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Anciennes et nouvelles aristocraties

Didier Lancien
Monique de Saint-Martin

III. Noblesses du xxe siècle

Strategies of Social Reproduction and Reconversion within the Piedmontese Aristocracy (1880-1940)

Anthony Cardoza

Texte intégral

1Writing in 1902, Luigi Villari noted how the Italian word aristocrazia had come to mean something quite different from its English equivalent, aristocracy:

“The [former] does not signify the titled classes alone, or those who are of old family. It is best translated by ‘good society’. The nobility are, of course, included in it, but so are a certain number of higher Government officials, most of the wealthy business men [...] and a few professional men.” (Villari 1902: 17.)

2The impressions of contemporary observers like Villari have found a clear echo in a body of recent scholarship which has concluded that noble groups in Italy lacked the necessary monarchical caste, and landed traditions of their German and British counterparts to survive for long as an autonomous and cohesive force in the new nation state that emerged after 1861 (Meriggi 1989: 180-182; Romanelli 1991: 726-727; Banti 1994: 13-27). Accordingly, it has been argued that once legal distinctions between the nobility and bourgeoisie had been eliminated, nobles either declined rapidly or else blended into a larger and more heterogeneous class of landed proprietors. As a separate and distinct component of the Italian upper classes, the titled nobility seems to disappear almost completely from the historical literature on the period after 1880.

3On the whole, these arguments for the amalgamation of old and new elites have focused on three major areas: the juridical reforms that eliminated the legally privileged status of the nobles, the growth of non-noble landownership, and the new forms of political collaboration based on propertied status and moderate progress. As Alberto Banti has recognized recently, however, “the actual paths of this process of osmosis remain to be investigated in depth at the level of matrimonial alliances, social networks, and elite associational life” (Banti 1990: 65-66). In the case of Piedmont’s aristocracy, one of Italy’s most prominent and influential titled noble groups in the nineteenth century, such an investigation reveals surprisingly little in the way of genuine social fusion. On the contrary, contact between old and new elites was largely limited to the public and political spheres and rarely occasioned more intimate relations prior to the First World War. Indeed, distinctive patterns of wealth-holding, investments, marriage, professions, and life styles all point to the survival of the old nobility as a relatively cohesive and separate social elite within local upper-class society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

4Aristocratic social reproduction in Piedmont entailed a combination of conservatism and innovation. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, titled families here clung tenaciously to a set of traditional values and customs. They continued to celebrate, in word and deed, loyalty to throne and altar, the honor of military service, and the importance of lineage, endogamy, patriarchy, and paternalism. In this respect, they seem to have fit Pierre Bourdieu’s description of groups in decline who “endlessly reinvent the discourse of all aristocracies... celebration of tradition and the past, the cult of history and its rituals” (Bourdieu 1984: 111).

5The perpetuation of time-honored traditions, however, took on a new meaning in the absence of any legally privileged status in the second half of the nineteenth century. Recourse to ancestral values and customs served to foster a sense of group identity and superiority in an era when the nobles, as such, did not possess any formal organization and were being rapidly overshadowed by new men in the political arena and in economic life. At the same time, old-line families also relied increasingly on new or transformed institutional settings provided by private schools, gentlemen’s clubs, and cavalry regiments to reconstitute social boundaries and to enhance their cohesion and exclusivity. While none of these institutions was solely aristocratic in its membership, they all tended to be dominated by the scions of titled families who set the tone for the rest. It was the combination of pedigree, old landed wealth, and new shared associations which provided the qualifications to preserve high status and to distinguish the aristocratic elite from other segments of the propertied classes.

