Showing posts with label Austria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Austria. Show all posts

17 December 2023

Maria Luisa - Duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalia

Marriage to Napoleon earned Austrian noblewoman an Italian Duchy

Maria Luisa married Napoleon in 1810, two years before the French emperor's exile to Elba
Maria Luisa married Napoleon in 1810, two
years before the French emperor's exile to Elba

Austrian archduchess Maria Luisa d'Asburgo-Lorena reigned as Duchess of Parma from April 1814 until her death in Parma on this day in 1847. She was the eldest child of Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria and - as Francis II - the last Holy Roman Emperor. 

Despite being brought up to despise France, Maria Luisa agreed to marry Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France, by proxy in 1810. When she was asked for her consent, she replied: ‘I wish only what my duty commands me to wish.’ Fortunately, when she met Napoleon for the first time, she remarked: ‘You are much better looking than your portrait.’ 

She bore him a son in 1811, Napoleon Francois Joseph Charles Bonaparte, who was styled King of Rome at his birth and who later became Napoleon II.

After Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia in 1812, the French ruler’s fortunes changed dramatically and he had to abdicate and go into exile on the island of Elba

The 1814 Treaty of Fontainebleau gave the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalia to Maria Luisa, who was to rule over them until her death.

To prevent Maria Luisa from joining Napoleon in Elba, the Emperor Francis II sent Count Adam Albert von Neipperg to accompany his daughter to the spa town of Aix-les-Bains. Maria Luisa fell in love with him and they became lovers. 

A portrait of Maria Luisa with her son, Napoleon II
A portrait of Maria Luisa
with her son, Napoleon II
After Napoleon was defeated for the last time at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to Saint Helena in 1815, Maria Luisa travelled to Parma, accompanied by Neipperg. She later wrote to her father, saying that the citizens had welcomed her with such enthusiasm she had tears in her eyes.

She removed the existing Grand Chamberlain from office and installed Neipperg in his place, leaving the day-to-day running of the Duchy to him afterwards.

After Napoleon died in 1821, Maria Luisa married Neipperg, with whom she had three children. She was devastated when Neipperg died of heart problems in 1829.

He was replaced as Grand Chamberlain by the Emperor Francis II with another Austrian, Josef von Werklein, but in 1831 he was denounced by protestors who had gathered in the streets of Parma to show their opposition to him. 

Maria Luisa asked her father to replace von Werklein and he sent a French nobleman, Charles Rene de Bombelles, who had served in the Austrian army against Napoleon, to be the next Grand Chamberlain of the Duchy of Parma.

He reformed the finances of the Duchy and developed a close personal relationship with Maria Luisa. They were married in 1834, just six months after his arrival in Parma.

Maria Luisa became ill in December 1847 and she died of pleurisy on the evening of 17 December in Parma, the city she had ruled over for more than 30 years. Her body was sent to Vienna, where she was buried at the Imperial Crypt. 

Prosciutto di Parma ham is one of the gastronomic delights associated with the city of Parma
Prosciutto di Parma ham is one of the gastronomic
delights associated with the city of Parma
Travel tip

Parma, over which Maria Luisa ruled from 1814 to 1847, is an historic city in the Emilia-Romagna region, famous for its Prosciutto di Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, the true ‘parmesan’. In 1545 the city was given as a duchy to the illegitimate son of Pope Paul III, whose descendants ruled Parma till 1731. The composer, Verdi, was born near Parma at Bussetto and the city has a prestigious opera house, the Teatro Regio, and a Conservatory named in honour of Arrigo Boito, who wrote the libretti for many of Verdi’s operas.  An elegant city with an air of prosperity common to much of Emilia-Romagna, Parma’s outstanding architecture includes an 11th century Romanesque cathedral and the octagonal 12th century baptistery that adjoins it, the church of San Giovanni Evangelista, which has a beautiful late Mannerist facade and bell tower, and the Palazzo della Pilotta, which houses the Academy of Fine Arts, the Palatine Library, the National Gallery and an archaeological museum.

