Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861)

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861) was one of the main figures in bringing about the unification of Italy. He was born in Turin (the capital of the French province of Savoy) at a time when Turin was under French control and much of Italian territories were under French or Austrian control. Cavour eventually entered into the military, but in 1831 he resigned from the army to pursue a career in politics. Cavour travelled extensively throughout European countries such as France, Switzerland, and Great Britain, from which he adopted many liberal principles.

The Count Becomes Prime Minister

In 1852 he was appointed the Piedmont Prime Minister and set about to improve economic conditions, limit the privileges of the Catholic Church, and to develop stronger relations with countries such as France and Great Britain. Cavour also set about to remove the occupying Austrian forces from Italy.

Betrayal of Napoleon III

An agreement between Cavour and Napoleon III was made in the Pact of Plombieres. It was agreed in the pact, that following the victory (presumed) over Austria, the Italian Kingdom would be formed for the Piedmontese king, Victor Emanuel and Nice & French Savoy would be returned to France. In 1859 Piedmont and France succeeded in expelling the Austrians from many of the occupied states. However many French Catholics were worried about the threat to the power of the Papacy whilst Napoleon III was concerned about the creation of a strong Italian kingdom and suspicious about Prussian military activities on his eastern front. To the surprise of Cavour and most Italians, Napoleon III signed an armistice with the Austrians at Villafranca, resulting in Austria retaining Venetia.

Unification of Italy

Cavour resigned over the armistice but returned in 1860 to assist Giuseppe Garibaldi (Italian General) and the Redshirt soldiers in overthrowing Bourbon rule in Sicily and the Piedmontese army conquering southern Italy.

On March 17th, 1861, after Garibaldi handed over the newly-won possessions to Victor Emmanuel, Cavour had the Piedmontese parliament proclaim Victor Emanuel II the king of Italy. In 1861 Cavour became the first Prime Minister of united Italy but he died shortly after. It wasn’t until 1870 that Italy was unified as a Kingdom.

Monument to Camillo Benso

In the center of the Piazza Carlo Emanuele II (Piazza Carlina) stands the monument to Camillo Benso, the Count of Cavour. The monument was designed by Giovanni Dupre in 1873. The statue of Camillo Benso on the top of the monument is holding a scroll engraved with the words ” Libera chiesa in liberto stato” (A Free Church in a free State).