Kingdom of Italy

Umberto I, King 1878-1900

KM 21, PCGS graded MS-65

Rome. UMBERTO I RE D’ITALIA, head of Umberto I left, 1881 below. Reverse: L 20 acrosss field, crowned and gartered arms within laurel and oak wreath.

Although King Umberto I was nicknamed il Buono (“the Good”) the events of his reign raise serious questions about the appropriateness of this moniker. From the very beginning he was making friends and influencing people with his severe brand of conservatism. He was almost equally loathed by the Italian social reformers and anarchists of his day. Indeed, he was almost assassinated by a dagger-wielding anarchist on the first day of his reign. He made Italy a colonial power through bloody wars in Eritria, Somalia, and Ethiopia (this last was actually a disaster which led to calls for the king’s death) and suspended Parliament, which he considered to be a “bad joke.” He furthermore applauded Italian general Fiorenzo Bava-Beccoris for his massacre of demonstrators demanding food in Milan in 1891. At last, in 1900, the anarchists got it right and one of their number shot the king dead. Perhaps Parliament was a “bad joke”, but il Buono was much worse.