In 1909, Benito Mussolini was a left-wing editor of an Italian newspaper. His readers loved his serialized novel about illicit love at the top of the Catholic church in the 17th century. His book, The Cardinal’s Mistress (1910), became a bestseller. Later, when he shifted his political affiliation, marched on Rome and became dictator, he banned his own quite embarrassing sentimental yarn. This ensured the interest of the press, and it was published in English in 1929. Below you can read excerpts and some reviews, and find a link to the whole novel, which is available for free online.
“Emanuel, the last, had the Maecenisni and the prodigality of the lords who governed the Italian cities in the dawn of the Renaissance. He squandered his wealth, since in him the race would be extinguished and the Principate left without an heir. Of what use to save money in anticipation of a future which would never be? It was better to live without worrying. Rejoice and forget. Then for twenty years the passion of love had seized him with such volurpe that he cursed the Principate and despised the purple of the cardinalate.
He loved Claudia.
This relation was universally known and for the most part condemned and regarded as a serious sin. “
“Emanuel had rejected them all. He rejected the intervention of great princes and sovereigns. He desired instead to give her in marriage toVincent Particella, son of the Councillor Ludovico, a young man of most noble qualities.
But Filiberta loved, with a love that was profoundly reciprocated, the Count Antonio di Castelnuovo. From this arose the quarrel with the uncle who perhaps dreamed of finding in the house of Particella the heir of the Principate. Finally he sent her into virtual imprisonment in the Convent of the Holy Trinity. “
“Phthisis had emaciated Filiberta’s countenance and a cadaverous pallor had taken the place of the rose glow of first youth, but the eyes, which had become deeper, preserved all their passionate intensity.
The eyes were fixed immovably on one point. The girl’s disordered hair fell over the pillow. Her hands lay underneath the covers, beneath which her body was indicated by a scarcely visible line.
Emanuel dared not speak. The sight of Filiberta dying had turned him to stone. He was the person solely and uniquely responsible for her miserable end. He had had her imprisoned, yielding perhaps to the threats or the prayers of Claudia. He had kept her imprisoned, caring not for the protests of the people or for the prayers of her true lover. He had deprived his niece of the sun, and above all he had violated the instinct of her heart by seeking to marry her to a man whom she did not love and could never love.
Emanuel Madruzzo must now eat of the fruit of his obstinacy Before him lay the innocent victim. Remorse clutched his heart. He could not succeed in calming himself with illusory hopes..”