The King of Tavolara – 2
Giuseppe Bertoleoni (1778 – 1849) was a smart and farsighted shepherd who moved from the northern part of Sardinia, or perhaps from the Corsica, to the island of Tavolara searching for a cheap land, far from the competition of the other shepherds and landowners. His origins are a mystery. A legend says that he was an exiled French aristocrat belonging to the Carbonari, or even the Lost Dauphin of France. He was surely more educated than the average Sardinian people. He built his house in the slopes of the Tavolara Mountain, in a strip of plain that faces the nearby coast of Sardinia, and bred sheep, goats and children. You know, at the beginning of the nineteenth century it was easy to consider your land your kingdom—especially if your land was a small island of a bigger and severe island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Giuseppe Bertoleoni defended his property with great determination, avoiding the landing of other people, and fortified his house and his family. However, he was worried because Sardinia was periodically crossed by bands of assassins—the Piedmontese armies—more dangerous that the North-African pirates.
To explain that strong consideration, I have to step back again, sorry. However, I think it is an interesting, not well-known history.
Regnum Sardiniae and Corsicae, the kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica was officially instituted in 1297, according to some historians, or in 1299 according some others.
The official act asserted that the kingdom belonged to the Church, but (there is always a ‘but’) the kingdom itself was given in perpetuo, ‘forever,’ by the Pope Bonifacio VIII to the kings of Aragon, Spain, in return for an oath of vassalage to the Church (there is always a religious cover) and for a yearly payment (there is always a price for the betrayal).
You can argue over the term ‘betrayal’, but you need to know that a legitimate kingdom already existed in Sardinia, the Kingdom of Arborea, in the end guided by Eleonora d’Arborea, a great queen able to defend her land for several decades and famous for her Carta de Logu, one of the first examples of a Constitution in the world. The kingdom was truly enlightened by the greatness of Eleonora, able to reign with modernity and wisdom.
Her decision to abolish slavery (in 1390) and to set up the first army entirely constituted by Sardinian men and not mercenaries was ahead of the times. While ‘Italy’ was a land of fighting, poverty and corruption, following the examples of perverted and simoniac Popes, Sardinia was able to formulate the Carta de Logu that was an efficient and modern constitution until the nineteenth century. Eleonora d’Arborea was an extraordinary historical figure, but not well studied because Sardinian culture had not to exist, ever.
Pope Bonifacio VIII, who sold Sardinia to Spain, was one of the most controversial figures among the wide variety of controversial Popes. He was accused of imprisoning and murdering his predecessor Celestino V, and of magical practices to prolong his life and to attack his enemies. He bought the title of Pope using simony. One of the best examples of his character and honesty is the destruction of the city of Palestrina, ordered in revenge of his enemies, the Colonna family. Although Palestrina surrendered to the Pope, he wanted it to be razed to the ground. Not completely satisfied, he ordered the soil be ploughed and then scattered with salt.
Franciscans called him “The Antichrist”.
The war between the two kingdoms of Aragon and Arborea lasted for more than one hundred years, until 1420. In the end, Spain won, thanks to the plague that decimated the Sardinian population and its army.
In 1713, but some historians reported 1702, the Kingdom of Sardinia was remised to the Kingdom of Augsburg, Austria. You could object that Sardinia belonged to the Church and that Sardinia was given in perpetuo, forever to the Spain, and you’d be correct, but so what?
In 1720, a tragic year for Sardinia, the Kingdom of Augsburg reached an agreement with the Duca of Savoia, exchanging the Kingdom of Sardinia for the Kingdom of Sicily.
The Piedmontese soon confirmed their greedy character starting violent campaigns of spoliation, called ‘wars against banditry.’
The Vicerè Marchese of Rivarolo led the first massive spoliation in 1735, followed by the Vicere Marchese of Valguanera in 1748. The third spoliation, in 1770, was carried out by the Vicerè Marchese of Hayés. The Vicerè of Rivarolo was the most efficient murderer among many professional Piedmontese killers. He used to hang scores Sardinian people at a time, reaching his record of thirty-five in the village of Serramanna. In two years, he hung thousands of people. From those episodes the phrases “Rivarolo’s justice”, “Serramanna’s justice”, and “Rivarolo buildings”, the gallows, phrases that still exist. The Vicerè of Valguanera, in 1749, ordered the massacre of five hundred people in one go, just to keep up.
The Piedmontese seized land, woods, flocks, everything. They hung and killed. Sardinian people died in silence.
In the nineteenth century, the exploitation of Sardinia took on industrial proportions. Between 1820 and 1830 a branch of the Piedmontese army, called ‘Corpo Franco’ (namely, an army without restrictions, without laws and rules) and made up of criminals and escapees, was given a free hand against the Sardinian people and used carbines, tortures, and gallows without scruples.
Now you can understand Giuseppe Bertoleoni’s preoccupation.
Since he was an intelligent man, he thought about an official acknowledgement of his territory. The right occasion occurred in 1836, when Charles Albert, King of the Sardo-Piedmontese reign, arrived in Sardinia.
If you are still interested, don’t miss the continuation.