Title: Roman Society | A Touching Incident That Recently Occurred at the Vatican

Periodical: New York Herald (Paris edition)

Date: March 16, 1890

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A Touching Incident That Recently Occurred at the Vatican.


An Interview with Colonel Cody—Admiral Walker Expected in Rome—Social Gossip

Never has Rome been sadder. King and Pope alike mourn the death of their brothers. Each has his personal and public sorrows. If Leo faints under the weight of Royal domination, Humbert struggles with the enormous debt that oppresses the nation. Meanwhile the guild that divided the Quirinal from the Vatican widens and deepens. Society is sundered from top to bottom.

And the worst of it all is that both sides are sincere. The King is loved and respected by the masses. The Pope is passionately followed by the old families. The King's friends think that the Pope would make overtures for a reconciliation were it not for the Cardinals, while the Pope's supporters as firmly believe that the King would extend the power of the Vatican were it not for Prime Minister Crispi.

I saw the Pope carried above the heads of his troops into the Sixtine Chapel several days ago. A more pathetic face cannot be conceived. It seemed to me that the slightest addition of emotion would have made the venerable Pontiff burst into tears. Several times during the magnificent ceremonies his powerful voice trembled and a collapse appeared to be imminent.

No man who has ever met Signor Crispi can doubt his earnestness or patriotism. His rude vigor has deeply wounded the Pope and curtailed the practical power of the Vatican. Just now His Holiness is devoting great attention to the legislation which proposes to turn over to the Government all properties bequeathed for charitable purposes. It is said that the Church at present controls over 1,500,000,000fr. worth of this kind of property. Advocates of the proposed law assert that the Church diverts money from its legitimate beneficiaries, and the clericals answer that every person ought in common justice to be allowed liberty to dispose of his estate in his own way—that charity should be unfettered. Minister Crispi attaches great importance to the new measure as an economic reform.


I have just heard from high authority of an incident that reveals the bitterness and hopelessness of the present situation. A few nights after the statue of Bruno, the infidel, was unveiled in Rome, the Monsignor whose duty it was to remain in the ante-room to the Pope's bedchamber noticed that the light was shining under the door after ten o'clock, the usual hour for retiring. He was greatly puzzled. Hour after hour passed, and still the light streamed through the crevices. At four o'clock in the morning the Monsignor became alarmed. The Pope might have fainted. He knocked at the door but received no answer. Then he consulted with the noble guard on duty in the outer corridor, who advised him to open the door.

When the Monsignor entered the room he found the Pope kneeling before an image of the Madonna. His thin, white hands were clasped prayerfully and his face was wet with tears. He had been apparently crying for a long time.

"What do you want?" demanded the Pope.

"I thought Your Holiness might need me," answered the intruder.

"No, no," muttered the white haired Pontiff. "I do not want to be disturbed," and he bowed his head on his hands.

So great was the indignation and grief of the Pope over the anti-Christian demonstration that the question of removing the Papal Court from Rome was formally considered by the Cardinals.

With the rigors of Lent added to all this, the Eternal City has not been a lively place during the past few days, from a social point of view. Of course, the place is full of sightseers with red guide books, who go mooning over the ruins of ancient grandeur, and furnish wealth and fun for the piratical guides and cabmen.


The real centre of Roman interest has been Buffalo Bill, his cowboys and Indians. Colonel Cody has been feasted and flattered by the aristocracy. There was hardly a day during his visit that he was not entertained in some palace. The prevailing ignorance concerning America can be judged from the fact that one Roman newspaper solemnly informed its readers that Buffalo Bill was made a colonel by George Washington. There have been days when it seemed as if everybody in Rome, from the King down, was engrossed in the attempt of the cowboys to master the Duke of Sermoneta's wild horses from the Pontine marshes.

Many a time I have seen downhearted red men in Dakota, but a more disgusted set of Indians never ate free Government rations that the Sioux of the Wild West show in Rome. I met Rocky Bear in the ancient Roman Forum. The old chief was explaining to his followers what a dusty time folks used to have when the Caesars were alive.

"The more I see of other countries," he said, "the more I like America. The cabdrivers are very bad men. When you give them one piece of money they hold out their hand for more. Everyone holds his hand out for money here. That makes my heart heavy. It is not so in the land where the sun goes to sleep."

Here the old man quietly slipped a piece of marble under his blanket, and, striking a grand attitude, went on with his address.

"My people, I want you to remember that these men who ask money from us, and these small boys who follow us through the streets and laugh at us will all die like the people who used to live here and their houses will fall down like these you see around you."

A chorus of approving grunts.

"This country is no place for an Indian. The Government gives no rations, and there are too many soldiers. I have seen the iron clothes that people used to wear. That would have been very bad for the Indian, but the soldiers are worse now."

Groans of approval.

"We will all be very glad to go home. We throw our tobacco on the ground here, and don't care if we lose it. In our own country we did not do so. Then why do we waste the tobacco of this city? It is because the tobacco is not good. That is all I have to say, my people."

Notwithstanding the rumors persistently circulated in America, I have the authority of Manager Salsbury and Mr. T. C. Crawford for the statement that the Wild West is not losing money. The audiences in Rome have certainly been enormous. During the week Colonel Cody was presented with an album by the students of the American College.


Now that the Italian Court is out of deep mourning, society is beginning to show signs of life. Ex-Governor Porter, the American Minister, and his family, are active and popular factors. Lord Dufferin's house is also a centre of attraction. His first reception was postponed on account of Lady Dufferin's slight indisposition.

Count Luigi Premoli received over four hundred guests the other night. Prince Jerome Bonaparte, the entire Diplomatic Corps, and all the society leaders were present. So were Buffalo Bill and a few Indians.

I hear that Sir John L. Simmonds, the British Enjoy to the Vatican, has completed his negotiations respecting Malta, and is about to return to England, leaving Major Ross, the secretary of the Commission, in Rome.

Dr. Loring, the American Minister to Lisbon, is now in Naples, and will be in Rome in a few days. He is accompanied by his family.

It is expected that Admiral Walker, of the American Squadron, accompanied by a few of his officers, will also run up here, and preparations are being made to give them a welcome.

Title: Roman Society | A Touching Incident That Recently Occurred at the Vatican

Periodical: New York Herald (Paris edition)

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, MS6.3777.075.01 (Rome)

Date: March 16, 1890

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Italy & Spain

Keywords: American Indians Aristocracy (Social class) Audiences Catholic Church Cowboys Diplomatic and consular service Gossip Indians of North America Military Nobility--Italy Romans

People: Bonaparte, Napoléon-Joseph-Charles-Paul, prince, 1822-1891 Crispi, Francesco, 1818-1901 Dufferin and Ava, Frederick Temple Blackwood, Marquis of, 1826-1902 Leo XIII, Pope, 1810-1903 Rocky Bear Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Umberto I, King of Italy, 1844-1900

Places: Naples (Italy) Vatican City Rome (Italy)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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