Showing posts with label 1811. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1811. Show all posts

10 November 2019

Charles Ferdinand - Prince of the Two Sicilies

The heir presumptive whose marriage earned him exile


Charles Ferdinand with his wife, the Irishwoman Penelope Smyth
Charles Ferdinand with his wife, the
Irishwoman Penelope Smyth
Charles Ferdinand, the Bourbon Prince of the Two Sicilies and Prince of Capua and heir presumptive to the crown of King Ferdinand II, was born on this day in 1811 in Palermo.

Prince Charles, the second son of King Francis I of the Two Sicilies and Maria Isabella of Spain, gave up his claim to the throne when he married a commoner, after his brother, King Ferdinand II, issued a decree upholding their father’s insistence that blood-royal members of the kingdom did not marry beneath their status.

In 1835, at which time Ferdinand II had not fathered any children and Charles therefore held the status of heir presumptive, Charles met and fell in love with a beautiful Irish woman, Penelope Smyth, who was visiting Naples.

Penelope Smyth was the daughter of Grice Smyth of Ballynatray, County Waterford, and sister of Sir John Rowland Smyth. Ferdinand II forbade their union, in accordance with his father’s wishes, but the lovers would not be parted.

On January 12, 1836 the couple eloped. Two months later, Ferdinand II issued the decree that forbade their marriage but three weeks after that Charles and Penelope reached Gretna Green, the town just over the border between England and Scotland, a few miles north of Carlisle, where under Scottish law young lovers needed no parental consent to be married, merely to declare their wish to be joined in matrimony in front of witnesses.

Charles's father, Francis I of the Two Sicilies, set the family's roles of marriage
Charles's father, Francis I of the Two Sicilies,
set the family's roles of marriage
Charles sought approval from the Archbishop of Canterbury for a further ceremony at St George's, Hanover Square, in the hope that this would give the marriage legitimacy. However, the Master of the Faculties, Dr John Nicholl, refused to grant the licence on the grounds that the royal succession might be affected by the non-recognition of the marriage in Naples.

Ferdinand II never forgave Charles, who was forced to live for the rest of his life in exile. All his estates were confiscated except the county of Mascali in Sicily, which he had inherited from his father. Mascali provided him with only a small income and his life in London, though without major extravagance, still caused him to run up debts.

His pleas with his brother to be allowed to return to Naples fell on deaf ears, as did requests from the United Kingdom government of Lord Palmerston that the exile be lifted.  Charles eventually moved to Turin, but was pursued constantly by creditors and could not remain in the same place long.

For someone who had been made a vice-admiral at 19 and was a candidate at around that time to be made king of Greece or Belgium, it had been a spectacular fall from grace.

When Ferdinand II died in 1859, the new King Francis II, his nephew, ordered the restoration of Charles's estates. However, before Charles could see any of the funds promised him, the Bourbons were overthrown by Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Piedmontese army.

The king of the new united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, offered him an allowance. But Charles turned it down, fearing that it would affect his legal claims. He died in Turin in 1862, aged 50.

The town of Mascali was largely destroyed by the eruption of Sicily's volcanic Mount Etna in 1928
The town of Mascali was largely destroyed by the eruption
of Sicily's volcanic Mount Etna in 1928
Travel tip:

The town of Mascali, which can be found on the eastern coastline of the island of Sicily, midway between Messina and Catania, sits in the shadow of Mount Etna. It has suffered as a consequence, needing to be almost completely rebuilt after the volcano erupted in November 1928 and destroyed a significant part of the historic town. Mascali was rebuilt a few years later with an urban checkerboard layout influenced by towns in Sicily dating between the 16th and 18th centuries.  The town’s cathedral, dedicated to the patron saint San Leonardo, was consecrated in 1935.

The extraordinary Byzantine mosaics that decorate the interior of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo
The extraordinary Byzantine mosaics that decorate
the interior of the Cappella Palatina in Palermo
Travel tip:

The Palermo of today, the capital of Sicily, is an attractive tourist destination, a vibrant city with a wealth of history, culture, art, music and food. It has many outstanding restaurants as well as fine examples of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings.  Top attractions include the extraordinary Cappella Palatina, featuring Byzantine mosaics decorated with gold leaf and precious stones, and the Teatro Massimo, the largest opera house in Italy and the third biggest in Europe after the Opéra National de Paris and the K. K. Hof-Opernhaus in Vienna.

