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Don Fulco was the son of Fulco VII Beniamino Tristano Ruffo di Calabria, 5th Duke of Guardia Lombarda (1848-1901), and Laura Mosselman du Chenoy, a Belgian aristocrat, whose maternal grandfather was Count Jacques André Coghen, Belgium's second finance minister. Beniamino Ruffo di Calabria was the younger brother of the head of the House of Ruffo, Fulco Ruffo di Calabria-Santapau, 10th Principe di Scilla and 2nd Duca di Santa Cristina.
Don Fulco was made, by decree of 15 March 1928, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, in the Kingdom of Italy. By inheritance he was also the 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda and 17th Count of Sinopoli. The family Ruffo di Calabria represents one of the most ancient lineages of Italy and includes Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo. Fulco was related to historically eminent Roman and southern Italian noble families, including the Colonna, Orsini, Pallavicini, Alliata and Rospigliosi. Among his distinguished ancestors of the French aristocracy were the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of American Independence, and the Dukes of Noailles.
Since the fall of the Italian monarchy in 1947 the Princes Ruffo di Calabria have become connected by marriage to such formerly reigning dynasties as the Orléans, the Savoys, the Bonapartes and the mediatized family of Windisch-Graetz.
Early life and prewar military service
Fulco Ruffo di Calabria was born in Naples, Kingdom of Italy on 12 August 1884. His noble family's patriotism was prominent in Italian military history since at least 1797. He thus volunteered for reserve officer's training with the 11th Foggia Light Cavalry Regiment on 22 November 1904. On 31 May 1905, he was promoted to Caporal; on 30 November, he was again promoted, to Sergente. On 20 February 1906, he was commissioned into officers' ranks as a Sottotenente. Subsequently, he became deputy director of the Belgian Wegimont shipping company's African station. He returned from Africa as World War I broke out.
World War I service
Displayed here is Ruffo di Calabria's SPAD V.II
Ruffo di Calabria returned to military duty before Italy's entry into World War I, and was assigned to the Battaglione Aviatori (which later became the Corpo Aeronautico Militare) on 20 December 1914. After pilot's training, on 28 September 1915, he was posted to the 4a Squadriglia Artiglia, an artillery coordination unit that later morphed into 44a Squadriglia. On 26 January 1916, he moved to 2a Squadriglia (later 42a Squadriglia). He won two Bronze awards of the Medal for Military Valor—in February and April 1916—while still a two-seater pilot with them. His personal emblem was a black skull and crossbones painted on the fuselage of his plane, whether it was his original Nieuport 11s, or his later Nieuport 17 and SPAD VII airplanes.
Ruffo di Calabria underwent further training on Nieuports at Cascina Costa in May 1916. On 26 June,[note 1] he was assigned to 1a Squadriglia as a fighter pilot. He won his first victory there, shared with Francesco Baracca on 23 August 1916, and had a second one go unconfirmed. His performance was good for a Silver Medal for Military Valor in August, followed by a Bronze in September 1916.
By 16 September, when he shared a victory with Baracca and Luigi Olivari, he was scoring for his new unit, 70a Squadriglia. He ran his score with them to four confirmed and four unconfirmed by 28 February 1917.
In March 1917, he was transferred out of the reserves when he was promoted to Tenente. In May he then switched to flying a Nieuport for 91a Squadriglia. He was awarded both a Silver and a Bronze Medal for Military Valor that same month. His promotion to Capitano came through in August 1917. By that time, his confirmed victories totaled 13. He ended 1917 with his total victories at 16.
Ruffo di Calabria's records for 1918 are incomplete, but credit him with four more victories. On 5 May 1918, he was granted the ultimate Medal of Military Valor, the Gold award. After Baracca's death on 19 June 1918, Fulco assumed command of the renowned "Squadron of Aces". He relinquished command of 91a Squadriglia on 18 September to Ferruccio Ranza, after suffering a nervous breakdown. After recovery, he was handed command of 10th Gruppo, on 23 October 1918, but was shot down by artillery fire near Marano on 29 October 1918. In the end, he shot down 20 enemy airplanes in 53 combats, making him the fifth highest scoring Italian flying ace of World War I.
