Ferdinand_IV_of_NaplesFerdinand IV of Naples

In 1759, Charles, the Bourbon king of Naples and Sicily, departed Italy to become Charles III of France. Treaty agreements made Charles ineligible to hold the crown of Spain with those of Naples and Sicily, so he left the southern Italian kingdoms to his son Ferdinand, who became Ferdinand IV of Naples and III of Sicily. Ferdinand’s older brother Charles was heir to the throne of Spain, later becoming Charles IV of Spain. Ferdinand was deposed and then restored twice as king. First for six months in 1799, when the Parthenopean Republic, supported by France’s revolutionary First Republic, was briefly established. Ferdinand fled a second time in 1806, when Napoleon’s forces invaded. The French emperor gave Naples to his older brother Joseph Bonaparte, who was king there from 1806 to 1808, when he was made king of Spain. Napoleon then gave Naples to his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, who ruled until Napoleon’s fall in 1815. Ferdinand was restored and the following year, 1816, he merged his two kingdoms, Naples and Sicily, creating the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (the Kingdom of Naples had also been known officially as the Kingdom of Sicily). He continued to reign as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies until his death in 1825. The following list charts this sequence of rulers:

Ferdiniand IV (1759-1799)
Parthenopean Republic (1799)
Ferdiniand IV (1799-1806)
Joseph Bonaparte (1806-1808)
Joachim Murat (1808-1815)
Ferdinand IV (1815-1816)
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies (1816-1825)

Clara Erskine Clement’s account of Ferdinand’s first period of rule is as follows:

The regents appointed by Carlo Borbone to conduct affairs for Ferdinand IV. were old men, with the exception of Tanucci, who now began to show the wrong side of his character. If the young king should prove to be a man of talent, who would not brook control, Tanucci could retain absolute power but eight years. He therefore set himself the task of making Ferdinand of no account. He directed the tutor of the king to teach him as little as possible; and the boy, having robust health and the gay spirits which it brings, was but too glad to spend his days in athletic sports and the pleasures of the chase, as he was encouraged to do; and whenever he exhibited a low or vicious tendency, it was traightway gratified by Tanucci and the tutor.

Thus the king grew up with an aversion to the society of the refined and scholarly, and a preference for those who sought such things as he desired. Tanucci meantime governed with a certain degree of caution and wisdom; and when Ferdinand reached his majority, the only noticeable change was in the title of the regents, who were now called ministers.

Bernardo TanucciBernardo Tanucci

The first public act attributed to Ferdinand IV., although in reality that of Tanucci, was no less a thing than the expulsion of the Jesuits from Naples. This was in accord with the desire of the King of Spain, who had already exiled the Order from his realm, as Joseph I. had done in Portugal and Louis XV. in France. During one November night in 1767 the Jesuits were put on board ships and sent from Naples, their wealth being devoted to the support of public schools, colleges, and asylums.

The next important event in Ferdinand’s life was his marriage. He was betrothed to Maria Josephine, daughter of the Emperor of Austria; all preparations were made for the wedding, when the bride fell ill and died. A little later a second sister was chosen to take her place; and after a journey through Italy, where she was received with honors, she was welcomed by Ferdinand at Portella in May, 1768. After a few days at the lovely palace of Caserta, the royal pair made their public entrance into Naples on May 22. The extensive fetes celebrating this marriage were continued during several months, to the delight of both the sovereigns, who were equally devoted to a life of pleasure.

If the onlookers fancied that such amusements would absorb Queen Caroline, they soon perceived their error. Although but sixteen years old, she was a daughter of Maria Theresa, and proposed to be an important element in the government of her husband’s kingdom, the largest in Italy. Her marriage contract had provided that after the birth of a son she should have a seat in the Council of State, and after one year she was able to claim this privilege. She saw in Tanucci a hateful rival, and by her influence he was dismissed in 1777, never again to emerge from his retirement.

During the forty-three years that he administered the affairs of Naples much good was accomplished, especially after the exclusion of the Jesuits, when he devoted himself to the advancement of education. The universities and academies were improved, and the professors and literary men of the kingdom were received at court, and treated with the consideration accorded them elsewhere; all the more as the queen aimed to be a patron of science and letters.

After deposing Tanucci, the queen introduced many changes. She succeeded in having an Austrian, the Marquis della Sambuca, made minister in place of Tanucci. The army was her first care; and an Austrian officer was put in authority over it, while an Englishman, Sir Acton Bell, was made Minister of the Marine, then Minister of War, and later Minister of Foreign Affairs. A foreigner, a soldier of fortune, ambitious and covetous, hie cared nothing for the fate of Naples; but succeeding in securing the absolute confidence of the king and the extreme favor of the queen, he soon acquired unusual powers.

