HISTORY: FROM ALBERONI’S OCCUPATION TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE “GUARD OF THE GREAT AND GENERAL COUNCIL”
On the morning of 17th October 1739, the 75-year-old Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, Legate of Rome for more than 4 years, crossed the borders of San Marino with three coaches. He was accompanied by the Master of Chamber, the Abbot of the Lateranensi from Rimini, two notaries and two servants.
In contact with the Papal Authorities, he claimed jurisdiction over the case of Pietro Lolli and Marino Belzoppi for alleged conspiracy against San Marino Government and common crimes.
The Republic refused twice to grant such jurisdiction to the Cardinal, but such refusal gave him the pretext to block the introduction of wheat and any other foodstuffs in the small State. In the meantime, two eminent citizens of the Republic were arrested in reprisal in Savignano. Alberoni made the event public and declared in a polemic tone: “It was easy to make San Marino people know that they could not live in that heap of stones without the Pope’s generosity and tolerance.” Clearly, he tried to blackmail the Republic of San Marino.
The Cardinal had suggested Pope Clemente XII to take advantage of the situation in order to bring peace to San Marino, which had become a “den of rabid dogs”.
Considering the period and the expansionistic policy of the Papal State, whose territory extended up to the borders of the Republic of San Marino, the Pope authorised Cardinal Alberoni to peacefully approach the borders of the sovereign State and to wait for the voluntary surrender of San Marino people and the following annexation to the Papal State.
When he arrived in Serravalle (one of the Republic’s Townships), the Cardinal, who had guaranteed to act with the utmost skilfulness, welcomed the surrender of men and women led by the local priest and a notarial deed was immediately drawn up.
The same happened just outside Borgo Maggiore. The Government of the Republic of San Marino was losing its own sovereignty and could do nothing to prevent it.
The Great and General Council (San Marino Parliament) had ordered to place the guards at the gates, to reinforce the garrison at the fortress and the Government Building and to summon the soldiers of the Townships.
In the meantime, the Cardinal had settled in Palazzo Valloni and soon after changed the statutory rules and replaced the Captains Regent with a Governor. Alberoni thought to be the winner and went back to Ravenna on 29th October, leaving in San Marino the head of police with some narks recruited outside the territory.
The assault and coup d’état seemed to have succeeded, but San Marino people did not desist and submitted many complaints about the aggression directly to the Pope in Rome.
The Holy See, on the one hand worried about the expansion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which was reaching Mount Carpegna, and on the other pushed and advised by the ambassadors of Austria, Spain and France, committed to bringing independence back to the Republic of San Marino. On 5th February 1740, Saint Agatha’s Day, San Marino was again independent.
These events, briefly described above, led to the establishment of the “Guard of the Great and General Council”. Indeed, after Alberoni’s invasion, the institutions realized that it was necessary to establish a Guard protecting the most important public bodies.
The national pride aroused among San Marino people by Alberoni’s occupation, which was resolved peacefully, led to the birth of a new military corps within the Militia for the protection of the Captains Regent and the sittings of the Great and General Council.
In March 1740, the Guard of the so-called “Principe Sovrano Consiglio” (today known as “Guard of the Great and General Council”) was established. At that time, it consisted of 12 members (who became 14 the following year), 2 Corporals chosen among the members of the Militia and led by an official with the rank of Captain. In March 1741, nobleman Girolamo Gozi was appointed Captain. All the members were directly appointed by the Captains Regent, with the approval of the majority of the Great and General Council.
Besides those usually granted to the Militia, the Guard enjoyed many other special privileges, which were perfectly described in the sitting of the Great and General Council of 15th May 1741.
The Guard of the Great and General Council represented an exclusive military corps, which was independent from the already existing Highest Command of the Militia.
The Guard, highly considered by the Republic’s Institutions, was then strengthened and provided with a Special Military Congress. This body, made up of its own Staff Officers, was directly responsible to a Commander-in-Chief belonging to the Corps and in direct contact with the Captains Regent.
As in the past, the symbol of the Corps is a Grenade with straight flame and two crossing sabres behind the Grenade.