Why did Giuseppe Garibaldi become a Victorian celebrity?
Giuseppe Garibaldi is perhaps best known for helping to unify the various states of the Italian peninsula under one monarchy in 1860. However, Garibaldi’s heroic exploits, which featured in all the major British newspapers of the time, also earned him considerable admiration in England in the 1860s. By the time of his visit to England in 1864, a vibrant cult had flowered around the figure of Garibaldi in the United Kingdom.
Garibaldi in the home
As popular affection for this rugged Italian revolutionary increased in England, various trinkets depicting Garibaldi started to become commercially available.
Most notable were the china Garibaldi figurines, produced in Staffordshire in the early 1860s, which represent Garibaldi in numerous guises and poses.
As well as figurines, Garibaldi also appeared on plates, cups and tankards and his name was adopted by pubs and taverns across the country.
Garibaldi in the drawing room
Such was Garibaldi's popularity that, when the General visited the United Kingdom in April 1864, aristocrats and politicians vied for the opportunity to host and dine with him.
While in London, Garibaldi was frequently entertained by the Dowager Duchess of Sutherland and her son, the Duke of Sutherland, and stayed for some time at the Sutherland country residence at Cliveden.The dowager duchess even caused a small scandal at a dinner at Stafford House, her London residence, when she allegedly invited Garibaldi to her private boudoir for a cigar.
A hero for all English men and women
By the mid-1860s, the English were truly enraptured with Garibaldi. While the upper classes competed for the opportunity to meet Garibaldi during his visit, the middle and working classes expressed their admiration for the General by adorning their walls and mantelpieces with his image.
A prominent spectacle both in public and in the home, Garibaldi had become a true celebrity in nineteenth-century England.