Author Topic: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina  (Read 192452 times)

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Offline CountessKate

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #105 on: July 25, 2010, 06:29:12 AM »
I think perhaps it's a little harsh to extrapolate Maria Carolina's later problems from behaviour which wouldn't be extraordinary in a teenager of 15 today, and which doesn't usually survive into adulthood.  It isn't even particularly unusual in even younger children, at the tail end of a family and who need to be noticed.  My feeling however is that the problems developed with a very inexperienced girl being put into a foreign country, forced into sexual intimacy with an unprepossessing stranger (and she wrote very movingly of the dreadfulness of this experience), and left to do her duty without any of the people she had grown up with to help her in what must have been a very frightening situation.  One of the ways which she took to gain some control overy her life was to build up her political power base - as sex and intimate family life with her husband certainly seemed not to be something she wished to invest her energies in - and she unfortunately seemed to find that Ferdinand responded well (from her point of view) to harshness and bullying, which probably satisfied something in her which wanted to punish her husband for his part in her unhappy beginnings of marriage.  I can't disagree that clearly she had those propensities, but I do think they may have worn off as many teenage rebellions do had not the shock of her new circumstances channelled them into basically, fighting her husband for dominance.  In the end, I think it got to be almost a habit, and she couldn't conceive of a different relationship with Ferdinand - ultimately to her own great disadvantage. 

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #106 on: August 14, 2010, 06:37:18 AM »
I'll try to translate from the other forum some specific information from Gagniere's book on Maria Carolina in the next few days.  Although I remember reading that Ferdinand of Naples showed his contempt for her in many ways after her death (I can't think of anything right now except he married his mistress very soon after her death; anyone has any ideas what else?) and that MC's stroke, which killed her, happened the night after she got word from Russia that they weren't willing to help her recover Naples.  And that MC tried to betray the British (she asked Napoleon to drive them out of Sicily?) so they demanded that she be exiled.  
« Last Edit: August 14, 2010, 06:46:38 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #107 on: August 22, 2010, 02:49:47 AM »
I think Maria Carolina would've done much better if she were less "action" oriented..... too bad she didn't realise that! Marie Antoinette became more political later on, although Louis XVI never really allowed her much free rein on state matters, except during the period when he became depressed in the late 1780s. Maria Amalia apparently lost interest in politics later on, and threw herself into her country pursuits and traveling, to the point that she couldn't even be bothered to attend court events except those she liked.

Excerpts from Gagniere's book on MC seems to show a highly disturbed, enraged and embittered woman...(my own loose translation below). It is clear that the author did not like MC so other views/evidence would be welcome...... :)

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According to Gagniere,  boxes containing the correspondence of Maria Carolina and Emma Hamilton were “buried” for 70 seventy years at the British Museum and such proved beyond doubt the collaboration among  MC, Hamilton and Lord Nelson  in the harsh executions and punishments in Naples. These letters, said Mr. Gagniere,along with  R. Palumbo’s work, General Mariano Ayala’s and G. Fortunato’s leave no doubts as to the role of said persons in said horror.

According to the Prince de Ligne, Napoleon called the Queen of Naples as "a very unworthy daughter of Maria Theresa”.

Gagniere also regards Hamilton as MC’s lesbian lover and cites Michelet, Coletta and Palumbo as his sources for this accusation.

Gagnère mentions  in his book a letter from Marie-Caroline to Lady Hamilton, who shows her double game involving Spain and Naples, and England before the military advances of Napoleon in 1795.  Spain planned to ally with France against England and the King of Spain sent letters to his brother Ferdinand to tell him of this choice and attempt to convince him to do the same.  MC then passed on the contents of said letters to Hamilton.

Gagniere said it was only MC who wanted the war with France, not Ferdinand. She was already planning the family’s escape, even before a decisive battle occurred. Ferdinand criticized his wife after his return from Rome, saying, “See, Madame, my people would rather dance than fight.” Then Ferdinand publicly manifested his disgust for her, mentioning the odor of her red hair(?) “l'odeur des cheveux rouges de la reine".

As the family was forced to flee from the French forces in 1798, Gagniere said MC apparently took everything she could, even money that did not belong to them… her letter indicates the sum of over 2.5 M pounds in cash.  Gagniere also mentioned that through all this, MC only spoke/wrote of her anger at the cowardice of her people, never mentioning any of the sufferings of Naples.  

