Vittorio Orlando was Prime Minister of Italy at the end of World War One. Having fought on the side of the Allies, Orlando arrived at the peace talks under the assumption that Italy would be treated as an equal during the negotiation and signing Versailles Treaty.
However, the other leaders including David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson kept the Italian leader at arm’s length throughout. This was later used by the then unknown Mussolini as a sign of the severe weaknesses in the Italian government.
Vittorio Orlando was born in 1860 in Palermo, Sicily and eventually became a professor of law. In 1916, he entered the government as Minister of Justice and was soon appointed Prime Minister. This stint as leader was triumphant, including the victory of Italy at Vittorio Veneto in 1917.
Despite his successes, Orlando found himself pushed back at the Versailles Peace Treaty. It wasn’t long before he had a disagreement with Woodrow Wilson over his territorial demands for Italy, which Wilson had felt were unreasonable as a result of his personal beliefs.
As a result of this, the conclusion of Versailles left many in Italy feeling they had lost out despite being on the ‘winning side’, particularly as the country did not even obtain control over the Adriatic coastline in the deal; this was the very least the country had expected.
Sadly, this dissatisfaction brought an abrupt end to Orlando’s otherwise successful political career. To some, this outcome seemed unfair; Italy certainly came away from the treaty meetings without the deal she wanted, but the country’s membership of the Triple Alliance before World War One, as well as its delay in joining the war, had left many failing to trust the country. As such, some still see Orlando’s failures in Versailles as a reflection of the former leader’s actions rather than his; Italy was simply not seen as trustworthy by the ‘Big Three’.
Orlando resigned in June 1919 and withdrew from politics, eventually passing away in 1952. It was just three years after his resignation when Mussolini came into power.
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