Showing posts with label Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. Show all posts

18 April 2018

Ippolita Maria Sforza – noble woman

Learned lady sacrificed happiness for a political alliance

Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped  forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza's marriage helped
forge a strong link between Naples and Milan
Ippolita Maria Sforza, a cultured young noblewoman who wrote poetry, letters and documents in Latin, was born on this day in 1446 in Cremona.

She was married to Alfonso, Duke of Calabria, who later became King Alfonso II of Naples, because it was a politically advantageous alliance, but she did not live long enough to become his Queen consort.

Ippolita was the eldest daughter of Francesco I Sforza, Duke of Milan, and Bianca Maria Visconti.

She was tutored along with her six younger brothers and one younger sister by a Greek scholar who taught her philosophy and Greek.

When she was 14 years old she composed a Latin address for Pope Pius II, which became well known after it was circulated in manuscript form.

She wrote many letters, which were published in Italy in one volume in 1893. She also wrote poetry and a Latin eulogy for her father, Francesco.

Ippolita was married at the age of 19 to Alfonso, the eldest son of King Ferdinand I of Naples. The marriage created a powerful alliance between the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan.

A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
A copy of a 1472 bust by Francesco Laurana thought to
be of Ippolita Maria Sforza
But her husband, perhaps threatened by her high level of education, treated her with a lack of respect throughout their marriage.

Ippolita’s letters from this period display the adroit diplomacy she used to strengthen the alliance between Milan and Naples amid crises, such as her brother’s assassination in Milan and the Turkish invasion of Otranto.

The couple had three children. Their eldest son, Ferdinand, became King of Naples, their daughter, Isabella, married Gian Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, and their youngest son, Piero, died of an infection after surgery.

Ippolita died at the age of 38 in 1484 in Naples. Her husband then married his long-standing mistress by whom he already had two illegitimate children.

Soon after Ippolita’s death, the Naples-Milan alliance collapsed.

Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Cremona's bell tower, Il Torrazzo
Travel tip:

Cremona is famous for having the tallest bell tower in Italy, il Torrazzo, which measures more than 112 metres in height. As well as the manufacture of violins, Cremona is also famous for producing confectionery. Negozio Sperlari in Via Solferino specialises in the city’s famous torrone (nougat). The concoction of almonds, honey and egg whites was created in the city to mark the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza in 1441, when Cremona was given to the bride as part of her dowry.

The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the  Kings of Naples
The Palazzo Reale was one of the residences of the
Kings of Naples

Travel tip:

In the area around Piazza del Plebiscito in Naples you can see buildings with royal connections. The impressive Palazzo Reale at the eastern end of the piazza was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The palace is home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, both now open to the public. Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples. Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice. In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

More reading:

Bianca Maria Visconti - powerful woman who ran Milan

How the despotic Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies ruled for 65 years

Ludovico III Gonzaga - 15th century ruler of Mantua

Also on this day:

1480: The birth of the notorious beauty Lucrezia Borgia

1911: The birth of car maker Ilario Bandini


12 January 2018

Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies

Despotic ruler presided over chaos in southern Italy

Ferdinand IV of Naples as a boy, painted by the German painter Anton Raphel Mengs
Ferdinand IV of Naples as a boy, painted by
the German painter Anton Raphel Mengs
The Bourbon prince who would become the first monarch of a revived Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was born in Naples on this day in 1751.

Ferdinando, third son of King Carlos (Charles) III of Spain, was handed the separate thrones of Naples and Sicily when he was only eight years old after his father’s accession to the Spanish throne required him to abdicate his titles in Spanish-ruled southern Italy.

In a 65-year reign, he would preside over one of the most turbulent periods in the history of a region that was never far from upheaval, which would see Spanish rule repeatedly challenged by France before eventually being handed to Austria.

Too young, obviously, to take charge in his own right when his reign began officially in 1759, he continued to enjoy his privileged upbringing, alternating between the palaces his father had built at Caserta, Portici and Capodimonte.

Government was placed in the hands of Bernardo Tanucci, a Tuscan statesman from Stia, near Arezzo, in whom King Charles had complete trust.  Tanucci, who fully embraced the enlightened ideas that were gaining popularity with the educated classes across Europe, had his own ideas about running the two territories, and did little to prepare the boy for the responsibilities he would eventually inherit as Ferdinand IV of Naples and Ferdinand III of Sicily.