Then when the family reached Palermo, MC distributed money to the British officers, staff and crew members who accompanied them in their flight but gave nothing to the Neapolitans who went with them.  Of this, the author Palumbo, cited by Gagniere,  said the “generous” queen gave money to "strangers" but nothing to her people, and the money was stolen from the latter.   MC, in a letter to Hamilton, calls her people cowards but she was the one who fled….. ("I am so distressed that I prefer the entry of the Franch and that they take these wretches to their shirts, rather than seeing our own vile (animal) subjects, cowards and bullies behave this way”)

Then MC turns her wrath to Pignatelli accusing him of abandoning his post without blowing up the arsenal and burn the granary without having to set ablaze the entire city.

Gagniere kept on coming back to two points regarding MC’s actions and letters: revenge on her enemies and a certain contempt for her people.

Gagniere also cites the private journal of Lord George Anesley on the affairs of Sicily. Lord Anesley was a spy for the British government, apparently suspicious early on that MC would betray them to Napoleon.   It reads the following passages on MC : “The present wretched state of Sicily is due to the follies and violence of her character.  Her vices are innumerable. The King in government counts for zero.”  Also,  in 1800, at age 48: “She still believes that she is estimated as the beautiful Queen of Naples but if she took a fancy to look at a mirror, she will see a wrinkled old hag.”  Then another… “Her profligacy has degenerated into extravagance, extravagance in her madness and this madness is so criminal that it has earned her contempt." He explains further: “The violent nature of the queen, embittered by misfortunes, was aggravated by the repeated use of opium. The scenes that result from such abuse (of opium) are appalling.”

Another: “Maria Carolina stays in her apartments most of the day to receive reports of her special police, she talks to the ministers, gives them her instructions, and then uses her secret agents to do the opposite she had ordered her ministers.”

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I feel extremely sorry for MC!
« Last Edit: August 22, 2010, 03:18:27 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Eric_Lowe

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #108 on: August 22, 2010, 08:46:49 AM »
I think he did a hatchet job on her, the idea of her being a lesbian to Lady Hamiliton is laughable. It is just the same charges that made to Marie Antoinette or Maria Amalia taking lovers. She was the enemy to the Frech hero Napoleon, so they paint a bad picture of her. No doubt she was guilty of "too much action".

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #109 on: August 24, 2010, 09:02:42 AM »
Thanks. I partly agree that it is quite a hatchet job, especially the accusation that Maria Carolina had a lesbian relationship with Hamilton. And Gagniere/Gagnere seems to have featured only the second half of her reign, definitely much more problematic than the earlier years, so I guess he was indeed quite bent on showing MC in the worst light possible.  Although I'm not sure that the summary I  read is totally false for I remember reading that her son in law Orleans also spoke of MC's violence, etc... Or  was he (Orleans) on the English "payroll" at that time to discredit MC?

Oh, and the name given (in French) of the supposed English spy was "Lord George Anesley, vicomte de Valentia".
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 09:22:17 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #110 on: August 24, 2010, 12:21:49 PM »
On investigation, George Anesley was the 2nd Earl of Mountnorris and the 9th Viscount Valentia, author of a book of travels particularly focused on India and Ceylon, not Italy.  This was a time when spying was not considered an acceptable occupation for an aristocrat, and indeed, he does not appear to be known as being a British spy or indeed for any particular sympathy with Neopolitan affairs.  It sounds as if he was picking up a lot of gossip reflecting the unquestionable unpopularity of Maria Carolina, none of it especially insightful, which he helpfully passed on to the British government as many aristocratic travellers were apt to do.

I think it is quite genuine that Maria Carolina was prone to rages - whether real or put on to intimidate (as one might suspect she did with Ferdinand).  And a woman's fury was certainly was something which eighteenth century men reacted to with considerable fear and anger - it really pushed their buttons.  It was not attractive and it eventually became self-indulgent for Maria Carolina - she eventually lost allies and indeed her marriage through this.  But I can't say I think that it helps to have all the things which went wrong with the regime laid entirely at her door, together with all the salacious gossip which Gagniere could dredge up - it makes it hard to identify things which are actually true, when so much is either false or presented in the worst possible light.

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #111 on: August 24, 2010, 07:42:48 PM »
Thanks CountessKate!  It's true that NOT all that was reported was entirely true and certainly many 'reports" were at least biased at that time, not only with Maria Carolina but with many royals as well.  

