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entry 2004

The Bourbons in Exile

Crest of the Neapolitan Bourbons  
Although there are a few constitutional monarchies in Europe, many of the great dynastic families of the past are now defunct (at least as dynasties; the descendants, still known as “Prince This-or-That,” perhaps, are private citizens like anyone else).*note 1 Sometimes, the end was violent and quick, such as the French Bourbons (1793) or the Romanovs (1918); sometimes it was long and drawn out by war and subsequent demise by abdication, such as the Hapsburg's (1918) and the Savoys (1946). Some hang around for a while and try to stave off the inevitable. Such was the case with the Bourbon dynasty of Naples.

Garibaldi landed in Sicily in May of 1860 to start his conquest of the Kingdom of Naples (The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies). By September, he was in the city of Naples; the king, queen and residual royalist forces retreated to the fortress at Gaeta for their “last stand,” a siege that lasted from November 1860 to February 1861. In December 1860 the last US ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples, Joseph Chandler, was informed by U.S. Secretary of State, Lewis Cass, that “…In view of the political events that have lately transpired in Italy…you will now consider your mission terminated, and yourself at liberty to return to the United States.”

On February 14, 1861, after the surrender of the fortress at Gaeta, King Ferdinand and Queen Maria Sophia left aboard the French vessel, Mouette. On that ship as well as on another French vessel, Brandon, the entire Bourbon court of diplomats, family members, and high-ranking military officers left with them. They were received at the Quirinale palace in Rome where the Queen Mother (the king’s step-mother (note 2), consort of the recently deceased Ferdinand II) had already taken refuge in November with her own entourage of family and members of her court.

King Francis II
The new Kingdom of Italy (The Savoy kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia plus the ex-Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) was proclaimed on February 18, 1861, and recognition by many nations was quick in coming. Among nations that did not immediately recognize the new kingdom of Italy were France, Spain, Bavaria (still a separate kingdom at that point) and Austria. There were two main reasons for this: one, there was still a strong “legitimist” sentiment in those countries that resisted the overthrow of established monarchies; two, while they may have realized the inevitability of the new “Italy,” they were Catholic nations and were repulsed by the idea that they also had to accept the dissolution of the thousand-year-old Vatican States (or Papal States), most of which territory had already been gobbled up by the forces of Piedmont-Sardinia by late 1860; Rome, itself, would hold out for another 10 years. It meant the end of the so-called “temporal power of the Church.”
The royal family of Naples moved into Rome where they were guests of the Pope. Naples and the Vatican had generally been on good terms over the years. Naples had even sheltered the Pope in Gaeta in 1848/49 during the crisis of the Roman Republic when the pontiff had been forced to flee the revolutionaries. In Rome, the royal family stayed in the Quirinale palace —the Papal residence (today, the residence of the president of Italy— and then in 1863 moved into the Farnese Palace, a magnificent building from the 1500s, designed by San Gallo and Michelangelo (illustration, here).

The king “held court” in exile, surrounded by Bourbon hangers-on, journalists, and no doubt a few legitimists who truly believed that just as the earlier Neapolitan Republic of 1799, and then Napoleon, and then the Roman Republic had come and gone, this thing called “Italy” wouldn’t last and the “legitimate” crowned heads of Europe would once again return and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies restored. Social life went on; the Pope, himself, even performed marriages among the group. (For example, he performed the rites for one of King Ferdinand’s sisters, Maria Annunziata, to Karl Ludwig Hapsburg-Lorraine, a union that produced a son, archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination touched off WWI.)

 Queen Maria Sophia        
The government in exile was headed by Count Pietro Calà Ulloa (1801-1879), who had been the last prime minister of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was born in Naples and became a judge in Sicily in his early career. (The term “mafia” crops up, apparently for the first time, at least officially, in one of his legal briefs from 1838.) He was known to favor an Italian union, a confederation with the north, as a solution to the problem of “Italy”; he resisted to the end the idea that the south should just be annexed by the north. He remained the King’s prime minister in Rome during the period of the “court in exile.”

After the conquest by Italy of the Austrian kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia in 1866 in what is called the “third war of Italian independence,” the new nation solidified through added territory in the north, and it became clear that "Italy" was here to stay. Before that date, many members of the Bourbon entourage in Rome had encouraged military expeditions from Rome into the ex-kingdom of Naples to promote insurrection. (Queen Maria Sophia is said to have encouraged this “banditry” —to use the northern term— and many volumes have been filled on the subject.) After the events of 1866, the Bourbon court dissolved itself and many returned to Naples. Members of the royal family stayed in Rome. In 1867, the Pope declared the apostolic legation in Naples defunct.

The French were ambiguous. They recognized the new kingdom of Italy, but expressed affection for the last king of Naples and even tried to set him up as the last emperor of Mexico. (They finally decided on Maximilian, the brother of Emperor Franz Josef. (Max was captured by the forces of Benito Juarez and executed in 1867, so maybe Francis did well to turn down the offer.)

Francis was now resigned and tried to bargain with the new rulers of Italy for the return of his seized monies and property so he could at least keep those who were staying with him. Maria Sophia spent some time in Bavaria. The Queen Mother died in 1867 in Rome, and Maria Sophia’s only child by her husband died in infancy in Rome in March, 1870. By the time the forces of Italy took Rome in September, 1870, the Bourbon court and all who had accompanied it had left. The queen returned to Bavaria, the king wandered for a while and settled in Paris, where he was rejoined, at least for a while, by his wife. The king became diabetic and sought treatment at various Italian clinics, always registering under a false name. In 1894, he saw his wife in Bavaria for one last time and then went to Arco in Trentino for the climate and treatment. He died there on December 27, 1894. Locals were surprised when they learned the true identity of “Signor Fabiani.” His wife died in Bavaria in 1925.

(Also see entries on Maria Sophia and Garibaldi)

*note 1: The current pretender/private citizen descendants of the Bourbon dynasty are Prince Carlo and his wife Camilla.
*note 2: The King's mother was Maria Christina of Savoy, his father's first wife.

    -di Somma del Colle, Carlo. (2006) Album della fine di un regno. Electa. Naples.
    -Marraro, Howard A. (1952) Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,
    vol. 1 & 2.  S.F., Vanni  (Ragusa), New York.

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