Maria CarolinaQueen Caroline (Maria Carolina) in 1768

Queen Caroline, now twenty-five years old, handsome and proud with the dominating pride of her race, found it easy to rule her husband, and ruling him to rule his kingdom. She favored intimate relations with France and England, and ended all connections with Spain; and while entertaining many schemes for the welfare of the Neapolitans, she was unwisely elated from feeling herself to be the centre of the hopes of the people.

A detailed history of this period is most interesting, and with the dramatis personce that I have indicated there was an opportunity for many unusual situations in the court, the political and the social circles of Naples. But our space limits us to the most important features of this reign.

The Emperor Joseph of Austria visited his sister in 1784, and disseminated his views of political reform among the educated Neapolitans. Ferdinand and Caroline then visited Vienna, and returned to carry out a philanthropic scheme by establishing within their territory a small model of their ideal of what a government should be. It was called San Leucio, and for it they made a code of laws based on the principle that a government should emanate from the people, not from monarchs. All this is very curious when viewed in the light of the subsequent policy which these sovereigns pursued.

The news of the French Revolution and its horrors produced a great effect on Ferdinand and his queen, who was the sister of Marie Antoinette; and the idea of a Republic which had apparently appealed to Caroline with great force assumed a new aspect to her just when the Neapolitans, who had imbibed a desire for liberty, were hoping that their dreams were about to be realized.

As soon as the execution of the royal family of France was known at Naples, the court went into mourning, and the celebration of the Carnival was forbidden. When the French Republic sent its ambassador to Naples, he was not acknowledged; and Ferdinand IV. endeavored to prevent the other Italian powers and the Ottoman court from recognizing the new government.

But suddenly a fleet of fourteen French men-of-war sailed into the Bay of Naples in command of Admiral La Touche, and in reply to Ferdinand’s demand for the reason of their coming, he was asked why he had refused to receive the French ambassador, and why he was acting as the enemy of France. For these offences La Touche demanded reparation or war. The queen was so alarmed that she begged for peace; she was supported by many advisers of the king, and he soon satisfied La Touche by a promise of neutrality in the wars of Europe and of friendship for France. The fleet then departed; but meeting a severe storm, it put back and remained for repairs, a privilege that could not be refused to an ally.

During this time the Neapolitans, especially the young men, were much in the company of La Touche and Makau, the ambassador. They were incited to hold secret meetings, and to strive for Liberty and Equality; and at a certain supper the Neapolitans hung little red caps, the Jacobin symbol, on their breasts. The Neapolitan government knew of this, and the repairs of the ships were hastened by effective help. Provisions and pure water were abundantly supplied, and all being in proper order the fleet again sailed away.

The hour of reckoning had now come, and many persons who had been friendly to the French were seized by night and imprisoned. Their friends believed that they had been murdered or sent to distant fortresses; but later it was found that they were in the frightful dungeons of S. Elmo, each in solitary confinement, sleeping on the bare ground and eating the vilest prison fare. Many of these prisoners were scholars, accustomed to luxury and a quiet life; and their jailers were ferocious, inhuman monsters. The king now established a Junta of State for the trial of traitors, and enlarged the prisons. All Naples was in terror.

Attention was then given to increasing the army, and a secret treaty was made with England against France. In 1793, in the siege of Toulon, where Napoleon Bonaparte won his first honors, the Allies were defeated, and the news of this increased the alarm of the Neapolitan government; all possible means were used to raise money, but little was obtained.

Meantime the Junta of State was indefatigable in its work, and was said to have proofs of the treason of 20,000 persons, while more than twice that number were suspected. A few executions occurred, and a reign of terror existed among the people and in the palace. The royal family feared for their own safety; the body-guard was constantly changed, and attendants dismissed, while a terrible anxiety made life a torment.

Ferdinand was so much alarmed by the successes of Bonaparte in Italy that in spite of his alliance with England he made a treaty with France in 1796, a secret condition of which obliged Naples to pay 8,000,000 francs to the French treasury. But when, two years later, it was known that Bonaparte was in Egypt, and that Admiral Nelson had destroyed a large part of the French fleet, there was great rejoicing, which was soon increased when Nelson himself arrived in the bay with English ships-of-war. The king and queen, with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, the English ambassador, went out to meet the Admiral, who was regarded as the champion of sovereigns and the protector of thrones.


Ferdinand bestowed a rich sword upon the hero, and accompanied the gift with the most extravagant praises of the Admiral; Caroline presented several costly gifts to Nelson, among them being a jewel inscribed “To the hero of Aboukir;” while Sir William Hamilton thanked him for all he had done in the name of England, and Lady Hamilton expressed her admiration, while her beautiful face was suffused with emotion. The whole city was tumultuous with excitement and pleasure; the palace was thronged, the great theatre was illuminated, and the sovereigns, accompanied by Nelson, were received with shouts of joy. The queen and the ladies of the court wore girdles and badges on which was inscribed “Long live Nelson!” The French ambassador was naturally curious to know the reason for this reception of the man who had so successfully opposed his countrymen, while Naples was an ally of France. He was told that Nelson had threatened to bombard the city if not allowed to anchor in the bay, no explanation of the welcome to the Admiral and the honors heaped upon him being given.