The equestrian monument to Ranuccio I Farnese in Piacenza
The equestrian monument to
Ranuccio I Farnese in Piacenza
Travel tip

Piacenza, where Maria Luisa also held power, is the first major city along the route of the Via Emilia, the Roman road that connected Piacenza with the Adriatic resort of Rimini. Parma, some 66km (41 miles) along the route, is the next, followed by Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, who succeeded him. The statues are masterpieces by the sculptor Francesco Mochi.  The city is situated between the River Po and the Apennines, with Milan just over 72km (45 miles) to the northwest. Piacenza Cathedral, built in 1122, is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.  Among many notable people, Piacenza is the birthplace of Giorgio Armani, founder of the eponymous fashion house.

Also on this day:

546: Ostrogoth army sacks Rome

1538: Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII

1749: The birth of composer Domenico Cimarosa

1859: The birth of painter Ettore Tito

1894: The birth of WW1 pilot Leopoldo Eleuteri

1981: Nato boss James L Dozier seized by Red Brigades

2017: The remains of exiled monarch Vittorio Emanuele III return to Italy


15 June 2018

Carlo Cattaneo - philosopher and writer

Intellectual who became a key figure in Milan uprising

Carlo Cattaneo was an intellectual who led the Five Days of Milan uprising
Carlo Cattaneo was an intellectual who
led the Five Days of Milan uprising
Carlo Cattaneo, the philosopher and political writer who emerged as a leader in the so-called Five Days of Milan, the 1848 rebellion against the harsh rule of Austria, was born on this day in 1801 in Milan.

An influential figure in academic and intellectual circles in Milan, whose ideas helped shape the Risorgimento, Cattaneo was fundamentally against violence as a means to achieve change.

Yet when large-scale rioting broke out in the city in March 1848 he joined other intellectuals bringing organisation to the insurrection and succeeded in driving out Austrian’s occupying army, at least temporarily.

The uprising happened against a backcloth of social reform in other parts of the peninsula, in Rome and further south in Salerno, Naples and Sicily. 

By contrast, the Austrians, who ruled most of northern Italy, sought to strengthen their grip by imposing harsh tax increases on the citizens and sent out tax collectors, supported by the army, to ensure that everybody paid.

Cattaneo, who published his philosophical and political ideas in a journal entitled Il Politecnico, considered negotiation was the best way to represent the grievances of Milanese citizens and obtained some concessions from Austria’s deputy governer in the city.

Cattaneo was a republican who refused to swear an oath to the monarchy
Cattaneo was a republican who refused
to swear an oath to the monarchy
But when these were immediately cancelled by Josef Radetzky, the veteran general and highly accomplished military leader in charge of the Milan garrison, he changed his mind, realising that it was unlikely that any dialogue could take place with the Lombard nobility or the Vienna court.

So when trouble erupted on March 18, Cattaneo joined with Enrico Cernuschi, Giulio Terzaghi and Giorgio Clerici, who were three political progressives of his acquaintance, in forming a council of war.

Based at the Palazzo Taverna in Via Bigli, they organised the insurgents to fight tactical battles and harnessed the passion of the Milanese so effectively, persuading even priests to join the street battles and mobilising farmers from the surrounding countryside to come to the city to give their support, that the Austrians, weakened after Radetzky was forced to send some of his troops to Vienna, to quell a simultaneous revolt there, sought an armistice.

Cattaneo rejected the request, and in the evening of March 22, after five days of fighting, Radetzky decided to minimise his losses and began a withdrawal to the Quadrilatero, an area between Milan and Venice protected by four fortresses.

Despite King Charles Albert, whom Cattaneo disliked, sending his Piedmontese army to war with the Austrians the following day at the start of the First Italian War of Independence, Radetzky marched back into Milan within five months and Cattaneo, who had been at the head of a temporary government in Milan, fled to Switzerland.

The monument to Carlo Cattaneo in Via Santa Margherita in Milan
The monument to Carlo Cattaneo in
Via Santa Margherita in Milan
He settled in Lugano, where he wrote his Storia della Rivoluzione del 1848 (History of the 1848 Revolution) and other historical works. In 1860, he relaunched Politecnico, in which he expressed his vision of Italy as a progressive federalist republic.

