|Born||Ida Irene Dalser
20 August 1880
Sopramonte, Tyrol, Austro-Hungarian Empire
|Died||3 December 1937
|Children||Benito Albino Mussolini|
Ida Dalser was born in Sopramonte, a village near Trento, the capital of the ethnically Italian Trentino region, at that time within the borders of the Tyrol region in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The daughter of the village mayor, she was sent to Paris to study cosmetic medicine, and when she came back she moved to Milan, where she opened a French-style beauty salon.
Marriage and motherhood
It is unclear whether Ida Dalser first met young Benito Mussolini in Trento (where he had found his first job as a journalist in 1909) or in Milan (where he had moved soon afterwards). The two started a relationship and when Mussolini was refused work on the basis of his fervent socialist political activity, she financed him with the revenues of her beautician job. According to some sources, they married in 1914, and in 1915 she bore him his first child, Benito Albino Mussolini. Though the records of this marriage were destroyed by Mussolini's government, an edict from the city of Milan ordering Mussolini to make maintenance payments to “his wife Ida Dalser” and their child was overlooked.
Estrangement and start of legal dispute
The reasons why Mussolini and Dalser grew estranged at some time between their presumptive marriage and the birth of their son remain unclear, although his affair with another woman, Rachele Guidi, may have played a role. When World War I broke out, Mussolini decided to enlist. On December 17, 1915, while an inpatient at a hospital in Treviglio, Mussolini married Rachele Guidi. When this became known to Ida Dalser, a legal dispute began between her and the new couple.
Immediately after his second marriage, Mussolini left to the frontier to fight in the First World War. While he was on service, the Kingdom of Italy regularly paid Dalser a war pension, and when Mussolini was injured by a mortar shot in 1917, she received a visit from the Carabinieri notifying her that her husband was wounded in action.
Persecution and death
In 1917, Mussolini came back from the war. His political career accelerated: in 1919 he went on to found the Fasci italiani di combattimento, which became the National Fascist Party in 1921; in the latter year he was also elected to the Chamber of Deputies. With the 1922 March on Rome, Mussolini seized power and became a dictator officially recognised by the then ruling House of Savoy.
Once Mussolini was in power, Ida Dalser and her son were placed under surveillance by the police, and paper evidence of their relationship was tracked down to be destroyed by government agents. She still persisted in vocally claiming her role as the dictator's wife, and even publicly denounced Mussolini as a traitor, stating that during his years in Milan he had accepted a bribe from the French government in exchange for political campaigning in support of the involvement of then neutral Italy in the war on the side of France. Eventually, she was forcibly interned in the psychiatric hospital of Pergine Valsugana, and then transferred to that of the island of San Clemente in Venice, where she died in 1937. The cause of death was registered as "brain haemorrhage".
Benito Albino's fate
Benito Albino Mussolini was abducted by government agents and was told his mother was dead. In 1931, at age fifteen, he was adopted as an orphan by the fascist ex-police chief of Sopramonte. Initially educated at a Barnabite college in Moncalieri, he enrolled in the Italian Royal Navy, and always remained under close surveillance by the fascist government. Nevertheless, he persisted in stating Benito Mussolini was his father and was eventually forcibly interned in an asylum in Mombello, Province of Milan, where he was murdered on 26 August 1942 after repeated coma-inducing injections, aged twenty-six.
Rediscovery and Dalser's life in film
The story of Benito Mussolini's first marriage was suppressed during fascist rule, and remained generally unknown for years afterwards. It was uncovered in 2005 by Italian journalist Marco Zeni and made public through a TV documentary on state television as well as two books (L'ultimo filò and La moglie di Mussolini).
Vincere, a biopic on Dalser's life, directed by Marco Bellocchio and starring Giovanna Mezzogiorno, was screened at the 2009 American Film Institute Festival and in competition at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
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