December 27, 2015

In Memory of HM King Francesco II di Borbone

Memorial for HM King Francesco II 
Photo by New York Scugnizzo*
By Giovanni di Napoli
Today we commemorate the 121st anniversary of the death of HM Francesco II di Borbone, the last King of the Two Sicilies.
Eldest Son of HM King Ferdinand II and his first wife HM Blessed Maria Cristina of Savoy, Francesco was born in Napoli on January 16, 1836. With the tragic death of his pious mother (who died from complications during childbirth), the Crowned Prince was raised by his stepmother Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria.
On January 8, 1859 Francesco married Maria Sofia of Bavaria, daughter of Duke Maximilian, by proxy in Munich. The newlyweds met with much fanfare for the first time in Bari on February 3rd. Sadly, they had only one child, Christina Louise Pia (1868), who died when she was only six months old.
After the untimely death of his father, Francesco ascended to the throne on May 22nd, 1859. He was only 23-years-old. Shortly into his reign, and before the young monarch could implement his reforms and building programs, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was plunged into chaos with the invasion of Garibaldi and his ragtag band of revolutionaries.
HM Francesco II di Borbone
With British and Piedmontese support, the garibaldini quickly took Sicily and advanced towards Naples. Looking to spare his capital the devastation of war, King Francesco II withdrew his forces north to Capua. Capitalizing on Garibaldi’s unexpected success and the young Neapolitan King's inexperience, King Victor Emanuel II of Savoy invaded the Two Sicilies from the Marche without a formal declaration of war.
After the Battle of Volturno (September 30—October 1, 1860) and his valiant defense at Gaeta (November 5, 1860—February 13, 1861), Francesco II was forced to surrender to the Piedmontese led by the bloodthirsty war criminal, General Enrico Cialdini.
Dubbed the first emigrants from southern Italy, Francesco II and Maria Sofia lived in exile in Rome deprived of their personal assets, which were looted by Garibaldi and the Piedmontese invaders. With the fall of Rome to Italy in 1870, their Majesties divided their time between Paris and Bavaria.

Suffering from diabetes, Francesco II died on December 27, 1894 in Arco, then part of the Trentino region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Interred inside the Chiesa dello Spirito Santo dei Napoletani in Rome, the Royal Family were moved to the Bourbon chapel inside the Basilica di Santa Chiara in Napoli in 1984. Today, many devotees are working towards the beatification of this devoutly religious King.
His Majesty lying in state
Prayer for HM King Francis II of the Two Sicilies 
O Triune God, who from your throne of mercy turns your gaze upon us, and who called to your following Francis II of Bourbon, electing him a King upon the earth, modeling his life to the same kingship of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, instilling in his heart sentiments of love and patience, of humility and clemency, of peace and forgiveness, cloaking him with the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity, accept our plea and help us walk in his steps and live their virtues. Glorify him, we beseech you, upon the earth, as we believe he has already been glorified in heaven, and grant us through his prayer, that we may receive the graces which we need. Amen.
Pater, Ave and Gloria 
* The accompanying photo was taken at the 2014 memorial Mass sponsored by the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George at Saint Joseph’s Church in Greenwich Village, New York City.