The queen, haughty and ambitious, had not yet appreciated the weakness of Naples nor the strength of other powers, and was eager to make war on France, in which desire Sir William Hamilton supported and encouraged her. All possible preparations were set on foot; and when the French officers on the frontier of Naples demanded the reason for this activity, they were told that the object was the discipline and improvement of the army. But a few days later Ferdinand publicly declared his intention of marching to Rome to reinstate the Pope, whom the French had driven away.

The French army was soon in full march for an attack on Naples. The king, with the forces which had been in camp, retreated at once; and the people rose, as one man, to receive the French troops as a foe should be met. They waged a deadly warfare, and their bravery when defending their homes and families offered so great a contrast to the cowardice of their professional troops in ordinary service as to surprise all who witnessed this phenomenon. But this outburst of patriotism could not defeat an army to which the fortresses had been surrendered by traitors; it served to delay, but not to prevent, the approach of the enemy. The situation was indeed desperate, but creditable historians believe that a brave and loyal king might have saved his crown.

But Ferdinand’s cowardly fear so controlled him that he listened to no counsels to courage and resistance. He fled with his family to an English vessel, and embarked for Sicily, leaving Naples placarded with the appointment of a regent and the declaration that he would soon return with a large army. Contrary winds detained his ship in the bay for three days, during which time every possible influence was used to induce the king to return, but without avail. He had scarcely sailed, when a terrific storm arose. Nelson’s ship, which carried the king, outrode the gale with great difficulty; her masts and yard were badly injured. One of the young children of the king died in Lady Hamilton’s arms; all were in terror, and the sovereigns believed that the ship must go down. As they neared Palermo, help was sent out, and a pilot, to whom Nelson gladly resigned the command of his vessel.

A Neapolitan man-of-war, commanded by Admiral Caracciolo, appeared near Nelson’s ship in the midst of the tempest. It behaved well, and could easily have gone on its way, but remained near at hand in order to aid the king should it be needful. This vessel rode unscathed where Nelson’s ship was all but lost, and Caracciolo was much praised and favorably compared with the English Admiral. Nelson’s pride was so touched, and his anger so aroused, that he later revenged himself as only a cruel coward could do.

At Naples all was dire confusion. Great indignation was felt that Ferdinand had not only deserted, but also robbed his people, taking away the crown jewels, many antiquities, and rare works of art, and at least 20,000,000 ducats. He thus left the State convulsed by civil and foreign war, with no proper government, and destitute of money.

The French easily mastered a kingdom in this condition; and on January 23, 1799, General Championnet raised a flag of peace, and addressed the people, persuading them to sacrifice no more lives in warfare, but to yield to a general who would bring peace, abundance, and good government, respect their persons and property, the church and their religious customs, and pay his devotions to S. Januarius.

Championnet spoke Italian fluently, and was understood by all. The leader of the Lazzaroni [the poorest of the lower classes of Naples] requested that a guard of honor be placed around S. Januarius, and when two companies of grenadiers were detailed for this duty, the soldiers shouted, “All reverence to S. Januarius!” while the Lazzaroni ran beside them, crying, “Long live the French!” Never was a peace made more quickly and happily. As the news spread over the city, arms dropped from the hands of the people; the tricolor floated above the castles, and French bands played inspiriting music. The unclouded heavens seemed to smile, and all Naples rejoiced. Even the republicans shared in the general delight, and the sight of the thousands of dead still lying in the streets was powerless to dim the happiness which the cessation of hostilities brought.

Championnet a Naples

General Chainpionnet, having published the following edict, made a magnificent public entry into Naples:

“Neapolitans, be free; if you know how to enjoy the gift of freedom, the French Republic will be amply rewarded in your happiness for her dead and for the war. If any among you still prefer the government which has ceased to exist, let them disencumber this free soil of their presence; let them fly from us who are citizens, and let slaves go among slaves. The French army will take the name of the army of Naples, as a pledge and solemn vow to maintain your rights, and to use those arms to advance your liberties. We French will respect the national worship, and the sacred rights of property and person. Your magistrates will, by their paternal administration, provide for the tranquillity and happiness of the citizens; let the terrors of ignorance disappear, let the fury of fanaticism be dispelled, and may you be as solicitous to serve us, as the perfidy of your fallen government was to injure us.”

At evening the city was illuminated, and Vesuvius, which had been dark for years, sent forth a brilliant flame, which the Neapolitans regarded as an omen of future prosperity. Thus was the Parthenopean Republic established.

