Rubino was born in Bitonto, during the period of Italian unification. While serving in the Italian army as a young man, Rubino was condemned to five years detention for writing a subversive newspaper article. In 1898, he was arrested again during bread riots in Milan. Rather than serving a lengthy prison sentence, Rubino fled the country. He first took up residence in Glasgow, Scotland and then moved to London. He was unable to find work, however, until offered assistance by the Italian Embassy. He was then employed by the Italian Secret Service to spy on anarchist organizations in London. He was dismissed from the job, however, once embassy officials discovered that he sympathized with the anarchists.
In May 1902, Rubino's employment with the Italian Secret Service was uncovered, and he was denounced by the international anarchist press as a spy. Evidently, Rubino then resolved to commit an assassination in order to prove his allegiance to the anarchist cause. As he wrote in a letter to his former comrades, "perhaps tomorrow or after, I will be able to prove my rebellion in a manner more consistent with my and your aspirations." According to later police interrogations, he considered killing King Edward VII, but decided against it due to the strong feeling of the English people in favour of the monarchy. Instead he chose King Leopold II of Belgium.
In late October, 1902, Rubino relocated to Brussels. On the morning of November 15, 1902, King Leopold was returning from a ceremony in memory of his recently deceased wife, Marie Henriette. Rubino took a revolver and waited for the King's procession among a crowd on Rue Royale in front of the Bank of Brussels. After Leopold's carriage passed, Rubino drew his gun and fired three shots at the King. All three shots missed, although one smashed the window of a carriage following Leopold's.
Rubino was immediately mauled by the crowd and then rescued by police and put in a cab. The infuriated crowd surrounded it and attacked the vehicle with knives and sticks. The police had great difficulty in forcing their way through the crowd, which shouted alternately, "Kill him!" and "Long live the King!"
At the police station Rubino was searched and found to be carrying a package of ball cartridges and picture postcards bearing portraits of King Leopold, Prince Albert, and Princess Elisabeth. Rubino said he procured the cards so he would be able to recognize the members of the royal family. He also said he did not regret his act and would have fired "at the King of Italy as readily as at the King of Belgium, because monarchs are tyrants who cause the misery of their peoples." He also asserted that he had no accomplices, although several people who were near Rubino when he fired the revolver asserted that he was accompanied by another man who escaped among the crowd.
Following the attempted assassination, anarchists further condemned Rubino as an agent provocateur, with some even speculating that the entire event was staged in order to justify subsequent police crackdowns against European anarchists. This speculation was fueled by early reports that the unfired cartridges left in Rubino's revolver were blanks. This was contradicted by later reports that Rubino's revolver was never found by the police.
Trial and imprisonment
Rubino stood trial in Brussels] in February 1903. At the trial Rubino was unrepentant and even boastful, declaring that he had hoped to be able to kill the King, Prince Albert, and a few of the clergy. During the trial Rubino often expounded anarchist doctrines which, he said, recognized neither laws nor judges. The jury found Rubino guilty and the court then sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Notes and references
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- Milillo, Stefano (2006). "Gennaro Rubino e l'attentato a Leopoldo II re del Belgio". Studi Bitontini (in Italian) (80): 90.
- Some sources report Rubino's date of birth as November 24, 1859, due to a discrepancy in the birth records of the city of Bitonto. The original baptism record, however, records the date as November 23.
- "The Attempt on the Belgian King". The Scotsman. November 17, 1902. p. 5.
- Milillo, 95.
- Milillo, 96.
- "King of the Belgians Attacked by Anarchist". The New York Times. November 16, 1902.
- "Attempt on the King of the Belgians". The Scotsman. November 17, 1902. p. 8.
- "King Leopold's Escape". The New York Times. November 17, 1902.
- Milillo, 97. Original Italian: "E forse domani o dopo, potrò dimostrare la mia ribellione in un modo più consono alle mie e vostre aspirazioni."
- "The Brussels Anarchist". The Scotsman. November 18, 1902. p. 5.
- Winn, Ross (January 1903). "Editorial Comment". Winn's Firebrand: 1–2.
- "Three Shots Fired at King of the Belgians". Nashville Banner. November 15, 1902. "The other chambers in the revolver proved to be blank, so it is presumed that those fired were equally harmless."
- "King of the Belgians Attacked by Anarchist". The New York Times. November 16, 1902. "It is thought possible that this individual was an accomplice who carried off the revolver which the police have not yet found."
- Milillo, 87.
- "Anarchist Rubino on Trial". The New York Times. February 7, 1903.
- "Trail of an Anarchist". The Scotsman. February 7, 1903.
- "Life Sentence for Anarchist". The New York Times. February 11, 1903.
- "The Trial of Rubino". The Scotsman. February 11, 1903.
- Milillo, 97.