Martin_van_Meytens_(attrib.)_-_Porträt_Kaiser_Karl_VIEmperor Charles VI

In 1714, the Kingdom of Naples passed from Spanish to Austrian control. Clara Erskine Clement describes conditions in the Kingdom of Naples in the early decades of the eighteenth century:

After the death of Charles II., in 1700, the war of the Spanish Succession endured thirteen years, during which Naples was still governed by viceroys; and after the crown passed to the Archduke Charles, afterwards the Emperor Charles VI., during twenty-one years, eight German viceroys succeeded one another in authority over the Neapolitans. The change in the nationality of its rulers brought no benefits to the kingdom. The one aim of its conquerors seems to have been to discover the largest sum that could possibly be wrung from their subjects, who, on their part, were striving to find what was
the smallest amount that they could pay and still retain life and personal liberty.

During two hundred and thirty years under Spanish and German rule, the history of Naples furnishes an example of everything that a country and a government should not be. The aristocracy had no moral character, and no other class had risen to take its place; the great fortunes had disappeared; idleness seemed to be actually considered an occupation; and during all the years that Naples had given men and money to her foreign rulers she had in return been subjected to every possible loss, humiliation, and misery

The departments of justice were in dire confusion. One power after another had made new laws without repealing the old, or properly instituting the new codes. Different parts of the kingdom were under different laws, and it is said that in 1734 eleven methods of legislation actually existed in this peninsula, while the courts were filled with corrupt officials and lawyers. The army, too, was completely demoralized; indeed, the profession of a soldier, so honorable elsewhere, was regarded with scorn in Naples in the early part of the eighteenth century.

Even the Church, to which an oppressed people ought to be able to look for blessing, had been far from that to Naples, as to all Italy, by reason of its schisms and the intrigues of the Popes with those who had reigned here. The claim of the Apostolic See to supremacy over all other powers was supported by the immense army of ecclesiastics and their enormous wealth. It is estimated that in the Neapolitan kingdom the number of those whose profession was that of religion from archbishops to monks and nuns was 112,000, and in Naples alone 16,500. After the royal possessions were deducted from the entire property of the kingdom, more than one half the remainder belonged to the Church. Some writers claim that the Church property was even larger than this; but their estimate may be exaggerated. In any case, little enough was left for the people, and they were at that stage of poverty and misery when any change would be welcomed; and the change was not long deferred.