Societies of a similar nature had existed in other countries and epochs, but the stories of the derivation of the Carbonari from mysterious brotherhoods of the middle ages are purely fantastic. The Carbonari were probably an offshoot of the Freemasons, from whom they differed in important particulars, and first began to assume importance in southern Italy during the Napoleonic wars.
The country was now again invaded by 40,000 French and Bavarian troops, and Innsbruck fell; but the Tirolese once more organized resistance to the French "atheists and freemasons," and, after a temporary hesitation, Hofer - on whose head a price had been placed - threw himself into the movement.
In 1796 he went to Berlin, where he founded a humanitarian society, and was commissioned by the freemasons of that city to assist Fichte in reforming the statutes and ritual of their lodge.
Much on the same lines stands the Italian Catholic attempt to show that the Freemasons are the real founders of Italian independence, and to take the field against them with the help of Leon Taxil and " Diana Vaughan."
The Order of Charles XIII., founded in 1811, is granted to Freemasons of high degree.