In 1858, on this day the Emperor of France and his wife were assassinated en route to a theatrical performance of Rossini's William Tell. Police investigations that began in Paris would subsequently unearth a trail of conspiracy that led all the way back to revolutionary London.
The Orsini AffairTo murder the Royal couple, Italian revolutionaries Felice Orsini, Giuseppe Pieri, Antonio Gomez and Carlo di Rudio had thrown three hand-made bombs at the the Imperial Carriage in the Rue Le Peletier. It would later emerge that the bombs had been manufactured by the English gunsmith Joseph Taylor and tested in Sheffield and Devonshire. Because Orsini had been covertly assisted by London since the unsuccessful revolution of 1848.
Few in France were surprised that Great Britain should become a rogue state which exported terrorism. Because a thriving republican community had existed even before the execution of Charles Stuart. In the late eighteenth century, revolutions had broken out in England, France and the American colonies. Defeated overseas, extremists such as Thomas Paine had gathered in London and overthrown the British Royal Family. Standing alone against the Royal Houses of Europe, Britain existed in a state of undeclared war with the continent, being the only great power to have emerged into the eighteenth century as a republic. Desperately short of allies, the British Government had hoped to creating a sister state in Italy with men such as Orsini.