La Marmora Ferrero, Alfonso

(1804–1878)
   One of four brothers, all of whom rose to the rank of general in the Piedmontese army, Alfonso La Marmora was the first military officer to become prime minister of Italy, in September 1864. He had earlier served as prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia for six months in 1859, after the peace of Villafranca and the subsequent resignation of Camillo Benso di Cavour. During his first spell in office, a law unifying local administration throughout the country was promulgated. Building on earlier laws presented by Urbano Rattazzi in 1863, the new local government arrangements established tight central control over the peninsula. In addition, Italian law was harmonized with Sardinian law in matters of public health, the classification of roads, railways, canals, and other public works. During La Marmora’s period as premier (he continued to govern until June 1866, interrupted only by a brief government crisis in December 1865), the new civil code was introduced. The code, which has been in force since January 1866, permitted civil marriage for the first time but backed away from introducing divorce. The judicial inferiority of women and children born outside marriage was established.
   La Marmora gave up politics in June 1866 to lead the Italian forces in the war against Austria. Despite his creation of the Bersaglieri, his military leadership was less than inspiring: Italian troops under his command were defeated at Custoza in June 1866, largely as a result of his errors as a commander. After the war, La Marmora was the target of bitter public criticism both for his conduct in the field and for the wider failure of his governments to prepare the new kingdom’s armed forces. He retired into seclusion, emerging only in 1870 when King Victor Emmanuel II made him Lieutenant of Rome. He died in Florence in 1878.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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