The March on Rome was the grand name given to the events that led to Mussolini’s seizure of power on 28 October 1922.
The Italian King
The threat of civil war in Italy loomed large and Mussolini and his fascist party decided to stage a coup despite knowing they were no match for the Italian army. Indeed, Luigi Facta, the Italian Prime Minister, asked the king, Victor Emanuel III, to declare a state of martial law and to allow the use of the army to squash Mussolini and his followers. The king initially agreed and then, fearing that such an action would spark a civil war, changed his mind. Appalled, Facta resigned.
20,000 fascists began the March On Rome but stopped 30 kilometres north of the capital where half of them promptly returned home. Mussolini himself joined the march at various stages to have his photograph taken and be seen as marching shoulder-to-shoulder with his men. The photos show Mussolini with his jaw jutting, his chest inflated and his steely eyes fixed on his destiny. But there was only so much marching Mussolini wanted to do and he arrived in the capital by express train.
The King and His New Prime Minister
The king believed it was better to have Mussolini within his government than causing unrest from the outside so he offered the fascist leader a role in his government. But Mussolini refused everything but the top job. The bluff worked, and on 28 October 1922, the king duly appointed Mussolini Prime Minister.
The following day the march did take place but the victory had already been won, so this was more of a celebratory stroll than a revolutionary march.
The Murder of a Socialist
Eighteen months later, Mussolini’s government won convincingly at the polls. When the socialist politician, Giacomo Matteotti, spoke out against the election, claiming that fraud and intimidation had won it for the fascists, he paid for his outspokenness with his life. Matteotti’s murder caused a national outcry but there was no proof of Mussolini’s involvement and the king stood by him. In disgust, politicians of all persuasions withdrew from parliament, which allowed Mussolini opportunity to consolidate his power and form his dictatorship.