By Charles to Francischiello, 125 years of the Bourbon dynasty in Naples passed between light and shadow, between enlightened kings and traitors of their word, between moderates and bloodthirsty governments. 1,000 men and a general were enough to kick them.
The Bourbon dynasty began after the ineffectual and, in some ways, sad parenthesis viceregal Austrian lasted 27 years, 1707-1734, and of which no particular memories is not had except the famine that interested Naples in 1728.
Elizabeth Farnese, wife of Philip V of Spain, last and only descendant of the Farnese and the Medici, was able to conveniently accommodate her son Charles, born in Madrid on January 20 of 1716, as Duke of Parma and Piacenza and Great Hereditary Prince of Tuscany .
Charles of Bourbon
Charles, became Duke of Parma and Piacenza, taking advantage of dynastic vicissitudes of the Bourbons and the Habsburgs, he obtained that the Treaty of Utrecht, which assigned to Austria the Spanish possessions in Italy were considered as withdrawn. Meanwhile, a war of succession broke out between Spain and France allied against Austria.
In 1734 the kingdom of Naples was conquered by a military expedition organized by the Spanish, led by Charles of Bourbon, who clashed victoriously against the Austrian forces in Bitonto. Charles had to leave the Duchy to the Habsburgs and had to give up taking over to Gian Gastone de’ Medici after his death, in exchange for recognition of the his conquest.
The next year was completed the conquest of southern Italy with the withdrawal of the Austrians from Sicily. Charles of Bourbon was proclaimed King of Naples with the titling of Charles VII and King of Sicily with the titling of Charles III. In fact always he used simply Charles in the signatures of official acts.
In 1738 Charles married the fourteen Maria Amalia of Saxony, daughter of King Augustus III of Poland, and nephew of Charles VI Emperor, consolidating, with this network of relationships, his kingdom.
On 10 December 1758 he was called to Spain to succeed to the throne of his half-brother who was suffering from a severe form of mental illness and had abdicated in his favor.
As the eldest son of Charles and Maria Amalia, Philip, was suffering from mental disorders, the title of Prince of Asturias, which was up to the heir to the Spanish throne, was assigned to the second son Carlo Antonio. The third son Ferdinand was instead intended to succeed the father on the throne of Naples and Sicily.
Ferdinand IV of Bourbon (from 1815 Ferdinand I)
On October 6, 1759, following the treaty of Naples signed on 3 October with which Austria recognized the right to inheritance on the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, he was proclaimed king with the titling of Ferdinand IV. He was intended to marry one of the daughters of Francis I and his wife Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, in confirmation of the treaty.
Charles entrusted the kingdom to a Regency Council that governed until the age of 16 years of the young king, given the young age of Ferdinand who was born on 12 January 1751. The Council was chaired by Bernardo Tanucci, with the understanding that any decision had to be approved in advance by Charles.
The education of Ferdinand, which was curated by the Prince of San Nicandro, was very rough. He preferred to speak in Neapolitan dialect, loved hunting and fishing. He frequented the neighborhood of St. Lucia, next to the royal palace, where he fraternized with lazy people and questionable women, frequenting taverns, where he played dice and cards.
In 1767, as established in the family agreement of Naples Treaty, he was officially engaged to Maria Carolina of Habsburg-Lorraine who was then just turned 15 years of age. The marriage was celebrated by proxy on April 7, 1768 in Vienna. The bride left for Naples, accompanied by his brother Ferdinand. The first meeting between the couple came to Portella, near the border with the Papal States.
It was expected in nuptial agreement that Maria Carolina would attend meetings of the Council of State only after having given birth to the heir to the throne. In 1775 Charles Titus was born. This event allowed her to become a full member in the government of the kingdom, replacing the de facto husband who showed a complete disregard to the administrative duties of his role.
Charles Titus died of smallpox after only four years of life, took over as heir to the throne, the second male Francesco Gennaro. The royal couple had a total of 18 children, of whom only seven reached adulthood.
