King Ferrante I of Naples, the story of a protagonist of Italy in the 15th century

by Federico Quagliuolo

Ferrante I of Aragon (actually his name was Ferdinand I) was one of the most interesting and influential kings in 15th century Italy. It was the illegitimate son of Alfonso of Aragon, sole heir to the throne, and in his own thirty years of reign was the protagonist of a violent era, between rebellions, invasion attempts and internal wars that involved the whole of Italy.

He was not a handsome man, on the contrary: he was particularly fat, he always had his gaze dark and hard, his ways were simple and quick, at the edge of the rough. He was not a lover of literature like his father, but he was particularly lover of elegant clothes and it is said that one of his criteria for evaluating the goodness of a person was the ability to dress.

Ferrante I was in fact forced to prove its worth twice before obtaining the throne of Naples. Not just how governor, but also how military, as he was forced to regain his own kingdom, against all conspirators. It can be said that, in general, he spent almost his entire life in war.

Ferrante I portato in gloria
Ferrante I brought in glory

The illegitimate son of Alfonso of Aragon

We are in the 1438 e Alfonso I king of Naples, he invited his son, Ferdinand, in the Neapolitan capital: he wanted to ensure the boy a future as a king, being also the only son left to him. Everything might seem normal, were it not for the fact that Ferdinand was a son illegitimate, something frowned upon by the nobility of the time. But Alfonso, a rebellious and strong-willed character, did not care about all this: he saw in Ferdinand the true heir of his kingdom. He was in fact fascinated by hers wit and from his intellect, despite being little more than a teenager. And the bond of affection and esteem between father and son dit became very close during the Catalan king's journey to Naples.
Little is known about Ferrante's history. He was born in Valencia and was followed by Bishop Alonso Borja, the future Pope Callixtus III, and formed a very close friendship Diomede Carafa, a Neapolitan noble in exile who, when the Aragones enter the city, he will become one of the most powerful men in Naples. In the meantime, given the frequent absences of King Alfonso, Ferrante had already as a young man many ways to accumulate experience in the administration of Naples.

Ferrante I's mother was called Gueraldona Carlino, Neapolitan noblewoman who was one of Alfonso's many flames.

Ferrante busto
Bust of Ferrante d'Aragona: he was not a model, in short

A problem of inheritance

The problem, not even to say it in the last years of the Middle Ages, was the State of the Church: Alfonso of Aragon, father of Ferrante I, had conquered the Kingdom of Naples with the army, after so many hesitations of Queen Giovanna. The rule of the new Catalan kings was very fragile and wavered between one Church hostile to the new kingdom and a part of the Neapolitan nobles, who were still loyal to the French and tried to summon the possible suitors of Paris to their homeland.
To make the Catalan crown waver even more, the attitude of the Seats of Naples hostile to the young Ferrante and favorable to his rival, Giovanni d'Angiò, who wanted to return to Naples for restore the dynasty begun with King Charles. So it was that, when Alfonso died in 1458, Ferrante I had to really struggle to get the crown of Naples: the Pope, who was his tutor Callisto III, objected to the coronation of man who he called "abomination and the Neapolitan barons pushed for the return of the Anjou or for the coronation of their cousin Carlos de Viana.

All this chaos, however, Ferrante had already predicted.

Miniatura Ferrante I

A king who commits the crown, a war of Italy

There Angevin-Aragonese war lasted 4 years and upset the entire Kingdom of Naples, with battles that they wore out the Neapolitan coffers enough to bring Ferrante I ad even commit their own crown to support the new debts. On the one hand there was Giovanni d'Angiò, the French suitor, and on the other Ferrante I, who he had no intention of giving up the throne. Initially the war seemed to turn in favor of the Angevins. Then Callisto III died suddenly and the new Pope, Pius II, sided in favor of Ferrante. The price of this important friendship was there sale of the cities of Terracina and Benevento to the State of the Church.

Thus was born a war that involved all the states of Italy: Pius II in fact he called the Sforza from Milan which in Troia, in Puglia, gave one resounding defeat to the Angevins. From there, the victories of the Aragonese followed one another, despite continuous battles, debts and damages. And in the end the resistance was holed up in Ischia, which was the scene of the last battle of a very heavy war. He participated for the occasion John II of Aragon, Ferrante's uncle who reigned over Barcelona, who put John of Anjou to flight and his faithful from the last stronghold.

Ferrante I therefore found his way smoothed and crowned himself in Naples, where he reigned peacefully for twenty years and promoted numerous reforms for take power away from the nobles, rebalancing the economic structure of the Kingdom of Naples.
He always slept with one eye open. The military campaign to regain the kingdom was tough and deeply marked his character, who became cynical, shrewd, bordering on ruthless. But, if it wasn't so, he would die soon.

Ferrante I riceve doni
Ferrante I receives gifts in a miniature

The conspiracy of the Barons: the grand finale of Ferrante I

THE twenty years of peace of King Ferrante I they certainly did not bring peace to the world of the nobles who, even during the prosperity of the kingdom, did not stop plotting. And so it was that, gathered in Melfi, the ancient city so dear to Frederick II, the nobles of the Kingdom of Naples they decided an insurrection against the Aragonese king who, despite the age of 60, had not lost the roaring character of his young age.

Antonello Sanseverino, the leader of the revolt, in fact complained the loss of privileges that the nobles were undergoing: among the many reforms made by Ferrante I of Aragon there was in fact also the abolition of the sales constraint of agricultural products. It seems nonsense, but finally the peasants were released from the obligation to sell their products to the feudal lord at the price imposed by the owner of the land (which was almost always very low and reduced the farmers to starvation).

Sanseverino also had secretly contacted the Pope, convincing him to send troops from Rome, which should have attacked the Kingdom of Naples with the support of the French. Ferrante, however, as usual he understood everything and also on this occasion the allies of Milan took care of it to chase away any ambition of Charles VIII of France.

Ferrante insurrezione
Ferrante urging his subjects to insurrection against the barons

Ferrante's revenge and (finally!) The recognition of the crown

There vendetta it was then served very cold: it was 1487, three years after failed coup attempt. Ferrante invited all the noble infidels to Castel Nuovo, with the excuse of the wedding party of a niece. Once all the guests gathered at the table, guards hidden everywhere appeared, capturing and slaughtering all the conspirators. Others were instead thrown into the dungeons of Castelnuovo and no one knows what happened to them. The wealth of the families then went to fill the state coffers. Ferrante thus succeeded in taming the Papacy, who no longer had powerful allies in Naples, and also eliminated all his opponents.

The only one to escape was really Antonello Sanseverino, who let himself be hosted by Charles VIII and, not satisfied, tried to convince him to invade Naples again. This other occasion was also a failure, stopped by again joint effort of Milan, Florence and Naples.

So it was that at the ripe old age of 70 years old, after having reigned in fact over Naples for 40 years, Ferrante I and his dynasty was finally there recognized by the Pope, thanks to the skilful mediation of Lorenzo de 'Medici. Era the year 1492 and that year went down in history for many others discoveries across the Atlantic.
For the Aragonese dominion, however, the clock of Destiny counted the last tolls: soon the Kingdom of Naples would end for twenty years in chaos of the dynastic wars and, in 1516, that very long ford of the Viceroyalty, lasted well 200 years.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Gio. Antonio Summonte, Historia of the city and Kingdom of Naples, Antonio Bulifon, 1671

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