Vittorio Orlando was Italy’s Prime Minister at the end of World War One. As Italy had fought on the side of the Allies, Orlando fully expected that Italy would be treated as an equal at Versailles. He was wrong. The other winning leaders – Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson, held Orlando at arms length and Italy’s treatment at Versailles was taken up by the then unknown Mussolini as a sign of how weak the Italian government was.
Orlando was born in 1860 in Palermo, Sicily. Well educated, he became a professor of law and in 1916, he entered government as Minister of Justice. During the height of the Caporetto disaster, he was appointed Prime Minister. However, his wartime leadership ended in triumph with the Italian victory at Vittorio Veneto in 1917.
At the Versailles Peace Settlement, Orlando was soon side-lined by the ‘Big Three’. Orlando fell out withWoodrow Wilson over Italy’s territorial demands which Woodrow Wilson felt were unacceptable when compared to his belief in national self-determination. What Italy got out of Versailles did not satisfy those in Italy who expected a lot more – especially as Italy had been on the ‘winning’ side. At the very least, Italy expected to get control of the Adriatic coastline — which she did not.
Orlando’s failure at Versailles ended his political career. There is no doubt that Italy was treated in a less than diplomatic manner but she had been a member of the Triple Alliance before World War One had broken out and had only entered the war in 1915 – in this sense, the Allies saw Italy as less than trustworthy. Orlando’s failure played into the hands of the extremists who wanted to use Italy’s political instability to their advantage.