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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Oct 2008
Everything is related to Naples
Number 12 in this series. Link to all items here.
& the Queen of Naples
are a Protestant music-lover with no knowledge of
history, you might just let that mention of a queen
slide. (Uh, sure…queen of Rome…sounds right…I guess.)
If you are an opera-loving Roman Catholic, however,
you may think, “Now hold on just a minute. Queen of
Rome? I know we've had some scoundrel popes, but…”
(Actually, Peter and a few others were
married—before they became pope.) No, you can relax.
The queen in question in Tosca is not Mrs. Pope, but rather Maria Carolina, the
queen consort of King Ferdinand of the Kingdom of
Naples. She, the queen of Naples, was briefly “Queen
background is convoluted and violent—totally normal
for Europe around 1800:
—In February of 1798, forces of the French Republic enter Rome and proclaim the Roman Republic. This is in line with the French Republic’s setting up of client states, “sister” republics, in the territory under French control, including the Neapolitan (aka “Parthenopean”) Republic in January of 1799. The French demand that Pope Pius VI renounce his temporal authority; that is, that he abdicate as king of the Vatican States. He refuses. He is arrested and removed to Valence in south-eastern France. He dies in captivity in August of 1799.
—There is an
immediate attempt by the Kingdom of Naples to
overthrow the Roman Republic in 1798. It fails
miserably. Shortly thereafter, the republic in Naples
is proclaimed and King Ferdinand and Queen Caroline
flee to Sicily.
Napoleon is off in Egypt, Austrian-Russian
forces cross into northern Italy; between April and
August of 1799 they defeat and dissolve various
republics previously set up by the French. At the same
time, Bourbon royalists under Cardinal
Ruffo come back, overthrow the republic in
Naples in June of 1799 and reinstall Ferdinand and
Farnese in Rome (print by
—The exiled Pope Pius VI then dies in August of 1799. Now you have the still extant Roman Republic surrounded by crumbled or crumbling “sister” republics. The Roman Republic teeters and finally falls in September of 1799 when Neapolitan forces occupy Rome. Thus, the republics are gone and the pope/king can return to Rome to reclaim his temporal throne. But there is no pope; he died, remember?
—Queen Caroline to the rescue. She appoints herself “regent” (for the absent Pope) of Rome, and she rules as such from September 1799 to July 1800, when the new pope (Pius VII, elected in Venice a few months earlier) reenters the Eternal City.
that, in June 1800, Napoleon (who has really
just been warming up all this time) crosses the Alps
and invades Italy again, winning a major battle at
Marengo on June 14. The battle is see-saw for a while
and the events in Tosca
revolve around a celebration in honor of Napoleon’s
anticipated defeat, a celebration at which Tosca is to
sing. That never happens, of course. News trickles in
of Bonaparte’s victory at Marengo. Tosca, herself,
then…well, go see the opera.
non-fictional behavior as the “queen” of Rome has not
been the subject of a lot of literature. At least one
Palais Farnese: Ambassade De France, by
Raoul De Broglie. 1953, Paris: Henri
Lefebvre Editor), in describing the Bourbon property,
the Palazzo Farnese
in Rome (illustration, above) where Queen Caroline
held court and where the events of Tosca take place,
speaks of mass arrests of Roman republicans and
executions. No numbers are given, but it is an obvious
comparison with Caroline's behavior in Naples in 1799 after she
and her husband retook the throne there. That she was
vindictive and vicious is a matter of record, but
claims that she was a wholesale butcher in Naples
responsible for "thousands of executions" (as some
claim) are exaggerated. In The
Bourbons of Naples by
Harold Acton (London: Prion Books, 1957), the
Of 8,000 political prisoners 105 were condemned to death, six of whom were reprieved, 222 were condemned to life imprisonment, 322 to shorter terms, 288 to deportation, and 67 to exile, from which many returned: a total of 1,004. The others were set at liberty.
The author has a Bourbon axe
to grind in his book, yes, but he is a reliable
historian, and it is not likely that he simply
made up those numbers. Thus, I suspect that
there were certainly some anti-Republican
reprisals in Rome and that Maria Carolina was
responsible for them. Beyond that, I don't know.