Gian Galeazzo Ciano: Italian Foreign Minister

Background on Gian Galeazzo Ciano

Gian Galeazzo Ciano was born in Livorno, Italy on 18 March 1903. He was the son of Admiral Costanzo Ciano, who had won the medal of honor in World War I. Ciano inherited the dreams and ideals of his father and eventually moved to Rome to pursue his career. After a few experiences in journalism, Galeazzo entered the political forum in 1925. His start in politics included involvement in diplomacy with Peking, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires. He was young, brilliant and full of life. In 1930, he married Benito Mussolini’s daughter Edda.

Edda Mussolini and Gian Galeazzo Ciano

Edda Mussolini and Gian Galeazzo Ciano

Ciano commanded the 15ª Squadriglia da Bombardamento (15th Bomber Squadron), dubbed “La Disperata” during the Ethiopian War.  He is said to have dropped the first bombs in the war and the first Italian to enter the capital city Addis Ababa. He received 2 silver medals of valor in the conflict. In June of 1936, Gian Galeazzo Ciano became Italian Foreign Minister, a title he held till the end of February 1943.

Gian Galeazzo Ciano kept a diaries of his activities as Foreign Minister.

Gian Galeazzo Ciano kept a diary of his activities as Foreign Minister.

The Ciano Diaries: The Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943
The Ciano Diaries: The Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943

An inside look of Italian foreign policy via Mussolini's foreign minister's confidential diaries that were secreted out of Italy after Ciano's execution in 1943.


Becoming Foreign Minister

On the 22nd of May, 1939, Foreign Ministers Gian Galeazzo Ciano and Joachim von Ribbentrop signed the “Pact of Steel”, which formalized the alliance between Italy and Germany. In the beginning, Ciano approved of the Axis partnership between Italy and Germany, but after meetings in Saltzburg in 1939 with Hitler and Ribbentrop, Ciano began to oppose their policies. With the German invasion of Poland, Ciano was finally able to convince Mussolini to declare a state of non-belligerence with Germany.

A 1938 photograph of Foreign Ministers Ciano and Ribbentrop.

A 1938 photograph of Foreign Ministers Ciano and Ribbentrop.

Nevertheless, on 10 June 1940, Mussolini declared war and Ciano continued to serve with zeal. Only after several military defeats in 1942 did Ciano begin to doubt Benito Mussolini’s ability to win the war.

Relieved of his duties as Foreign Minister in 1943, he was subsequently reassigned as ambassador to the Holy See.

Grand Council Vote Against Mussolini

Many saw the war as lost after the Allies invaded Sicily. A meeting was held and the Fascist Grand Council voted to restore all powers back to King Vittorio Emanuele III. Ciano was one of the many members of the Grand Council whose voted no confidence in Mussolini.

The Fascist regime fell and Ciano feared prosecution by the new Italian government under by Pietro Badoglio. He and his family escaped to Germany on 28 August 1943. His hope was to eventually gain refuge in Spain.

Instead, the Germans delivered Gian Galeazzo Ciano to officials of the Italian Social Republic (RSI). RSI members arrested Ciano based on his Grand Council vote stripping Mussolini of his powers.

Death of Ciano

The RSI incarcerated Ciano in Verona and referred him to a special tribunal for high treason. Mussolini felt pressured to punish him as well as all the others who voted against him. As a result, a firing squad killed Ciano in San Procolo, near Verona on 11 January 1944.


Ciano kept detailed diaries of the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini, as well as insights into the war effort and his opinions of various senior Nazi officials.  Subsequently, Nazi and Fascist leaders never found Ciano’s diaries, but Edda offered to relinquish them if they spared her husband’s life.

In the end, Mussolini did nothing to save his son in law.

Additional references:
The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: The Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943
Storia Controversa della Seconda Guerra Mondiale; Vol 1.

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Jim H

I created Comando Supremo: Italy at War in 2000 because of the limited amount of information on Italian forces in WWII that was available online. Thanks to people like you, this site has grown to what it is today. Thank you for visiting and please bookmark us.

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