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Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of World War II

Part 41

By

Vincent Longobardi

 

 

 

January 16th 1965

Upon discovering the body of Mussolini, the contingency plan for the situation immediately goes into effect. The Emperor, the Grand Council and the Comando Supremo are notified and martial law is declared immediately. All military assets of the Empire are put on alert.

Television and radio broadcasts are interrupted to announce that all Blackshirts units are being mobilized and all members are to report to muster stations immediately. No reason is given for the call up.

January 17th 1965

Day to day business within the Empire grinds to a halt as the streets fill with soldiers and Blackshirts. No official response is given for this mass mobilization and the government remains silent throughout the day except for a brief report that a major announcement will be made tonight at 9:00 PM. On the street, many believe that war with Britain or France is imminent.

The massive mobilization does not go unnoticed, with nearly all aspects of the Imperial military called up and on alert, including the nationís fleet of nuclear bombers, Britain and France place their own nuclear forces on alert. The Soviet Union also alerts their forces to be on the lookout for possible Italian aggression.

9:00 PM Local Time

Italians crowd around their TVs, or if they do not own one their radios or make their way to piazzas and cafes to hear the announcement. There is a considerable level of fear and apprehension in the air. No one knows what is going on, but it is clearly a major issue.

The entirety of the Grand Council was in assembly at the conference. Emperor Umberto II approached the podium visibly shaken. Where was Mussolini? Why isnít he making the announcement run through the minds of the people watching. "I have extremely tragic news to report..." he begins, "Benito Mussolini, Il Duce...passed away last night..." Most of the people viewing the conference did not hear the rest of the speech. Many, broken down in tears, others were in a complete state of shock.

A million questions ran through the average Italians head: What would happen to the Empire? Would Fascism survive? Would there be a Civil War? How will the Grand Council decide on the new leader? Who would the leader?

January 18th 1965

A thick shadow of sadness hangs over the Empire. The populace is shocked and depressed, the death of Mussolini has hit many hard. The police have reported that there were a noticeable increase in the number of suicides, some can not imagine living in a world without Mussolini.

There are reports of violence coming from the Empireís colonies but they are small and quickly put down by the massive military and Blackshirt deployment. Overseas, especially in France and Britain there are jubilant celebrations over the news.

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the world flock to Rome to see Mussolini laying in wake and for the funeral.

January 19th 1965

It was a difficult decision. Both camps were very adamant about their position. On one side were the French Cardinals and their allies who did not want to see the Pope officiate Mussoliniís funeral, they did not even want Mussolini to be granted a Catholic funeral. On the other side, the Imperial government, Italian clergy and not to forget the thousands who gathered in St. Peterís Square awaiting his decision including several hundred Blackshirts.

The French Cardinals threaten to schism, doubtful but possible. There is no overt threat from the Italian side, but a schism is a possibility, Mussolini is loved by the Italian people. There is also the very real threat that the Blackshirts may storm the Vatican if they do not like the decision.

After a day of contemplation, Pope Paul VI makes his decision, he will officiate the funeral. Saying "No matter what others may think of the man, he is still entitled to a Catholic funeral like any other Catholic." He does make one request that the Italian government does not politicize the mass.

January 20th 1965

Last minute work on Mussoliniís tomb continues as the day of the funeral draws near. While the building itself is completed many of the ornaments and statues in the massive structure are largely unfinished and work will have to continue after the burial.

January 21st 1965

Every hotel room in Rome and the surrounding area has been filled to capacity yet more continue to arrive everyday. To keep people from camping in the streets the military opens up the use of empty barracks on military bases for the mourners.

Many Blackshirt formations are demobilized as no massive uprisings are reported occurring. Martial law is also lessened.

January 22nd 1965

 

Thousands of buses and trucks are brought into Rome to bring mourners to the Vatican and along the route that will be taken from the Vatican to the tomb.

January 23rd 1965

St. Peterís Basilica was completely filled, tens of thousands more filled the square outside. Two lines of Blackshirts held the mourners back to allow a small path to lead into the Church.

In the first row were Mussoliniís family, the Emperor and the royal family, as well as the Grand Council and the Comando Supremo. Behind them were the heads of state and heads of government from Lira Block nations, all of them came to pay their respects or to politick and show their loyalty to the Lira Block. Dozens of dignitaries from other nations were also present.

The rest of the basilica was filled with thousands of soldiers, Blackshirts, fascist officials and party members and civilians who were a lucky few to gain entry.

The mass went beautifully. At the end as the procession brings the casket down the aisle the Blackshirts flanking the aisle on either side defy the request for "no politics." A handful of the men raise their arms in salute and begin the chant "Il Duce! Il Duce! Il Duce forever!" It quickly spreads down the line and throughout the entire Church with everyone joining in, the chanting drowns out the choirís closing hymn.

The chanting flows out into the street with the assembled masses joining in as they try to catch a glimpse of the coffin and the procession of dignitaries. The streets were filled with mourners all trying to be a part of this show of respect for the greatest leader Italy has ever known, many of those who have come out have never known another leader, they would be entering into frightening times of change.