Despite that relations between the two spouses were good and fruitful, both had many lovers. Ferdinand preferred the plebeian women of St. Lucia and St. Leucio where a silk factory was born for his initiative, accompanied by a social organization of families of workers cutting edge for the time. He not disdains the noblewomen, the last of which was Lucia Migliaccio Princess of Partanna and Duchess of Floridia.
The absence of Ferdinand by the government was a good thing, as it allowed at first to Bernardo Tanucci and then his wife Maria Carolina to rule in his place. These governments were marked by a liberal view. They were called to work in public administration jurists and economists followers of Enlightenment.
Maria Carolina, when she had the chance, got rid of Tanucci which advocated a pro-Spanish policy, and nominated Minister John Acton, an English pro-Austrian former minister in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, who became the first of a long series of political lovers of Maria Carolina.
Many industrial and economic initiatives, undertaken during this period which lasted until the French Revolution, brought the kingdom of Naples at the forefront in the European context, although the decisions were mostly taken unbeknownst to Ferdinand, who was limited to approving what the queen and the head of the government decided.
After the beheading of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and sister of Maria Carolina, things got ugly for the Liberals in the kingdom, who until then had been able to state their ideas encouraged by the Queen. An increasingly ruthless persecution began for the adherents to the Jacobin clubs.
In 1798 the royal family and its court moved hastily to Palermo on board the English Vanguard ship, commanded by Horatio Nelson, with the approach of the French in Naples and the subsequent proclamation of the Neapolitan Republic.
The king commissioned the Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo to put together an army to march on Naples to reconquest the kingdom. Ruffo, landed in Calabria, put together soldiers e peasants to form the army of the “Holy Faith.” In a few months he restored the monarchist order and the Bourbons returned in Naples. Many members of the bourgeoisie, compromised with the republic, were sentenced to death and executed, in spite of the agreements of surrender, signed by Cardinal Ruffo, which included the exile for revolutionaries Republicans. Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel was among the executeds, years earlier she had been a librarian and girlfriend of Queen Maria Carolina.
In 1806 the French were back in Naples. Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, was appointed king of Naples, then, in 1808, was appointed the king of Spain by his brother. Joachim Murat, husband of Carolina, sister of Napoleon, replaced him on the throne. The Bourbon for the second time took refuge in Palermo, where he ruled over Sicily under the strict control of the British.
In 1812 the British forced to Ferdinand to appoint as his vicar the heir to the throne Francis, who conceded the constitution as well as the British ordered by the Bourbon government prime minister, the British Bentinck.
In 1814 Bentinck asked the king to expel Maria Carolina from Sicily, who was intriguing with Murat against the British. Maria Carolina sailed from Palermo in June of 1813. She died in Vienna on 8 September of the following year. After the death of Maria Carolina the king married morganatically his mistress Lucia Migliaccio.
In 1815 Ferdinand returned to Naples after the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, and the shooting of Joachim Murat in Pizzo Calabro. Complying with the climate of restoration that hovered over the European monarchies, even Ferdinand resumed full control of the kingdom which was unified with that of Sicily by taking the name Kingdom of the two Sicilies. Ferdinand IV became King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies.
He continued in public administration without altering the organization given by the French. All the reforms imported from France were retained: the Napoleonic Code that, after insignificant variations, became “Ferdinandeo Code“, the conscription of young soldiers remained the same even though it was called “leva”. Ferdinand revoked the constitution that his son Francis had given to the Sicilians, restoring absolute monarchy.
In 1820, the Spanish king Fernando VII granted the constitution at the time of its restoration to the throne, after the parenthesis Bonapartist of Joseph I, brother of Napoleon.
Following the Spanish example, there were riots in Naples because the constitution was restored. Some units of the army, commanded by officers Michele Morelli and Joseph Silvati, revolted and marched to Avellino to the cry of “King and Constitution”. They were joined by other troops everywhere in the kingdom. The revolt was led by General Guglielmo Pepe, who came from the ranks of Murat army.
