Showing posts with label Royalty Rulers and Nobiity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Royalty Rulers and Nobiity. 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


10 July 2023

Ludovico Chigi – Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Roman with many titles had powerful ancestors

Ludovico Chigi, pictured in his ceremonial uniform
Ludovico Chigi, pictured in
his ceremonial uniform
Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere was born on this day in 1866 in Ariccia, a town in the Alban Hills to the southeast of Rome.

Chigi was the son of Imperial Prince Mario Chigi della Rovere-Albani and his wife, Princess Antoinette zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. His father’s family, the Chigi, was one of the most prominent noble Roman families and they were descended from the rich and powerful banker, Agostino Chigi.

Another of their ancestors was Pope Alexander VII, who in the 17th century had conferred upon his nephew, Agostino Chigi, the hereditary princedoms of Farnese and Campagnano and the dukedoms of Ariccia and Formello. Chigi made his money in Siena but moved to Rome, taking his vast wealth with him, and he lent considerable sums of money to his uncle, the Pope.

For all the descendants of the Chigi male line, Pope Alexander VII had procured the title of Imperial Prince and Princess from the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I.

Agostino Chigi had also helped Pope Julius II financially and had been made treasury and notary of the Apostolic Camera. Julius II had authorised the Chigi family to augment their name and arms with his own, Della Rovere, and he had become their relative through lines of descent from his illegitimate daughter, Felice della Rovere.

Ludovico married Donna Anna Aldobrandini, the daughter of Pietro, Prince Aldobrandini, in 1893. They had two children, Prince Sigismondo and Princess Laura Maria Caterina.

In 1914, Ludovico succeeded his father and became eighth Prince of Farnese and Campagnano and inherited many other titles.

He was responsible for three papal conclaves and became an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Agostino Chigi, the banker who founded the Chigi dynasty
Agostino Chigi, the banker who
founded the Chigi dynasty
In 1931, Ludovico was elected Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Both of his parents had been members of the Order.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, to give it its full name, is a Roman Catholic organisation based in Rome with about 13,000 members worldwide. 

It was founded in 1048 by merchants from Amalfi, who were in Jerusalem as a monastic order and ran a hospital to tend to Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land.

At the height of its power, the Order was also tasked by Rome with the additional military function of defending Christians from the local Muslim population.

The Knights of St. John were just one of the Christian military orders founded during this period.

When the Sultan of Egypt retook Jerusalem in 1291, the Knights of St. John went into exile, settling in Rhodes 20 years later. In 1523, they were forced from Rhodes by the Sultan’s forces and settled in Malta, which they ruled until they were dislodged by Napoleon’s army in 1798. 

It is for that reason that the organisation began to be known as the Order of Malta or Knights of Malta.

After the defeat by the French, the Order then settled in Rome in the mid-19th century, where it remains to this day.

The Knights have had no military function since leaving Malta and have since sponsored medical missions in more than 120 countries. Under Ludovico’s leadership during World War II, the Order conducted hospital and charity work on a large scale.

In 1947, Ludovico was appointed president of an international committee to oversee the rebuilding of the Abbey of Monte Cassino.

Ludovico died in 1951 in Rome at the age of 85.  

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta is a feature of the town of Ariccia
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Collegiata di Santa Maria
Assunta is a feature of the town of Ariccia
Travel tip:

Ariccia, where Ludovico was born, is one of the Castelli Romani towns, situated in the Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani. Some 25km (15.5 miles) from Rome, Ariccia has become famous for its porchetta, which is cooked slowly with wild fennel. The Sagra della Porchetta festival takes place every year during the first weekend of September, when the town celebrates with music, dancing, stalls and exhibitions. This festival began in 1950 and is one of the most traditional festivals in the Lazio region, which helps to promote porchetta to other parts of Italy and the world.  As part of the Castelli Romani, the town is also known for its wine production. Ariccia's main church, the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, completed in 1664, was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The Chigi family's legacy in Rome includes the
Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister's official residence 
Travel tip:

The 16th-century Palazzo Chigi, which overlooks the Via del Corso in Rome, was completed by Carlo Maderno in 1580 for the Aldobrandini family. It was in the ownership of the Chigi family from 1659 until the 19th century. After a period as the residence of the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Italy, it was bought by the Italian state in 1916. It was used first as the residence of the Minister for Colonial Affairs and later the Minister of Foreign Affairs before, in 1961, becoming the official meeting place of the Council of Ministers, whose president is the head of the Italian government - the prime minister - and can now use the palace as his official residence.

Also on this day:

138: The death of the Roman emperor, Hadrian

1510: The death of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus

1954: The death of Mafia chieftain Calogero Vizzini


9 May 2023

Zita of Bourbon-Parma

The long life of the last Habsburg Empress

A portrait of Zita taken in 2011, shortly before her marriage
A portrait of Zita taken in 1911,
shortly before her marriage
Zita of Bourbon-Parma, the last Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, was born Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaella Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese on this day in 1892 on the family estate, the Villa Le Pianore, near Viareggio in the province of Lucca in Tuscany.

