King Ferdinando IV of Naples and Sicily ascended the Throne at the age of eight (left). A Regency was established and led by the country’s Prime Minister, Bernardo Tanucci and the young monarch’s uncle, the Prince of San Nicandro. Born in Naples on 12 January 1751, the son of King Carlo of Bourbon and Queen Maria Amalia Walburga of Saxony, King Ferdinando went on to reign for 66 years. Until his coming of age, the Regency of Prime Minister Tanucci ran the kingdom in close agreement and along the lines of the reformist policies of the now Madrid-based King Carlos III (formerly King Carlo of Naples and Sicily). King Ferdinando continued the decades of Bourbon reformism until the rise of the revolutionary movements.
In 1768 King Ferdinando married Archduchess Maria Carolina (right), daughter of Empress Maria Teresa of Austria, and therefore sister of Austrian Emperors Joseph II and Leopold II, and the ill-fated Queen Marie Antoinette of France. King Ferdinando was adored by his people and whilst he was not exactly in tune with the cultural elite of Naples, he had Queen Maria Carolina by his side who was beautiful, vivacious, intelligent and highly educated.
The kingdom was a happy place for the first three decades of their marriage. If the extremes of wealth and poverty were even greater in Naples than elsewhere in 18th century Europe, the work of improving and reforming the kingdom begun by the former King were carried out by King Ferdinando, his Prime Minister Tanucci and his successor, the English Catholic baronet, Sir John Acton.
Sir John’s high-level influence at the Court also ensured that the once dominant Spanish influence in Naples was soon replaced with a decidedly English one.