Ferdinand I was forced, reluctantly, to grant for the second time the constitution, the same as that adopted by Spain. The constitution was signed by the crown prince Francis, appointed vicar for that occasion.
The monarchs of Austria, Russia and Prussia, united in the Holy Alliance, could not allow that in Europe the kings renounced to their absolute power. Ferdinand was summoned at the Congress of Ljubljana of the Holy Alliance
The king went to Ljubljana declaring to the Neapolitan parliament that would uphold the constitution granted. Instead he, arrived in Ljubljana, immediately came into line with the absolutist ideas of the participants at the congress. He was agreed the Austrian military intervention to restore the monarchical order in the kingdom of the two Sicilies.
Despite that the Neapolitan army, commanded by Generals Pepe and Carrascosa was deployed to the border of Abruzzo, the Austrian troops were able to penetrate into the realm almost without a shot being fired and they entered in Naples on March 23, 1821. The constitution was abrogated and all those who had supported the revolt were tried. The officers Silvati and Morelli were sentenced to death and executed. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment for others condemned to death. Guglielmo Pepe and Michele Carrascosa, who had managed to escape, were sentenced to death in absentia.
Ferdinand I of Bourbon died on January 4, 1825 to apoplexy.
Francis I of Bourbon
The son of Ferdinand, Francis I, who was born in Naples on August 19, 1777, was proclaimed king.
In 1797 Francis was married to Maria Clementina of Austria, daughter of Emperor Leopold II. He had a daughter and a son by Maria Clementina. The son died shortly after birth. She left him a widower after four years of marriage.
In 1892 Francis remarried with his cousin Maria Isabella of Spain, with whom he had twelve children. The third born, the couple’s first son for the succession, was Ferdinand.
The reign of Francis was marked by continuity with that of his father. Peaceful and cautious he was conservative, governing with moderation and avoiding conflicts with liberal personalities who were present in the state administration.
After a few years, following a number of popular uprisings, particularly the riots of 1828 in Cilento who were suffocated in the blood, penalties for subversive of the state were aggravated and special courts were established for the prosecution of these crimes. In last years Francis lived constantly surrounded by soldiers for fear of being the object of attacks.
During his brief reign came a discreet economic development. He promoted the drain of some marshes and improved the road network. The construction of the magnificent palace of the ministries was concluded, where the state administration was housed. Today it houses the Naples City Hall (Piazza Municipio).
At the end of 1829 he went to Spain on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Maria Cristina with Ferdinand IV, King of Spain, done in Madrid on 11 December.
On November 8, 1830 died at the age of 53, after only six years of reign. According to testimonies of the time, he showed more than 70 years because of the different ailments he suffered. It seems that in the last moments of life, he murmured: “What are these voices? The people want the constitution? give it to people”.
Ferdinand II of Bourbon
His successor was the eldest son Ferdinand, born January 12, 1810 in Palermo, had with his second wife Maria Isabella of Spain. He was very young, he had just turned 20.
Ascended the throne he tried to solve the difficult financial situation of the state. He reported government spending under control by reducing the salaries of ministers and senior public servants. Also he reduced his prerogative and gave up the various hunting estates that his predecessors had reserved. He abolished various charges levied on the people, at first the hated tax on flour.
He reformed the army widening ranks and bringing its to 80,000 men. He unified uniforms who had preserved the different shapes as a result of various foreign dominations over time: Spanish, French, Austrian and English.
He reinstated the officials who served the state at the time of Murat and expelled from the ranks the Sanfedists that, in its time, had sneaked by force in public administration.
Ferdinand, to increase the knowledge of his kingdom, undertook a journey which lasted a month, he visited Calabria, Sicily, Basilicata and Puglia as well as the Campania. As a result of this awareness of the conditions of the people, he promoted various reforms, decreed pardons, built new roads, sent aid to earthquake victims of Calabria in 1832.
Suppressed with an iron hand the riots and disturbances caused by liberals and Jacobins. Many were sentenced to death by the king always transmuted to life imprisonment.
