Consolidating Italy: Great Britain and the Culmination of the Risorgimento, 1868–70
The year 1868 was an unusually quiet one so far as Italian affairs were concerned. At its close, the first British general election to take place under the rules introduced by the 1867 Reform Act returned the Liberals to power. Great Britain’s Italian policy therefore passed back into the hands of men who had been far more enthusiastic about the Italian national cause than the Conservatives who had been at the helm during the previous two years. The new government was, however, a very different administration from the earlier Liberal administrations of Palmerston and Russell, which had taken such a keen interest in the unifying of Italy through the first half of the 1860s. The new regime was headed by the principled reformist William Gladstone, who had taken the lead in mustering British sympathy for the Italian national cause in Britain during the 1850s. The vastly experienced Lord Clarendon returned to the Foreign Office, occupying the position until his death in June 1870, shortly before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July. He was replaced by Lord Granville, who served as Gladstone’s foreign secretary through the Roman crisis which brought about the culmination of the Risorgimento, and the realisation of a much more complete Kingdom of Italy, in September 1870. Broadly speaking, this new Liberal administration’s policy on Italy aimed to provide moral support regarding the country’s development, to advocate the incorporation of Rome into the kingdom by whatever peaceful means seemed possible, and to keep the Italians out of any war that might result from the increasingly fractious international climate.