Archive for December 20th, 2007

1882: Guglielmo Oberdan

4 comments December 20th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1882, Italian nationalist Guglielmo Oberdan was hanged for attempting to assassinate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.

“I will throw my corpse between the emperor and Italy and Italian youth will at least have an example.” (quote)

A native of Trieste, a melting pot of Italian and Slovenian ethnicities, Oberdan was of mixed parentage but identified with an Italy coming of age just as he himself did.

Trieste was a treasured Habsburg jewel, the empire’s most consequential port. So Franz Joseph’s visit to celebrate the city’s 500th anniversary under the Austrian crown was undertaken with no less heartfelt sincerity than the enthusiastic student had in packing a suitcase full of explosives in greeting.

Police intercepted this memorable gift and young Oberdan as well, and in short order he swung from the gallows — thousands of worldwide petitioners, Victor Hugo among them, notwithstanding — still urging cocksure verses of national redemption.

As a handsome young martyr who had chosen his Italian identity, Oberdan’s name and face became fare for boulevards, piazzas and monuments … doubly so for the boy’s dispatch contemporaneous with Italy’s cynical Triple Alliance pact with Austria-Hungary that sternly apprenticed the infant nation’s irredentist spirit to realpolitik under the sway of the man now reviled as the “Emperor of the Hangmen.” Nor would it appear a fate unworthy of his deed that he should personify in death all the impulsive romanticism his country had not strength enough to effect.

Oberdan is the subject of a rousing (and murderous — the refrain is “Morte a Franz, viva Oberdan!”) patriotic song dating from the 1880’s:

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Assassins,Austria,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Habsburg Realm,Hanged,History,Italy,Martyrs,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Treason

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