He opposed Cavour for his unitarian views and when Garibaldi invited him to be part of the government of the Neapolitan provinces, he would not agree to the union with Piedmont. In the unified Italy he was frequently asked to stand for parliament, but always ruled himself out because he felt he could not swear an oath of allegiance to the monarchy.

He died in Castagnolo, a village on the north shore of Lake Lugano.

The plaque outside Cattaneo's headquarters in Via Bigli
The plaque outside Cattaneo's headquarters in Via Bigli
Travel tip:

Palazzo Taverna in Via Bigli in Milan, which acquired its name after it passed into the possession of Count Francesco Taverna in 1502, is celebrated for its role in the Five Days of Milan, when it became the headquarters of the insurgents after they were forced to abandon the nearby Palazzo Vidiserti. There is a plaque on the facade of the building bearing the inscription: “In this house while the people combated in the five days of March 1848 the central committee of the insurrection rejected the armistice offered by General Radetzky."

The Castelvecchio in Verona was one of the fortresses in the Quadrilatero
The Castelvecchio in Verona was one
of the fortresses in the Quadrilatero
Travel tip:

The Quadrilatero, often called the Quadrilateral Fortresses in English, is the traditional name of a defensive system of the Austrian Empire in the Lombardy-Venetia region of Italy, which was defended by the fortresses of Peschiera, Mantua, Legnago and Verona, between the Mincio, the Po and Adige Rivers, all of which are well preserved.

More reading:

The Five Days of Milan

Venice 1849: History's first air raid

Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour - Italy's first prime minister

Also on this day:

1479: The birth of Lisa del Giocondo, Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'

1927: The birth of comic book artist Hugo Pratt


4 February 2018

Cesare Battisti – patriot and irredentist

Campaigner for Trentino hailed as national hero

Cesare Battisti photographed in 1915
Cesare Battisti photographed in 1915
Cesare Battisti, a politician whose campaign to reclaim Trentino for Italy from Austria-Hungary was to cost him his life, was born on this day in 1875 in the region’s capital, Trento.

As a member of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party, Battista was elected to the assembly of South Tyrol and the Austrian Imperial Council, where he pushed for autonomy for Trentino, an area with a mainly Italian-speaking population.

When the First World War arrived and Italy decided to side with the Triple Entente and fight against Austria-Hungary, Battisti decided he could fight only on the Italian side, joining the Alpini corps.

At this time he was still a member of the Austrian Chamber of Deputies, so when he was captured wearing Italian uniform during the Battle of Asiago in 1916 he was charged with high treason and executed.

Italy now looks upon Battisti as a national hero and he is commemorated in monuments in several places in the country, as well as having numerous schools, streets and squares named after him.

At the time of his birth, the son of a merchant, also called Cesare, Trento was part of Tyrol in Austria-Hungary, even though it was a largely Italian-speaking city. As Battisti became politically active as a young man, first while studying law in Graz, in Austria, and later literature and philosophy at the University of Florence, he found himself drawn towards the Italian irredentism movement, one of whose aims was achieving autonomy for Trentino as part of a unified Kingdom of Italy.

Battisti as a student in Florence, where he became drawn to the irredentist movement
Battisti as a student in Florence, where he
became drawn to the irredentist movement
He began a student movement, the Società degli Studenti Trentini, and with like-minded fellow students founded a number of magazines and newspapers to spread the message and rally support for the cause.

In 1911, standing on an SDWP ticket, he was elected to the Reichsrat, the parliament of Vienna, with the aim of achieving change from within.

In 1914, with the support of Guido Larcher and Giovanni Pedrotti, he sent an appeal to the king, Vittorio Emanuele III, exhorting the monarch to respond to his wishes and unite Italy.

By the time the Austro-Serbian war had broken out, later in 1914, Battisti sensed the possibility of Italy being drawn into the conflict in opposition to Austria-Hungary and decided to leave Trento to find a safer part of Italy.

