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main index ©Jeff Matthews entry Sept 2005
First Neapolitan Republic
background, read the entry on Masaniello's Revolt.
Good. Away we go. You will need a cast of characters
Masaniello out of the way, the restoration of civil
order seemed in the making. That was deceptive.
Concessions wrung out of viceroy d'Arcos having to do
with taxes left deeper social unrest untouched.
Masaniello's revolt had dramatically shown the
existence in Naples of various factions: on one side
were the supporters of the Spanish vice-realm
(obviously the Spanish aristocracy); on the other side
not just the peasant masses—still ostensibly loyal to
their Spanish king—but a growing number of
businessmen, merchants and others in the small
Neapolitan middle-class, who were increasingly
revolt had started on July 9, 1647, and by July 16
Masaniello was dead. But by the middle of August, it
was evident the people who had taken to the streets
were largely still out in the streets and unhappy.
They and Masaniello had had two intermediaries between
themselves and the viceroy: Giuglio
Genoino and Cardinal Filomarino. Neither was
able to placate the revolutionaries, who now had
elected another leader to replace Masaniello, a
Neapolitan gunsmith, named Gennaro Annese.
21, the revolutionary forces attacked the Spanish
garrison at Santa Lucia and drove the defenders out.
It was more than a symbolic victory; the loyalist
troops had been defending the Royal Palace and the
considerable number of Spanish civilian nobility in
the area—and were beaten by the rebel force. Also, the
rebels now controlled one major military installation
in the city, the massive Carmine fortress at the
south-eastern approach to the city along the port. A
real civil war had broken out.
day, Spanish ships in Naples shelled the city, at
which point viceroy
D'Arcos managed to get a truce while he
worked on placating the rebels. This involved caving
in to new demands on taxes and granting more local
autonomy to the people. It was a ploy to buy time. At
the beginning of October, the real Spanish fleet
showed up, commanded by John of Austria, the bastard son of
King Phillip IV of Spain. They took back the center of
the city near the palace, but the rebels remained in
control of the perimeter, the high ground on the hills
of Posillipo, Vomero and Capodimonte.
October 16, the rebels proclaimed an "end to loyalty
to the Spanish Crown" and appealed for foreign
intervention. That appeal—obviously to the French—is
indeed strange when viewed against the backdrop of the
times. The Thirty Years War was just grinding to an
agonizing end (by the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in
Years War remains one of the grisliest episodes
in the history of human conflict; it was a series of
wars, really, that squandered the resources and
progress of an entire generation in Europe and cost
the lives of about one-third the population of central
Europe. From the chaos of religious strife, the war
had "evolved" in its last decade into a war of
attrition between France and the forces of the Holy
Roman Empire, meaning the Hapsburgs of Spain and
Austria. The complexities of the Thirty Years War are
beyond the scope of this entry, but it would be fair
to say that at its conclusion France had emerged as a
great power while the power of Spain had decreased. It
does not follow from that, however, that the French
would feel comfortable enough to move on Naples—or
would even want to, for that matter—or that Spain
would not defend its Neapolitan vicerealm.
Oct. 22, perhaps misjudging Spanish willingness to
defend Naples, the rebels proclaimed the existence of
the "Royal Republic of Naples." It was to be under the
protection of the King of France, with Henri II of
Lorraine, 5th Duke of Guise, who had volunteered
his services to Annese, as Protector. Actually, he was
to be the "doge," in analogy to the Republic of
Venice. (Publications of the day— illustration,
right—referred to the "Serenissima" Neapolitan
Republic—further analogy to Venice, la Serenissima.)
Guise was descended from the Angevin rulers of Naples,
who had been forced out of the kingdom two centuries
earlier. On November 17, in the presence of Cardinal
Filomarino in the Cathedral of Naples, Guise swore
allegiance to the Royal Republic.
was, from all accounts, a lackluster dud who enjoyed
no prestige at all in the French court, to which he
would presumably have to turn for help. (He had
actually been an enemy of Richelieu and been sentenced
to death at one point.) His outrageous personal life
had given rise to the popular jibe that he had "left
his betrothed in France, his wife in Flanders, his
whore in Rome and would leave his hide in Naples." He
also got no support from the astute French prime
Mazarin, Richelieu's successor. (Mazarin was
of southern Italian origin; his birth name was Giulio
Mazzarino. He was the negotiator who brokered the end
of the Thirty Years War.) Mazarin had no Italian
policy to speak of. He was in favor of a strong
France, but not at the expense of another war with
Thus, if the Duke of Guise was expecting immediate intervention from France in the face of the Spanish fleet moored in the bay and the considerable number of Spanish troops still in charge of the main body of the city, he was in for a disappointment. Indeed, the French court held Guise in such low esteem that when French ships got to Naples in December, the admiral in charge of the fleet was less concerned with engaging the Spanish militarily than in trying to find out who was in charge. The problem: no one. There were now two people trying to run the show: one, the new "doge"; two, Annese, the military commander of the city, who had called for French help in the first place. A third party, the collective nobility still quite loyal to the Spanish crown, sat and bided their time. The Duke of Guise was proving to be singularly arbitrary and ineffective in his dealings with the people, and he totally alienated Annese. By February, there was a strong anti-Guise conspiracy in Naples even among the "pro-French."
meantime, the Spanish had replaced viceroy d'Arcos
with John, the commander of the fleet that had just
arrived. While political indecision and infighting
went on within the new Royal Republic, John
consolidated his support among the large number of the
nobility still loyal to Spain. He also enlisted
Filomarino as a go-between to Guise. John offered to
repeal the hated taxes and offered a general amnesty.
Then, in mid-February, the rebels attacked Spanish
positions in the city and failed. It was a stalemate.
The break came when a new viceroy was appointed: Inigo Velez de Guevara, Count of Ognate, Spain's ambassador to the Holy See. He landed at Gaeta in April with troops and joined those from the fleet of John and came in from the north, meeting little resistance. Guise had managed to alienate what little support he had within the city. The revolution had run out of steam. The re-rulers of Naples, the Spanish—John of Austria and viceroy Ognate—were surprisingly lenient when they were back in charge. They executed Annese (reneging on their promise to spare him if he gave up), but no vindictive bloodbath ensured. The city was tired.