Ferdinand IIFerdinand II of Naples when he was Duke of Calabria
(Source: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

King Alfonso II of Naples had fled his kingdom in the face of the French invasion. His son, Ferdinand II, would regain the kingdom, but died soon after. As described by Clara Erskine Clement:

Ferdinand II. returned to Naples, and with the aid of the great Spanish captain, Gonsalvo da Cordova, had regained nearly all that his father had lost, when, in October, 1496, he was borne from Somma to Castel Capuano, sick unto death. In the “Cronaca di Notar Giacomo,” this account is given:

“On the following Thursday, the Most Reverend Lord Archbishop, Alexander Carafa, led two solemn processions, one of which went towards the Nunziata, bearing the head and blood of the glorious martyr St. Januarius, followed by a numberless troop of women with burning wax torches. As the procession reached the castle, the queen mother appeared under the portal and threw herself on the ground, upon which the Archbishop uttered three prayers: the first to the Madonna, the second for the sick King, and the third to St. Januarius. Then they all exclaimed ‘Misericordia’ so loudly and tumultuously that the Archbishop could hardly finish the prayer amid the lamentations of the people. On the following Friday, at the seventh hour, another procession was about to march to Santa Maria la Nuova: then came the intelligence that God had taken the Lord King to himself. Cujus anima requiescat in pace.”

Ferdinand II. was succeeded by his uncle Frederick, Prince of Altamura. Thus there were four sovereigns of Naples aside from Charles VIII. in the three years which succeeded the death of Ferdinand I. of Aragon.

The burial-case of Ferdinand II. is one of those faded crimson sarcophagi of which we have spoken in the sacristy of S. Domenico Maggiore. They are a melancholy spectacle, with their gilt emblems affixed to decaying wooden, coffins, fit symbols of the race they hold; a race wanting in solidity and earnestness. The remains of the first Alfonso called the Just and the Magnanimous, in his time second only to Frederick of Hohenstaufen among the rulers of Naples were transported to Catalonia in the seventeenth century, and buried near the tombs of his ancestors.

Two interesting episodes in the life of Ferdinand II. illustrate his cruelty and his bravery. When he fled to Ischia, on the very day that his father’s abdication made him king, he took with him his bride his aunt Joanna not yet fourteen years old. When he presented himself before the castle of Ischia, having arrived with a fleet of fourteen galleys, the castellan refused him admission. After much discussion, the king and queen were permitted to land; and the moment that Ferdinand had entered the castle, he drew his sword and killed the castellan. The garrison, their commander being murdered before their eyes, made no resistance, and the guards and troops of the king were soon within the castle.

At the battle of Seminara, when the French troops completely routed the Neapolitans under Gonsalvo da Cordova, Ferdinand, while bravely endeavoring to rally his forces, was in great personal danger. His horse fell under him and he could not extricate himself, when the noble Giovanni d’ Altamura went to his aid, gave him his own horse, and wishing his sovereign God speed to a place of safety, fell dead, riddled by a hundred wounds.

Ferdinand II. added nothing to the strength or beauty of Naples. On the contrary, when he besieged the Castel del’ Ovo, while Charles VIII. was master of the city, he entirely dismantled that fortress, already more than three centuries old, having been founded by the Norman, William I. The present castle dates from the middle of the sixteenth century.