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Bay of Naples

View of Naples and the Bay


Map of NaplesThe kingdom of Naples comprised the lower half of Italy, over one third of the total landmass. It was the only kingdom within the boundaries of Italy, and was officially a Papal fief, which meant that the Pope had to formally confer the kingship on an individual ruler. Originally subject to a Hohenstaufen (German) monarchy, Naples was ruled from 1282 by an independent line of Angevin kings, who were of French origin. However, the island of Sicily revolted in the same year and became part of the Kingdom of Aragon (Spain) - this was formally recognised in 1301.

Kingdom of Naples

In 1414, on the death of King Ladislaus, his sister Joanna succeeded him as queen. She was 43 when she became queen, past child-bearing age and already known for her promiscuity. The following year, she was persuaded to leave her lover, Alopo, who was twenty years her junior, and Joanna of Naples and James of Bourbonmarry James of Anjou, but the marriage was a disaster. James murdered Joanna's lover but was defeated by his wife and her barons and forced to leave the country.

The years that followed were marked with a series of conflicts between Joanna, her powerful feudal barons and her various lovers. Childless and without siblings, the destination of the crown of Naples after Joanna's death became a crucial question. Joanna repeatedly changed her mind about her successor. In 1422, she adopted Alfonso V, King of Aragon as her heir, but later reverted to the Angevin line and selected Rene of Anjou (father of Margaret, wife of Henry VI of England) as her heir, thus ensuring a war of succession on her death in 1435. Joanna and her husband James of Anjou are pictured at right.

Alfonso the Magnanimous, First Aragonese King of Naples

Alfonso the MagnamanimousAlfonso's initial efforts to conquer Naples failed: defeated by a Genoese fleet off Ponza, he was captured and sent as a prisoner to Milan. However, he persuaded the Duke to support him instead of Rene. Alfonso conquered Naples in 1443, reuniting Naples with Sicily for the first time in nearly two hundred years. He remained in Naples for the rest of his life, leaving his estranged wife Maria and brother John to govern his Spanish kingdoms. Alfonso won the nickname of 'the Magnanimous' for his patronage of the arts. He collected a great library of books and substantially rebuilt the Castelnuovo, the main fortress of the city of Naples. On his death in 1458, he left his Aragonese lands, including Sicily and Sardinia, to John and he left the Kingdom of Naples to his illegitimate son Ferrante.

Don Ferrante
The previous Angevin rulers of Naples had established a feudal system which gave the barons, which included members of the great Roman families of Orsini and Colonna, great power. Ferrante faced repeated baronial rebellions against his rule: in the first, he was initially defeated at the Battle of Sarno in 1459 but had managed to regain control of his kingdom by 1464. The second (1485), backed by Pope Innocent VII, involved Ferrante's secretary Antonello Petrucci and the lords of Salerno, Amalfi and Sarno and many others. Ferrante offered a truce and the wedding of his granddaughter Maria to the son of Francesco Coppola, Lord of Sarno. On 13th August 1486, the wedding festivities had commenced when the Keeper of the castle called a halt and read out the names of those who were alleged to have conspired against the King. They were immediately arrested, along with their wives and children, including the bridegroom and his parents. Other alleged rebels were rounded up in the following days, until all the prisons in the city were overflowing. Some were eventually released after all their possessions had been confiscated: many others were executed. Some were thrown to crocodiles in the moat of the Castelnuovo, some were thrown into the sea and others were mummified for Ferrante's private museum.

Don Ferrante (Ferdinand I) King of Naples

Ferrante I (Ferdinand I), King of Naples from 1458 to 1494

Pictured right - Joanna of Aragon, Second wife of Ferrante I
Joanna of Aragon

Ferrante also faced external threats and was increasingly dependant on his alliance with his uncle, John II of Aragon, whose daughter Joanna became his second wife in 1476. In 1480, an Ottoman army succeeded in capturing the Neapolitan port of Otranto, massacring and enslaving many of the inhabitants. Ferrante's eldest son Alfonso, Duke of Calabria was able to eject the Turks with Spanish help. Ferrante also became embroiled in a war against Venice in 1483 after the republic's attempted takeover of Ferrara, which was ruled by his son-in-law Ercole d'Este: diplomatic pressure by Ferrante's brother-in-law Ferdinand of Aragon, king of Spain, eventually forced Venice to withdraw. When Charles VIII of France attained his majority in 1492, he was urged by Angevin barons who had fled from Ferrante to re-assert the ancient French claims and conquer Naples. Charles succeeded in buying off most of his potential foreign opponents, including the Emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII of England. By the time Ferrante died, aged about 68, in January 1494, Charles was already busy assembling an army of invasion.

Alfonso II of Aragon, King of NaplesAlfonso II of Naples

Ferrante's death made his eldest son Alfonso King of Naples. Alfonso was as cruel and treacherous as his father, but far less able and, as it soon transpired, lacking in determination. He was also very unpopular within the kingdom. In August 1494, Charles VIII crossed the Alps without opposition.

