Gaetano Bresci

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Gaetano Bresci
Gaetano Bresci.jpg
Born(1869-11-10)November 10, 1869
DiedMay 22, 1901(1901-05-22) (aged 31)
Conviction(s)Murder of Umberto I
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment

Gaetano Bresci (Italian pronunciation: [ɡaeˈtaːno ˈbreʃʃi]; November 10, 1869 – May 22, 1901) was an Italian-American anarchist who assassinated King Umberto I of Italy on July 29, 1900. Bresci was the first European regicide not to be executed, as capital punishment in Italy had been abolished in 1889.[1]


Bresci was born on November 10, 1869, at Coiano, in Prato, Tuscany,[2] and emigrated from Italy to the United States in his late twenties. In the United States, he made his living as a weaver in Paterson, New Jersey, which had a large Italian-American community.[3] He became involved with and was later a leading member of an Italian political group called "Gruppo diritti all' esistenza".[3] He was one of the founders of La Questione Sociale, the Italian language anarchist paper published in Paterson.[4]

Bresci had thought of killing Italian King Umberto I when he lived in Italy. After immigrating to the United States, he was introduced to anarchist and propaganda of the deed advocate Giuseppe Ciancabilla via the anarchist organizer Errico Malatesta. While Bresci was influenced by Ciancabilla and the continued suppression of popular revolt in Italy, he was particularly affected by the 1898 Bava Beccaris massacre, in which dozens of people were murdered during the Milanese bread riots over the rising price of bread, for which the king awarded a medal to General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris.[5]


Gaetano Bresci during his trial

Bresci requested the return of a loan to La Questione Sociale and with the money he went to Italy. While the king was visiting Monza, on July 29, 1900, Bresci shot him four times with a five-shot .32 revolver.[6]

Trial and death[edit]

Bresci was captured and put on trial, where he was defended by the anarchist lawyer Francesco Saverio Merlino. There being no capital punishment in Italy at the time, he was sentenced in Milan on August 29, 1900, to penal servitude for life on Santo Stefano Island near Ventotene, where numerous other anarchists had also been sent over the years. Less than a year later, on May 22, 1901, he was found dead in prison at the age of 31.[7] Biographer Arrigo Petacco described the circumstances of Bresci's death as mysterious. While Bresci was reported to have hanged himself, many believed that he had been murdered.[5]


Bresci monument in Carrara

Anarchists quickly regarded Bresci as a martyr and raised money to support his widow and two daughters.[8] Bresci's regicide inspired anarchist Leon Czolgosz to kill United States President William McKinley later that year.[9] New York City anarchists congregated as the Bresci Circle in his honor. The group, which reached 600 participants in 1914, were involved in numerous examples of propaganda of the deed, including bombing St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan and attempting to assassinate John D. Rockefeller, the richest person of the modern era.[10]

In the 1970s through the 1980s, Tuscan anarchists commissioned a monument to Bresci for his hometown but were blocked by the government.[11][12] It was erected overnight in Carrara's Turigliano cemetery [it] in 1990.[13] Vittorio Emanuele III commissioned the Expiatory Chapel of Monza to commemorate the place where his father was assassinated.[14]

The Italian underground rap band assalti frontali, known for its political commitment, quotes Bresci in the song Banditi nella sala, with others famous left-wing rebels from all around the world. In 2021, an italian darkwave duo named itself GBRESCI after Bresci. [15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allen, John L., Jr. 2001, September 14. "He executed justice – papal execution Giovanni Battista Bugatti's life and work". National Catholic Reporter.
  2. ^ Michael Kemp (2018). Bombs, Bullets and Bread: The Politics of Anarchist Terrorism Worldwide, 1866–1926. McFarland. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-4766-3211-7.
  3. ^ a b "ASSASSIN'S LOT FELL UPON ANARCHIST HERE; Gaetano Bresci, the King's Murderer, Lived in Paterson. WAS IN AMERICA SIX YEARS His Identity Established, and His Membership in an Italian Anarchistic Group in the New Jersey Town.", The New York Times, July 31, 1900. Accessed May 19, 2008.
  4. ^ Michael Kemp (2018). Bombs, Bullets and Bread: The Politics of Anarchist Terrorism Worldwide, 1866–1926. McFarland. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-4766-3211-7.
  5. ^ a b Vecoli 1999.
  6. ^ Humanities, National Endowment for the (August 3, 1900). "The evening world. [volume] (New York, N.Y.) 1887-1931, August 03, 1900, Evening Edition, Image 2" – via
  7. ^ Bresci Commits Suicide; Murderer of King Humbert Hangs Himself in Prison, The New York Times, May 24, 1901
  8. ^ Tom Goyens (2017). Radical Gotham: Anarchism in New York City from Schwab's Saloon to Occupy Wall Street. University of Illinois Press. pp. 93–94. ISBN 978-0-252-09959-5.
  9. ^ Nash, Jay Robert (1998). Terrorism in the 20th Century: A Narrative Encyclopedia From the Anarchists, through the Weathermen, to the Unabomber. M. Evans. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-4617-4769-7.
  10. ^ Lardner, James; Reppetto, Thomas (2001). NYPD: A City and Its Police. Macmillan. pp. 173–174. ISBN 978-0-8050-6737-8.
  11. ^ Paul Hofmann (1991). That Fine Italian Hand. Henry Holt and Company. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-8050-1729-8.
  12. ^ "Lost their marbles". The Economist. August 30, 1986. p. 38. ISSN 0013-0613 – via Gale.
  13. ^ "'A Gaetano Bresci, Gli Anarchici' in Piazza La Statua Contestata". La Repubblica. May 4, 1990. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  14. ^ Northern Italy: From the Alps to Rome. A&C Black. 1997. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-7136-4294-0.
  15. ^ Claudia Mazzotta (March 16, 2021). "GBRESCI, come l'anarchico che uccise il re". Rockit. Retrieved November 4, 2021.


Further reading[edit]

  • Jensen, Richard Bach (2014). "The Assassination of Umberto I of Italy". The Battle Against Anarchist Terrorism: An International History, 1878-1934. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-03405-1. OCLC 936070232.
  • Lurie, Maxine N.; Mappen, Marc (2004). "Bresci, Gaetano". Encyclopedia of New Jersey. Rutgers University Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8135-3325-4.
  • Pernicone, Nunzio; Ottanelli, Fraser M (2018). "Fatti di Maggio and Gaetano Bresci". Assassins Against the Old Order: Italian Anarchist Violence in Fin De Siècle Europe. ISBN 978-0-252-05056-5. OCLC 1050163307.