6 June 2020

6 June

Maria Theresa - the last Holy Roman Empress

Italian noblewoman was first Empress of Austria

Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily, the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria, was born at the Royal Palace of Portici in Naples on this day in 1772.  She was the eldest daughter of Ferdinand IV & III of Naples and Sicily (later Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies) and his wife, Marie Caroline of Austria, through whom she was a niece of the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette.  Named after her maternal grandmother, Maria Theresa of Austria, she was the eldest of 17 children. Her father was a son of Charles III of Spain and through her father she was a niece of Maria Luisa of Spain and Charles IV of Spain.  Although she had a reputation for pursuing a somewhat frivolous lifestyle, which revolved around balls, carnivals, parties and masquerades, she did have some political influence, advising her husband about the make-up of his government and encouraging him to go to war with Napoleon, whom she detested.  She assumed her titles after she married her double first cousin Archduke Francis of Austria on September 15, 1790.  Francis became Holy Roman Emperor at age 24 in 1792.  Read more…


Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour

Prime Minister died after creating a united Italy

The first Prime Minister of Italy, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, died on this day in 1861 in Turin.  A leading figure in the struggle for Italian unification, Cavour died at the age of 50, only three months after taking office as Prime Minister of the new Kingdom of Italy. He did not live to see Venice and Rome become part of the Italian nation.  Cavour was born in 1810 in Turin, the second son of the fourth Marquess of Cavour. He was chosen to be a page to Charles Albert, King of Piedmont, when he was 14. After attending a military academy he served in the Piedmont-Sardinian army but eventually resigned his commission and went to run his family’s estate at Grinzane in the province of Cuneo instead.  He then travelled extensively in Switzerland, France and England before returning to Turin where he became involved in politics.  Originally he was interested in enlarging and developing Piedmont-Sardinia economically rather than creating a unified Italy.  As Prime Minister he took the kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia into the Crimean war hoping it would gain him the support of the allies for his plans for expansion.  Read more…


Battle of Novara 1513

Many lives lost in battle between French and Swiss on Italian soil

Swiss troops defeated a French occupying army on this day in 1513 in a bloody battle near Novara in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.  The French loss forced Louis XII to withdraw from Milan and Italy and after his army were pursued all the way to Dijon by Swiss mercenaries, he had to pay them off to make them leave France.  The battle was part of the War of the League of Cambrai, fought between France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice in northern Italy, but often involving other powers in Europe.  Louis XII had expelled the Sforza family from Milan and added its territory to France in 1508.  Swiss mercenaries fighting for the Holy League drove the French out of Milan and installed Maximilian Sforza as Duke of Milan in December 1512.  More than 20,000 French troops led by Prince Louis de la Tremoille besieged the city of Novara, which was being held by the Swiss, in June 1513.  However, a much smaller Swiss relief army arrived and surprised the French just after dawn on June 6.  German Landsknecht mercenaries, armed with pikes like the Swiss troops, put up some resistance to the attack.  Read more…


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