January 12, 2016

Viva 'o Rre! His Majesty King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies

HM Ferdinand IV at nine
By Giovanni di Napoli
Today we remember the birthday of HM Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies.
Born in Naples on January 12, 1751, Ferdinand was the third son of King Carlo di Borbone and Maria Amalia of Saxony. In 1759, at the age of 8, he became King of Sicily and Naples (as Ferdinand III and IV, respectively), when his father abdicated the throne to take that of Madrid. The Kingdom (Regno) was ruled by the regent Bernardo Tanucci until his coming of age.
In 1768 Ferdinand married Maria Carolina of Austria and together they had 18 children, with only seven surviving to adulthood. In 1775, with the birth of their son and heir, Francesco, Maria became an influential member of the State Council.
Early in their reign, the enlightened rulers enacted many reforms, including educational and economic development. However, after the horrific events of the French Revolution, and the discovery of a republican conspiracy in Naples, their Royal Majesties were forced to put their reforms on hold. In order to deal with the threat, they joined the first counterrevolutionary coalition with Austria and Great Britain against the French Republic.
With startling speed Napoleon’s forces overran northern Italy and soon occupied Rome (1798). After the Bourbons’ failed attempt to restore the Pope, Napoleon’s war-machine, under the command of General Championnet, invaded the Regno. Exhorting his subjects to resist the invasion, King Ferdinand and his British allies were forced to retreat to Palermo, Sicily. After fierce street fighting, the French finally conquered Naples, killing thousands of loyal Neapolitans who rose in defense of their King and country. Propped up with French bayonets, the widely unpopular Parthenopean Republic was installed on January 22, 1799.
Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo leading the Sanfedisti, protected by St. Anthony
In February the King’s Vicar, Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, departed Sicily with only one ship and seven men to reconquer Naples. Landing at La Cortona in his native Calabria on February 8, Ruffo quickly raised an army of royalist volunteers to defend the Bourbon cause and drive out the hated Jacobin invaders.
On June 13, 1799, the Feast Day of St. Anthony of Padua, Ruffo and his victorious Armata della Santa Fede (Army of the Holy Faith) restored the Bourbons in Naples. Returning in triumph, the Bourbon Court meted out punishment against the republican traitors. 
The royal family began rebuilding their devastated Kingdom, ruling in peace until hostilities erupted again in 1805. After the defeat of Austria at the Battle of Austerlitz (Dec. 2), Napoleon quickly set his sights on Naples. Capturing the city in 1806, the Emperor installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the throne. Four years later he replaced Joseph (who was given the Spanish Crown) with his brother-in-law Gioacchino Murat
The Royal Family of Naples by Angelica Kauffman
Escaping to Palermo with British support, Bourbon resistance continued in Calabria until the collapse of Napoleon’s Empire in 1815. However, during Ferdinand’s rule in Sicily, the meddling British encouraged Sicilian autonomy and forced the King to grant the Constitution of 1812. Abdicating his power, Ferdinand appointed his son Prince Francis as regent. The Queen was exiled to Austria.
Sadly, Maria Carolina did not live to see “The Little Corporal’s” final defeat or her husband’s restoration (May 20, 1815). She died of a stroke on September 8, 1814 in Vienna.
HM Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies
After the Congress of Vienna (Sept. 1814—June 1815), King Ferdinand chose to officially unite his two realms, therefore becoming Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies (Dec. 8). In the hopes of national reconciliation Ferdinand granted clemency to Murat's collaborators, allowing them not only to go unpunished, but also retain their positions and privileges. He would later regret his leniency.
The Carbonari Revolution of 1820, inspired by the Spanish Constitution, forced the King to make unwanted concessions and grant a constitution. However, at the Congress of Laibach (Jan. 11—May 12, 1821), Ferdinand secured the aid of Austria against the Carbonari and other subversive malcontents, revoking the Constitution and restoring absolute rule.
His Sicilian Majesty died in Naples on January 4, 1825. He was 74 years of age. Viva ‘o Rre!

The following sources proved invaluable to this post:
The Bourbons of Naples (1734-1825) by Harold Acton, Methuen and Co. LTD, 1957