“Gianni Agnelli, the last king of Italy”, on France Inter: a look back at the destiny of an uncrowned monarch

Little Gianni facing Mussolini

“Gianni Agnelli, the last king of Italy”, on France Inter: a look back at the destiny of an uncrowned monarch

Little Gianni facing Mussolini. Gianni playboy living la dolce vita before his time. Gianni ruthless but courageous boss in the “years of lead”. Gianni geopolitician opening his factories in the Soviet Union, his capital in Gaddafi… But also Gianni struck by the curse: his father, his son, his nephew tragically disappeared…

The documentary story produced by Héloïse Rambert for “Affaires Sensitives” (in partnership with the sports daily L'Equipe), with the voice of Fabrice Drouelle and the music – among others – of Adriano Celentano, has the appearance of a panegyric, as we did it in Antiquity to leave history with the trace of this or that emperor.

The magnate of Italian industry, Giovanni, known as Gianni Agnelli (1921-2003), grandson of the founder of Fiat (who was also called Giovanni), was indeed an emperor. The patrician with silver temples, thin, tanned, elegant, “pleases like an actor and, because fortune shines on him, he is a winner,” said Federico Fellini. Put him on horseback, he’s a king.”

“Unifying figure”

A monarch by almost divine right – in 1977, according to a poll, 99% of Italians said they had “heard of” the Pope, 100% knew Gianni Agnelli! All of Italy is and finds itself in this uncrowned dynasty: from Juventus of Turin to Ferrari, from the family home of Villar Perosa (from the 18th century) – with its mausoleum worthy of that of Hadrian, in Rome – to the Giovanni-et-Marella-Agnelli Pinacoteca, installed at the top of the Lingotto, the historic Fiat factory in Turin, with its impressive collection of futurists, impressionists, works by Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, Manet, Renoir, Balthus , Bacon…

“We know where we are and we know where we want to go,” declared the “Avvocato” – which was never an advocate, except that of post-war Italy and the “thirty glorious years” – in a speech that remained in the annals at the end of the “years of lead”, the tragic culmination of which was the assassination of Aldo Moro, ex-president of the council, in 1978. Faced with the Red Brigades, “the patriarch became for the country a sort of unifying figure”.

This manifest destiny, we would say in the United States, punctuated by the essential voice of Radio France's most podcasted journalist, will end tragically. The senator for life had become "the ghost of himself" since the suicide, in November 2000, of his son Edoardo, "crushed by his surname and his heritage", to whom he had not known, and above all not wanted, transmit the keys to the kingdom. It is today chaired by his grandson John Elkann, who ended up merging it with Peugeot, Citroën and Chrysler to form this “European General Motors” that Gianni had dreamed of. The king is dead, the empire remains.