Attilio Bandiera (1811-1844) and Emilio (1819-1844), Italian patriots. The brothers Bandiera, sons of Baron Bandiera, an admiral in the Austrian navy, were themselves members of that service, but at an early age they were won over to the ideas of Italian freedom and unity, and corresponded with Giuseppe Mazzini and other members of the Giovane Italia (Young Italy), a patriotic and revolutionary secret society. During the year 1843 the air was full of conspiracies, and various ill-starred attempts at rising against the Italian despots were made. The Bandieras began to make propaganda among the officers and men of the Austrian navy, nearly all Italians, and actually planned to seize a warship and bombard Messina. But having been betrayed they fled to Corfu early in 1844. Rumours reached them there of agitation in the Neapolitan kingdom, where the people were represented as ready to rise en masse at the first appearance of a leader; the Bandieras, encouraged by Mazzini, consequently determined to make a raid on the Calabrian coast.
They got together a band of about twenty men ready to sacrifice their lives for an idea, and set sail on their desperate venture on the 12th of June 1844. Four days later they landed near Cotrone, intending to go to Cosenza, liberate the political prisoners and issue their proclamations. But they did not find the insurgent band which they had been told awaited them, and were betrayed by one of their party, the Corsican Boccheciampe, and by some peasants who believed them to be Turkish pirates. A detachment of gendarmes and volunteers was sent against them, and after a short fight the whole band were taken prisoners and escorted to Cosenza, where a number of Calabrians who had taken part in a previous rising were also under arrest. First the Calabrians were tried by court-martial, and a large number condemned to death or the galleys. The raiders' turn came next, and the whole party, save the traitor Boccheciampe, were condemned to be shot, but in the case of eight of them the sentence was commuted to the galleys.
On the 23rd of July the two Bandieras and their nine companions were executed; they cried Viva l'Italia! as they fell.
The Neapolitan government was undoubtedly within its right in executing the Bandieras, and the material results of this heroic but unpractical attempt were nil. But the moral effect was enormous throughout Italy, the action of the authorities was universally condemned, and the martyrdom of the Bandieras bore fruit in subsequent revolutions. It also created a great impression in England, where it was believed that the Bandieras' correspondence with Mazzini (q.v.) had been tampered with, and that information as to the proposed expedition had been forwarded to the Austrian and Neapolitan governments by the British foreign office; recent publications, however, especially the biography of Sir James Graham, tend to exculpate the British government.
See G. Ricciardi, Storia dei Fratelli Bandiera (Florence, 1863); F. Venosta, I Fratelli Bandiera (Milan, 1863); and Carlo Tivaroni's L'Italia durante il dominio austriaco, vol. iii. p. 149 (Turin, 1894).