After what seemed like an eternity of working their way through the narrow winding streets of Rome, the honor guard and the coffin arrive at what would be Mussoliniís final resting place. Built across from the Pantheon, the newly constructed dome structure rivaled that of the Romans. A wall of Blackshirts cleared the way, many of the normally stoic and stone faced men openly wept.

The tomb was just as grand inside, though largely uncomplete. In the center was the marble sarcophagus where Mussolini would be interned for all eternity. Just a step beyond it was a marble statue of the dictator as he would have appeared in his heyday, his arms spread open before him in a very Christ-like pose. To his right were two statues, one of an ancient legionnaire and a centurion. To his left were two more statues, these were of a Blackshirt and a Blackshirt officer. The symbolism was quite clear, he was bridging the gap between the ancient and the modern. At the four corners surrounding the statues were giant Fasces and eagles. And, finally curled around the legs of Mussolini was the Roman wolf on eternal guard against the enemies of Rome.

His body was placed in the richly emblazoned sarcophagus by the final set of pallbearers, members of the Grand Council. It was a draining and depressing day, but is was over at last. Tomorrow would start a new era for the New Roman Empire. They would survive and continue on. Over forty years of work would not be lost.

January 24th 1965

The Grand Council takes a day off before convening to decide to the fate of the Empire.

Winston Churchill dies of complications from his stroke. The celebratory attitude that accompanied the English people after the death of Mussolini quickly comes to an end and a great mourning begins for their greatest statesman.

January 25th 1965

The Grand Council of Fascism convenes at the Palazzo Venezia to decide who would replace Mussolini, though the word replace or succeed is never used in public statements, they would always be following in Mussoliniís footsteps and merely a placeholder for the eternal leader.

Thousands gather outside in the Piazza Venezia waiting for the Councilís decision. They did not know how the Council would come about the decision. Mussolini could of picked an heir, there could be a line of succession in place, or perhaps they decided who would be best qualified to lead the current Fascist agenda.

The first round of voting almost completely mirrored that of a Papal Conclave, the assembled voted for their friends and themselves, which was the only deviation from the Papal system, the greedy and ambitious cardinals of Fascism could not be expected not to vote for themselves. There was even one vote for the Emperor, though it was most likely cast by a monarchist amongst the group, the Emperor knew better than to commit political suicide by trying to take full control of the Fascist council.

After a few hours of debate and discussion a second vote is held, obvious front runners are noted but many of the unelectable assembled still vote for themselves and hold on to hope they may be able to turn the voting in their favor.

January 26th 1965

In the opening discussion for the new day, Medici proposes that all those assembled pledge if elected they will honor the current state of the Grand Council and not replace any members unless they voluntarily retire or pass away. Everyone in attendance agrees, saying otherwise would ruin their chances. A cunning move by Medici to both grant him favor and to secure his place in the Council from his enemies.

The first vote the day clearly favors Ciano and Medici. Grandi and Balbo are also strong contenders, but the electors seems to be favoring the younger members.

 

By the second vote it is clear that the Council is looking for longevity with many members going as far as saying that it takes at least ten years or more for new programs to see results and they will need a leader who can last until those programs are seen to completion. Twenty years of rule become the goal.

January 27th 1965

The assembled outside of the Palazzo maintain their vigil waiting for a sign from those inside that a decision had been reached.

Ciano and Medici dominate the votes for this round but neither one can secure the 51% needed to be declared the winner. Discussion following this rounds of talk is on the powers that will possessed by the new leader. The role of the Council will be greatly expanded and the new leader will not be able to issue laws by decree, he will not be Mussolini and power must be earned through success and respect for the council.

During a break, Medici privately approaches some of his fellow Councilors telling them that by voting for Ciano they are setting a dangerous precedent of dynasty rule, a Mussolini-Ciano dynasty would virtually ruin the chances for everyone else in any future elections. Ciano is not idle during this time, he also speaks secretly with some Councilors warning them of electing a hardliner like Medici who often did as he pleased while Viceroy, warning that Medici would quickly turn against the Grand Council and attempt to take all the power that was Mussoliniís and more.

Was it Mediciís warning against a dynasty? Or maybe they wanted a dynasty? Or was it the fear of hardliner being elected? Perhaps, a hardliner is what the Empire needed in this time? No matter the cause a decision had been reached. It was within the narrowest of margins but it was decided.

The first sign came to the people as bells began to ring. The people below looked towards the balcony, banners were unfurled bearing the symbol of the Fasces and an image of Mussolini. Trumpets blared as the door to the balcony opened and out stepped the Emperor. Taking a moment to look over those assembled he addresses the crowd "I present to you...the Consul of the New Roman Empire..."

Emerging from the shadows the man steps into view, it was a face they all recognized. It was up to him to pick up where Mussolini left off and to lead the Empire to new heights of success. The Emperor continued "...Consul Salvatore Medici!" The Blackshirts started the cheer raising their right hands in the Fascist salute cheering "Consul! Consul! Consul!" The rest of the crowd quickly followed suit giving praise to their new leader.

End Notes: Though I will be taking a short break from writing the timeline after this, it is not the end of the timeline. I will be continuing the timeline next month either under the same name or a new name to symbolize the dramatic change in the timeline.

End of Part 41.

 

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