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Who was Camillo Benso?

Updated on December 3, 2016

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-1861), the statesman whose diplomatic skill brought about the unification of Italy, was born in Turin in the kingdom of Piedmont. After Piedmont's defeat by Austria in 1848-49 Cavour threw himself into the ideal of freeing his country from Austrian rule and uniting all of Italy. He became Prime Minister and shrewdly sent a force of Piedmontese troops to the Crimean War, thus ensuring himself a place at the peace conference, where he cultivated the friendship of France and Britain.

He met Emperor Napoleon III secretly at Plombieres in 1858, where they agreed that France would help Piedmont against Austria, and after Cavour had maneuvered Austria into the position of an aggressor Napoleon fulfilled his promise. With Austria defeated at Magenta and Solferino the central states of Italy joined themselves to Piedmont, but Cavour had to cede Savoy and Nice to France and leave Venetia in Austrian hands.

In 1860 Garibaldi invaded Sicily, marched to Naples and appeared to be about to invade Rome, whereupon Cavour, sensing that this would provoke an international crisis, persuaded his king, Victor Emmanuel II, to accompany Piedmontese troops through the Papal States into Neapolitan territory. Garibaldi then agreed to hand over his conquests to Victor Emmanuel, and when Cavour died a few months later the unity of the greater part of Italy had been achieved .

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