Orsini, Felice (fālēˈchā ōrsēˈnē) [key], 1819–58, Italian patriot who attempted to assassinate the French emperor Napoleon III. He was a follower of Mazzini in the movement for Italian unification. As a young man he became an active revolutionary in the Papal States and in Tuscany. He was jailed (1855–56) by the Austrians for his activities but escaped. In 1857 he broke with Mazzini, and in 1858 he made an attempt on the life of Napoleon III, whom he held responsible for the failure of the Italian revolutions of 1848–49. Although ably defended by Jules Favre, he was executed. His act, designed to arouse world interest in the Italian cause, paradoxically influenced Napoleon's own decision to intervene in favor of Italian unification.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
More on Felice Orsini from Infoplease:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Italian History: Biographies