I think no one came to Maria Carolina's rescue because she alienated almost everyone by then... (rightly or wrongly) she should have known better not to antagonize the British; aside from the protection, they also heavily subsidized Sicily and the royal family. I don't know if I remember it right but the amount I remember was 300,000 pounds a year. A very princely sum in those days.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong because I haven't read that book by Acton yet but I read some feedback that the book was somewhat bent to "clean up" John Acton, Maria Carolina, and Ferdinand of Naples. John Acton, after all, was related to the author Harold Acton.... does anyone share the same view?
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 08:00:47 PM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Eric_Lowe

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #112 on: August 24, 2010, 09:38:10 PM »
I think one should read any book with an open mind. If maybe it is in favour of MC, but the book was respected in many ways in its historical accuracy. Harold Acton is a respected historian who wrote a continuacton book (The Last Boubons of Naples) which is also excellent. Do read it, I think it would give you a more balanced view of MC & Ferdinand.  ;)

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #113 on: August 24, 2010, 11:34:19 PM »
I agree that we should read books with an open mind.  Although we should also put critical thinking into it. I, for one, have many many excerpts of letters by royals but once I have read the whole letter or the larger part of the letter, the omitted part(s) put a quite different context and meaning (most of the time).  Many authors, past and present,  seem to feature only excerpts of letters and accounts, to support their own views and biases.

Wasn't the book by Acton a bit "gossipy"? At least, that's what I read.. and I do want a rigorous reading, not a "light" one.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2010, 11:41:53 PM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline CountessKate

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #114 on: August 25, 2010, 04:43:20 AM »
Acton certainly has a lighter touch than modern historians tend to have - 'The Bourbons of Naples' was published in 1956 - and he is naturally on the side of the British, though he is not in fact especially reverential towards Acton.  But he has a solid bibliography, with English, French and Italian sources, and is well worth reading.

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #115 on: August 25, 2010, 07:18:57 AM »
Thanks again!  I have this impression that Acton's book was not like Derek Beales on Joseph II (IMHO, one of the worthiest books in recent years)  but your comments definitely make it to be in the "worth it" category.   :)
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #116 on: September 09, 2010, 06:04:57 AM »
I  managed to  get a copy of Crowned in Far Country last weekend and while it was indeed very interesting on the details ignored  in many other biographies, it was a bit on the 'fluff" side for me, as far as Maria Carolina and Marie Antoinette were concerned (I enjoyed the section  on Maria Leopoldina of Brazil, but then I'm not so knowledgeable on her). Statements like "Maria Carolina had culture and charm", etc. are not backed up by any evidence at all. And according to the author,  Marie Antoinette was (just) so misunderstood.  

This seems to be a relatively new work on Maria Carolina and other women who opposed Napoleon; limited view only on Google books but it seems very interesting... Women Against Napoleon. It mentions MC's fictionalisation and dramatisation in her letters (needs further investigation), her memoirs, how she was subject to her husband's intermittent credit and caprices, and that she denied to Cornelia Knight that she was responsible for the executions and other reprisals in Naples. It seems to  present MC quite differently and fairly and appears quite well-researched, including the notes found after the narrative:

http://books.google.com/books?id=c_4gco3b9SwC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=maria%20carolina&f=false
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 06:17:43 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Eric_Lowe

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #117 on: September 09, 2010, 10:19:31 AM »
Yes. Crown in a far country is more fluff than substance. But have you read the Harold Acton book "The Bourbons of Naples" ? That is not a fluff book and most English historians based their judgement on MC on that particular work. If you are a critic of MC, you could not understand it without reading it. I think Queen Louisa of Prussia also qualify as a woman against Napoleon.

Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #118 on: September 10, 2010, 06:07:18 AM »
Yes, I would like to read Harold Acton's book on the Bourbons of Naples soon. It's not easy to get such books where I am though but who knows?  :)

I am a bit wary of English historians/authors on Maria Carolina....they tend to be fawning over her, at times without solid facts/details to back up their statements. For example, I read about how "beautiful" she was at some point (in her early 20s), but her portraits from said period do not seem to back it up. And charming and very brilliant?  She can't even write properly!   

I'd love to read her memoirs though and the books by that German or Austrian writer, Helfert, if I'm not mistaken.    
« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 06:11:48 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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Offline prinzheinelgirl

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Re: King Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies and his wife Maria Carolina
« Reply #119 on: September 12, 2010, 01:35:40 AM »
There is no doubt that Maria Carolina was a complex person and had a good side.  And I'd like to read more about her charity work......  

Incidentally, there is an English biography on her (very curiously or strangely titled) "In the Web of the Pink Spider" (1967) by an author surnamed Bott.  I've also read in passing that although an important source of information, her memoirs were a jumble of facts, exaggerations, and fiction.  I think it was entitled Memoire de Marie Caroline, Reine de Naples.  It was edited by RM Johnston and originally published in 1912.  Available in French, reprinted in 2004 by Book Surge Publishing. ISBN-13: 9781421208459 - ISBN-10: 1421208458, 376 pages. Her diaries were destroyed at the state archives of Naples in 1945.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2010, 01:59:55 AM by prinzheinelgirl »
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