Claretta Petacci and Benito Mussolini: a Fascist love story
by Professor Richard Bosworth

Date: Thursday 21 March 2019

A review of what Mussolini’s ‘last lover’ and her extensive diary reveal of life, family, Catholicism and politics in the ‘Italian dictatorship’
Claretta Petacci and Benito Mussolini: a Fascist love story

Claretta Petacci, a Roman bourgeoise, daughter of a society doctor, was the last lover of Benito Mussolini, dictator of Fascist Italy.  She was twenty-nine years his junior.  She managed to die with him on 27 April 1945.  She left for the historical record a massive diary, which has only become available for research over the last decade. Richard Bosworth, already a biographer of Mussolini, is the first English-language historian to examine it seriously in his 'Claretta: Mussolini’s last lover' (Yale UP, 2017).  She obsessively recorded his every word; he frequently rang twelve times a day and they also chatted before and after sex.  The topics varied from high politics – Hitler was just a ‘teddy bear’; the English ‘thought with their bums’ – to the couple’s complex private life.  The diary is thus a remarkable source, highly unusual in its composition by a female and, if you will forgive the awful pun, written from below.  As stated above, I shall review her family (Dad, Mum – ‘the Duce indoors’ -, elder brother, Marcello Cesare Augusto, born May Day 1911, little sister, Myriam, intrepid starlet and survivor, and thereby throw light on the politics, culture and society of the Italian dictatorship.

Sydney-born, Richard Bosworth has a Cambridge PhD.  He taught for many years in Australia and the UK, becoming a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford 2011-17. He is now an Emeritus Fellow there.  He has written or edited 29 books and very many chapters, articles and reviews.  His last major books are:

Mussolini, Arnold, London, OUP, New York, 2002

Mussolini’s Italy: life under the dictatorship 1915-1945, Allen Lane/Penguin, London, 2005; (US edition, The Penguin Press, New York, 2006).

Nationalism (Pearson, London, 2007).  Estonian translation as Natsionalism: moodsa rahvuste maailma religioon Kirjastus Pegasus, Tallinn, 2011.

L’Italia di Mussolini 1915-1945 (Italian translation of Mussolini’s Italy) Mondadori, Milan, 2007 (paperback edition, 2009).

The Oxford handbook of fascism, Oxford University Press, 2009. 

rev. ed. of Mussolini, Bloomsbury Academic, London and New York, 2010 (Italian translation in rev. ed. by Mondadori, 2013; Estonian translation, Tallinn: Varrak, 2013; Slovenian translation, Ljubljana: Cankarjeva založba, 2016).

Whispering city: Rome and its histories, Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 2011. (with Lindsay Stade and Stan Bell) From humble beginnings: the Mount Lawley Golf Club Perth Western Australia, Inglewood: MLGC, 2011.

Italian Venice: a history Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 2014 (paperback edition, 2015).

(with Joe Maiolo, eds.), vol. II (Politics and ideology) of The Cambridge History of the Second World War (3 vols.) Cambridge University Press, 2015 (paperback edition, 2017).

Claretta: Mussolini’s last lover (Yale University Press, London and New Haven, 2017).

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