Not long afterwards, Battisti began to campaign for Italy to join forces with the Triple Entente countries – Russia, France and Great British – against Austria-Hungary, and when the First World War broke out he decided he could be true to his principles only by fighting on the side of the Italian forces.

Battisti volunteered for the Italian army and soon won medals for bravery. He was promoted to lieutenant with the Vicenza Battalion of the 6th Alpine Regiment. 

He was captured by Austrian forces during the Battle of Asiago, which took place about 60km (37 miles) east of Trento and a similar distance north of Vicenza. When it was realised who he was he was taken to his home town to face a court martial, at the Castello di Buonconsiglio, at which his parliamentary immunity was over-ridden and he was sentenced to death.

The Mausoleum housing Cesare Battisti's tomb stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking Trento
The Mausoleum housing Cesare Battisti's tomb stands on
a rocky outcrop overlooking Trento
His request to face a firing squad so as not to dishonour the Italian uniform was denied and he was executed by hanging on July 12, 1916, at the age of 41. The incident damaged support for Austrians in the area, particularly after photographs of a smiling execution squad posing with Battisti’s body were published in newspapers. He left a widow, Ernesta, and three children.

At the conclusion of the conflict, Trento became an Italian city as part of the settlement.  Battisti was hailed as a hero and monuments to him have been erected in Rome as well as at the Bolzano Victory Monument in another part of South Tyrol that was successfully reclaimed from Austria. 

With the agreement of his family, his remains were moved in 1935 to a mausoleum built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city. The structure, consisting of a circular base supporting 16 columns topped by a balustrade, was designed by the architect Ettore Faguioli to resemble a classical temple.

The Piazza Duomo in Trento
The Piazza Duomo in Trento
Travel tip:

Trento today is a cosmopolitan city considered to be one of the most desirable places to live in Italy on the basis of job opportunities and quality of life. With a population of 117,000, it is situated in an Alpine valley on the Adige river between the northern tip of Lake Garda and the border city of Bolzano, about 115km (71 miles) north of Verona. Settled by the Romans in the first century, it changed hands many times before becoming a major city in the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrians took charge in the 14th century and it remained under their control, with the exception of a spell of French domination in the Napoleonic era until the First World War.  It is notable in the 16th century for hosting the Council of Trent, the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church that gave rise to the resurgence of the church following Protestant Reformation.

Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento
Castello del Buonconsiglio in Trento
Travel tip:

The Castello del Buonconsiglio, where Battisti was tried and executed by the Austrians, is a castle next to Trento’s city walls built in the 13th century.  It consisted at first of the building now known as the Castelvecchio, which was the seat of the Bishopric of Trento until the 18th century, and saw the addition of several more buildings as various bishops chose to enlarge and reinforce it. Legend has it that there was a secret tunnel linking it with the city’s cathedral. It became a military barracks under the Austrians, then a jail, before falling into disrepair.  It was restored after Trento became part of Italy in the 1920s and now houses a museum and art gallery. 

Also on this day:

1 August 2017

Francesca Scanagatta - soldier

Woman pretended to be a man to join Austrian army

Francesca Scanagatta convinced the Austrian authorities she was a man
Francesca Scanagatta convinced the
Austrian authorities she was a man
Francesca Scanagatta, an Italian woman who served in the Imperial Austrian army for seven years while pretending to be a man, was born on this day in 1776 in Milan.

Scanagatta – sometimes known as Franziska – was a small and apparently rather plain girl, who was brought up in Milan while the city was under Austrian rule. She admired the Austrian soldiers to the extent of wishing she could join the army, yet knew that as a girl she would not be allowed to.

Even so, it did not stop her dreaming and throughout her childhood and teenage years she worked on becoming physically stronger through exercise while reading as much literature as she could about the army.

By contrast, her brother Giacomo hated the idea of joining up. He was rather effeminate in nature and the very thought of becoming a soldier filled him with dread.  Yet his father wanted him to serve and arranged for him to attend a military school in Vienna.

