In Milan during 1914, the future fascist dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, married Ida Dalser, a 34-year-old beautician who soon bore him a child, Benito Albino Mussolini. Dalser sold her business to help her husband fund his new newspaper, Il Popolo d’Italia, ‘The People of Italy’.
The marriage did not last and before the birth of Benito Jr, on 17 December 1915, Mussolini had married Rachele Guidi, his long-term mistress and mother to his first child, Edda, who had been born in 1910.
Unsurprisingly, Ida, left penniless, was furious with the way Mussolini had treated her. Following the end of the First World War, she claimed she had proof that in early 1915 Mussolini had taken bribes from the French government to use his influence to commit neutral Italy to declare war against Austria-Hungary. (Italy did indeed declare war against the Central Powers in May 1915). Had this allegation come to light it would have ruined Mussolini’s fledging career.
Mussolini ordered the destruction of the marriage records and stopped paying his first wife maintenance as previously ordered by the courts.
Forced into drastic action, Mussolini had her abducted. Beaten and forced into a straitjacket, she was declared insane and interned against her will in an asylum. Benito Junior was placed in various boarding schools and, as he grew up, was told that his mother had died. He was ordered to stop referring to Mussolini as his father and had his surname changed to Bernardi.
In 1935, Benito, like his mother, was forcibly incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital. Both remained incarcerated until their deaths – Dasler on 3 December 1937 of a ‘brain hemorrhage’, and Benito killed on 26 August 1942, aged 26, following a series of injections designed to induce coma.
Meanwhile, despite numerous affairs and dalliances, Mussolini remained with his second wife, Rachele, throughout his life. They were to have five children.
The story of Mussolini and Dalser was dramatized in the 2009 Italian film Vincere.
See also article on Rachele Mussolini.