For those Neapolitans who are tired of traffic, noise, and maybe just the general daily rigmarole, there are still some genteel pursuits at hand. One of these is worrying about the problems of the other Charles and Camilla—of the royal house of Bourbon, the dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Naples between the 1730s and 1860. The dynasty, of course, is, as they say, “in abeyance,” meaning out–of–work. Carlo and Camilla are what is left of the dynasty, but the princess is about to remedy that situation in June, when she will give birth. (I’m really not sure if she’s a princess. It seems to me that if you marry a prince, that makes you a princess—but what do I know. I went to the MGM School of History. I’m a barbarian.)
Interestingly, when they were married in 1998, they wanted to have the ceremony in the great palace of Caserta (photo), that splendid “Versailles of Italy” built by Vanvitelli in the 1700s. Lamely citing “bureaucratic obstacles,” the superintendent of said national treasure refused them that little bit of bizarre, if harmless, counter–revolutionary nostalgia, so they went to Monaco. The prince kindly directed those desiring to do so—in lieu of gifts—to donate to the very active charity in Naples run by Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Calcutta. This step no doubt raised him a few notches even in the eyes of republican cynics and those whose only Bourbon acquaintance is Jack Daniels.For what it’s worth, the dynastic question is complicated. There is, in fact, still an operating Bourbon dynasty in Europe in the person of King Juan Carlos of Spain (born in Rome, by the way), a descendant of Phillip V, the first Bourbon King of Spain following the Wars of the Spanish Succession in the early 1700s, and also the grandfather of Charles III, the first Bourbon King of Naples, an ancestor of the current “virtual” king Charles. This makes the current Neapolitan Charles and the current King of Spain—let’s see…carry the two…uh—umpteenth cousins much removed. However—and here is where it gets interesting—the Spanish and Italian Bourbons separated into different dynasties in the 1700s, and depending on how one interprets the subsequent documents that are said to have ratified this division, the soon–to–be–born new Bourbon may or may not actually be the king who would some day rule the Kingdom of Naples if it existed—which it doesn’t.
After more than a half–century of all around bad feeling and, recently, much constitutional debate, members of the ex–royal family of Italy, deposed by popular referendum in 1946, are once again allowed to place foot on Italian soil—as private citizens, of course.
On Saturday, Victor
Emanuel of the House of Savoy (son of the last king
of Italy), his wife Marina Doria, and their son
Emanuel Filbert (photo) will visit Naples. They had
announced their intention to donate a sound system
and furnishings for a new auditorium to the public
shelter for the homeless in Naples that bears the
name of Victor Emanuel II, this Victor Emanuel's
great-great-grandfather and the first king of united
Italy. The city of Naples has refused the
"They're just private citizens like anyone else. There won't be anything official, no reception, nothing like that," said City Hall.
(This, of course, begs the question of why a private citizen cannot donate a stereo and some chairs—indeed, whatever he wants—to a home for the needy.) It remains to be seen how that will play out. (I am betting the city caves in and takes the gift.) Privately, of course, they will be well received at the Savoy Club in Naples, no doubt by some of the very people (a bit older now) who voted for the monarchy and against the institution of a republic in 1946 (the monarchy carried the vote in Naples, 10-to-1).A small demonstration is planned by those nostalgic for the really ex-monarchy, the Bourbons, whose Kingdom of Naples was absorbed kicking and screaming into a united Italy in 1860. The neo-Bourbon Movement of Naples is apparently going to stand around and hold slightly rude placards. Says Gennaro de Crescenzo, head of the organization: "The Savoys meant the end of Naples as a capital and the beginning of its decline—the beginning of the so-called 'Question of the South' in Italy, the failure of our factories, the beginning of emigration from the south, the plundering of Neapolitan coffers, and the massacre of loyalists—who were defined as "bandits". [See Risorgimento, anti-Risorgimento & Bandits]
Concerning the visit of the Savoys to Naples, the city of Naples backtracked and accepted a gift from Victor Emanuel and also turned to flapdoodle the official line that the Savoys are "just private citizens like anyone else and we aren't going to baby-sit them". Indeed, the mayor of Naples, Mrs. Iervolino, and the ex-mayor (now president of the Campania region), Mr. Bassolino, both showed up to say hello.
The ex-Royal family (photo) of Italy got to sit in the ex-royal box (now the presidential box) at San Carlo; Victor Emanuel got to visit the building he was born in (the Royal Palace); and they all went to the Brandi restaurant (which made the first "Margherita" pizza for Victor's great-grandmother). Young "prince" Filiberto took in a soccer match at San Paolo and watched home team Naples struggle to a scoreless tie, thus continuing a nosedive out of the B League—already a "minor" league—into the very minor C League.
There were a few demonstrations, both pro and con. The pros were old-line monarchists who didn't vote for the Republic in the referendum of 1946. They have a few modern sympathizers, although it is fair to say that most modern Italians accept their republic (whatever it faults) as a way of life and view the Italian monarchy as a relic—which it is.
A recent copy of the
Journal of the Two Sicilies.
The most curious demonstrators were the "antis". Some of them were simply republicans and against monarchies. Their point was to demonstrate against any sort of official kow-towing to a Man Who Would Be King—although that is not going to happen and everyone knows it. What caught the eye was the strange cult of "neo-Bourbons" that showed up with signs that read "Assassins!" and "Hyenas!"
