Foreign News: Lady of the Axis

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Some said that old Costanzo Ciano, who was made an Admiral and a Count after the World War during which he stole into an enemy harbor and sank six Austrian cruisers, arranged the Edda Mussolini-Galeazzo Ciano marriage in 1930. At least, before the marriage the Ciano family fortune was small but when the old man died three weeks ago it was estimated one of the greatest in Italy. Before his marriage Galeazzo was another of those golden lads who liked to hang around the Excelsior and Grand Hotels in Rome, where rich U. S. heiresses generally stayed. He had been a cub reporter and a society journalist who did bits of drama and literary criticism for an obscure Roman sheet. After that his father managed to get him minor posts in the consular and diplomatic service. Few people thought he displayed great ability except that languages came easy to him.

Soon after their marriage Count Ciano & wife were packed off to China, where he was first Consul General at Shanghai, then Minister to China. Recalled to Italy in 1933, he became Under Secretary of State, then Minister for Press & Propaganda, and it began to appear that Edda, the apple of Il Duce's eye, could get for Husband Galeazzo just about any job she wished.

In 1935 came the Ethiopian War and with it came Galeazzo Ciano's chance to become a hero. He went to Italian East Africa to fly. There he organized the most publicized nights in the East African campaign. His instructors rated him as a very mediocre pilot but he started the war by dropping the first bombs over Aduwa. His plane was the first to be hit by an enemy bullet. He was the first Italian flier to land in Addis Ababa at the war's end. For all this Galeazzo was promoted to the rank of major and was awarded two silver medals. Il Duce began to be convinced he had the makings of a leader; the Count reciprocated by aping the postures, speech, manners of his father-in-law. When he returned home the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs awaited him, although he was only 33.

High-spirited, witty, gay, Edda Ciano has little respect for the conventions. In Shanghai she picked up much U. S. slang from Navy officers' wives and subsequently shocked many a diplomatic dowager with her indiscriminate use of "boloney." Once she surprised Sir Eric Drummond (now Lord Perth) by saying "Oakie doak, Sir Eric!" Her first-born child, Fabrizio, she nicknamed the "Little Chink." She caused an uproar at a full-dress diplomatic dinner in Peking by showing up in a tailored suit while her husband wore a dinner coat.

Back in Rome she took up with a flock of smart but unimportant young people outside the best cliques of Roman society. She was fond of dancing and nightclubbing. She played bridge, generally at ¼¢ a point. The Count and Countess went their separate ways more frequently. One of her more intimate friends was Dino Alfieri (Under Secretary for Press & Propaganda), a great lady's man who boasts that he personally selects all the stenographers in his office. When Count Ciano was appointed Foreign Minister, Alfieri got Ciano's old job as the Press & Propaganda Minister.

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