breve biografia camillo benso conte di cavour

Short biography of Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, one of the protagonists of the Risorgimento

Camillo Bensocount of Cavour (hence called Cavour for simplicity and brevity) was born in Turin in 1810 and was one of the protagonists of the Risorgimento and the first prime minister of united Italy. A supporter of constitutional monarchical states, of economic liberalism and of the secular nature of the state, he was prime minister of Kingdom of Sardinia (which included Piedmont, Liguria, Sardinia and other territories) almost uninterruptedly from 1852 to 1861. In this role he worked to bring the Italian question to the attention of the European powers. After reaching an agreement with Napoleon III, he provoked a war against Austriafrom which the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy. Cavour, however, could do little for the new Kingdom: on 6 June 1861 he died of a fever of malarial originHis tomb is located in Santena, near Turin.

Cavour’s youth and education

Camillo Benso was born in Turin on August 10, 1810. He belonged to a family of landownerswho held some noble titles, including that of accounts of the country of Cavournear Turin. This is why Camillo Benso is known by the nickname Cavour.

Portrait of Cavour as a young man
Portrait of Cavour as a young man

From a young age, the count showed interest in studies and politics. He attended the military academy in Turin and at the age of 22 he was appointed Mayor of Grinzane (now Grinzane Cavour). He devoted himself to the administration of his properties with a functional and modern approach, which allowed him to increase production, and had the opportunity to visit France and the United Kingdom.

Cavour’s political ideas and election to Parliament

Cavour developed liberal political convictions. He was a supporter of the economic liberalism and appreciated the regimes monarchical-constitutionallike the English and French ones, but was against revolutions and republics. In religious matters, he supported the secularism of the state.

In 1847 he founded a newspaper, The Renaissancethrough which he made his entrance onto the Turin political scene. From the columns of The Renaissance expressed his support for the Albertine Statuteissued by King Charles Albert in 1848, and the intervention of the Kingdom of Sardinia in the first war of independence against Austriawhich ended in defeat. In 1848 he ran for election to the Chamber of Deputies, as required by the Statute, and was elected.

Italy in the time of Cavour
Italy in the time of Cavour

The appointment as minister and prime minister

In 1850 Cavour was appointed Minister of Agriculture and Trade in the government led by Massimo D’Azeglio and later also assumed the roles of minister of the navy and finance. In 1852 he formed a political alliance, which went down in history as the marriagewith Urbano Rattazzi, the leader of the left, and was appointed Prime MinisterHe held the position almost uninterruptedly until the unification of Italy.

Cavour’s internal policy

Cavour promoted a modernizing policyreforming justice and public administration. In 1854 he passed a law that abolished convents, in the belief that the work ethic, rejected by the monks, was the basis of modernity. The law cost Cavour his excommunication by Pope Pius IX and a parliamentary crisis.

Cavour also promoted the development of railways, to the point that the Kingdom of Sardinia became the pre-unification Italian state to be equipped with one. more extensive railway network and functional.

Portrait of the President
Portrait of the President

Cavour in the Risorgimento: the Crimean War

Cavour was one of the protagonists of the Italian Unification. As we know, in the first half of the nineteenth century theidea of ​​nationaccording to which a people united by a common culture and language has the right to form its own State. Consequently, the principle that Italy should form a unitary State was affirmed in political and intellectual circles. There were disagreements, however, on how the new State should be formed – whether with diplomacy or revolution – and on the institutional form it should assume – whether a monarchy or a republic, whether a centralized State or a federal State. Cavour proposed a moderate approacharguing that the Italian question should be addressed through diplomatic channels and that Italy should be a constitutional monarchy.

In 1853 Cavour sent a Piedmontese contingent to participate in the Crimean Warwhich broke out between the Ottoman Empire and Russia, alongside the troops of France and the United Kingdom, who intervened in favor of the Ottomans. The move was to participate in the peace congresswhich was held in Paris in 1856. Cavour took the opportunity to bring the Italian question to the attention of the European powers.

The Congress of Paris. Cavour is the first on the left
The Congress of Paris. Cavour is the first on the left

Unification of Italy and Cavour

Cavour initially did not believe it was possible to unify all of Italy and only thought that the Kingdom of Sardinia could extend its borders on Italian territories occupied by Austriaannexing Lombardy and Veneto. Therefore in 1858 he stipulated with Napoleon III, Emperor of the French, an alliance which has gone down in history as the Plombières agreementsThe two statesmen established that France would intervene alongside Piedmont in the event of war against Austria and that at the end of the conflict the Italian Peninsula would be divided into three main kingdoms: in the North, the Kingdom of Sardinia would have annexed Lombardy, Veneto and other territories; in the central regions, a kingdom would have been established with a monarch acceptable to the French; in the South, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies would have continued to exist, possibly with a change of dynasty. Dad he would have retained power over Rome, but would have lost the rest of the territory of the Papal States.

How Italy should have been according to the Plombieres agreements
How Italy should have been according to the Plombières agreements

Things, as we know, took a different turn: the duchies of central Italy asked and obtained to become part of the Kingdom of Sardinia; the Expedition of the Thousand, led by Garibaldi, allowed the annexation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Sudden death

Cavour’s role in the unification of Italy had been decisive: among the many ideas on how to deal with the issue, his had proved to be the winning one. After the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, which took place March 17, 1861the count was appointed Prime Minister. Everything suggested that he would lead the country for a long time, but on June 6 he died of malaria fever, contracted in his youth and never fully cured. He was buried, according to his wishes, in Santena cemeterynear Turin, in the Benso tomb.


Rosario Romeo, Life of Cavour, Laterza, 1998

Denis Mack Smith, Cavour: The Great Weaver of Italian Unity, Bompiani, 1984.

Ettore Passerin d’Entrèves, Cavour, Camillo Benso Count of, in Biographical Dictionary of Italians, 23, Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia, 1979