Violet Gibson

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Violet Gibson
Violet Gibson
Violet Albina Gibson

31 August 1876
Died2 May 1956(1956-05-02) (aged 79)
Resting placeKingsthorpe, England, UK
Parent(s)The 1st Baron Ashbourne and Frances Maria Adelaide Colles

The Honourable Violet Albina Gibson (31 August 1876 – 2 May 1956) was an Anglo-Irish woman who attempted to assassinate Benito Mussolini in 1926. She was the daughter of Lord Ashbourne, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Early life[edit]

Gibson was born in Dublin, Ireland, on 31 August 1876.[1] Her father was an Irish lawyer and politician, Edward Gibson, who was created Baron Ashbourne in 1885.[2] Her mother, Frances, was a Christian Scientist.[3] Violet experimented with theosophy before becoming a Roman Catholic in 1902.[4] She was presented as a debutante at court during the reign of Queen Victoria.[5]

Gibson suffered severe ill health throughout her life. She had a nervous breakdown in 1922; she was declared insane and committed to a mental institution for two years.[6] She attempted suicide in early 1925.[4]

Shooting of Mussolini[edit]

On 7 April 1926, Gibson shot Mussolini, Italy's Fascist leader, as he walked among the crowd in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome after leaving an assembly of the International Congress of Surgeons, to whom he had delivered a speech on the wonders of modern medicine.[4][7] Gibson had armed herself with a rock to break Mussolini's car window if necessary, and a Modèle 1892 revolver disguised in a black shawl.[8] She fired once, but Mussolini moved his head at that moment and the shot hit his nose; she tried again, but the gun misfired.[4] Mussolini's son, in his memoir, gives an alternative account, recounting that Gibson fired twice, once missing and once grazing Mussolini's nose[9]:110 Gibson was almost lynched on the spot by an angry mob, but police intervened and took her away for questioning. Mussolini was wounded only slightly, dismissing his injury as "a mere trifle", and after his nose was bandaged he continued his parade on the Capitoline.[4]

It has been theorised that Gibson was insane at the time of the attack, and the idea of assassinating Mussolini was hers and that she worked alone. She told interrogators that she shot Mussolini "to glorify God" who had kindly sent an angel to keep her arm steady.[6] She was deported to Britain after being released without charge at the request of Mussolini,[10] an act for which he received the thanks of the British government.[9]:110

The assassination attempt triggered a wave of popular support for Mussolini, resulting in a raft of oppressive legislation, consolidating his control of Italy.[6]

She spent the rest of her life in a mental asylum, St Andrew's Hospital in Northampton.[11] She died on 2 May 1956.[1] She is buried in Kingsthorpe Cemetery, Northampton.[12]

Her gravestone in Kingsthorpe Cemetery


The Irishwoman Who Shot Mussolini, a 2014 radio documentary, was made by Siobhán Lynam for RTÉ Radio 1.[13] A film drama documentary, Violet Gibson, The Irish Woman Who Shot Mussolini (2020) starring Olwen Fouéré, was commissioned by TG4 and produced by Barrie Dowdall and Siobhán Lynam.[14]

Gibson's story is the subject of Alice Barry's play Violet Gibson: The Woman Who Shot Mussolini.[15]

Lisa O'Neill's song Violet Gibson celebrates her. It is featured on O'Neill's album Heard a Long Song Gone.[16]

Evelyn Conlon's short story Dear You provides an epistolary account of events from Gibson's point of view. The story first appeared in both Italian and English in Tratti Review (Numero Novantatre, Italy, May 2013), and subsequently in Accenti: The Magazine with an Italian Accent (Canada).[17] It also appears in Conlon's Moving About the Place Collection (Blackstaff, 2021).

In February 2021 Dublin City Council approved the placement of a plaque to commemorate Gibson as "a committed anti-fascist".[5]


  1. ^ a b Liz Evers. "Gibson, Violet Albina - Dictionary of Irish Biography - Cambridge University Press". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  2. ^ "New Peers 06 July 1885". Hansard.
  3. ^ "National Archives: Census of Ireland 1911". Retrieved 2016-11-21.
  4. ^ a b c d e Foulkes, Debbie (17 May 2010). "Violet Gibson (1876 – 1956) Shot Mussolini". Forgotten Newsmakers. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b Michael Sheils McNamee (2021-02-21). "Violet Gibson - The Irish woman who shot Benito Mussolini". BBC News. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  6. ^ a b c "Profile: Violet Gibson, the Irish woman who shot Mussolini". Belfast Telegraph.
  7. ^ "Mussolini Trionfante", Time Magazine, 19 April 1926.
  8. ^ "Violet Gibson i nieudany zamach na "Duce"". 2016-04-08.
  9. ^ a b Mussolini, Romano. (2006). My father, il Duce : a memoir by Mussolini's son (1st ed.). [San Diego]: Kales Press. ISBN 0-9670076-8-2. OCLC 70407898.
  10. ^ Bosworth, R.J.B., Mussolini, 2002, pp 218-219
  11. ^ Mussolini's nose,; accessed 8 July 2014.
  12. ^ McNally, Frank. "Her father's daughter – An Irishman's Diary about the tragic life of Lucia Joyce". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  13. ^ "Documentary on One The Irishwoman Who Shot Mussolini". RTE. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  14. ^ "The Irish woman who shot Mussolini - inside the new film". RTE. 16 October 2020. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  15. ^ Sheridan, Colette (2016-08-09). "A real shot at changing modern history in the play 'Violet Gibson: The Woman Who Shot Mussolini'". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  16. ^ Walshe, John (2018-10-19). "Album Review: Lisa O'Neill, Heard A Long Gone Song". Hotpress. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  17. ^ Conlon, Evelyn (2019-08-21). "Dear You". Accenti. Retrieved 2021-02-22.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]