It pains me to contradict Daniel Hannan, whose relentless bombardment of the Evil Empire based in Brussels is an inspiration and a joy to read, but in praising Garibaldi and the Risorgimento he has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The forcible unification of the geographical expression called Italy was a dress rehearsal for the European Union.
The Italian preunitary states were nations which Piedmont - the Prussia of the Italian peninsula - incorporated by conquest into an artificial, bureaucratic and despotic entity called the "Kingdom of Italy". The much-abused Bourbons of the Two Sicilies were popular monarchs who spoke the local dialect, kept the national debt and taxes down, and ensured their subjects had cheap food.
They were demonised by that sanctimonious old windbag Gladstone (and no, Daniel, an "Italian Gladstone" is an oxymoron) who took time off from saving fallen women to denounce the Bourbon monarchy as "the negation of God erected into a system of government". That phrase would accurately describe the European Union. The true negation of God was the extravagant cynicism with which Cavour and Napoleon III, at Plombieres in 1858, plotted a war in which thousands would die: "a plausible excuse presented our main problem", wrote Cavour.
Plumed hats, rapiers and heaving bosoms
erald Warner celebrates the unexpected appearance of one last ‘swashbuckling novel’, and mourns the loss of a genre that taught boys honour, courage and chivalry