Zita was the 17th child of the Duke of Parma, Robert I, and his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal, but her family was poor, even if it did claim descent from Louis X of France. The family villa was situated between Pietrasanta and Viareggio, occasionally moving to stay in Robert’s other property, Schwarzau Castle in Austria.

After her father’s death, Zita was sent to a convent on the Isle of Wight in England to complete her education.

For a time, Zita considered following the lead of  three of her sisters and becoming a nun, but at the age of 19 she married Archduke Charles, the great nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. The two had known each other as children and became reacquainted in 1909, at a time when Charles was under pressure to find a wife. 

They were married at the Schwarzau Castle in October 1911 and went on to have eight children together. 

Within three years, in 1914, the Emperor’s heir, Franz Ferdinand, was shot dead in Sarajevo in the incident that led to the outbreak of the First World War. The Emperor himself died two years later and Zita’s husband, Charles, succeeded him as Emperor. Zita suddenly found herself an Empress in the middle of a world war, in which she had relatives on both sides.

Zita and Archduke Charles at their wedding in Austria
Zita and Archduke Charles
at their wedding in Austria
Two years later, after Austria-Hungary had lost the war, Charles was forced to abdicate. The Habsburgs were deposed and the former empire became home to the states of Austria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, while other parts were annexed to several eastern European countries.

Charles died less than three years later, in 1922, while the couple were living in Madeira and from that day onwards Zita lived on alone, mostly in exile. She never remarried but continued to raise her family. She spent 63 years mostly living in Switzerland and the United States, never relinquishing her claim to a throne that no longer existed.

She died at the age of 96 in March 1989. After a huge state funeral in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, Zita was buried in the crypt alongside 142 other members of the Habsburg dynasty. An impoverished Italian noblewoman, Zita was the last Habsburg to wear a crown in a line that had worn it first in the year 1282.

Zita was declared Servant of God by Pope Benedict XVI and in 2009 the process was opened for her beatification.

Viareggio's Grand Hotel Royal, a notable example   of the Tuscan resort's Liberty-style architecture
Viareggio's Grand Hotel Royal, a notable example  
of the Tuscan resort's Liberty-style architecture
Travel tip:

Viareggio, where Zita was born and brought up, is now a popular seaside resort in Tuscany with beautiful sandy beaches and fine examples of Liberty-style architecture, which include the Grand Hotel Royal. Near the Villa Paolina, which was the home of Napoleon’s sister, Paolina Bonaparte, there is a monument to the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, close to the point on the coastline that his body was found following his death in a shipwreck. Paolina, who was a great admirer of Shelley’s work, is said to have chosen the location for the villa for that reason.

Pietrasanta's Duomo - the Collegiata di San Martino - dates back to the 13th century
Pietrasanta's Duomo - the Collegiata di San
Martino - dates back to the 13th century
Travel tip:

Pietrasanta is a town in northern Tuscany, to the north of Viareggio. It had Roman origins and part of a Roman wall still exists. The medieval town was built in 1255 upon the pre-existing Rocca di Sala fortress of the Lombards and the Duomo (Collegiate Church of San Martino) dates back to the 13th century. Pietrasanta grew in importance in the 15th century due to its marble, the beauty of which was first recognised by the sculptor, Michelangelo.  At different times belonging to Genoa and Lucca, Pietrasanta came under Medici control in 1484 before being seized by Charles VIII of France in 1494.  Pope Leo X, a member of the Medici family, gave Pietrasanta back to his family.  The town declined during the 17th and 18th centuries, partly due to malaria. The seaside resort of Marina di Pietrasanta is 3km (1.9 miles) away.

Also on this day:

1740: The birth of opera composer Giovanni Paisiello

1914: The birth of orchestra conductor Carlo Maria Giulini

1946: The abdication of Vittorio Emanuele III, King of Italy

2013: The death of fashion designer Ottavio Missoni




22 March 2023

Vittorio Emanuele II Monument - Rome landmark

 ‘Altar of the Fatherland’ built to honour unified Italy’s first king

The Monument's multi-layered construction in white marble has earned it the nickname the 'wedding cake
The Monument's multi-layered construction in white
marble has earned it the nickname the 'wedding cake'
The foundation stone of Rome’s huge Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was laid on this day in 1885 in the presence of his son and successor Umberto I and his family.

The monument, which took half a century to fully complete, occupies a site on the northern slope of the Capitoline (Campidoglio) Hill on the south-eastern side of the modern city centre, a few steps from the ruins of the Forum, the heart of ancient Rome.

Built in white Botticino marble, the multi-tiered monument is 135m (443 ft) wide, 130m (427 ft) deep, and 70m (230 ft) high, rising to 81m (266ft) including the two statues of a chariot-mounted winged goddess Victoria on the summit of the two propylaea. 

