The King of Tavolara – 3
Going back to the story of the Kingdom of Tavolara, we can imagine the meeting between Charles Albert, the King of the Sardo-Piedmontese reign, and Giuseppe Bertoleoni, in 1836. The rendezvous was made possible by the strong and unusual personality of that strange shepherd—entrenched in his island as well as in his ambitions—and by the courtesy of a gentle and sensitive king, of course. Besides, the beauty of the day and the sea, and the taste of the holiday as well, far from the grey corridors of Turin, helped Charles Albert’s mood and thus Bertoleoni’s approach, I’m sure.
I have regard for Charles Albert: he was a peculiar person in a collection of greedy characters. His life was hard and contested, always uncertain, and I like to imagine that he was just relaxing and enjoying the panorama and his colazione, on that day, when a boat came near the royal ship anchored in the lee of Tavolara.
Obviously, Giuseppe Bertoleoni had the right manners, perhaps aristocratic manners, to speak to the King, first asking for a meeting and then explaining his situation and the request of acknowledgement of his territory. And Charles Albert was so impressed by such a figure, a cult figure in the province, that he spent more than three hours with him. Eventually, he decided to confer the title of King of Tavolara on Bertoleoni, and gave him a golden watch to seal their agreement and friendship.
Giuseppe Bertoleoni was more than a simple shepherd, no doubt. For me, however, the central character of the event remains Charles Albert.
Carlo Alberto Emanuele Vittorio Maria Clemente Saverio Giulio e Saverio di Savoia (1798 – 1849), the monarch of the Sardo-Piedmontese Kingdom from 1831 to 1849, represents a modern figure with lights and shadows, with the clear weight and consciousness of his human inadequacy, unlike all the other Manichean kings before and after him. He was always an ambivalent prince and then king, full of doubts and torments, pushed by powerful visions and great ideals and always knocked down by minor events and sudden adversities. Charles Albert was able to motivate and then disappoint everybody—he looked like an actual democratic US leader indeed. Forced, in the end, to go into exile and die out of Italy.
If there is a lesson in history—and I strongly believe there is—it is not surprising that other two kings after him, Vittorio Emanuele III and Umberto II, went into exile too and died out of Italy, while Umberto I was so loved by the Italian population that he met with several assassination attempts before being eventually murdered in 1900 in Monza. Only one king among the last five of the dynasty, Vittorio Emanuele II, died in his bed, in Rome, in 1878. By the way, he didn’t die in God’s Grace because the Pope had excommunicated him—but this is another chapter.
I like Charles Albert, I repeat. He was fond of Sardinia and came two times to visit this part of his kingdom: in 1829, when he was still a prince; the second time in 1836, as the King. And also the episode of Tavolara shows his generosity and open-mindedness, and his ingenuity too.
I’d prefer a Risorgimento guided by Charles Albert, I have to say, yes; I’d prefer his character, doubts and humanity. But history doesn’t make concessions, and we had to suffer the descendants of a butcher—this is the same story, undoubtedly, and tightly linked with Sardinia and Tavolara history. However, I’ll tell you next time, if you are interested, of course, and if you are not a Savoy hit man flown to shut my mouth.
In the meantime, we can leave Charles Albert in his royal ship, looking at the sunset blowing over the Gallura Mountains. A Grecale breeze is caressing the coast, rippling the surface of the bay. The only feeble sounds come from the waiters who are setting the table for dinner. They are whispering; Sardinia is silent as always.
Charles Albert kept his promise, no doubt: in a short time, the Sassari Prefecture would have consigned the parchment of the Royal Charter, and Giuseppe Bertoleoni would have been recognised as the ‘King of Tavolara.’
See you next time.