Giacomo confided his fears in Francesca and she suddenly realised she had an opportunity to fulfil her dreams by signing up in his place.

So, in June 1794, dressed as a man, the 17-year-old travelled with Giacomo to Austria and joined the Theresianische Militärakademie – the Theresian Military Academy – in his place as an external student.

When he learned what had happened, Francesca's father made plans to go to Vienna to bring her home, but she was so passionate about fulfilling her ambition that eventually he backed down and allowed her to stay at the academy.

A battlefield scene from around the time Scanagatta  was recruited by the Austrian army fighting France
A battlefield scene from around the time Scanagatta
was recruited by the Austrian army fighting France
Maintaining the pretence of being a man, she gained excellent grades and graduated as an ensign in January 1797.

She narrowly missed being drawn into a combat role later the same year, leading a reinforcement troop from Hungary to join her battalion on the Rhine preparing to repel the advancing armies of Napoleon in the later stages of the French Revolutionary Wars.  Napoleon’s earlier victories worried the Austrian commanders, however, and a peace treaty was agreed before Francesca’s men saw any action.

In February 1799, as hostilities broke out again, she marched with her company to join the so-called War of the Second Coalition against the French, only to be denied the chance to fight again, this time after suffering a severe attack of rheumatism, which confined her to two months of recuperation before she could rejoin the battalion.

In the meantime, she was transferred to a regiment based at Pancsova in an area now part of northern Serbia, with whom she marched to Italy to reinforce the Austrian lines.  She showed herself to be tough and resilient in testing conditions.

Rumours that she was not who she said she was were sometimes openly discussed among her colleagues but when another soldier teased her for being small, scarcely disguising what he was thinking, she challenged him to a duel and won, although she contented herself with merely wounding her opponent.

A scene from the Battle of Marengo, a significant victory for the French in the War of the Second Coalition
A scene from the Battle of Marengo, a significant victory
for the French in the War of the Second Coalition
Fully recovered from her illness, in December 1799 she led an attack on the French trenches at Barbagelata, a strategic village above the Val d’Aveto in Liguria, in the province of Genoa.

This was the last straw as far as her worried family were concerned.  When she returned home to visit during the early weeks of 1800, they tried desperately to persuade her to leave the army.

Instead, promoted to lieutenant in March of that year, Francesca returned to the Siege of Genoa, at which her father took the decision, despite knowing the fury his actions would provoke, of informing the Austrian authorities that the ‘man’ they had just made a lieutenant was, in fact, his daughter.

She was obliged to resign on the very day Genoa fell, on June 4, 1800. Nonetheless, her commander, Friedrich Heinrich von Gottesheim, held a party in her honour, out of respect for her bravery and outstanding conduct.

Back in Milan, she maintained close contact with the army and began a courtship with Lieutenant Spini, of the Italian Presidential (later Royal) Guard, whom she married in January, 1804.

They had four children, two boys and two girls. When the boys were old enough, they were allowed to wear the medals their mother was not permitted to wear.

She died in 1865 aged 89. Her portrait hangs in the Theresian Academy in Wiener Neustadt, 60km (37 miles) south of Vienna.

Travel tip:

The hamlet of Barbagelata, 1,115 metres above sea level some 48km (30 miles) north-east of Genoa, is officially listed as having 35 buildings and a population of just 17 people, with only seven over the age of 15.

Three Mozart operas were staged for the first time at Milan's Teatro Regio Ducale
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Travel tip:

Milan was in the possession of Austria from 1707 to 1797, the period of the Hapsburgs, and again after the end of Napoleon’s rule from 1815 to 1859, when the Austrians were defeated at the Battle of Solferino and Milan became part of the Kingdom of Sardinia.   During the first period of Austrian rule, Milan became a centre of lyric opera. In the 1770s, Mozart unveiled three operas at the Teatro Regio Ducale - Ascanio in AlbaMitridate, re di Ponto, and Lucio Silla. Later, after Teatro Regio Ducale burned down, Teatro alla Scala became the foremost opera theatre in the world, with its premières of Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi.


