Violet Gibson. I tell you her name here at the start because you’ve mostly likely not heard of her at all. She was the daughter of an Irish Lord, Edward Gibson, Baron Ashbourne. Violet was born into this part of high society in 1876, and she was raised as all upper-class women were in the very heart of the Victorian Era. She received the same education as other girls of her station, and she went through the proper debutante rituals of the time. Her parentage entitled her to use the title The Honorable before her name. Today, a plaque honors her memory, placed on the outer wall of her childhood home in Dublin. Musicians and writers have created works in her honor.
Historians debate whether or not Violet was truly honorable. You be the judge.
Violet had health issues most of her life. Besides physical ailments, she also suffered severe mental health issues as well. A nervous breakdown in the early 1920s led her family to place her in a mental health facility for two years. When she was released, she traveled to Rome because of her strong Catholic faith led her there, in part, for possible healing from her issues. Sadly, Violet attempted suicide in Rome in 1925. She was 49 years old.
Violet recovered from her suicide attempt, but the mental anguish she lived with continued to dog her. She claimed to have angelic visions–which, in Rome, was not a claim too unusual for that religious climate–and some of these visions told her that she must fight against the then-rising tide of fascism.
The Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, had taken control over that country in 1922. In Mussolini’s mind, the Italian nation needed to re-create the power of the Roman Empire. Towards that end, Mussolini chose the Roman symbol of a sheath of bound sticks with an axehead at the top. This symbol, known as a fasces, was a Roman sign of unity and the power of a magistrate. It’s where we get the words fascist and fascism.
Violet hated this political philosophy. She swore that she would fight it to her death. She said that her actions against fascism would “glorify God” and bring justice to those in the despotic Mussolini regime who had injured or imprisoned people she felt were innocent.
This daughter of an Irish lord, this honorable woman, was put in a mental hospital in England in 1926, and she died there in 1956.
So, what makes her honorable in the minds of many? What did she do that makes her have a plaque and have songs and films created about her?
It was in April of 1926 that The Honorable Violet Gibson took a revolver and shot Benito Mussolini.