6A variety of circumstances contributed to the Piedmontese nobility’s capacity to maintain its identity and resist social fusion. To begin with, they had constituted Italy’s only feudal, martial, service nobility, a circumstance that imbued them with a stronger set of pre-bourgeois values and traditions than most of their counterparts elsewhere on the peninsula. Cohesion was also favored by the absence of great extremes of aristocratic wealth and poverty. Ironically, the largely successful capitalist transformation of their estates in the Po Valley plains helped make it easier for them to maintain a view of society based on status and obligation. Most titled families continued to enjoy a level of wealth sufficient to maintain their traditionally dignified, but not opulent, standard of living without recourse to intermarriage with the new rich or “demeaning” involvement in trade and industry. Finally, the Piedmontese nobles’ longstanding allegiance and service to the House of Savoy gave them a degree of continuity and cohesion as well as a tradition of exercising public power that contrasted sharply with the more polyglot noble groups in Lombardy and the Kingdom of Naples who were the accretions of successive waves of foreign occupation. Their special relationship with the dynasty that unified Italy assured them a secure place in the army and civil service of the new national state, and thus another way of perpetuating caste traditions. In addition, the active presence of the royal family in Turinese high society helped mightily to legitimize and preserve traditional social hierarchies and rituals, in which old-line aristocrats still occupied a preeminent position of leadership and prestige.

7In the twentieth century, however, the traumatic effects of war, rapid industrialization, recurrent problems in agriculture, and the advance of mass politics imposed more drastic strategies of reconversion on those aristocratic families who aspired to safeguard their inherited social positions. Of course, some nobles conformed to popular stereotypes by squandering the remains of the ancestral patrimony on gambling, mistresses, and the high life or by retreating to their decaying country houses where they led a proud but impoverished existence before simply dying off. Still for others, preeminence was followed not so much by decadence and disappearance as by adaption and survival. In fact, a number of aristocrats became active participants in a process of adjustment to the difficult circumstances that confronted them, especially after 1914. As a result, they remained an affluent and prominent component of Piedmontese high society in the second half of the twentieth century. But such success came at a high price, namely the abandonment of many of the customs and traditions that had traditionally defined and distinguished the Piedmontese nobility.


  • 1 My analysis rests on a survey of the surviving probate records from unification to the years short (...)

8To what extent did the distinction between wealthy aristocrats and bourgeois remain meaningful in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries? In the eyes of the law, such a distinction lost all meaning in the decade after 1848 when nobles relinquished the last remaining juridical privileges that separated them from other classes in society. Nonetheless, a comparative analysis of the estates left in probate by the wealthiest citizens of Piedmont’s capital city, Turin, in the decades after 1861 strongly suggests that such a distinction persisted at least up to the First World War.1

9The gender, family position, and lineage of the top aristocratic wealth holders reflected the importance of traditional values and practices. Long after primogeniture had ceased to be an exclusive legal privilege and had been replaced by more equitable inheritance laws, a solid majority (70-74%) of the large noble fortunes in probate still belonged to first sons. Most of the big estates possessed by the nobility in Piedmont were in the hands of old “thoroughbred” families who traced their titles to the medieval or early modern period. The prominence of the oldest families was especially striking at the highest levels of wealth, which were monopolized by the bearers of the most venerated names of the ancien régime like Solaro, Avogadro, Arborio, Alfieri Balbo, Provana, and Falletti whose fortunes all predated the French Revolution (Bulferetti 1958: 77-79).

10An abiding commitment to old aristocratic values and practices also found expression in the structure of the fortunes left by wealthy nobles which differed in important respects form those left by non-nobles (Table 1).



Arist. %


Arist. Share

Real Property




7. Rural Prop.




2. Urban Prop.




Personal Prop.




7. Stocks



2. Bonds



3. S & Β








11Landed wealth, the age-old marker of noble status, constituted the biggest single asset and large-scale landownership remained a predominantly aristocratic phenomenon within Turin’s elites of wealth before 1914. Aristocratic estates were also distinguished by the size and form of their outstanding debts which revealed generations of family charity and paternalistic assistance to various religious institutions, relatives, and dependents. As these burdens attest, country estates represented more than an economic investment for many old families; they also had great symbolic significance as physical embodiments of ancestral traditions and obligations.