Also on this day:

1816: The arrival of the English poet Lord Byron in Venice

1869: The birth of Gaetano Bresci, the assassin who killed King Umberto I

1928: The birth of film music composer Ennio Morricone

1990: The birth of world champion gymnast Vanessa Ferrari


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30 May 2018

Andrea Verga - anatomist and neurologist

Professor among founding fathers of Italian psychiatry


Andrea Verga was one of the first to see how criminal behaviour could be driven by insanity
Andrea Verga was one of the first to see how criminal
behaviour could be driven by insanity
The anatomist and neurologist Andrea Verga, who was one of the first Italian doctors to carry out serious research into mental illness, was born on this day in 1811 in Treviglio in Lombardy.

Verga’s career was notable for his pioneering study of the criminally insane, for some of the first research into acrophobia - the fear of heights - which was a condition from which he suffered, and for the earliest known experiments in the therapeutic use of cannabis.

For a number of years, he held the post of Professor of Psychiatry at the Ospedale Maggiore in Milan. He also founded, in conjunction with another physician, Serafino Biffi, the Italian Archives for Nervous Disease and Mental Illness, a periodical in which research findings could be shared and discussed.

Verga also acquired an in-depth knowledge of the anatomy of the bone system and the nervous system, and was the first to identify an anomaly of the brain that occurs in only one in six people, which became known as ‘Verga’s ventricle’.

The son of a coachman, Verga was an enthusiastic student of classics whom his parents encouraged to pursue a career in the church, yet it was medicine that became his calling.  He went to the University of Pavia, graduating in 1832 and becoming assistant to Bartolomeo Panizza, whose previous students had included Italy’s first Nobel Prize winner, Camillo Golgi.

Verga was a driving force behind Milan's Provincial
Psychiatric Hospital at Mombello 
Verga spent much of his working life with sight in only one eye, the consequence, it might be said, of his failing to remember to take literally the biblical proverb ‘physician heal thyself’. During an outbreak of cholera, in which he attended many sick patients, he developed a serious eye infection, which he neglected to treat, and went blind in the affected eye.

Nonetheless, steering himself towards the field of psychiatry and mental illness, in 1843 he moved to Milan, where he worked at the private hospital of San Celso, which cared for mental patients from the city’s wealthier classes.

While working at San Celso, he is thought to have participated with other physicians in experiments on the therapeutic use of cannabis in mental health conditions. The plant had a history of medical use in a number of ancient civilisations.

In 1848, amid the chaos of the first Italian War of Independence, he became the director of the Pia Casa della Senavra, Milan’s first public mental hospital. For several years his movements came under the scrutiny of the occupying Austrians, yet in 1852 he was offered the chance to lead psychiatric research at the city’s Ospedale Maggiore.

Andrea Verga's tomb at the Monumental Cemetery in Milan
Andrea Verga's tomb at the Monumental Cemetery in Milan
There he pushed for reforms that fundamentally improved the service of medicine and surgery in Milan. With Biffi he helped construct a more accurate definition of the symptoms of mental illness and the concept of insanity, and its recognition as grounds for a different interpretation, in some cases, of criminal behaviour.

Also, along with Biffi and Cesare Castiglioni, he argued the need for a more modern mental hospital in Milan. His arguments were rewarded when Senevra was closed and replaced, in 1878, by the Provincial Psychiatric Hospital of Milan at Mombello. 

Devoted to his work throughout his life, Verga never married. He did find time to become involved in local politics, however, as a councillor and in 1876 was appointed a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy.

He died in 1895 and was buried in the Monumental Cemetery in Milan.

The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio
The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio
Travel tip:

The small city of Treviglio in Lombardy, where Verga was born, is about 20km (13 miles) south of Bergamo and 41km (26 miles) northeast of Milan. It developed from a fortified town in the early Middle Ages and, having been at times controlled by the French and the Spanish, became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.  Its most visited attraction is the Basilica of San Martino, originally built in 1008 and reconstructed in 1482, with a Baroque façade from 1740, which is in Piazza Luciano Manara. Opposite the basilica is the historic Caffè Milano, founded in 1896, which retains the original turn-of-the century furniture and a counter in Art Nouveau style.

The bust of Andrea Verga in Largo Francesco Richini in Milan
The bust of Andrea Verga in Largo
Francesco Richini in Milan
Travel tip:

An enormous white marble bust, dedicated in 1903 to Andrea Verga, can be found in Largo Francesco Richini in the centre of Milan, opposite what was formerly the Ospedale Maggiore, which is now part of the campus of the University of Milan, created by the Milan sculptor Giulio Branca. The Ospedale Maggiore moved early in the 20th century to a vast new site not far away, opposite the university buildings on the other side, bordered by Via Francesco Sforza.

Also on this day:

1875: The birth of Giovanni Gentile, the so-called 'philosopher of Fascism' 

1924: The day tragic politician Giacomo Matteotti spoke out against Fascist thugs

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22 May 2018

Giulia Grisi - operatic soprano

Officer’s daughter became a star on three continents


Giulia Grisi appears as Norma in Vincenzo Bellini's opera of the same name
Giulia Grisi appears as Norma in Vincenzo
Bellini's opera of the same name
The opera singer Giulia Grisi, one of the leading sopranos of the 19th century, was born on this day in 1811 in Milan.

