Galeazzo Ciano was born in 1903, the son of an admiral in the Italian navy. After a privileged education he entered the foreign service of his country in 1925, and followed this success by marrying Mussolini’s oldest daughter Edda.
To the surprise of no-one, seeing who his father-in-law was, Ciano shot up through the ranks with the fastest promotion possible and became Foreign Minister in 1936. He was just thirty-three years old. Historians claim that this appointment irritated Fascist Party officials greatly.
Ciano copied his father-in-law’s policies by extending Italian influence in the Balkans, and intervening in the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 39). Where he disagreed was in the not-so-gradual friendly relations Mussolini established with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, a country he greatly feared. In the Balkans he tried to create barriers to stop Nazi dominance. But then he seemed to have a change of heart and orchestrated and directed an invasion of Albania, as a cooperative response to Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was difficult for other foreign ministers to ascertain exactly where Ciano stood.
He was however aware of Italian unreadyness for war, and insisted in 1939 that Italy should not enter the Second World War. He was actually responsible for Italian non-belligerence which was maintained until June of 1940. His influence with Germany dissolved gradually as a result. The Nazis distrusted him. The Italians thought that Germany would win the War and that Italy had missed the boat and would have no part in Axis glory.
Hitler’s generals’ rapid victories in the Low Countries persuaded Ciano to change his mind again about intervention. Italy entered the War and promptly invaded Greece– a miserable failure as Greek resistance was strong and well organised, town by town, village by village. Count Ciano found himself thrown out of the Foreign Office in February 1943.
From then on it was a downhill roll for Mussolini’s son-in-law; as he knew about certain conspiracies to kick Mussolini out of power, he voted at a meeting of the Grand Fascist Council for the motion which resulted in Mussolini’s dismissal by King Victor Emanuel III. The disastrous side of Ciano showed in his lunatic decision to attempt escape from Italy via Germany of all places. He was quickly caught and imprisoned until the Italian Social Republic was set up in northern Italy. After this the Germans gave Ciano to the puppet government, which quickly shot him as a traitor in January, 1944. He was forty-one (see below)
It is ‘common knowledge’ that his father-in-law was among the signers of his death sentence. One year later Mussolini himself (q.v.) was executed by Communist Italian partisans.