Post-World War I
On 1 February 1919, the Bongiovanni commission's military intelligence report verified all 20 of Ruffo di Calabria's confirmed victories, though still denying the five that were unconfirmed. Di Calabria remained in the military, though without assignment. By 1925, his main activity was management of his family estates located near Paliano.
During World War II, he was a supporter of the Italian fascist leader Mussolini. He was subsequently convicted postwar by an Italian court for complicity in the crimes of fascism, and that ruling was upheld on 10 January 1946 despite his appeal.
Fulco Ruffo di Calabria died in Ronchi di Apuania, Italy on 23 August 1946.
Nicolo San Martino d'Aglie (born 3 July 1948, Campiglione); married 4 June 1974 Princess Catherine Napoléon (daughter of Louis, Prince Napoléon), divorced without issue in 1982.
Filippo San Martino d'Agile di San Germano (born 24 Septembre 1953, Torino); married 16 November 1984 Cristina Maria Margherita Flesia.
Donna Laura Ruffo di Calabria (1921-1972); married Bettino, Baron Ricasoli Firidolfi (31st Baron of Brolio) in 1946: four children (Andrea [d. circa 1974], Luisa, Maria Teresa, Francesco, 32nd Baron of Brolio).
Fabrizio, Prince Ruffo di Calabria-Santapau (1922-2005); head of the House of Ruffo from 1975: 13th Prince of Palazzolo, 14th Prince of Scilla, 7th Duke of Guardia Lombarda, 13th Marquis of Scilla and 18th Count of Sinopoli: his first marriage to Maria Vaciago, had :
DonFulco IX, Prince Ruffo di Calabria (born 29 July 1954); current head of the House of Ruffo di Calabria, married and divorced Melba Vincens Bello; married secondly, in 2005, Luisa Tricarico.
Augusto Ruffo di Calabria (born 1 October 1955); married Princess Christiana zu Windisch-Graetz in 1980 with issue.
Imara Ruffo di Calabria (born 7 July 1958); married firstly Uberto Imar Gashe (grandson of Princess Yolanda of Savoy) in 1986; married secondly Baron Marco Tonci Ottieri della Ciaia in 1993.
Umberto Ruffo di Calabria (born 23 October 1960); married Leontina, Marchesa Pallavicini in 1987.
^Note: The text of Above the War Fronts gives this as the date he joined 70a Squadriglia; however, the victory list on the same page shows Ruffo di Calabria scoring his wins for 1a Squadriglia, as does Nieuport Aces.
^Although The Belgian Monarchy website attributes the title of "Princess" to Queen Paola prior to her marriage, Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, The Descendants of Louis XIII, Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, La Descendance de Marie-Thérèse de Habsburg and Le Petit Gotha, among others, accord only the noble prefix of Donna to her and her sisters, reserving the title Principessa for the wife of the head of the family, her father having received the title of prince in the Italian nobility in 1928 from King Victor Emmanuel III, heritable according to masculine primogeniture.
^ abcdeGenealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XVI. "Ruffo". C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp.522-529. ISBN3-7980-0824-8.
^de Badts de Cugnac, Chantal. Coutant de Saisseval, Guy. Le Petit Gotha. Nouvelle Imprimerie Laballery, Paris 2002, p. 702 (French) ISBN2-9507974-3-1
^ abcdefghijklFranks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914-1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN978-1-898697-56-5. pp. 158-159.
^Guttman, Jon. SPAD XII/XIII Aces of World War I. Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN1841763160, 9781841763163. p. 127.
^Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914-1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN978-1-898697-56-5. pp. 127, 128.
^ abFranks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914-1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN978-1-898697-56-5. p. 167.
de Badts de Cugnac, Chantal; Coutant de Saisseval, Guy. Le petit Gotha: Collection Le Petit Gotha. Le Petit Gotha, 2002. ISBN2950797431, 9782950797438.
Ehrenkrook, Hans Friedrich von; Hueck, Walter von; Franke, Christoph; Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche u. C. Moritz; editors. Genealogisches Handbuch der Fürstlichen Häuser. Band XVI (2001), Volume 124. Walter von Hueck, Christoph Franke, Moritz. Starke, 2001. ISBN3798008248, 9783798008243.
Norman Franks, Russell Guest, Gregory Alegi. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914-1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN978-1-898697-56-5.