12Most wealthy nobles also paid homage to traditional norms in their reluctance to embrace new forms of financial capitalism. Their investments in personal assets, and stocks and bonds in particular, were considerably smaller than those of other local wealthy groups, both as a factor in their own estates and as a contribution to the total wealth of all the rich in the survey. The paucity of such investments reflected a more general reluctance to become involved in the business world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Piedmont, the composition of boards of directors, the minutes of stockholders’ meetings and other corporate organizational proceedings all confirm that banking and industry remained largely alien territories to the region’s old titled families before 1914.

13Distinctive patterns of investment and productive activity indicate that no great convergence of economic interests or outlook linked the old nobility with newer business elites before the Great War. The bulk of aristocratic wealth remained solidly rooted in the countryside and in inherited land holdings, while most titled gentlemen continued to eschew any direct involvement in business activities. Conversely, the pre-war era also witnessed the transformation of Turin’s bourgeoisie from a class of largely propertied rentiers into one composed increasingly of entrepreneurs actively involved in industry and finance. The resulting absence of much real contact on corporate boards or in stockholders’ meetings delayed the development of new affinities and thereby both reflected and perpetuated the social distance between the old titled aristocracy and more dynamic sectors of the local bourgeoisie.


14One of the most reliable indicators of the social fusion of old and new elites is intermarriage: the degree to which established aristocratic families were prepared to accept the sons and daughters of wealthy industrialists, bankers, and merchants as suitable partners for their own children (McDonogh 1986: 141-142; Stone and Jeanne Stone 1986: 156-157).

15In the case of the Piedmontese, contemporary observers insisted that the elimination of all legal privileges and distinctions had little effect on aristocratic prejudices against marrying outside the ranks of the old titled families. Count Carlo Arrivabene, for instance, saw little change in their mentality in the 1860’s:

“The proud aristocracy of the Piedmontese capital, far from mixing with the commonality, as in other Italian towns, does not associate or marry with any lower class. A Turinese [...] nobleman would think himself humiliated were his daughter to marry a gentleman without title. With few exceptions, the nobility of Turin are very bigoted...” (Arrivabene 1862: I, 17.)

16Probate records and published genealogies for the period 1862-1912 confirm Arrivabene’s impressions. In a period when it became more common for young aristocrats elsewhere on the peninsula to marry outside their class, the pattern of the Piedmontese remained quite traditional (Table 2 & 3).

(All Married Nobles in Probate)

Spouse’s Social Status



Piedmonlese Nobility



Non-Piedmontese Nobility









(All Married Nobles)


17The classic coalescence of new wealth and old status that characterized so much of late nineteenth-century high society in Milan, Rome, and most European capitals appears to have been largely absent in Turin. Aristocratic families continued to exchange marital partners with each other; mixed marriages remained more the exception than the rule. Indeed, a substantial majority of all married nobles who passed through probate after 1862 found their spouses within the ranks of titled families. When mixed marriages did take place, they tended to be confined to titled families of lesser status and prestige.

  • 2 My survey uncovered just fourteen cases of mixed marriages involving heirs of rich non-nobles.

18Even marriages between the very wealthy bourgeois and aristocrats remained a rarity in Turin. Of the 125 richest non-nobles to pass through probate between 1862 and 1912, only six forged marital alliances with noble families, and none of these were with the old titled elite of wealth. Nor were the children from these wealthy bourgeois families much more likely to marry into the nobility than their parents.2 Regardless of who rejected whom, the rarity of mixed marriages meant that aristocratic and bourgeois kinship networks continued to develop along distinct and mutually exclusive lines.


  • 3 For a fuller discussion of the Royal College Carl Albert, see Cardoza (1997).
  • 4 Although aristocratic students made up only 37% of the total enrollment in the school between 1838 (...)