Indeed, Tanucci was more than happy to encourage him to pursue the frivolous activities of youth for as long as he wished while he continued the liberal reforms King Charles had set in motion. Ferdinand reached the age of majority in 1767 but was prepared to allow Tanucci to continue to call the shots.

Bernardo Tanucci, the trusted statesman who governed Naples and Sicily as regent
Bernardo Tanucci, the trusted statesman who
governed Naples and Sicily as regent
It all changed, however, in 1768 when Ferdinand married Archduchess Maria Carolina, daughter of the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa and sister of the ill-fated French queen Marie Antoinette.

The marriage was part of a treaty between Spain and Austria, by the terms of which Maria Theresa would be given a place on Tanucci’s governing council once she had produced a male heir to her husband’s crowns.

The new Queen considered herself to be enlightened too but did not care for Tanucci and had her own long-term agenda for Austrian rule over the territory.  She had to wait until 1775 to give birth to a son, following two daughters, but by 1777 had found a reason to dismiss Tanucci.

Maria Carolina dominated Ferdinand, but herself was heavily influenced by Sir John Acton, the English former commander of the naval forces of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, whom she hired to reorganise the Neapolitan navy.

Acton, promising to support Maria Carolina’s wish to free Naples from Spanish rule, was soon appointed commander-in-chief of both the army and the navy and eventually prime minister, much to the disapproval of the Spanish monarchy, who were about to go to war against Britain alongside France.

In the meantime, thanks to Ferdinand’s incompetence and Acton’s manoeuvring for power, Naples was so poorly governed it became clear that something similar to the French Revolution, which had famously toppled the French monarchy, could be about to be repeated in Naples.

Ferdinand aged 22 or 23, again painted by Anton Raphael Mengs
Ferdinand aged 22 or 23, again painted by
Anton Raphael Mengs
Not surprisingly, the execution of Marie Antoinette in Paris in 1793 had a profound effect on Maria Carolina. Abandoning all pretence to enlightenment, she persuaded Ferdinand to pledge the Kingdom of Naples to the War of the First Coalition against republican France, while at the same time summarily rounding up anyone in southern Italy suspected of revolutionary intentions.

For the next 23 years, Ferdinand’s forces fought the French in one conflict after another. Obliged the make peace in 1796 when faced with the young commander Napoleon Bonaparte’s march into central Italy, the Bourbon king then enlisted the help of Nelson’s British fleet in the Mediterranean to support a counter march on Rome in 1798.

Driven back rapidly, Ferdinand took flight, leaving Naples in a state of anarchy as he took refuge in Sicily. Bonaparte’s troops soon marched into Naples and in January 1799 established the Parthenopaean Republic.

Ferdinand now turned his attention to rooting out and executing suspected republicans in Palermo, but when Napoleon was forced to send most of his soldiers back to northern Italy, Ferdinand despatched an army led by the ruthless commander Fabrizio Cardinal Ruffo to crush the Parthenopaean Republic and reclaim Naples.

Yet Ferdinand was driven out again six years later when Napoleon’s victories against Austrian and Russian forces in the north allowed him to send another army to Naples, led by his brother Joseph, whom he proclaimed king of Naples and Sicily.

Mengs painted Queen Maria Carolina in 1768, around the time they were married
Mengs painted Queen Maria Carolina in
1768, around the time they were married
In fact, Ferdinand remained ruler of Sicily, with British protection, although protection that came at a price that included granting the island a constitutional government and sending Maria Carolina into exile in Austria, where she died in 1814.

Ferdinand made another triumphant return to Naples in 1815 after Joseph Bonaparte’s successor, Joachim Murat, was defeated by the Austrians and Ferdinand was reinstated as King of Naples and Sicily.

Now completely beholden to the Austrians, he abolished Sicily’s constitutional government and declared himself Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, bringing the two kingdoms together as one, as they had been for a brief period in the 15th century.

But for all Ferdinand’s attempts to eliminate revolutionary elements in Naples and Palermo, the mood for change would not go away, if anything gaining momentum through resentment of the Austrians. After Ferdinand’s death in 1825 the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies lasted only until 1860, when it was conquered by Giuseppe Garibaldi’s volunteer army to complete Italian Unification.

