She wasn’t a teen beauty but she had a personality to make up for it.
She was bold and confident. She looked directly into men’s eyes when she spoke with them. She was one of the first women in Italy to drive a car, wear make-up and trousers, skimpy bathing attire at the shore.
She was very different from most of the women of her country and her era and for this reason men found her enchanting. And she was old enough to date.
Her father was a very prominent man, well known and feared. He was determined to keep a close eye on her. He ordered his security to monitor her activities and to report on her relationships directly to him. Whenever she began seeing someone he considered “unsuitable” he would bring an end to the affair. What made it worse was that she liked to flirt which could hurt her father’s position.
He decided she should get married. She was first engaged to Pier Francesco Orsi Mangelli, the young son of an industrialist nobleman. The couple seemed happy at first but it was soon apparent to both they were not meant for each other. He didn’t like that she continued to flirt and she found him boring and pedantic. When the senior Mangelli inquired as to the amount of the dowry she would bring, her father stated there would be no dowry and the engagement was called off.
She was delighted and began seeing another young man. When her father found out he was Jewish he forbade her to see him. It didn’t stop her. Then he took away her car and driver. She dropped the young man.. Apparently she could live without him but not without her car.
Who would the young girl marry? American newspapers began speculating that she was to be engaged to Crown Prince Umberto, heir to the throne of Italy. Nothing came of it.
Bored while attending a round of parties, she met Galeazzo, son of Count Costanzo Ciano, a hero of the First World War and Minister of Communications.
Galeazzo was a “ladies man”. Young, handsome and rich. It was said of him that he went “through women”. He was an Italian macho playboy of the first rank and lived the high life. He had looks, money and power and he flaunted them all.
It was love at first sight. They danced the night away and became inseparable. Her father liked the young man; her mother not so much.
On the 15th of February 1930, Galeazzo Ciano. the 2nd Count of Cortellazzo and Buccari, asked Benito Mussolini for his daughter Edda’s hand in marriage. The wedding took place on April 24, only two months later in front of 4,000 of the most important people in Italy.
The marriage was the doom of Galeazzo. Edda was pro-German; not so Galeazzo.
Now before we start feeling too sorry for Galeazzo, let’s remember that he was a fascist to the core, having grown up in the fascist era. His father was a high ranking official in Mussolini’s government. So he grew up a fascist, supported fascism and served in the military when Italy attacked Abyssinia. His marriage to Mussolini’s daughter however would eventually prove his undoing particularly as his father-in-law moved the country closer and closer to Nazi Germany.
After a stint in Shanghai, serving as Italy’s Consul, his father-in-law appointed him Foreign Minister of Fascist Italy. He was only 33 years old.
Count Ciano did everything he could as Foreign Minister to keep Italy out of the war, especially on Germany’s side, to no avail. He had become disillusioned with Hitler after meeting him in Austria and just prior to the invasion of Poland. It was obvious that Germnany thought little of it’s alliance with Mussolini – Austria had been annexed without consulting Italy and against Italy’s wishes; Italy now shared a border with the Third Reich. Now Poland was to be invaded without consulting Italy, potentially dragging Italy into war.
But he could not convince Mussolini. Prior to the German campaign in France in 1940, Count Ciano leaked a warning of imminent invasion to neutral Belgium. In late 1942 and early 1943, following the Axis defeat in North Africa, other major setbacks on the Eastern Front, and with the Anglo-American assault on Sicily looming, Ciano turned against the doomed war and actively pushed for Italy’s exit from the conflict. He was silenced by being removed from his post as Foreign Minister. He was offered the post of Ambassador to the Vatican, which kept him in Rome under Mussolini’s watchful eye.
And as the war went badly for Italy, Galeazzo’s position become more untenable. Eventually, with the Allies in Sicily he came out in open opposition.
At a meeting of the Fascist Grand Council he stood up along with others and denounced his father-in-law for leading Italy to ruin.
Galeazzo the playboy, son-in-law of Il Duce carried the vote 19 – 7 and Mussolini was deposed by the King the very next day. Il Duce was subsequently rescued by the Germans.
With the fall of fascism and their lives in danger,. Galeazzo and Edda fled to Germany where they were promptly turned over by Hitler to the rescued Mussolini in Northern Italy.
Mussolini had him executed on January 11, 1944. He was tied to a chair along with three others who had voted against Mussolini in that fateful meeting of the Fascist Grand Council and shot in the back of the head.
Edda never forgave her father for ignoring her pleas and tears to spare his life. She died in Rome in 1995.