Immediately after Vittorio Emmanuel II’s death on January 9, 1878, Pope Pius IX demands that Valerio send him a detailed report of the circumstances surrounding the death. Pius IX had sent 2 emissaries from the Vatican to speak to the King on his deathbed, but Valerio kept them away from the King and wouldn’t allow any visit to take place. It is important to note here that the King had been excommunicated by the Pope after Vittorio’s army defeated the Papal States army in 1870. While that defeat was more of a small number of skirmishes rather than an all-out battle, the result was that the Papal States no longer existed. The Catholic Church, through it’s Popes, had ruled the Papal States in Central Italy from the 8th century until 1870 as a sovereign entity. At the time of Vittorio’s death in 1878, the Vatican and the Italian Government were still legally in a state of war as the Vatican had refused to sign a peace treaty in 1870. The political speculation at the time, (buttressed by the lens of historical research), was that the Vatican’s goal was to extract a confession, written or verbal, from Vittorio Emmanuel II to the effect that Vittorio had unjustly taken the Church’s property. If Vittorio Emmanuel II had confessed to this on his deathbed , the Vatican would likely have used it as a legal and/or political tool to get some of it’s Papal States property back.
Valerio’s report, (this author has viewed the draft versions of it at the State Archives in Roma), did not provide the confession that the Vatican had hoped for. Vittorio Emmanuel II stated 2 things that Valerio included in his report:
- “I want to die a good Catholic”
- “I never intended to harm Catholicism”