One of Occultism's most influential figures, Cagliostro was viewed as an imposter for the latter half of XIXth century. Carlyle added to this fashionable view by attacking him as the "prince of quacks", although more recent research has suggested that it's unlikely Cagliostro was a charlatan after all.
The magician lost his father at a young age, and was supported by his mother and an uncle. He was sent to a Benedictine Convent, where he displayed a natural aptitude and rose to the role of an apothecary assistant. He picked up the principles of medicine, and went on to learn advanced chemical combinations. He began to tire of life in the convent, and after escaping he moved to Palermo. He began to associate with vagabonds, robbing his uncle and constantly being arrested.
By now, he was only 14, and moved in with a magician who was interested in Occultism. His name was Marano, and he believed Cagliostro to be a genuine master of magic. He had been seen to evoke spirits and told Marano that there was buried treasure in a field not far from Palermo, which he would be able to discover using magic. Marano gave Cagliostro a huge sum of gold towards the dubious ritual. In fact, Cagliostro arranged for a group of scoundrels to rob Marano at the chosen fields, and he made off with the gold, escaping to Messina.
Here, Cagliostro met a mysterious man called Althotas, and the pair travelled together. Althotas was said to have no idea of his parentage or age, but he claimed to know certain secrets that preserved health and strength. Together they travelled to Africa, Asia and Rhodes. They assisted with many alchemical experiments and operations, and Cagliostro reported that his friend passed away while they were in Malta.
Cagliostro headed for Naples where he befriended a prince, and together the pair returned to Palermo. Here, he rediscovered one of the men who had helped with the Marano affair, and accounts of the pair are patchy for some time after. When Cagliostro next surfaced he was living in Rome and had created himself an empire. He married a good and honest woman. The pair lived in France, where Cagliostro was often called upon by those with an interest in the rules of nature and alchemy. In fact, he became so notorious and courted such hope with his 'gift' that rumours began to spread that he was a fake.
Cagliostro was soon initiated into Masonry and went on to establish several Masonic Lodges influenced by Egyptian Masonry. He attracted all kinds of people of high rank, and was credited with a huge number of cures. It's believed that the basis for much of Cagliostro's success was his mesmerising character.