19Aristocratic families also made use of less socially exclusive institutional settings to preserve autonomy within Piedmont’s propertied classes. While such settings allowed for some degree of social mingling, they did so on terms that reenforced the position of the old-line families as arbiters of upper-class conduct and values. In this respect, newly founded or reconstituted private schools played a particularly important role. They provided the sons of noble families with the formal education that was increasingly necessary for passing public examinations and gaining access to positions in the state. At the same time, they offered an institutional mechanism for strengthening group cohesion and inculcating traditional values and attitudes in an era when familiar social boundaries had been eroded or collapsed altogether. This blend of modern and traditional functions was clearly evident in the Royal Carl Albert College of Moncalieri, the Barnabite-run school most favored by the old families throughout the century. An aristocratic asceticism informed virtually all aspects of its structure and rituals. Students were completely isolated from the outside world. Even the reading of newspapers was rigorously forbidden. The schedule of the college until 1906 granted students no overnight absences and only three lunches a year with their families. The Barnabite superiors further encouraged military, ascetic virtues with a strict uniform code and a rigid schedule that allowed no privacy and structured virtually every minute of the students’ day from dawn until bedtime.3 In this fashion, the whole ethos of the Royal Carl Albert exalted careers that expressed aristocratic ideals of honor and public service over entrepreneurship and profit. Significantly, most graduates of the college from noble families pursued a path in life that conformed to these ideals and traditions.4

  • 5 Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, Impressioni e ricordi di “altri tempi” (pp. 36-41). This typescript (...)

20In the case of Piedmont, Italy’s officers corps had an especially important role in maintaining and revitalizing traditional practices vital to the nobility’s social cohesion and identity. Despite professionalization and the increasing heterogeneity of the officers corps, military service lost none of its prestige for young men from titled families before 1914. In his recollections of his childhood in pre-war Piedmont, the future Cavalry officer, Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta testified to the crucial formative role played by family tradition and country life. As he recalled it, “from when I was quite little, I had firmly decided that I would be a soldier just as had been my father, his father, and his father’s father: in the Cavalry, of course...”5 A variety of sources show that the army remained the preferred choice of most Piedmontese nobles who pursued careers after 1861. Social considerations continued to dictate the distribution of titled officers who concentrated in the Cavalry and Artillery. Of course, aristocratic officers occupied an important place in the ceremonies and social rituals of Turin’s high society and ducal court life before World War I. Their prestige both reflected and depended upon the presence of a strongly aristocratic high society in Turin with its own distinctive values, institutions, and patterns of sociability.


21The social distance that continued to characterize relations between old and new elites also found symbolic expression in elite men’s clubs and less institutionalized forms of upper-class social life in Turin. In sharp contrast to the more specialized organizations and voluntary associations that were proliferating in Italian cities in the late nineteenth century, Turin’s two leading gentlemen’s clubs, the Società del Whist and the Accademia Filarmonica, tended to obstruct rather than facilitate the fusion of aristocratic and bourgeois elites.

22The Whist, in particular, never displayed more than a very tentative opening to the upper middle classes before 1914. Indeed, it became the most exclusively aristocratic institution in the region and one of the strongest bulwarks of the old nobility. As such it illustrates how new forms of organization could serve to patch up and reconstruct elements of an old order well after those elements had been abolished by statute. In the process members received the final confirmation of an ascriptive status already firmly grounded in their sense of lineage, family upbringing, education, and state service.

23The mechanisms of social reproduction afforded by the Whist served to isolate the old titled families from other segments of the propertied classes. Significantly, ancient lineage appears to have counted for more than either wealth or personal achievements within the club (Table 4).

(Aristocratic Members in Probate)

Total Value

Pre-18th Century

19th Century

Below £100,000



£100,001 – 250,000



£250,001 – 500,000



£500,001 – 1,000,000



Above £1,000,000



  • 6 For a fuller discussion of the Royal College Carl Albert, see Cardoza (1997).

24The prestige associated with pedigree was such that even relatively poor men from old-line families found access to the Whist easier than considerably wealthier new nobles. Noticeably absent from the club were the untitled rich and business magnates actively engaged in industry and commerce. By the turn of the century, the Società del Whist had become a caste-like enclave of titled society that actually made for less upper-class interaction than had been the case a half century earlier.6

  • 7 These conclusions rest upon a careful reading of the lists of names of people in attendance at the (...)