In 1839 Ferdinand II inaugurated the first Italian railway between Naples and Portici. The same reached Nocera Inferiore and Castellammare di Stabia in a few years. The intentions of the king was to develop a direct railway to connect the capital with the south of the kingdom.
He broke the monopoly of the exploitation of Sicilian sulfur mines in the hands of British companies, granting a concession to the French. This caused a diplomatic row violent with the British in 1839. The sulfur was very important, it was the raw material for the manufacture of gunpowder which was used in the ammunition of armies.
In 1840 a British fleet sailed into the bay of Naples and the British presented an ultimatum to the king. Ferdinand did not appear intimidated and deployed the army in various parts of the coast. He did point the artillery of the fortresses against English ships. English merchant ships were seized in the port of Naples, while Neapolitan ships were diverted by the British in Malta.
At the last moment a French mediation was able to defuse the situation within a few hours would have resulted in a war. France gave up partly of its sulfur, to replenish the losses British firms affected by the agreement made with the Neapolitan government.
In 1857 there was the expedition of Carlo Pisacane and his 300 companions who landed in Sapri on June 26. Their aim was to promote the revolution among the peasants and the people, subverting the monarchy. The peasants, loyal to the king, did not join the revolutionaries who were confronted by the Bourbon guards in Sanza, Cilento, where they were defeated. Pisacane not to fall into the hands of the guards committed suicide with a gunshot. All the survivors were arrested and sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the king. They were freed by Garibaldi in 1860.
A revolutionary wave spread in Europe with the purpose to overcome the absolute monarchies restored with the Treaty of Vienna. In Paris, Venice, Milan and other European cities revolutionary uprisings broke out. In the kingdom of the two Sicilies the first riots were had in Palermo, followed by those of Naples and other cities of the kingdom.
Ferdinand granted the constitution with which it was established the parliament and formed the National Guard under the control of the liberal forces. Sicily was given autonomy from Naples, restoring the ancient island’s parliament. The king replaced the incumbent government, appointed prime minister the neo-Guelph Carlo Troya, who started a series of liberal reforms.
This was not enough to avoid armed confrontation between revolutionaries, who had erected barricades in Naples, and the army. The uprising was violently repressed. Swiss mercenary troops distinguished themselves in atrocities. The dead were over a thousand, including many peaceful citizens who found themselves on the fire lines. The parliament and the National Guard were dissolved by order of the king.
The violent repression was also in Sicily, where the revolutionaries had proclaimed the seceded. A military force landed at Messina after a violent bombardment of the city, which earned the epithet “King Bomb” to the king. 15 May 1849 Neapolitan troops entered Palermo putting an end to the liberal movements of the island.
The last decade of reign of Ferdinand was marked by a new monarchical absolutism which was in contrast with the liberal developments taking place in the rest of Europe. There were thousands of revolutionaries and liberals who were imprisoned. Private schools were closed in favor of the clerical schools. Protective tariffs were imposed and the exchange of goods was restricted.
On December 8, 1856, King, reviewing the troops at the Champ de Mars (Capodichino, actual airport area), was the subject of an attack by a soldier, Agelisao Milano, of Mazzini’s faith that struck him in the chest with a bayonet. The injury was not particularly serious, but Ferdinand feared that the bayonet had poisoned. Agelisao Milan was sentenced to death and hanged in Piazza Mercato.
Ferdinand was never the same after that injury. His health began to decline, after a long time he still complained pain where he had been hit.
In January of 1859 he went to Puglia to attend the meeting between his son Francesco and Maria Sophie of Bavaria, who had married by proxy. In Bari a new ceremony was made in which the king could not attend because his condition had worsened.
The doctor Nicola Longo, who was trained by the famous clinical Domenico Cotugno, diagnosed him with a femoral abscess. The king would have to go in surgically immediately to remove abscess. But family objected, preferring to carry him in the Royal Palace of Caserta.
