Naples, kingdom of
In the 11th and 12th cent. the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his successors seized S Italy from the Byzantines. The popes, however, claimed suzerainty over S Italy and were to play an important part in the history of Naples. In 1139 Roger II, Guiscard's nephew, was invested by Innocent II with the kingdom of Sicily, including the Norman lands in S Italy. The last Norman king designated Constance, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, as his heir and the kingdom passed successively to Frederick II, Conrad IV, Manfred, and Conradin of Hohenstaufen. Under them S Italy flowered, but in 1266 Charles I (Charles of Anjou), founder of the Angevin dynasty, was invested with the crown by Pope Clement IV, who wished to drive the Hohenstaufen family from Italy. Charles lost Sicily in 1282 but retained his territories on the mainland, which came to be known as the kingdom of Naples. Refusing to give up their claim to Sicily, Charles and his successors warred with the house of Aragón, which held the island, until in 1373 Queen Joanna I of Naples formally renounced her claim.
During her reign began the struggle for succession between Charles of Durazzo (later Charles III of Naples) and Louis of Anjou (Louis I of Naples). The struggle was continued by their heirs. Charles's descendants, Lancelot and Joanna II, successfully defended their thrones despite papal support of their French rivals, but Joanna successively adopted as her heir Alfonso V of Aragón and Louis III and René of Anjou, and the dynastic struggle was prolonged. Alfonso defeated René and in 1442 was invested with Naples by the pope. His successor in Naples, Ferdinand I (Ferrante), suppressed (1485) a conspiracy of the powerful feudal lords. Meanwhile the Angevin claim to Naples had passed to the French crown with the death (1486) of René's nephew, Charles of Maine. Charles VIII of France pressed the claim and in 1495 briefly seized Naples, thus starting the Italian Wars between France and Spain. Louis XII, Charles's successor, temporarily joined forces with Spain and dethroned Frederick (1501), the last Aragonese king of Naples, but fell out with his allies, who defeated him.
The Treaties of Blois (1504–5) gave Naples and Sicily to Spain, which for two centuries ruled the two kingdoms through viceroys—one at Palermo, one at Naples. Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was the first viceroy of Naples. Under Spain, S Italy became one of the most backward and exploited areas in Europe. Heavy taxation (from which the nobility and clergy were exempt) filled the Spanish treasury; agriculture suffered from the accumulation of huge estates by quarreling Italian and Spanish nobles and the church; famines were almost chronic; disease, superstition, and ignorance flourished. A popular revolt against these conditions, led by Masaniello, was crushed in 1648. In the War of the Spanish Succession the kingdom was occupied (1707) by Austria, which kept it by the terms of the Peace of Utrecht (1713; see Utrecht, Peace of). During the War of the Polish Succession, however, Don Carlos of Bourbon (later Charles III of Spain) reconquered Naples and Sicily. The Treaty of Vienna (1738) confirmed the conquest, and the two kingdoms became subsidiary to the Spanish crown, ruled in personal union by a cadet branch of the Spanish line of Bourbon. Naples then had its own dynasty, but conditions improved little.
In 1798 Ferdinand IV and his queen, Marie Caroline, fled from the French Revolutionary army. The Parthenopean Republic was set up (1799), but the Bourbons returned the same year with the help of the English under Lord Nelson. Reprisals were severe; Sir John Acton, the queen's favorite, once more was supreme. In 1806 the French again drove out the royal couple, who fled to Sicily. Joseph Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, made king of Naples by Napoleon I, was replaced in 1808 by Joachim Murat. Murat's beneficent reforms were revoked after his fall and execution (1815) by Ferdinand, who was restored to the throne (Marie Caroline had died in 1814). In 1816 Ferdinand merged Sicily and Naples and styled himself Ferdinand I, king of the Two Sicilies.
For the remaining history of Naples, annexed to Sardinia in 1860, see Two Sicilies, kingdom of the.
See H. Acton, The Bourbons of Naples (1734–1825) (1956) and The Last Bourbons of Naples 1825–61 (1961); B.Croce, History of the Kingdom of Naples (1925, tr. 1970).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Italian History