Renowned for the smooth sweetness of her voice, Grisi sang to full houses in Europe, the United States and South America during a career spanning 30 years in which composers such as Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti created roles especially for her.

These included Elvira in Bellini’s final opera, I puritani, in which Grisi appeared alongside the great tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini, the bass Luigi Lablache and the baritone Antonio Tamburini when the work premiered in Paris in 1835.

The opera was such a success that whenever the four singers performed together subsequently they were known as the “Puritani quartet”.

Grisi was also the first soprano cast in the role of Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma in Milan in 1831, playing opposite Giuditta Pasta in the title role.

Donizetti wrote the parts of Norina and Ernesto in his 1843 work Don Pasquale for Grisi and her future husband, the tenor Giovanni Matteo De Candia, usually known by his stage name of Giovanni Mario. Lablache and Tamburini again starred with her in the Paris premiere.

Giulia Grisi (right), with her sister Giuditta
Giulia Grisi (right), with her sister Giuditta, who was
also an accomplished singer
Grisi was the daughter of Gaetano Grisi, an Italian officer in the service of Napoleon. She had music in her blood. Her maternal aunt, Giuseppina Grassini, had been a popular opera singer, in Europe and in London, while her sister Giuditta also sang and her cousin Carlotta was a ballet dancer.

After being trained with a musical career in mind, Grisi made her stage debut as Emma in Gioachino Rossini's Zelmira at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna in 1828.

Rossini took her to Paris in the title role of Semiramide in 1832 and after her success there she made her debut in London in 1834 as Ninetta in the same composer’s La gazza ladra.

Grisi, who had no shortage of male admirers, had a complicated personal life. Her first marriage to Count Gérard de Melcy, whom she wed in 1836, was an unhappy one but he refused her request for a divorce.

Two years after they were married her husband was furious to discover a letter written to her by Lord Castlereagh, the future 4th Marquess of Londonderry. The two fought a duel in which Lord Castlereagh was wounded in the wrist.

Grisi's second husband, the tenor Giovanni Mario
Grisi's second husband, the tenor
Giovanni Mario
The duel prompted Grisi to leave her husband and begin an affair with Lord Castlereagh, with whom she had a son, George Frederick Ormsby. But the relationship petered out.  George was brought up by his father, although Grisi was allowed to see him when she visited England.

The real love of her life was Mario, her professional as well as romantic partner.  Together, they helped establish Italian opera as an important component of the London music scene.  When they toured the United States in 1854, after they were married, where they were lauded as celebrities.

They lived together in Paris and London before Grisi at last was granted her wish for a divorce they were able to marry. They returned to Italy and lived at the Villa Salviati in Florence, a property Mario had purchased in 1849, where they brought up six daughters and regularly entertained guests from the world of opera and the aristocracy.

Tragically, Grisi died in 1869 after the train on which she was travelling to St Petersburg suffered an accident passing through Germany. Grisi was taken to hospital in Berlin but did not recover from her injuries.  Her husband took her body to Paris, where she was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery. Her tomb is marked with the inscription "Juliette de Candia".

The Teatro Comunale in Piazza Giuseppe Verdi in Bologna
The Teatro Comunale in Piazza Giuseppe Verdi in Bologna
Travel tip:

Grisi made her stage debut at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, which remains one of the most important opera venues in Italy. Typically, it presents eight operas with six performances during its November to April season.  Various opera venues in the city had either fallen into disuse or burnt down and it was after the Teatro Malvesi succumbed to fire in 1745 that the Nuovo Teatro Pubblico, as the Teatro Comunale was first called, was opened in May 1763.

The Villa Salviati, the former castle where Grisi and Giovanni  Mario made their home on returning from the United States
The Villa Salviati, the former castle where Grisi and Giovanni
 Mario made their home on returning from the United States
Travel tip:

Grisi and Mario’s grand home in Florence, the Villa Salviati, was built on the site of the Castle of Montegonzi about 7km (4.5 miles) north of the centre of the city, by Cardinal Alamanno Salviati, who in turn gave it to Jacopo Salviati, the son-in-law of Lorenzo de’ Medici (Lorenzo the Magnificent). It changed hands a number of times before being purchased by Giovanni Mario from an Englishman, Arturo Vansittard.  In 2000 it was purchased by the Italian government and now houses the historical archives of the European Union.

Also on this day:

1762: The Trevi Fountain is opened in Rome

1963: AC Milan's historic first European Cup triumph

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