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Carboneria Movement (XIX Cent.) (Italy)

Last modified: 2013-01-20 by rob raeside
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by Jaume Ollé, 10 October 1998

by Jaume Ollé, 10 October 1998

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The Carbonari flag was horizontal stripes of blue (top), red and black, representing the burning charcoal.
Dave Martucci, 22 February 1998

Carboneria was a secret society founded in Italy at the very beginning of the XIX century. It played an important role in the political life of the country. The most credited origin is an extension of Masonry, introduced in Italy from the French invaders of Napoleon's troops. It is possible that the failure of the campaign of Gioacchino Murat - husband of a Napoleon's sister (Carolina) and king of Naples since 1808, who was seeking to get the power overall Italy in 1815 - lead his supporters to organize themselves in secret groups. There was no link among the different groups, even inside them members knew only a few of the others. This exaggerated secrecy was one of the causes of the failure of Carboneria. By the way, it was exported outside the Italian borders too, in France and Spain. The movement ended about 1840. There were many riots and failed revolutions inspired by Carbonari (pl. of Carbonaro) during the first half of the XIX century: on July 1820 at Naples, on march 1821 in Piedmont (Biella), on 1828 in the Two Sicilies Kingdom (in the area about Salerno, known as Cilento). They used horizontal tricolors in blue, black and red, in different orders. The origin and meaning of those colors is unknown, nevertheless blue and red were the colors of Murat, whilst black was in use in 1807 for the flags of Giuseppe Napoleone. Of course it is also the coal color! The highest achievement for Carboneria was the insurrection of 1820 at Naples. General Guglielmo Pepe lead the insurrection (he was a former officer of Murat and defender of the Partenopea Republic): the King Ferdinando I was compelled to accept a constitution on July 7 and on 21 the white flag of the Borboni received a cravat in the Carbonari colors of black-sky blue-red. The cockade in the same colors was to be used by everybody in the kingdom. On March 23, 1821 the Austrian troops restored the order.
Sources: Armi Antiche, issues of 1986 and 1987. Articles by Aldo Ziggioto about the flags of the Southern States of Italy. Il Tricolore - Duecento Anni, by Ugo Bellocchi, 1997. Grande Enciclopedia Popolare Sonzogno, 1910.
Pier Paolo Lugli, 29 June 1998

The flag of the Carbonati, frequently reported wrongly as napolitan flag or ensign.
Jaume Ollé, 10 October 1998

"Carboneria" is the name of a secret political movement, born in the Southern Italy since the period of French rule, and was active expecially in the years 1820-1821 against the foreign domination (remember that the unity of Italy is dated 1861). It was organized by separated cells, in all the Italian territory.
Most of Carbonari (the members of Carboneria) were middle-classed liberal and intellectual people; they had not strong relations with popular masses and this was their weakness. "Carbonaro" is an old form for "Carbonaio" ( = coalman), but I do not know why they choose this name. I guess also "pasta alla carbonara" is related to coalmen. In the current Italian language, "carbonaro" means "secret" and "carboneria" means "cospiracy".
Giuseppe Bottasini, 13 October 1998