The facade of the Royal Palace at Portici
The facade of the Royal Palace at Portici
Travel tip:

The vast wealth of King Charles enabled him to build lavish palaces around Naples.  Portici, close to the Roman ruins at Ercolano (Herculaneum), was constructed between 1738 and 1742 as a private residence where he could entertain foreign visitors. Today it has a botanical garden that belongs to the University of Naples Federico II and houses the Accademia Ercolanese museum.  The palace at Capodimonte, in the hills above the city, was originally to be a hunting lodge but turned into a much bigger project when Charles realised the Portici palace would not be big enough to house the Farnese art collection be inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese. Today it is home to the Galleria Nazionale (National Gallery), with paintings by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Masaccio, Lotto, Bellini, Vasari and many more.  Charles never actually slept in the spectacular Royal Palace at Caserta, modelled on the French royal family’s Palace of Versailles and containing 1,200 rooms, having abdicated before it was completed.

The Piazza Tanucci in the village of Stia
The Piazza Tanucci in the village of Stia
Travel tip:

Stia, the Tuscan village of Bernardo Tanucci’s birth, is the first large community in the path of the Arno, the source of which is in the nearby Monte Falterona. Florence lies some 40km (25 miles) downstream. Situated in the beautiful Casentino valley area around Arezzo, Stia is a charming village in which the unusual triangular main square, which slopes sharply at one end, is named Piazza Tanucci in honour of the statesman. In the square, which has covered arcades of shops and restaurants along each side, can be found the church of Santa Maria della Assunta, which has a 19th century Baroque fa├žade concealing a well-preserved Romanesque interior that possibly dates back to the late 12th century.

6 June 2017

Maria Theresa - the last Holy Roman Empress

Italian noblewoman was first Empress of Austria

Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily
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 after the two-year reign of his father Leopold. Francis feared that Napoleon could take over his personal lands within the Holy Roman Empire, so in 1804 he proclaimed himself Emperor Franz I of Austria.

Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, after he became Emperor Franz I of Austria
Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, after
he became Emperor Franz I of Austria
Two years later, after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved. Therefore, Maria Theresa was the last Holy Roman Empress and the first Empress of Austria.

She and Francis were quite different personalities, Francis a serious statesman compared with Maria Theresa, who was regarded as a sensuous beauty with an easy-going manner.

The marriage lasted 17 years until Maria Theresa’s death and it said that the union was happy one, yet some accounts suggest this was not quite the case.

In a diary entry during a visit to Vienna, Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp described Maria Theresa as a jealous woman:

“The Empress is reputed to be so jealous that she does not allow him to take part in social life or meet other women. Vicious tongues accuse her of being so passionate that she exhausts her consort and never leaves him alone even for a moment. Although the people of Vienna cannot deny that she is gifted, charitable and carries herself beautifully, she is disliked for her intolerance and for forcing the Emperor to live isolated from everyone.”

Maria-Theresa was also accused of indifference towards the fate of her parents when French revolutionaries swept into Naples in 1799, forcing her father to flee to Sicily aboard the British admiral Horatio Nelson’s ship, HMS Vanguard.

Maria Theresa's father, Ferdinand I
Yet in her life of self-indulgence in Vienna, she was an important patron of Viennese music.

She commissioned many compositions for official and private use. Joseph Haydn wrote his Te Deum for chorus and orchestra at her request and composed numerous masses to celebrate her reign. She also helped further the careers of Paul Wranitzky and Joseph Leopold Eybler, a composer of sacred music.

Maria Theresa died after giving birth to her 12th child. Towards the end of the pregnancy, she fell ill with pleurisy. Her doctor induced premature labour. The child was delivered but died after only one day. Maria Theresa did not recover and passed away aged just 34.

She was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft, where she rests today alongside her husband and his three other wives.

The Royal Palace at Portici, where Maria Theresa was born
The Royal Palace at Portici, where Maria Theresa was born
Travel tip:

Maria Theresa was said to have been born at the Royal Palace at Portici, one of four palaces used by the Bourbon royal family during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the others being at Capodimonte, Caserta and in the centre of Naples, overlooking Piazza del Plebiscito.  The Portici palace, near the remains of the Roman city of Herculaneum, was built in 1738 as a private residence and a palace to receive foreign officials. Today it is the home of Botanic Gardens operated by the University of Naples Federico II and Accademia Ercolanese, a museum of objects found on the Herculaneum archaeological site.

The Roman city of Herculaneum is very well preserved
The Roman city of Herculaneum is very well preserved
Travel tip:

Herculaneum – locally Ercolano – like Pompeii was an ancient Roman town destroyed by 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius. It is one of the best preserved ancient cities. Unlike Pompeii, the deep pyroclastic material which covered Herculaneum preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors and food. It had been thought that the town was evacuated before the eruption but in recent years some 300 skeletons have been discovered nearby.