A provisional government was instituted, and important changes made, such as dividing the kingdom into departments on the French plan, and many ancient customs were abolished. At the same time an enormous tax was imposed; and although young orators constantly assured the people that benefits would soon result from the new system that would far outweigh the present disadvantages, those who were suffering poverty and hunger did not find that this eloquence clothed or fed them, and a threatening spirit was awaking on all sides. Just as Championnet perceived that palliative measures were necessary to keep the peace, he was recalled, and General Macdonald, a harsh, severe man, was sent to replace him.

Meantime Ferdinand had agents who did not lessen the discontent; they were low creatures, but the queen even held secret interviews with them in an apartment in the palace of Palermo, called the Dark Chamber for this reason. These men were leaders of marauding bands; and the names of Pronio, Rodio, and Fra Diavolo were soon associated with deeds worthy of fiends alone. The king learned that there were many Bourbonists in the southern part of the peninsula, and authorized Cardinal Ruffo to land in Calabria, and rouse the people to a revolt against the Republic. Ruffo had long since proved himself cunning and corrupt. He was soon surrounded by a rabble called by the high-sounding name of the Army of the Holy Faith, the truth being that it was devoid of faith, and simply sought an opportunity for plunder.

Troops were sent from Naples to oppose Ruffo, and cruelties almost beyond belief were perpetrated by both armies. Whichever side the people of the country favored they were butchered and robbed. Probably the atrocities of Ruffo’s men were the worst, as there was no pretence of discipline among them, while a semblance of it did exist among the French and Republican troops. The English ships landed men at Castellammare, and Macdonald himself led his soldiers against them and put them to flight, the beautiful city being desolated. He then gave his attention to schemes for the establishment of order and confidence in Naples; but before he could put them in practice he was recalled to France, and bade adieu to the Neapolitans, saying, as he marched away with his army, that the French would leave them to their own devices.

The emissaries of the queen were now doubly active, and the famous Baker conspiracy was formed, which condemned many persons to murder and their homes to destruction. Certificates were secretly distributed to such as were to be spared; and a young Captain Baker, brother of the chief conspirator, who was much in love with Luigia Sanfelice, received one of these, and gave it to Luigia, explaining its meaning. She, being in love with an officer named Ferri, who she feared would be a victim of the plot, revealed what she knew to him, and he, in turn, showed the paper and told the story to the government officials. Luigia was called up for examination, and by the clews she gave, the leaders of the plot were seized and imprisoned, and the dreadful danger averted. Luigia heard herself called the “Saviour of the Republic” and the “Mother of the People;” but a few months later, with another turn of the wheel of fate, she was in the power of the makers of the plot, and was executed in the historic market-place.

The provisional government was but a weak attempt at what a government should be, and was soon forced to seek alliances with stronger powers. France and Spain promised their support, and sent ships with aid; but the fleets of the English and other nations friendly to the Bourbons, kept such watch in the bay that the Allies could not enter. Meanwhile the army of Ruffo was nearing the capital, which was without defence. There was no money, and even food was scarce; and when the fighting approached the gates, the government began to treat with Ruffo. Terms were soon made by which the war was ended, free pardons given to all, and those who did not wish to live under a monarchy were allowed to depart.

But when the next day broke, Nelson entered the bay with his fleet, bringing a declaration from the king and queen which annulled the acts of Ruffo and announced their purpose to punish all rebels. The vessels on which many Republicans had embarked were searched, and eighty-two who had been marked for vengeance were conducted to prison, as well as others who had intended to leave, according to the terms of the treaty. The Bourbonists, the Lazzaroni, and the Army of the Holy Faith now repeated in Naples the atrocities they had committed elsewhere, and the Bourbon standard soon floated from all the castles.

Piastra_1805Piastra of Ferdinand IV (1805) (source: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Fatal and ruinous as the wars under the Republic had been, the measures of the restored sovereigns were more barbarous than any which the bitterest enemies of the Neapolitans had enacted. Ferdinand sailed from Palermo to Naples, and remained on board ship in the bay, issuing edicts and instituting such a reign of terror as has rarely been exceeded in any age or country. The worst feature of the terrible vengeance for which both Ferdinand and Caroline longed with an insatiable appetite was that while the lowest and vilest men were treated as friends by the king, others, who would have been an honor to any country, were imprisoned and murdered by thousands.

Although there was a form of trial maintained, the Junta of State was simply a tool in the hands of the king; to it he sent lists absolutely fixing the sentences to be pronounced by the so-called judges. From the history of these days it would appear that the sovereigns would not have been satiated by the vengeance they enjoyed had they acted quite independently; and, as is usual with tyrants, they had advisers who urged them to follow their most evil inclinations. The worst of these was that Cardinal Ruffo who had collected and commanded the army of the Holy Faith. Second to him we blush to name Lord Nelson. A hero commanding our respect and admiration at Aboukir becomes a despicable tool of perjury and tyranny at Naples, whose debasing recompense by Lady Hamilton makes him even more unworthy of regard than does his political perfidy.

