Ida Dalser first met young Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) in Trento, where he was journalist in 1909 and the two of them definitely started an affair. Ida seemed committed to the relationship and was even prepared to sell her beauty salon to help Mussolini, who was then a leftwing journalist, establish his own newspaper. Ida clearly thought Mussolini shared her romantic feelings. But to a young and ambitious Mussolini, Ida was just a pest, particularly after she told him she was pregnant.
According to Ida, they got married in 1914. And in 1915 she gave birth to his first child, Benito Albino Mussolini. No records of the marriage survive but Mussolini did accept the boy as his son, and paid monthly child support.
Ida Dalser and young Benito Albino Mussolini
The reasons why Mussolini and Dalser separated after their marriage and the birth of their son remain unclear, but perhaps he was becoming closer to another of his long term mistresses Rachele Guidi. Or perhaps Ida was too emotionally demanding. Anyhow when WWI broke out in 1914, Mussolini rushed to join up. In December 1915, while recovering in a hospital from wound caused by a grenade launcher, the hospital priest married Mussolini to Donna Rachele Guidi at the bedside. When Ida Dalser heard about the second marriage, she was outraged. There had been no divorce!
Immediately after his second marriage, Mussolini left Italy to rejoin his army unit. Ida constantly wrote to her husband, and complained of her situation to the military and civil authorities. Two pieces of evidence from this period suggest that Ida was still considered a legitimate wife. Firstly while he was on service, the Kingdom of Italy regularly paid Ida a war pension. Secondly when Mussolini was injured by a mortar shot in 1917, she received a visit from the police notifying her that her husband was wounded in action.
In 1917, Mussolini came back from the war. His political career took off but his passion for socialism was over. He organised the Italian Combat Squad (WW1 ex-servicemen) in 1919, founded the National Fascist Party in 1921 and was soon elected to the Chamber of Deputies. In October 1922, Mussolini and the Black Shirts marched on Rome, intending to force King Victor Emmanuel III to set aside the old prime minister. The military could have easily controlled Mussolini and his Fascists, had the king asked them to, so the king has to take a great deal of responsibility for Mussolini's rapid rise to power.
Mussolini now had power and was officially recognised by the then ruling House of Savoy. But even a dictator needed papal approval, something that may have been withheld, had the church known about his pre-marital affair, his possibly illegitimate son and his possibly bigamous second marriage. Furthermore his five children with Rachele Guidi had to be protected.
That didn't mean for a moment that Mussolini now saved himself for his second wife. Michael Day and Peter Popham noted that the ambitious young leader demanded sex in industrial quantities from beloved mistresses and call girls alike. But it did mean that Ida Dalser and her son were watched very carefully by the police. She told everyone about her marriage to Mussolini, but noone believed her… or they didn’t want to get involved with her. Eventually she was certified and locked up in a psychiatric hospital in 1926. Still certified, she was later isolated in a psychiatric prison on the Venetian island of San Clemente, where she died in 1937. By the time of her death, after 15 years of being called a liar and a traitor, she really was insane.
Benito Mussolini, Il Duce.
His son Benito Albino Mussolini was removed by government agents at 11 years of age, told his mother was dead, and was adopted out. He enrolled in the Italian Royal Navy, and always remained under close scrutiny by his father's fascist government. Rather unwisely, as it turned out, he also persisted in stating Benito Mussolini was his father. So he too was eventually certified, locked up in an insane asylum in Milan and was given mind-controlling medical treatments. There he died in 1942, aged tragically young (26). Both Ida and Benito junior were placed in unmarked graves.
The story of Benito Mussolini's first marriage was totally hidden during fascist rule in Italy. In particular Mussolini's officers erased all paper traces of Benito's and Ida's relationship. They overlooked only one thing according to the documentary Mussolini’s Secret: a certificate by Milan city council ordering Mussolini to make maintenance payments and referring to his wife Ida Dalser and their child.
It is not 100% certain that Mussolini’s first wedding was legal. However it is not too much of a stretch to say that the Italian dictator drove his first woman and son to early deaths in lunatic asylums; public knowledge of their existence might have somehow compromised his rise to power. Perhaps Mussolini should have been more worried about Margherita Sarfatti, Claretta Petacci and all his other mistresses.
All the information for this inglorious part of Mussolini history was finally discovered and published in 2005 by Italian journalist Marco Zeni.