"A military Corps known for its good conduct and wisdom, called the Royal Carabinieri Corps (...) [is incepted] for the purpose of contributing to the overall prosperity of the State, that can't be separated from the protection and defence of our good and loyal Subjects, and from the punishment of the guilty"
(Preamble to the Regie Patenti – Royal Decree). The Arma dei Carabinieri (Carabinieri Armed Service) was established as the Royal Carabinieri Corps in Turin on July 13, 1814 by Royal Decree from King Victor Emanuel I of Sardinia-Piedmont. As an institution, the Corps represented an absolute novelty as it served the dual purpose of State defence and public order, being a police force with special duties and responsibilities.
That Corps of choice soldiers, armed with carbine rifles (hence the name Carabinieri) had been the foremost Sardinian Army Corps (then known as the Piedmont army) and had the distinction of being widely spread throughout the territory, and in close contact with the people. Hence from the outset, its nature as police force with military status and its proclivity to be closely-knit with the community marked the success of the Carabinieri in serving people, both in Italy and abroad. At that time they wore a beautiful turquoise uniform, trimmed with silver frogs, and a hat with two points - popularly referred to as lucerna
- decked with a blue and red coloured plume from 1833. These two colours are still common symbols for the Corps, not only in the uniforms but also in the coat of arms and in the body paint of its fleet of motorcycles and automobiles. Blue stands for the institution's nobility, military valour, loyalty, justice, patriotism, while red stresses its boldness, courage and sacrifice. To this day such uniform, with little change, is still used for special solemn ceremonies.
From Piedmont, where they originated, to Lazio, where they arrived in 1870, the Carabinieri have assisted generations of Italians, with their attentive and reassuring presence, playing a key role throughout Italian history and its landmark events, from the times of the Sabaudo Kingdom, on through the Kingdom of Italy, the Italian Republic and up to its current international commitments for peace and security.
The Carabinieri Corps has participated in all the country's changes, as an irreplaceable grantor "of private and public security
" (as stated in the foreword of the Regie Patenti), sharing its difficult and at times tragic moments, following a path marked by loyalty to the institutions and service to society, and inspired by the values that have always been at the core of its identity. Such service has reflected in the many honours received by the Carabieri Flag, as well as the thousands of individual decorations, also corroborated by the term commonly used in describing the Corps: "La Benemerita
", or "Meritorious" [Corps].
Loyalty has always been a key feature of the Corps. Its heraldic motto, "Faithful through the Centuries
", was originally conceived by Captain Cenisio Fusi as a symbol for the medal commemorating the Corps's first 100 year anniversary. It became its official motto in May 1932, after a law granted Army corps and regiments the privilege of using heraldic mottos. As a direct result of that law, the first Carabinieri coat of arms was created in 1935 and eventually followed by four other versions, the most recent of which dates back to 2002. It incorporates all previously used elements to emphasize the Corps institutional continuity in history.
Loyalty is also the inspiration behind the march of ordinance ("La Fedelissima
" - "The Most Faithful") and the choice of the Virgin Mary, also known as “Virgo Fidelis” as the Corps' patron saint to whom His Holiness Pope Pius XII chose to entrust the Carabinieri in 1949, setting the date of celebration on November 21.
Conversely, the Carabinieri Corps' founding anniversary is celebrated on June 5, which remembers the date in 1920 when the Carabinieri Flag was awarded its first Gold Medal of Military Valour.