Ruffo was loaded with honors and riches, not only for himself, but in perpetuity for his family; and Ferdinand conferred these gifts in letters expressive of his gratitude and personal attachment to this personification of vice and cruelty.

Seldom has the proverb, “Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad” been so forcibly Illustrated as in the case of Nelson, over whom lust and revenge obtained complete mastery. Lady Hamilton, who made one of the party which welcomed Nelson on his arrival at Naples, was a beautiful woman of low origin and character who had married the English ambassador, and with inimitable tact had at once adapted herself to a position at court as if she had always been surrounded with dignity and fortune. At first the queen had treated Lady Hamilton with an air of extreme condescension; but when she perceived that Nelson was in love with the lady, Caroline saw in her a tool that would be useful in carrying out her plans. From that time the two women were almost inseparable, and it is possible that their common flight and misfortunes engendered a friendship even between two women so void of any noble sentiment as were these two.

Thus it happened that when the queen learned of the capitulation of the castles at Naples and the terms by which pardon was extended, and those who wished it allowed to depart, she sent her friend Emma with letters to Nelson, who was sailing from Palermo to Naples. These letters from both sovereigns persuaded Nelson to revoke the treaty which had been so made as to deprive the sovereigns of their revenge upon those whom they chose to term rebels.

Lady Hamilton, in a fast-sailing corvette, overtook Nelson as he was entering the bay. He was but too happy to welcome her, but when he learned her errand he refused to do what was desired of him; but Lady Hamilton so soon succeeded in persuading him to her will that the vessel which had brought her returned to the queen with assurances of the success of her schemes. Lady Hamilton remained with Nelson, and was still on his ship when he published the reversal of the treaty, and showed himself the perfidious wretch that he had become.

Rewards and favors were lavished on Sir William Hamilton, and the queen lost no opportunity to testify her gratitude and affection for his wife. A magnificent banquet was served in honor of Nelson in a saloon in the palace at Palermo, which was fitted up as a Temple of Glory. When Lord Nelson entered, the royal family advanced to meet him. Ferdinand presented to him a magnificent sword, and a patent creating him Duke of Bronte, with an annual pension of 6,000, and the prince of Salerno crowned the Admiral with laurel. Thus was the degraded lover of Lady Hamilton flattered by those who had made him their tool.

But his cup of crime was not yet full. Feeling his power and cherishing a deep hatred of Admiral Caracciolo, for no other known cause than the glory his superior seamanship had brought the Neapolitan, when he heard of the arrest of that brave officer, Nelson demanded him of Cardinal Ruffo. It was supposed that his motive was to save Caracciolo, and when Nelson’s jealousy of him was remembered all were ready to praise his magnanimity. But their mistake was soon apparent. Nelson at once called a court-martial on his own ship, and when the judges were too lenient to please him, he demanded a sentence of death for the brave Neapolitan. On that very day Caracciolo was hung at the yard-arm of one of his own frigates, and at evening the body was weighted and cast into the sea.

Some days later, as Ferdinand arrived off Naples, he saw a human corpse half out of the water, its face raised, approaching his ship with a menacing air. As it came near he recognized the face, and exclaimed, “Caracciolo! What can this dead man want ? ”

“He asks for Christian burial,” responded a chaplain, who was present.

“Let him have it,” said the king; and the body was later interred in a church built by poor fishermen in the Strada S. Lucia.

Many interesting details could be given concerning the scholars, nobles, and valuable men who perished to satisfy the insane thirst for blood which possessed the king and queen; but want of space forbids. Every place available for a prison was filled. At least thirty thousand human beings were crowded into underground vaults and dark, loathsome dungeons; they were denied beds, lights, and all sorts of utensils; were tormented by thirst and hunger, loaded with chains, and even beaten by the brutal keepers placed over them. Forty thousand were threatened with death, and a greater number with exile; and no words can portray the misery of the whole city.

At length these horrors palled upon the perpetrators of them, and in order to be free from the Army of the Holy Faith, it was sent to join the troops already with the Germans at Rome, and on the withdrawal of the French forces, the Neapolitans promptly took possession of the Papal City. News was soon received of the increasing success of Bonaparte, which was making him the dread of all the enemies of France. The greatest uneasiness was felt by the government at Naples, from the king down to the lesser officials; that the people hated their oppressors and would welcome any deliverer from their present sufferings had become but too evident.

Abject fear now inspired Ferdinand and Caroline to attempt what no kindly feeling had ever suggested. An amnesty was proclaimed; three thousand men had escaped from the country; four thousand had been exiled, and great numbers had been executed; seven thousand were released from prison, leaving many still immured in horrid dungeons. When the amnesty relieved the people from the fear of immediate calamity, they had time to remember and reflect upon the cruelties that had been perpetrated in their midst, and hatred was all too mild a word to express their feelings toward their sovereigns. There was great need of money, which could only be procured by violent and unjust measures; and all the while the news of the increasing achievements of Bonaparte inspired the Neapolitans with the hope that he might even come to them.