17 October 2016

The end of the Venetian Republic

Peace treaty saw Venice given away to Austria

Venice in the days of Austrian rule, as depicted by the  18th century artist Canaletto
Venice in the days of Austrian rule, as depicted by the
18th century artist Canaletto
A peace settlement signed in a small town in north-east Italy on this day in 1797 heralded a dark day for Venice as the Most Serene Republic officially lost its independence after 1,100 years.

The Treaty of Campo Formio, drawn up after the Austrians had sought an armistice when faced with Napoleon Bonaparte's advance on Vienna, included an exchange of territory that saw Napoleon hand Venice to Austria.

It marked the end of the First Coalition of countries allied against the French, although it was a short-lived peace.  A Second Coalition was formed the following year.

The Venetian Republic, still a playground for the rich but in decline for several centuries in terms of real power, had proclaimed itself neutral during the Napoleonic Wars, wary that it could not afford to sustain any kind of conflict.

But Napoleon wanted to acquire the city nonetheless, seeing it as a potential bargaining chip in his empire-building plans and had his eye on its vast art treasures.  In May 1797 he provoked the Venetians into attacking a French ship and used this as an excuse to declare war.

The reaction of the Venetian Grand Council and the last of its Doges, Ludovico Manin, was to vote the Republic out of existence and surrender, which put the city under French rule.  When the city and the nearby islands had been secured, 4,000 soldiers of Napoleon's army staged a parade in Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square). It was a humiliation for Venice, the first time that foreign troops had set foot in the city.

Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice, in a portrait by Barnardino Castelli
Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of Venice, in
a portrait by Barnardino Castelli
Systematically, the French began a programme of asset stripping, their plunder including the bronze Lion of Venice in St Mark's Square.

Within six months, however, the peace accord with the Austrians gave Napoleon the chance to use Venice as part of the settlement, taking Lombardy and the area of Belgium then known as the  Austrian Netherlands in return.

The city became part of Napoleon's newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1805 but the Austrians seized control again when Napoleon was defeated in 1814.

Venice's resentment of the French was matched by their dislike for the Austrians, even though the city's new rulers were instrumental in building the railway that connected them to the mainland, opening the way for a new era of prosperity.

The Venetians rose up in rebellion in 1848, staging a general strike and recruiting a militia of 4,000 men, briefly driving the Austrians out. The new Republic of San Marco declared independence in March 1848 and a year passed before the Austrians reclaimed the city, its navy sailing into the lagoon and laying siege until, starving and fighting a cholera epidemic, Venice surrendered.

The Austrians were finally driven out by Victor Emanuele II's army during the wars of Italian unification, at which point Venice became part of the Kingdom of Italy via the Treaty of Vienna. 

Travel tip:

The town known as Campo Formio at the time of the Treaty subsequently changed its name to Campoformido.  Situated just to the south-west of Udine, the capital of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, the town is also historically important as the seat from the 12th century onwards of the Parliament of Friuli, one of the oldest parliaments in the world.  The Treaty was signed at the Villa Manin, the country home of Ludovico Manin, the last Doge of the Venetian Republic.

The Lion of Venice sits atop one of two columns at the end of the Piazzetta of St Mark's
The Lion of Venice sits atop one of two columns
at the end of the Piazzetta of St Mark's
Travel tip:

The Lion of Venice, which sits atop one of two granite columns, standing guard at the lagoon end of the Piazzetta adjoining St Mark's Square, was lifted down and taken to France in 1797, where it remained until being repatriated in 1815 with the fall of Napoleon.  It was badly damaged on both legs of the journey, losing its griffin-like wings, its tail, its front paws and the gospel book upon which they rested on the outward journey.  Restored and mounted in the Place des Invalides in Paris, it was dropped as workmen lifted it down for the return to Venice, where it arrived in 20 pieces.  The fragments were pieced together by the sculptor Bartolomeo Ferrari.

More reading:

Napoleon crowns himself King of Italy

Austrians driven out in Battle of Marengo

Battle of Solferino and the birth of the Red Cross