He was visited by luminaries of Naples who confirmed the diagnosis and the need for the surgery that was performed immediately. Meanwhile two months had spent and the conditions were serious that the king could not be saved.
Ferdinand died in the royal palace of Caserta on May 22, 1859.
It was suspected poisoning for the death of the king by a bishop, Michele Caputo, who had been transferred, by order of the same, from the Diocese of Oppido Mamertina to that of Ariano.
Francis II of Bourbon (Franceschiello)
Francis was born in Naples on January 16, 1836, the eldest son of Ferdinand and his first wife Maria Cristina of Savoy. He became King of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies May 22, 1859, just a month after he married Maria Sophie of Bavaria.
His reign, which lasted just over a year, was marked by the king’s desire to improve the living conditions of his subjects. He lowered taxes, bought grain abroad because of a famine in the kingdom, distributing it to regulated prices, free of charge to families in need.
He issued amnesties and planned development of the rail network to create stable connections in the kingdom. These initiatives were suggested by Maria Sofia that, in contrast to the conservative Maria Teresa, stepmother of Francis, was pushing for a liberal government and the granting of the constitution, before it was too late.
The time of the Bourbons was ending. In 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi organized the Expedition of the Thousand with the support of Cavour and Vittorio Emanuele II. The Bourbons knew all the details of the expedition, including the date of departure and, more or less, the area of Sicily where Garibaldi would have landed.
All this information would allow an easier an intervention in sea with the powerful Neapolitan fleet, or in Sicily and Calabria with the troops deployed on the territory. Moreover, the troops could receive reinforcements from other departments from Campania.
The landing of Garibaldi and his thousand red shirts was almost undisturbed. A clash with 3,000 men of Bourbon troops in Calatafimi was stopped by their commander, General Lanza, on the edge of Garibaldi’s defeat. So serious was the mistake that it was suspected the good faith of the general.
Francis II, unable to counter the advance of Garibaldi through the treachery of several army units, who had joined the red shirts, he retired to Gaeta attempting a last stand to do.
He organized a counter-offensive on the Volturno line with the his troops remained loyal. The clash with the Piedmontese was tough. The king and the queen were forced to take refuge with the troops in the fortress of Gaeta.
They were besieged by the Piedmontese general Cialdini. The fortress of Gaeta resisted for three months. The February 13, 1861 they surrendered. The king, the queen and the Bourbon soldiers had the honors of war.
Francesco and Maria Sofia took refuge in Rome, guests of the pope in the Quirinale. Shortly after they moved to the Palazzo Farnese, inherited by Elizabeth Farnese, the mother of Charles III, founder of the Bourbons of Naples.
Francis, flanked by his wife, he formed a court and a government in exile in Palazzo Farnese. He maintained contacts in Naples with people who are faithful to the Bourbons. Through various bands of brigands he tried to organize armed resistance within his former kingdom.
The couple had one daughter, Maria Cristina Pia, that after three months of birth died of pneumonia.
They left Rome before the breach of Porta Pia, and moved to Paris. Francis never renounced the throne of Naples, although some proposals for a transaction done by the Savoy. The two spent the rest of their lives between Paris and Vienna where they were guests of Maria Sofia relatives.
Francis II died on December 27 of 1894 in Arco in Trentino (Austrian at the time), where he was to make the thermal treatments.
On 18 May 1984 the remains of Francis, Maria Sofia and their daughter Maria Cristina Pia were moved to the church of Santa Chiara in Naples, where all the Bourbons of Naples are buried.
(Top picture: Ferdinando IV di Borbone – 1825 – Gennaro Maldarelli)
Alfredo D’Ambrosio: Storia di Napoli, Ed. Nuova E.V. Napoli 1993
Storia di Napoli, Com.to Sc.co pres. Ernesto Pontieri – Ed. Storia di Napoli 1975
Vittorio Gleijeses, La storia di Napoli dalle origini ai nostri giorni, Napoli, 1977
Nicola Spinosa (a cura di), I Borbone di Napoli, Sorrento (NA), Franco Di Mauro, 2009