Ferdinand’s eldest son had married an Austrian arch-duchess, and an heir was born to the young couple about this time, which strengthened the bond between Austria and Naples. Queen Caroline was on her way to Vienna to seek aid from her brother, the Emperor Francis, when, at Leghorn, she received an account of the battle of Marengo; this news caused her and her friends the gravest alarm. But after two years of anxiety and fear the Peace of Amiens brought them fresh courage. Ferdinand, not having learned wisdom, restored the Junta of State, and reopened the trials for political offences, ordering all records of them to be burned, lest they should testify against him in the future.

In 1804 the Peace was broken; in 1805 Napoleon entered Vienna; and his punishment of the Neapolitans, who had so often played false to friends and enemies alike, was not long delayed. No army could be gathered. Ferdinand fled to Sicily, leaving his son as regent. The queen remained for a time, but shortly went to rejoin the king, taking with her all their family, save the two elder princes, who went to Calabria to attempt still further resistance. Their efforts were useless; and on February 14, 1806, the French fleet entered the bay, and a new era had dawned on Naples.

When we remember the condition in which the run-away royal family left Naples, we cannot think that Napoleon Bonaparte conferred a favor on his brother Joseph when he sent him, with an army of fifty thousand French soldiers, to occupy the deserted throne under the title of “Lieutenant to the Emperor Napoleon,” and clearly outlined the course he was to pursue in one sentence: ” All sentiments yield now to reasons of state. I recognize as relatives only those who serve me.”

King Ferdinand, when seeking his own safety, had commanded his regents never to yield the fortresses of the kingdom, no matter what the stress might be. But his cowardly example was followed rather than his commands; and while the conquerors were as far away as Aversa, Naples sent her submission to them. A few towns made a slight resistance; but on February 14, 1806, the first battalions of the invading army entered the capital, and were quickly followed by the new ruler.

Joseph Bonaparte

The Neapolitans showed a certain wisdom in their welcome to Joseph Bonaparte, since they were in his power, and could have no fear of his making them worse off than he found them. He established himself in the Palace, and called himself “Prince of France, Grand Elector of the Empire. Lieutenant of the Emperor, and Commander-in-chief of the Neapolitan Army.” He at once published a proclamation from Napoleon, which, after reciting the various perfidies of Ferdinand, ended thus:

“The House of Naples has ceased to reign; its existence is incompatible with the repose of Europe, and with the honor of my crown. Soldiers, march; and if the weak battalions of the tyrants of the sea have the courage to await you, drive them back into the waves. Show the world how we punish perjury. Hasten to inform me that all Italy is ruled by my laws or by those of my allies; that the most beautiful land on earth is at last delivered from the yoke imposed on it by the most perfidious of mankind. . . . Soldiers, my brother is with you; he is the repository of my thoughts and of my authority. I confide in him; do you confide in him likewise.”

The army essentially subdued the whole kingdom, and although Joseph was not inclined to cruelty, the constant discovery of conspiracies forced him to certain severities; the prisons were full, as before, and the number of the accused was still enormous. The occupation of the island of Capri by the English added to the unsettled condition of Naples. Under the administration of Colonel Lowe later the jailer of Napoleon at St. Helena the island became a retreat for brigands, and a nest for the hatching of plots. The island of Ponza, too, and certain ports in Calabria, were still in favor of the Bourbons, and Queen Caroline was active in sending her friends wherever they could make trouble.

By a decree from Paris, Joseph was proclaimed King of the Two Sicilies on March 30. Three French senators were sent to Naples to apprise him of this honor, and as the new king was in Calabria, they went thither and accompanied him back to the capital, which he reached in May, attended by a royal cortege. The people regarded his entrance with silence and doubt. The kingdom was so convulsed with plots and counterplots that even the volatile Neapolitans could not be aroused to enthusiasm by such displays as had been but too frequently repeated.

The assaults of the English and of Ferdinand’s friends became bolder and more effective until the battle of Maida, in Calabria, brought them success and courage, while the French, driven to the extreme of rage and suspicion, pursued the most barbarous policy. Great numbers of men, guilty, suspected, and innocent, were executed with unheard of cruelties. . . . . .

The French army suffered greatly from the heat, and was so much reduced in numbers that Joseph was inclined to send it to the Abruzzi to await a cooler season; but Saliceti, the minister of police, opposed this measure, and the war went on. The military history of this period in Naples is a mingling of romance and bravery with cowardice and treachery. At length, however, in February, 1807, the hopes of the Bourbonists were extinguished in the fall of Reggio and Scilla, and the French flag floated above all the forts of the kingdom.