Its appearance has earned it various nicknames, ranging from the ‘wedding cake’ to the ‘typewriter’, although it is officially known as Vittoriano or Altare della Patria - the Altar of the Fatherland.

The Altare della Patria is actually just one part of the monument, at the front and in the centre, consisting of an inset statue of the goddess Roma and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where two soldiers guard an eternal flame.

Vittorio Emanuele II is commemorated with a huge bronze statue at the front of the monument
Vittorio Emanuele II is commemorated with a
huge bronze statue at the front of the monument
Above it is a large bronze horse-back statue of Vittorio Emanuele II himself on a central plinth in front of the broad upper colonnade.  The statue, 10m (33ft) long and 12m (40ft) high, is said to have been made with 50 tons of bronze obtained by melting down army cannons.

Officially opened in 1911 on the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, the monument has become a national symbol of Italy, representing the values of freedom and unity, which are represented in the two chariots atop the propylaea - on the left is the Quadriga dell'Unità by Carlo Fontana, on the right the Quadriga della Libertà by Paolo Bartolini.

The Vittoriano has an important ceremonial role. On three occasions each year - on Liberation Day (April 25), Republic Day (June 2) and Armed Forces Day (November 4) - the President of the Republic lays a laurel wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to honour those who sacrificed their lives in the service of the country.

It also houses the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano al Vittoriano, the museum that commemorates the decades-long struggle for Italian unification, known as the Risorgimento.

The idea of building a permanent monument to Vittorio Emanuele II was first mooted soon after his death in 1878, when a Royal Commission set up to have responsibility for the project invited architects to put forward their ideas in a competition.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Italian president lays a laurel wreath on state occasions
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Italian
president lays a laurel wreath on state occasions
The winner was a French designer, Henri-Paul Nénot. However, the idea of entrusting a non-Italian with what would become a symbol of the nation provoked such fierce opposition, not least because Nénot’s entry was one he had previously submitted for a project in Paris, that the contest was declared void and another one staged.

After the Commission could not decide between designs submitted by the Italians Manfredo Manfredi and Giuseppe Sacconi, and the German Bruno Schmitz, a third contest took place, which was won by Sacconi, an architect from Le Marche, whose design envisaged a neoclassical interpretation of the nearby Forum.

Such was the scale of the project, including the vast Piazza Venezia that the monument overlooks, a wide area of mediaeval and Renaissance streets and buildings had to be demolished. A small building to the right of the Vittoriano, at the foot of the stairway leading to the adjoining Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, is all that remains.

Building proceeded slowly and was still some way from complete when Sacconi died in 1905. The project was continued by Gaetano Koch, Manfredi and Pio Piacentini and though it was inaugurated during the international exhibition for the 50th anniversary of unification in 1911, it was not considered complete until 24 years later.

During this time, the body of the Italian Unknown Soldier was placed in the crypt under the statue of the goddess Roma. This took place on Armed Forces Day in 1921, when the remains of an unidentified soldier killed in the First World War were interred in a solemn ceremony and the eternal flame was lit.

Finally, in 1935, the monument was declared to be fully completed with the addition of the museum of the Risorgimento, which occupies the space between the propylaea on the upper level. 

The entrance to the Museo del Risorgimento can be found on Via San Pietro in Carcere
The entrance to the Museo del Risorgimento
can be found on Via San Pietro in Carcere
Travel tip:

Open to the public since 1970, the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento Italiano - the National Museum of the Risorgimento - takes visitors on a tour of the Risorgimento in 14 stages, beginning with the Napoleonic period at the end of the 18th century and ending with the First World War, marking major events such as the uprising known as the Five Days of Milan, the two wars of independence and Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand. It celebrates the roles of Garibaldi, the revolutionary philosopher Giuseppe Mazzini, the politician Cavour (Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour) and Vittorio Emanuele II himself. Visitors access the museum via an entrance on Via San Pietro in Carcere, to the rear of the monument.

Rome's ancient Forum, an area of extensive ruins, is one of the city's most popular attractions
Rome's ancient Forum, an area of extensive ruins,
is one of the city's most popular attractions
Travel tip:

Rome's historic Forum, the ruins of which can be found immediately behind the Vittoriano, was at the heart both of the ancient city of Rome and the Roman Empire itself, the nucleus of political affairs and commercial business, a place where elections took place and great speeches were made.  The site fell into disrepair with the fall of the empire and over time buildings were dismantled for the stone and marble, with much debris left behind.  Eventually it was abandoned and became overgrown and was used mainly for grazing cattle.  Attempts at uncovering and restoring buildings began in the early 19th century and the process of excavating areas long buried continues today.  The impressive and extensive ruins are now one of Rome's major tourist attractions.  The site opens at 8.30am and closes one hour before sunset and visitors should allow at least two hours to explore.

Also on this day:

1837: The birth of ‘La Castiglione’ - mistress of Napoleon III

1921: The birth of actor and director Nino Manfredi

1986: The death of fraudster Michele Sindona