Only one chapter of Salvago Raggi’s memoirs is presented here. Specifically, the one related to his service in China, just before and after the famous Siege of the Legations.
Countless articles, books and memories were published on this tragic episode, often using tones which are unpalatable to modern readers, full as they were of chauvinism and racism. For this reason, the sincerity of this detached diplomat is indeed refreshing.
Salvago Raggi’s pages are full of wit and possess historical relevance, shedding light on some hitherto unknown historic details. After the telegraph lines were cut, in July 1900, a sort of media frenzy took over the world, and false news began to spread, like the rumor that all the people locked inside the Legations quarters had been massacred by the Boxers. The first obituary of the murder of Giuseppe Salvago Raggi and his family, appeared in Italy on 22 July 1900 on the popular illustrated magazine Illustrazione Italiana and in Italian churches prayers were offered for their souls. Thank to him we know the details of the German Minister’s death and some unpalatable facts about the looting of the Imperial Palace, begun by the wives of the Western diplomats, no one excluded…
The emotions created all over the world by the Siege of the Legations ran so deep that even after the horrors of WWII, in 1963, Hollywood managed to release a blockbuster movie basing on this subject. The film’s title was The 55 days of Peking starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven.
The memoirs of Giuseppe Salvago Raggi were first published in 1968, as an appendix to the book of Glauco Licata Notabili della Terza Italia, a second time in 2011, as an independent volume under the title of Ambasciatore del Re. Memorie di un Diplomatico dell’Italia Liberale with a Presentation by Francesco Perfetti.
Credit is due to Camilla Salvago Raggi, Giuseppe’s beloved granddaughter and a writer in her own right, who spent her youthful years together with her formidable grandfather. She has lovingly preserved his written pages, which are soon going to be moved for safekeeping into the Library of the Senate in Rome.
Giuseppe Salvago Raggi The Only Man Dressing for Dinner Gingko Edizioni Isbn: 9788831229036 euro 12.