Duce (/ˈd/ DOO-chay, Italian: [ˈduːtʃe]) is an Italian title, derived from the Latin word dux "leader", and a cognate of duke. National Fascist Party leader Benito Mussolini was identified by Fascists as Il Duce ("The Leader") of the movement since the birth of the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in 1919. In 1925 it became a reference to the dictatorial position of Sua Eccellenza Benito Mussolini, Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo e Fondatore dell'Impero ("His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Leader of Fascism and Founder of the Empire").[1] Mussolini held this title together with that of President of the Council of Ministers: this was the constitutional position which entitled him to rule Italy on behalf of the King of Italy. Founder of the Empire was added for the exclusive use by Mussolini in recognition of his founding of an official legal entity of the Italian Empire on behalf of the King in 1936 following Italy's victory in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. The position was held by Mussolini until 1943, when he was removed from office by the King and the position of "Duce" was dismantled, while Marshal Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba was appointed Presidente del Consiglio.

Duce of Fascism
Duce del Fascismo
Flag of Prime Minister of Italy (1927-1943).svg
StyleHis Excellency
ResidencePalazzo Chigi
Palazzo Venezia
Villa Torlonia
AppointerGrand Council of Fascism
PrecursorBenito Mussolini (as Prime Minister)
Formation23 March 1919
First holderBenito Mussolini
Final holderBenito Mussolini
Abolished25 April 1945

This position was the model which other fascist leaders adopted, such as the position of Führer by Adolf Hitler and Caudillo by Francisco Franco. In September 1943, Mussolini styled himself as the "Duce of the Italian Social Republic" (Italian: Duce della Repubblica Sociale Italiana), and held the position until the collapse of the Italian Social Republic and his execution in April 1945.[2]

History of the termEdit

The title was used outside its traditional noble sense in some of the publications praising Garibaldi during the Italian unification in 1860, though not taken up officially by Garibaldi himself.[3]

'Duce Supremo' ("Supreme Leader") was more formally used by Victor Emmanuel III in 1915, during World War I, referring to his role as the commander in chief of the armed forces. The term was also used by Gabriele d'Annunzio as dictator of the self-proclaimed Italian Regency of Carnaro in 1920, and most significantly by the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini's socialist supporters began to call him Duce during the 1910s, when he was the prominent editor-in-chief of Avanti!.[4]

Because the title 'Il Duce' has become associated with Fascism, it is no longer in common use other than in reference to him. Because of modern anti-fascist sentiment, Italian speakers in general now use other words for leader, mainly including the English loanword. However, the term duce survives as an antonomasia for Benito Mussolini.


Mussolini intended that the Grand Council of Fascism would choose a successor from a list of three men chosen by him, and submit the name for approval by the king. As of 1940 he may have been preparing his son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano for the role.[5]


Fasces of CombatEdit

Portrait Name
Term Political Party
Took office Left office Duration
Mussolini, BenitoBenito Mussolini
March 23 1919November 9 19212 years, 231 daysFasces of Combat

National Fascist PartyEdit

Portrait Name
Term Political Party
Took office Left office Duration
Mussolini, BenitoBenito Mussolini
November 9 192125 July 194321 years, 258 daysFascist Party

Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922 and merged the two titles in 1925 as Capo del Governo, Duce del Fascismo.

Republican Fascist PartyEdit

Portrait Name
Term Political Party
Took office Left office Duration
Mussolini, BenitoBenito Mussolini
23 September 194325 April 19451 year, 214 daysRepublican Fascist Party

During this period, Mussolini was head of the Italian Social Republic

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Image Description: Propaganda poster of Benito Mussolini, with caption "His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Leader of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire ...".
  2. ^ Quartermaine, L. (2000). Mussolini's Last Republic: Propaganda and Politics in the Italian Social Republic. p. 21
  3. ^ Lucy Riall, "Garibaldi, Invention of a Hero", London, 2007, Ch. 9
  4. ^ Mussolini's Italy: Twenty Years of the Fascist Era. Max Gallo.
  5. ^ Gunther, John (1940). Inside Europe. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 255, 257–258.

External linksEdit

  •   The dictionary definition of duce at Wiktionary