"The 1494 invasion was to change the Italian political landscape beyond recognition...the major Italian states found themselves in varying dilemmas" (Edwards).

Piero de Medici of Florence was torn between Alfonso's appeals for support and the traditional Florentine alliance with France. Venice attempted to keep out of the dispute on the pretext that all her resources were needed to combat the Turks in the Balkans. Ludovico Sforza of Milan had actively encouraged the invasion in order to wrest control of Milan from his nephew and his heirs. The major foreign powers remained on the sidelines, awaiting the outcome. Alfonso had been crowned King of Naples by Pope Alexander's cousin, Juan Borgia-Lanzol, on 8th May 1495, whilst his illegitimate daughter Sancia was married to the Pope's illegitimate son, Joffre. Alexander had also refused to grant Charles the papal investiture of the kingdom. But in January 1495, whilst Charles was still in Rome, Alfonso lost his nerve - he was haunted by bad dreams and appears to have suffered some kind of nervous breakdown. He abdicated and fled to Sicily with a substantial portion of the contents of the treasury. He died in a monastery near Messina on 18th Ferrnate II of NaplesDecember 1495.

The Italian Wars

Alfonso's son Ferrante II, also known as Ferrandino (pictured at right), became King at the age of 24, but the French had already captured much of the northern part of the kingdom, including the major fortresses of Capua and Gaeta. Ferrante was forced to retreat southwards with his family. Naples fell to the French due to the treachery of the perennially unruly Angevin barons, and Charles solemnly entered the city on 24th February 1495. Ferrante retreated to Ischia and then to Sicily, with a few coastal towns remaining loyal to him. Although the government processes of Naples were reasonably efficient, the kingdom was riven with treachery and factional disputes. Charles appointed Gilbert de Monpensier as his deputy and following his coronation (without papal approval) in May, he left Naples on the 20th of that month. Charles' return north was considerably more difficult than his progress south, of which Pope Alexander had said that the French troops did not need weapons, just chalk to mark their lodgings. Ferdinand of Aragon may have deliberately allowed Charles to enter Naples in order to de-stabilize the rule of the illegitimate line of Aragonese kings, but he had no intention of allowing him to hold it. He formed the Holy League, or League of Venice, on 31st March 1495, under which Spain, the Papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, Venice, and Milan joined together to oppose France. The French armies met the forces of the League commanded by Francesco Gonzaga at the Battle of Fornovo on 6th July - Charles succeeded in returning to France with his army, but lost most of his booty from Naples to the opposing forces.

Ferrante II of Naples

In the meantime, Spanish forces under the Catalan admiral Galeran de Requesens and the Castilian general Gonsalvo de Cordoba had landed in Sicily in support of Ferrante. Ferrante also gained support from Venice by ceding five ports in Apulia to the republic. The armies of Ferrante and his Spanish allies gradually pushed their way up through Calabria and Apulia, and on 7th July 1496, Ferrante entered the city of Naples. He was greeted with great enthusiam by his subjects, who had been alienated by the arrogance and brutality of the French troops. By August of that year, the whole of Naples was back within Ferrante's control. But in September, Ferrante fell ill, probably with malaria, and he died on 7th September at the early age of 27. Childless from his recent marriage to his half-aunt Joanna, Ferrante was succeeded by his uncle Frederick, also known as Federigo. Having had four kings in less than three years, the hold on Naples of the junior line of Aragonese kings was looking increasingly shaky, and Frederick IV lacked the ability and popularity of his late nephew. He had also angered Pope Alexander by refusing to allow his daughter Carlotta to marry Cesare Borgia, who had recently been released from his vows to the Church, although Carlotta herself was equally reluctant.

The Division of Naples

Louis XIIShortly after Frederick's accession, secret negotiations began between France and Spain for the deposition of Frederick and the partition of Naples between them. These were halted by the death of Charles VIII on 7th April 1498, but resumed under the new king Louis XII (pictured at left). Louis, however, had his sights set initially on Milan, to which he had inherited a claim through his grandmother Valentina Visconti. Suspicious of Spanish ambitions, Frederick was forced to ally with Ludovico Sforza of Milan, but this alliance was outgunned by the powers ranged against him. Sforza was soon driven from Milan by Louis, and sent as a prisoner to France. Spanish forces were sent to aid the Venetians to re-take Cephalonia from the Turks, but the prime reason for this was to have them in place for the coming Neapolitan conflict. When Frederick made the fatal mistake of seeking aid from the Turks, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Louis pounced: by the secret Treaty of Granada (11th November 1500), they agreed to divide Naples between them, with Louis taking the north and Ferdinand the south. Louis was much criticised by the contemporary writers Machiavelli and Guicciardini for allowing his strongest rival a foothold in Naples. French troops under d'Aubigny reached the northern boundary of Naples on 8th July 1501 and Naples fell without a blow being struck. Frederick bowed to the inevitable and retired to France, where he died in 1504.

Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours
Both Gonsalvo de Cordoba and the French commander, Louis d'Armagnac, the Duke of Nemours, were no doubt aware that the agreement between their countries was unlikely to last. The boundary between their respective territories had been (deliberately?) loosely drawn and arguments soon broke out. Initially, France seemed to have the upper hand: d'Aubigny defeated a Spanish army at Terranova in Calabria in December 1502 and de Cordoba was forced to entrench himself at Barletta. De Cordoba was, however, able to profit by this interlude by deciding a new type of infantry using a combination of pikes, short-swords and arquebuses (handguns). After receiving reinforcements from Spain, he attacked the French and defeated them at the Battle of Cerignola. This battle, fought near Bari in Apulia on 28th April 1503, saw the Spanish forces outnumbered by over three to one, Two French cavalry charges were defeated by cannon fire and a further charge by arquebus fire - Nemours was killed in this charge, making him the first general killed in action by a handgun. In a subsequent charge, his Swiss deputy Chandieu was also killed, and the French were forced to retire in disorder.

Gonsalvo de Cordoba
Gonsalvo de Cordoba

Louis' attempt at revenge by an invasion of Spain was routed by Ferdinand himself. De Cordoba entered Naples on 14th May, and French territory in Naples was restricted to the area around Gaeta. A large French force under Louis de la Tremouille (who subsequently married Cesare Borgia's daughter Louise) was sent to re-take the kingdom, but following the death of Pope Alexander on 18th August, he wasted three months in an unsuccessful attempt to influence the Cardinals to elect the French archbishop George d'Amboise as Pope.
By November 1503, the French and Spanish armies faced each other on either side of the River Garigliano, sixty kilometres north of Naples. Spanish soldiers succeeded in crossing the river and building a bridge on the night of 27th/28th December 1503. They attacked the French, who were commanded by the Marquis of Saluzzo, inflicting heavy losses and forcing them to retreat to Gaeta. The exiled Piero de Medici, known as 'the Unfortunate' was drowned in the river whilst attempting to escape with the French forces. Gaeta was forced to surrender on 1st January 1504, leaving the entire kingdom of Naples in Spanish hands. This was formally recognised by Louis XII two months later. Gonsalvo de Cordoba became the first Spanish Viceroy of Naples.
[Untitled]Spanish Victory

Ferdinand distrusted de Cordoba, who had failed to send troops to Spain when requested, was lavish in spending the kingdom's dwindling revenues and may have coveted the lordship of Pisa for himself. In July 1506, Ferdinand disembarked at Naples to overhaul the government of the kingdom. By the terms of his alliance with Louis XII under the Treaty of Blois, he was obliged to restore the estates of the Angevin barons who had lost their lands after the French defeat. This was also good policy, as it removed their motivation to co-operate with the French in future. The old Crown Offices of the Angevin kings, such as the High Steward and Grand Chamberlain, were abolished or reduced to purely ceremonial role. A new Council, the Consiglio Collaterale, was introduced to advise the Viceroy, and took precedence over all other tribunals: it was comprised of two lawyers, a Sicilian and a Catalan, with a secretary or clerk, under the presidency of the Viceroy. In later years, a Neapolitan was added. The Neapolitan parliament was weakened and the Seggi, the Council of the city of Naples, strengthened.
Ferdinand (pictured below) removed de Cordoba as Viceroy, replacing him with Ramon de Cardona (1467 - 1522), who was widely rumoured to be one of his illegitimate sons. Cardona was to play a major role in future Italian conflicts, including the Wars of the League of Cambrai (1508 - 1513) and in restoring the Medici to power in Florence in 1512. Cardona remained in office until his death in 1522 and was succeeded by a long line of Spanish-born Viceroys.

Above - Statue of the Coronation of Ferdinand as King of Naples in 1506Ferdinand of Aragon

Pope Julius II was willing to invest Ferdinand as king of Naples, but the price he demanded was too high, so Ferdinand had himself crowned by the Archbishop of Naples. He snubbed Julius by refusing to meet him at Ostia, sailing past him to a summit meeting with Louis XII at the Pope's birthplace of Savona. This meeting is believed to have laid the groundwork for the League of Cambrai. Ferdinand's adherence to the League won him back the Apulian ports ceded to Venice by Ferrante II. He received the investiture of Naples - without fee - from Julius in 1510 by the same means. On Ferdinand's death in 1516, Naples was inherited by his eldest grandson, Charles V.

Naples and the House of Aragon Photos:

Castel Nuovo, Naples
Castel Nuovo, Seat of the kings of Naples (built by the Angevin kings)
Porto di Napoli - the Bay of Naples
Aerial View of the Bay of Naples
Tavola Strozzi" View of Naples
View of the Port of Naples, called the Tavolo Strozzi (1466)


History of Italy, Francesco Guicciardini
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

The Mystery of the Duchess of Malfi, Barbara Banks Amendola
Louis XII, Frederick Baumgartner
Cesare Borgia, Sarah Bradford
The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs, John Edwards
The Spanish Kingdoms, Volume 2, Jocelyn Hillgarth
The Rise of the Spanish Empire, Volume 2, Roger Merriman
Alfonso the Magnanimous, Alan Ryder

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