Fra Diavolo after leading his band of three hundred men taken from the galleys, and committing crimes and depredations that could do little to restore Queen Caroline to the throne was captured with letters on his person from both the queen and Sidney Smith, addressing him as a colonel of the Sicilian army. He died like a coward, cursing these two for having urged him to his enterprise. Queen Caroline hesitated at no crime which promised her revenge. She hated Saliceti, and joined the Prince of Canosa in a plot to kill him by means of an infernal machine, which exploded and buried Saliceti’s daughter in the ruins it made, and threw her husband to such a distance as rendered him insensible. Saliceti fell into the chasm opened by the explosion; but neither of the three were seriously hurt, and the only results of the murderous plot were the greater activity of the police, the discovery of conspiracies, and the prompt execution of those engaged in them. One assassin was arrested who had a letter from Caroline urging him to murder Joseph Bonaparte. He wore a bracelet which he said was a gift from the queen and made of her own hair.

While these disturbances were occurring, various reforms were made in the civil administration. The twelve codes of law which existed when Joseph became ruler were replaced by the Code Napoleon, which embodied the results of the advance of thought in the eighteenth century. . . . . .

Immediately after King Joseph had proclaimed his new constitution, he was recalled to France and made king of Spain. In July, 1808, he published the Statute of Bayonne, in which he expressed regret at leaving Naples before the results of his reign there could be shown. . . . .

Joachim_Murat_(Order_of_Two-Siciles)Joachim Murat as King of Naples

After the departure of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon soon sent another ruler to Naples. From Bayonne, July 15, 1808, the emperor published the decree: “We concede to our well beloved brother-in-law, Joachim Napoleon, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, the throne of Naples and of Sicily, vacant by the accession of Joseph Napoleon to the throne of Spain and of the Indies.”

Joachim Murat did not delay his arrival, and on September 6 made his public entry into Naples. His reputation for bravery had preceded him, and his personal attractions predisposed the people in his favor. He wore no royal mantle, and in Spirito Santo, when Cardinal Firrao gave him the benediction, he stood erect on the steps of the throne, but with a reverent manner. During all the ceremonies attendant on his assumption of the throne he carried himself as if born in a palace rather than in the cottage of a Gascon cooper.

Murat’s first acts were beneficial, and encouraged the people to hope that in him they had found a benefactor, and when, shortly after, his queen, Caroline Bonaparte, arrived, she was welcomed with enthusiasm. . . . . .

Murat at once decided to seize Capri, the centre of plots for Ferdinand IV. and his allies, and the home of an army of robbers. He confided his plan to his minister of war, and to General Colletta, who was to lead the expedition. The English were so sure of their position that they called Capri the “Little Gibraltar,” The taking of this island is one of the most interesting episodes of modern warfare; and on October 18, Colonel Lowe yielded himself and seven hundred and eighty soldiers as prisoners to be sent to Sicily on their parole not to fight against the Neapolitans nor the French nor their allies for a year and a day. . . . .

In 1809 an Anglo-Sicilian expedition appeared off the Calabrian coast, and excited alarm in the seaports, even to the capital. But the enemy was repulsed in a battle which was watched from the shore by Murat, the queen, and thousands of people. Murat was meditating an attack on Sicily, and had he been fairly treated would doubtless have put an end to the outrageous conditions existing there. But Caroline of Austria had wearied of her life at Palermo and of the dictation of her allies, and entered into a correspondence with Napoleon, as appeared from a letter intercepted in Spain. It is asserted and believed by good authorities that she made a secret treaty with the emperor, agreeing to drive the English from Sicily if Naples were restored to her. She also engaged to govern Naples by French laws, as a confederate dependency of France. Of this scheme both Ferdinand and Murat were to be kept in ignorance.

When Murat began his preparations for an attack on Sicily, it devolved on Napoleon, as Caroline’s ally, to prevent his accomplishment of this object. This was done through General Grenier, who received his orders from the emperor, and succeeded in frustrating Murat’s plans until the autumn storms compelled him to give them up for that year.

Joachim suspected that Grenier had acted by Napoleon’s commands, and determined, if possible, to make himself an independent sovereign of the kingdom of Naples. Early in 1811 he omitted the hoisting of the French colors, using those of Naples alone, and soon dismissed his French troops, and published a decree enforcing a condition of the Statute of Bayonne, which he had sworn to support, stipulating that foreigners, unless declared Neapolitan citizens, could not remain in Naples nor be paid for civil and military services. Napoleon was furious, and reminded Murat that he was a foreigner whom he, Napoleon, had established on the throne of Naples. Caroline Bonaparte was displeased and distressed, and used every means at her command to reconcile her husband and brother. In the end Murat yielded, but his mortification was never forgotten nor forgiven; it was the cause of all his misfortunes, while to Napoleon the loss of Murat’s friendship was an irretrievable calamity.