25The patterns of social isolation and exclusion displayed by the men’s clubs carried over to less institutionalized forms of elite sociability. The presence and enormous prestige of the House of Savoy in the Turin provided local titled families with advantages that no other old social elite on the peninsula enjoyed in the late nineteenth century. While those aspects of high society associated with semi-public or public institutions offered at least the physical possibility of social contact between new and old elites, the two rarely intersected in the more intimate receptions, house parties, summertime diversions, and rural sporting events that filled much of the leisure time of Piedmont’s upper classes in this pre-war era.7

26Increasing self-isolation and the apparent hardening of social barriers, which also found expression in divergent patterns of residence and display, were less a testament to the power and self-confidence of the old-line families than signs of their retreat in the face of growing competition from newer business elites. Reliance on such purely defensive strategies condemned nobles to decline by cutting them off from new centers of wealth, leadership, and power.

27In the last decades before World War I, at least some of the more astute aristocrats in Piedmont seemed to recognize this danger and moved to shore up their inherited positions by cautiously exploring new avenues and opportunities. The success of the titled rich in weathering the economic crises of the 1880’s and 1890’s, for instance, can be traced in part to their modest, but growing interest in urban real estate and new forms of financial capitalism. However, these changes in the structure and composition of aristocratic investments did not add up to any radical transformation of the Piedmont’s titled elite before 1914. On the eve of war, the great majority of top aristocratic wealth holders remained the first sons of pedigreed families who assets lay predominantly in the land.


28Bourdieu has observed how reconversion strategies designed to safeguard or improve family or individual positions in social space become especially important “at a stage in the evolution of class societies in which one can conserve only by changing-to change so as to conserve” (Bourdieu 1984: 157). For the old titled families of Piedmont, World War I and its aftermath constituted just such a stage. Indeed, the war proved to be a considerably more pivotal event than the agricultural depression of the 1880’s in transforming the aristocratic elite. The war’s consequences resulted in formidable new problems and challenges that few old families were able to surmount without substantial changes in attitude and practice.

29Post-war probate returns show that a sharp decline in the nobility’s share of large-scale wealth coincided with important changes in the composition of aristocratic fortunes. Above all, what had been at most a gradual withdrawal by old titled families from the countryside before 1914 became a full-blown exodus in the early 1920’s. This exodus continued in the following two decades that saw a number of Piedmont’s oldest landed families desert their ancestral estates in the countryside. Those nobles who managed to preserve large fortunes in the inter-war years did so by drastically transforming the structure of their assets.

30New financial exigencies induced a more general change in aristocratic norms and social practices in the 1920’s and 1930’s as a profile of the nobles who became members of the Società del Whist after the war illustrates (Table 5).

(Titled Whist Members)

Degree Field





















University Totals



Percentage of Cohort



Military School



Percentage of Cohort



31The post-war generation of Piedmontese aristocrats differed in important respects from their pre-war predecessors. Measured by the traditional standards of their class, they were less affluent, landed, leisured, service-oriented, and socially exclusive than their parents’ generation. Unprecedented numbers of them no longer possessed the economic means to support the old genteel way of life and had to turn instead to the educational system and the world of business to bolster their positions. At the same time, it became more socially acceptable, if not yet common place, for even the scions of Piedmont’s wealthier old families to take the daughters of industrial magnates as their brides.

32The experience of the war and the changes in society it wrought also led young aristocrats to abandon other traditional practices that had previously defined and distinguished the Piedmontese nobility. The nobles who entered the Whist after 1918, for instance, no longer embraced the old military vocation with the same enthusiasm and unanimity as before the war. More of them now pursued the technical educations and business careers that only a generation earlier had been viewed with utter disdain and contempt in respectable aristocratic circles.


33The processes of retreat, adaption, and compromise that characterized the economic activities and social relations of the nobility in the inter-war years carried over to the political arena where titled families probably played a more highly visible role than at any time since the middle of the nineteenth century. Much like established elites elsewhere on the peninsula, Piedmontese nobles emerged as major beneficiaries of the collapse of parliamentary democracy and the triumph of Fascism after 1922.

