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Vittorio Emanuele Orlando

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Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (May 19, 1860-December 1, 1952) was an Italian statesman and Prime Minister during the concluding years of World War One and head of his countries delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. Educated at Palermo, he made a name for himself with writings on electoral reform and government administration before being elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1897. He served as minister for education in 1903-05 and of justice in 1907-09, resuming the same job in 1914. He favoured Italy’s entrance into the war (May 1915) and in October 1917, in the crisis following the Italian defeat at the Battle of Caporetto by the Austrians, he became Prime Minister, successfully rallying the country to a renewed effort.

After the wars conclusion, Orlando went to Paris and Versailles, where he had a falling out with the other Allies, especially President Woodrow Wilson of the United States, over Italy’s claim to some former Austrian territory. On the question of the port of Fiume, which was contested by Yugoslavia after the war, Wilson appealed over Orlando to the Italian people, a maneuver that failed. Orlando’s inability to get concessions from the Allies rapidly undermined his position, and he resigned on June 19, 1919. On December 2 he was elected President of the Chamber of Deputies. In the growing conflict between the workers’ organizations and the new fascist party of Benito Mussolini, he at first supported Mussolini, but when the socialist leader Giacomo Matteoti was assassinated by the fascists, he withdrew his support. Orlando opposed the Fascists in local election in Sicily and resigned from Parliament in protest against Fascist electoral fraud (1925).

Orlando remained in retirement until the liberation of Rome in World War II, when he became a member of the consultive assembly and President of the Constituent Assembly elected in June 1946. His objections to the Peace Treaty led to his resignation in 1947. In 1948 he was elected to the new Italian Senate and in the same year was a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, but was defeated by Luigi Einaudi.

Further Reading

lbrecht-Carrié, René, Italy at the Paris Peace Conference (New York, 1938)