal Family, Umberto’s Father, Victor Emmanuel II, was well known for appreciating female company. Apart from his seven siblings (one of which died at birth), King Umberto had other two siblings from his father’s late morganatic marriage and other six “illegitimate” siblings (again, one of which died at birth) from four other women. Old residents of the areas nearby still clearly remember quite a few individuals with a suspect resemblance with King Umberto. It was well-known, at the time, that females working at the Villa were at risk….

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