It is an oft-repeated assertion in the south of Italy that all of the problems of the south started with the union of Italy in 1860 under the Savoy dynasty. That is when the problem of "Two Italies" started, when unemployment started, and when massive emigration started to deplete the greatest resource any nation has—its people.
While it is true that the north bungled the unity of Italy by failing to deal with the problems of the south, they didn't invent those problems. To a large extent they inherited them. The entire course of the 19th century in Italy is bound up in the risorgimento, the movement to create a united, modern nation state of Italy out of the geopolitical jigsaw puzzle that had existed on the peninsula for over a thousand years. That drive to unity was not a northern invention, either. Many of the "philosophers of unity" such as the historian, Vincenzo Cuoco, were from Naples. The Kingdom of Naples was also the home of the "carbonari" in the 1820s, the first agitators for unity, whose ideals fed into the risorgimento later in the century.
That movement towards a united Italy was totally resisted by the Bourbons. For three decades leading up to Garibaldi's invasion of the south in 1860 to force union on the Kingdom of Naples, the Bourbon dynasty of Naples was a despotic, absolute monarchy. It resisted even granting a basic constitution and parliament to the people, and it had to rely on Austrian and Swiss mercenaries to prop up the kingdom because the king no longer even trusted his own officer corps, many of whom were agitating for a united Italy as a sort of "manifest destiny". The Bourbon kings remained oblivious to the political reform movements that were sweeping all of Europe in the middle of the 19th century. They had their century—the 18th—and they liked it just fine, thank you very much.
Economically, the north also inherited a largely agricultural society with a system of land management based on large holdings worked by a permanently poor class of farmers, a system that had not changed much since the feudalism of the Middle Ages. This, after much of northern Italy and Europe had gone over to metayage—tenant farming, where the people who worked the land kept a considerable portion of what they produced.
The "neo–Bourbons" fail
to mention that as Garibaldi marched north from
Sicily towards Naples in the summer of 1860, he was
seen largely as a liberator by the long-suffering
peasantry. He then spent almost a year as "Dictator
of Naples" making Karl Marx seem like a cautious
reformer. Garibaldi expropriated land barons and
gave the land to farmers. He set up free schools as
a cure for illiteracy, which was endemic in the
south. If the Savoys are guilty of an historical
crime, it is that they undid those reforms the
minute they put Garibaldi out to pasture.
I think the heraldic mumbo-jumbo for a monarchy that is "out of work," so to speak, is that it is "in abeyance". The deposed Savoys of Italy, for example—for those who would like the Italian monarchy to return—have been "in abeyance" since 1946 when Italy, by referendum, chose a republican form of government.
The Bourbons of Naples are a different matter. They never ruled Italy, but, rather, The Kingdom of Naples (also known as the Kingdom of The Two Sicilies) until they were deposed by force in 1860 and said kingdom was incorporated into another state—The Kingdom of Italy. Thus, you cannot say that the Bourbons of Naples are "in abeyance" because there is no longer a Kingdom of Naples. They are just plain out-of-work, left-over nobility who travel around, being quaint.
Prince Charles of Bourbon
(in photo with wife, Camilla)—who would be the King
of Naples, today, if the 19th century had never
happened—was in Fondi (near Gaeta, north of Naples)
yesterday, being quaint. He presided over a ceremony
that unveiled the new uniforms of the Fondi traffic
police, uniforms identical to those made
official by royal decree for the National Guard of
the Kingdom of Naples in 1848. "We are not trying to
raise a Bourbon army," said Charles. "We just want
people to be interested in their history." The two
policemen and one policewoman interviewed on TV with
the prince cut a dashing figure and seemed amusedly
content in their new garb. (The fact that 1848 was a
year of widespread anti-monarchical turmoil in
Naples and elsewhere in Europe went uncommented
The paper this morning features yesterday’s meeting in the Vatican between the Pope and the ex-royal family of Italy—Victor Emanuel of Savoy, his wife, Marina Doria, and their son, Emanuel Filiberto. It is the first time they have returned to Italy since the monarchy was abolished by referendum 56 years ago. (Technically, of course, the Vatican is a separate state, but they had to land in Rome to get there.) The constitutional provision that forbade any member of the immediate Savoy royal family from ever again entering Italy has been overcome, and the ex-king announced that he would very much like to visit Naples, perhaps as early as February. I don’t anticipate tens of thousands of peasants tossing their pitchforks and three-cornered hats into the air and voicing “Long live the King!” because, as far as I know, Neapolitan peasants didn’t wear three-cornered hats, although the gentry may have done so. When the referendum that abolished the monarchy and established the Italian Republic was held in 1946, it is significant that, though the nation, as a whole, was split virtually 50-50, Naples voted for the king, 10-1. Maybe he wants to say “Thank you”.The paper points out that there will likely be an innocuous counter-demonstration at that time sponsored by a local historical group called The “Neo-Bourbon Society”. The Bourbons, of course, were the last rulers of The Kingdom of The Two Sicilies—roughly, southern Italy—before that kingdom was defeated in 1860 and united to the rest of Italy, ruled by the House of Savoy. The Neo-Bourbons pretty much blame all social ills in southern Italy in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century on the Savoys.