January 20, 2016

Tricentennial of the Birth of King Carlo di Borbone

Carlo di Borbone, Re di Napoli e di Sicilia
b. Madrid, January 20, 1716 – d. Madrid, December 14, 1788
By Giovanni di Napoli

January 20, 2016 marks the 300th Anniversary of the birth of King Carlo di Borbone, the Great Restorer of the Kingdom of Naples.

Born in 1716 in Madrid, Carlo was the eldest son of King Philip V of Spain and his second wife Elisabeth Farnese. Fourth in line to the Spanish throne, Elisabeth secured him the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and duchies of Parma and Piacenza in Italy.

However, with the outbreak of the War of Polish Succession (1733-1738), young Carlo set out to conquer the viceroyalties of Naples and Sicily from the Austrian Habsburgs. Defeating the Austrians at Bitonto on May 25th, then conquering Sicily, he was crowned King in the Cathedral of Palermo on July 2, 1735.

With the cessation of hostilities and ratification of the Treaty of Vienna in 1738, Emperor Charles VI of Austria renounced all claims to the Regno. In return Carlo relinquished dominion of Parma, Piacenza, and Tuscany and was confirmed as King of Naples and Sicily. At long last, after centuries of provincial servitude to Spain and Austria the once great and independent Kingdom was redeemed.

HRM King Carlo di Borbone ruled Naples and Sicily as an enlightened monarch for many years, undertaking one of the largest and expensive building programs of the 18th century. Among his many achievements were the construction of the Teatro di San Carlo, the Reale Albergo dei Poveri, the Cavalry Barracks at the Ponte della Maddalena, and the Foro Carolino.

Nevertheless, in 1759, due to the laws of royal succession and failure of his step-brother King Ferdinand VI to produce an heir, King Carlo ascended the Spanish Throne in Madrid, leaving the kingdom he restored in southern Italy to his third son, 8-year-old Ferdinando.

King Carlo died in Madrid on December 14, 1788. Viva ‘o Rre!

Further Reading: Architecture and Statecraft: Charles of Bourbon's Naples, 1734-1759 by Robin L. Thomas, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013