Guidi, Rachele (1891–1979)
Guidi, Rachele (1891–1979)
Italian wife of Benito Mussolini. Name variations: Rachele Mussolini. Born Rachele Guidi in Romagnol, Italy, in 1891; died in October 1979; daughter of peasants; attended school to second grade; married Benito Mussolini (1883–1945, Fascist dictator and prime minister of Italy), around 1916; children: Edda Ciano (1910–1995); Vittorio Mussolini (b. 1916); Bruno Mussolini (b. 1918); Romano Mussolini (b. 1927, who with his first wife had daughters Rachele Mussolini and Alessandra Mussolini , an Italian politician); Anna Maria Mussolini (b. 1929).
"I was already a revolutionary when I was six," Rachele Guidi told Kay Withers . "I wanted to go to school and my parents didn't want to send me. Finally my mother let me go, and I finished the second grade. But then my father died and I had to go to work. I earned a plate of spaghetti a day minding two sheep."
Guidi was tiny and tough, with a wealth of energy, and only 19 when she began living with the promising Socialist writer Benito Mussolini in 1910. She was also seven years his junior. She doted on the writer, having looked up to him ever since she had attended his mother's elementary school at age seven.
Still, Rachele was not interested in marriage. Their first child Edda was born out of wedlock in 1910. During World War I, while serving in the Italian army, a grenade thrower exploded during a practice session, wounding Mussolini with 40 fragments. A shaken Benito felt it was time to marry. Besides, Rachele was expecting Vittorio. Though Rachele was unconvinced, she reluctantly agreed, and they were married by proxy. But she never used her husband's name, preferring to call herself Rachele Guidi. She also had to share him with journalist Margherita Sarfatti for a number of years. (He would later be machine-gunned to death with another lover, Clara Petacci .)
During the early 1920s, while the family lived in the north on a farm, Benito lived in Rome as prime minister and would visit them three or four times a year. He moved his wife and family to Rome in 1927, when family life became a litmus test for fascist convictions. By then, there was still some affection between Rachele and Benito but also a great distance. "Rachele was made out to be the ideal fascist woman," writes Denis Mack Smith, "a hardworking, dutiful stay-at-home."
Throughout the turbulent years, though indifferent to ideology, Rachele was loyal to her husband, in power and out of power, though she never deigned to interfere in matters of state. During his entire 20-year political tenure, she did not set foot in his office. Instead, she stayed home and raised the children. "But I was sorry that he went into the government," she told Withers in 1975,
"He had a newspaper, he was the owner. You can't be happy in politics, never. Because one day things go well, another day they go badly."
After Benito's death in Como at the hands of partisans, Rachele spent three days in jail, and her children Anna and Romano were taken from her and handed over to the partisans. Following the war, Rachele lived out her years in solitude and silence at their Villa Carpena, near the Adriatic city of Forli. There, she could view the tall pines she had planted in the early years, one for each of her five children. There, she could enter the library, filled with photographs and books by and about her husband. Her husband, Il Duce, was buried 12 miles away.
Smith, Denis Mack. Mussolini. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982.
Withers, Kay. "Donna Rachele Mussolini," in Miami Herald [Florida]. April 27, 1975.