In 1812 Murat obeyed Napoleon’s summons to join him in his Russian campaign, leaving Caroline as regent in his absence. But after the retreat from Moscow, Murat abandoned the army. Napoleon wrote to Caroline in great wrath, calling Murat everything but good. Joachim replied in a severe and dignified letter, in which he plainly showed Napoleon his absolute selfishness. After a time Caroline brought about an apparent reconciliation between these two high-spirited men, and in the following year Murat was again beside Napoleon on the battlefields of Silesia and Bohemia, and when, late in 1813, they separated never to meet again in this life they parted with mutual sentiments of sincere affection.

When Murat again reached Naples, he was advised and urged, both by Neapolitans and other Italians, to be the leader of a new movement, and make himself the ruler of a united Italy, a thought which an Italian party ardently cherished. Alas! this was a hope to be long deferred. Here began a movement, which, if correctly recounted, would require a separate volume; the result, however, can be concisely given.

The English and Austrians so influenced Murat in the South, and Beauharnais in the North of Italy, that instead of uniting their forces and their aims, and working together for the unification of Italy, as they might have done, they were disunited. In the end they escaped from French control only to fall into the power of the two-headed eagle; and when, in 1814, the Italians hoped to choose their own ruler, they were commanded by Austria to receive those whom she would place over them. While Austria had thus mastered Italy, there had been plots and counterplots, in which Murat, Lord Bentinck, Ferdinand IV., and Caroline of Austria, as well as Caroline Bonaparte, acting as regent at Naples, had all been involved. But all had been useless. There was nothing to be done out to await the decisions of the world-renowned Congress of Vienna, which were declared on June 9, 1815, by which Ferdinand, now to be known as Ferdinand I., King of the Two Sicilies, was restored to the throne of Naples.

While Ferdinand was still in Sicily, his government was powerfully influenced by Sir William Bentinck, the British minister, who had insisted on the establishment of a Sicilian Constitution in 1812 to replace old feudal practices. In 1813, Ferdinand had essentially abdicated his power in favor of his son, Louis, and Bentinck had engineered the exile of Queen Maria Carolina to Austria, where she died in 1814.

The Emperor of Austria, her nephew, forbade mourning to be worn, lest it should shadow the gayety of his court. Her husband, two months later, married a Sicilian widow, who entered Naples as his queen when he returned to his throne under the protection of Austria.

Shortly before this event Murat had escaped to France; and Caroline Bonaparte having secured the safety of her mother and other relatives, and left her children in the keeping of the garrison at Gaeta embarked on an English vessel to sail for Trieste. While it still lay in the harbor she heard the rejoicings of the fickle populace, who welcomed the return of their old tyrant, and was, so to speak, the chief mourner at her own political funeral.

From Sicily Ferdinand had sent such decrees, and the Emperor of Austria through his agents had made such promises, that the Neapolitans believed that at last they were to have a kindly paternal government. Indeed, the Hapsburg and Bourbon sovereigns had solemnly pledged their faith to this, and the returning king was met with acclamations of welcome.

The years which Ferdinand had passed in Sicily had brought great changes of thought to the world; but, Bourbon-like, the king ignored this, and in spite of his promises endeavored to re-establish his former tyranny. Ferdinand used all his old duplicity, and was met with like deceit by his subjects, from his ministers and judges down to the meanest brigand in his realm. No worse political conditions are possible than those under which Naples suffered after the return of the Despots.

A most painful episode of the year 1815 was that which ended in the death of Murat. A plan had been formed by which he was to land at Salerno, where his faithful followers were greatly discontented with the government. His projects were well known at Naples by means of a spy, who had followed his movements in Corsica, whence he sailed on September 28. He was driven out of his course by a storm. His fleet of six vessels was scattered, and he finally landed at Pizzo in Calabria, with but twenty-eight followers, a small number with which to conquer a kingdom. Being coldly received on landing, he started for Monteleone, but was followed, cruelly insulted, and finally, after the bravest resistance, captured and imprisoned in the dungeons of the castle of Pizzo. After a mock trial, he was led forth and shot on October 14. He held in his hand a portrait of his family, which was buried with him in the church which he had erected at Pizzo five years before. Ferdinand gave lasting proofs of his satisfaction at the death of Murat. He decreed that Pizzo should be called “the most faithful city, that its civic imposts should be abolished, and that salt should be distributed to it every year free.”

The Neapolitans had not ceased to mourn for Murat when the plague broke out, and raged violently during eight months. The theatre of S. Carlo was burned in 1816, and fever and famine destroyed thousands of human beings in the same year. These calamities were regarded by the people as God’s vengeance for the murder of Murat. The entire Neapolitan people were ill, depressed, and suffering, and at the mercy of a king who understood neither the causes of their condition nor the means by which it could be improved.