Mussolini and Hitler are one of the great pairings on history. Ironically, given how it ended out, Mussolini was one of Hitler's heroes at first. He cited the man as an inspiration in his rise to power, especially his early attempts at coups which he mentioned as his attempts to emulate Mussolini's march on Rome. Basically he was in love with the guy and probably wrote "Hitler 4 Benito IDST" on his books.
He did actually sound pretty cool;
"All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"
"Let us have a dagger between our teeth, a bomb in our hands, and... infinite scorn in our hearts”
“The truth is that men are tired of liberty.”
Mussolini was actually pretty cool. He was that kid at school who made insane stuff up, you know "my dad is the pope, i can jump over my house, I am going to space for the summer" but he was generally believed while that kid in school would get beaten up. He claimed to be a great scholar when he wasnt, to have these great sporting acheivements that didnt exist and even to play instruments he couldnt.
Mussolini had heard Hitler was his fanboy and at a time when he was courting Britain and France as allies (who were paying him homage in the hope to keep him in line) he still was keen to make connections with Germany, who were a fellow dictatorship he felt he could control and play junior partner in his future international demands to the more sane international community.
In 1934 they first met. It was not the whirlwind romance Hitler imagined or the BDSM coupling with Benito in charge Il Duce wanted. It was infact pretty weird. Mussolini's much famed arrogance and utter stupidity came to the forefront, when he insisted he could speak German when he clearly could not... he muddled along in broken German that no one could entirely follow and rejected the notion of him needing a translator in advance.
Hitler apparently kept quoting "Mein Kampf", thats right... he is one of those people that quotes themselves like its profound, you thought the holocaust was the worst thing about him but you were wrong. Mussolini, with his trademark intelligence and insight completely dismissed Hitler as a "silly little monkey" in private after the meeting. Though obviously not that privately, because I know he did it and other people probably did too.
Hitler was the most annoyed though. He was livid after the meeting, why? Did Mussolini attempt to control him? Dismiss his foreign policy plans?
No, it was because Mussolini came in military uniform. Hitler had followed the traditional english dress code for state meetings and worn a business suit, Mussolini had without consulting him came in his (totally unearned) military get up. Hitler ranted afterwards about how humilated he was, looking like Mussolini's accountant. Thats right, Hitler fell out with a fellow world leader and potential ally over the fact their outfits clashed and Benny trumped his get up.
Hitler was actually quite concerned with outfits and clothing. When he created a new position or job in Germany he would spend as much time designing the new uniform as he would defining the role apparently, which you could argue is part of his genius, understanding style is more important than substance in public perception and putting it to his advantage. But I would argue its pretty gay for a grown man to be sketching out summer wear for his new gauleiters.
Mussolini's weird attempts at double dealing carried onward. He tried to maintain a friendship with the increasingly in conflict Germany and Britain/France with limited success. The latter because he kept making deals and treaties, giving speeches to people about how Mussolini was a great diplomat, then totally ignoring them. But to be fair, he was a bit dim, he could have just forgotten them.
But the relationship with Germany was equally strained at times, he even approached the Pope at one point to excommunicate Hitler. Hitler was of catholic descent but not a practicing one obviously, God has a not wiping out Jews commandment I think, even if they did kill Jesus. Which would have undermined his power a little and be a bit of an international black mark. But Muss was largely ignored by the Pope it seems. He probably changed his mind ten minutes later anyway, Mussolini's entire approach to power plays was along the lines of an ADD guy playing chess.
If you ever want to understand the mindset of Mussolini, a great thing to read outside of biographies and quotes (and I know this is a gay thing to know) is the chapter on him in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I havent read the actual book, but a very cool lecturer I had in college gave us all copies of this and its very good. The writer beautifully captures what Mussolini was like, the incredible self belief, slight crassness and energy of the man. He was like a 5 year old who talks about how awesome he is all the time.
Anyway, as time went on Hitler became the senior member of the pairing and as Mussolini's international diplomatic blunders mounted and he became isolated from potential sane European allies, he was left with little choice but to follow Hitler into closer diplomatic links and eventually a military alliance as Hitler was quickly taking over countries near his border it was that or fight him alone at some point. His home policies were also not bearing much fruit, as his corporate state ideas didnt really pan out on account of even him not being clear what that means or how it would work. He needed a bit of prestige and thought he could get it by being part of a successful war.
He did manage to put off actually entering the war until France was about to fall, thinking that the war would have weeks left to go. Oh yes, he saw the way the wind was blowing. He also thought Italy was going to be the dominant power of the 20th century. And after he joined in he had no choice but to stick with Adolph right to the very, hung from a tree, end.
An important lesson for us all, if you are a barmy dictator capable of mild evil, dont fall in with the much more evil dictator as he will get you into trouble. Even I knew this as a child, I was always skipping school but I never fell in with the kid who kept trying to burn the science lab. I ended up going to University, that kid ended up going to prison for stealing cars and then setting them on fire and dancing round them.
Or maybe the lesson is if you are going to get in a world war prepare some sort of military machine, or you will retreat all the way across Europe when the Germans arent there to help you, end up losing most of your country and be a puppet leader of a small chunk of Italy before getting caught and lynched trying to run and hide in Switzerland.
Or maybe, most of all, dont clash outfits with Hitler. He will start a world war and drag your ass in just to get revenge. Guy takes his look seriously.