34Local aristocratic families were neither early nor enthusiastic converts to Mussolini’s movement. The names of very few nobles appear in the semiofficial chronicles of the “heroic” phase of Fascism. Nor did Mussolini’s accession to power in 1922 provoke any great influx of titled gentlemen into the Fascist Party. Most politically active nobles were at best flanking supporters of Fascism whose primary allegiances remained with the Liberal-Monarchist and Catholic camps (Bianchi di Vigny 1939; Missori 1986; Tuninetti 1942).

  • 8 Some 86 aristocratic members of the Società del Whist served the Fascist regime in a variety of ca (...)

35Aristocratic diffidence dissipated with the domestication of Fascist hardliners and the consolidation of a conservative, authoritarian alliance between Mussolini and the House of Savoy in the mid-1920’s. Much like their counterparts in Tuscany and Rome, old-line Piedmontese families shared amply in the rewards that came with the partial restoration of political power to the aristocracy during the Fascist era. After their virtual disappearance from public office in the opening decades of the century, nobles were appointed to a whole host of governmental and party posts at the local level after 1925.8

  • 9 For the warm reception Mussolini and other Fascist leaders received from the Società del Whist, se (...)

36As in Tuscany, the office of podestà, which replaced elected mayors and municipal councils, became the old elite’s most important institutional base of influence in Piedmont. Aristocratic families also maintained a certain presence in the local leadership of the Fascist Party and in the regime’s new economic corporations. Still other nobles preferred to support the regime in more modest capacities, most commonly as members of local disciplinary boards of the Party and as officers in the Fascist Militia. In exchange for the offices and honors that the regime bestowed upon them, the old-line families accorded the plebeian leaders of Fascism a degree of acclaim and social acceptance that they had long denied to the Duce’s more respectable liberal, democratic predecessors.9

  • 10 For circumstances leading to the fusion, see Archivio di Stato di Torino, Sezione Riunite, Archivi (...)

37While most of the aristocratic collaborators with Mussolini’s regime tended to be monarcho-fascists whose allegiance to the House of Savoy remained primary, their collaboration and its accompanying benefits came at a very high price in World War II and the years that followed. The fall of the House of Savoy in 1946 and the resultant elimination of any juridical protection of noble status destroyed whatever remained of the pretensions of aristocrats to constitute a separate body in Italian society. Two years later, financial problems led the members of the Whist to abandon their aristocratic exclusivity and accept a merger with the Accademia Filarmonica.10

38The virtual disappearance of Piedmont’s titled nobility from public life since World War II has not meant that aristocratic families have vanished altogether from the upper classes and high society in Turin, as even a casual glance at the leadership and membership lists of the Whist-Filarmonica reveals. But most of the old noble families now reside along the wide avenues of the newer bourgeois neighborhoods of Turin and earn their livelihoods in the worlds of finance, industry, and commerce. Significantly, some of the more successful nobles of the post-war era have served as highlevel executives and representatives of Fiat and the Agnelli family. As their achievements attest, the continued prominence of members of old-line families has required the abandonment of a traditional aristocratic culture of landed leisure and the acceptance of a new culture of work and industry.



Arrivabene, Count Carlo, 1862, Italy under Victor Emanuel: A Personal Narrative, 2 vol.,London, Hurst & Blackett.

Band, Alberto Mario, 1990, “I proprietari terrieri nell’Italia centro-settentrionale”, in Piero Bevilacqua (éd.), Storia dell’agricoltura italiana in età contemporanea, vol. 2, Uomini e classi, Venice, Marsilio: 65-66.

– 1994, “Note sulle nobiltà nell’Italia nell’Ottocento”, Meridiana, 19: 13-27.

Bianchi di Vigny, Guerrando, 1939, Storia delfascismo torinese 1919-1922, Turin, Caesar.

Bourdieu, Pierre, 1984, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

Bulferetti, Luigi, 1958, “I piemontesi piu ricchi negli ultimi cento anni dell’assolu tismo sabaudo”, in Studi storici in onore di Gioacchino Volpe, Florence, Sansoni.

Cardoza, Anthony, 1989, “An Officer and a Gentleman: The Piedmontese Nobility and the Military in Liberal Ital”, in Esercito e città dall’Unità agli anni trenta: atti del convegno di studi, Perugia (ma Spoleto), 11-14 maggio 1988, Roma, Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Ufficio centrale per i beni archivisti, vol.1: 185-199.

– 1991, “Tra casta e classe. Clubs maschili dell’elite torinese, 1840-1914”, Quaderni Storici, 77, XXVI, 2: 363-388.

– 1997, Aristocrats in Bourgeois Europe: The Piedmontese Nobility, 1861-1930, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

McDonogh, Gary Wray, 1986, Good families of Barcelona, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Meriggi, Marco, 1989, “La borghesia italiana”, in Jurgen Kocka (éd.), Borghese europee dell’ottocento, ed. it. a cura di Alberto Mario Banti, Venice, Marsilio.

Missori, Mario, 1986, Gerarchie e statuti del PNF: Gran Consiglio, Direttorio nazionale, federazioni provinciali: quadri e biografie, Rome, Bonacci.

Romanelli, Raffaele, 1991, “Political Debate, Social History, and the Italian Borghesia: Changing Perspectives in Historical Research”, Journal of Modern History, 63, 4: 726-727.

Stone, Lawrence; Fawtier Stone, Jeanne C., 1986, An Open Elite? England 1540-1880, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Tuninetti, Dante Maria, 1942, Squadrismo: squadristi piemontesi, Rome, Pinciana di U. Zuccucci.

Villari, Luigi Antonio, 1902, Italian Life in Town and Country, London, G. Newnes.


1 My analysis rests on a survey of the surviving probate records from unification to the years shortly before the First World War-approximately 40,000 files-stored in the Ufficio di Registro di Successioni in Turin. I have located about 90% of all the records for the periods 1802 to 1885 and 1901 to 1912. In addition, a smaller survey of the years 1922-1923 was carried out in order to shed light on the impact of the war on private wealth. All records for the years 1886 to 1900 have been lost or destroyed. As part of my larger study of the Piedmontese nobility, I have gathered detailed patrimonial information on all individuals from titled aristocratic families as well as on a group of the wealthiest non-nobles who passed through probate in these years.

2 My survey uncovered just fourteen cases of mixed marriages involving heirs of rich non-nobles.

3 For a fuller discussion of the Royal College Carl Albert, see Cardoza (1997).

4 Although aristocratic students made up only 37% of the total enrollment in the school between 1838 and 1913, they monopolized court offices and contributed 81% of the high ranking army officers, 79% of the diplomats, and two-thirds of the alumni in public administration. See II Real Collegio Carlo Alberto di Moncalieri. Nel LXXV anno della Fondazione, 1838-1913 (Turin, 1913, pp. 32-56).

5 Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, Impressioni e ricordi di “altri tempi” (pp. 36-41). This typescript was in the possession of Incisa’s sister, the late Maria Beraudo di Pralormo and his niece Gabriella Salvi del Pero who generously gave me permission to quote from it.

6 For a fuller discussion of the Royal College Carl Albert, see Cardoza (1997).

7 These conclusions rest upon a careful reading of the lists of names of people in attendance at the receptions and sporting events as they appeared in Turin’s only high-society weekly, Il Venerdi della Cûntessa, for the years 1891, 1904, and 1913.

8 Some 86 aristocratic members of the Società del Whist served the Fascist regime in a variety of capacities. See Società Camille di Cavour, Un secolo di vita del Whist. Annali delta nostra società dal 1841 al 1940 (Torino, 1941, pp. 186-257).

9 For the warm reception Mussolini and other Fascist leaders received from the Società del Whist, see Un secolo di vita del Whist (19: 88-89, 245, 260).

10 For circumstances leading to the fusion, see Archivio di Stato di Torino, Sezione Riunite, Archivio Compans di Brichanteau, UA.43, F.1.2.

Table des illustrations

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Department of History, Loyola University, Chicago

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