The eldest son of King Francesco I and Queen Maria Isabella, Prince Ferdinando was born in Palermo, Sicily, on 12 January 1810 and died in Caserta on 22 May 1859 aged only 49. In 1825 he became heir apparent with the title of Duke of Calabria and after the departure of the Austrian forces from the Kingdom in 1827, he was appointed as Captain General of the Army. On his accession to the Throne in 1830, King Ferdinando II (left) immediately replaced key ministers, reduced the spending of the Court, gave a large amnesty to political prisoners and those exiled, and after the uprisings of 1820, didn’t harshly punish those conspirators who had attempted to assassinate him during the first years of his reign. Above all else and despite his royal mercifulness, King Ferdinando II never forgot his duties as a Catholic king and openly opposed the liberal reforms, which were taking place elsewhere in Europe.
Unfortunately for him the days of the Enlightened Despot were long since over, and whilst the majority of his subjects were happy, the power of nineteenth century liberalism, and the press, were too great. This issue above all else was to effect his long reign as well as his image internationally.
Despite his distracters, King Ferdinando’s reign was one of great advancement. Numerous and well-respected writers have commented positively on his achievements visit www.realecasadiborbone.it.
King Ferdinando (right) travelled extensively across his Kingdom and always wanted to personally meet the needs of his subjects. In order to save money and reduce taxes, the King reduced Court spending even further, reduced the salaries of Ministers, and to fight against unemployment he ruled that the same person could not hold two public positions.
Many royal hunting parks were transformed in farming lands, he developed industry, especially the textile industry, built roads and railroads as well as harbours, dockyards, bridges, cemeteries, hospitals, conservatories, orphanages, kindergartens for poor children, shelters for the mentally ill, modern prisons and institutes for the deaf and dumb. In the cultural sector, he established academic chairs, opened libraries, boarding schools, agrarian gardens, free schools, ordered the draining of marshes on the island of S. Stefano and introduced new cultivations in the Kingdom. The King established institutes to foster commercial enterprises and on every major royal occasion he made substantial donations to the poor including wedding dowries to poor girls. In health matters, the king took an active role by visiting and funding hospitals. King Ferdinando strengthened the army and navy, which soon became one of the mightiest navies in Europe.
In 1832 King Ferdinando II married Princess Maria Cristina (left), fourth daughter of Duke Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy, who later became the first King of Italy. From this marriage a son was born who later succeeded to the Throne as King Francesco II. Queen Maria Cristina was a woman of extraordinary religious piety and charity and her life in Naples was not easy due to her poor health. Her subjects loved her for her virtu es and considered her a living saint. (The Catholic Church has since listed her among the venerable people and her canonisation is currently underway). Within four years of their marriage the Queen suddenly died in 1836.
On 26 December of that same year, King Ferdinando II despite being anti-Austrian, married Archduchess Maria Teresa of Habsburg (right), who gave birth to nine children including Prince Alfonso Maria, Head of the Royal Family from 1894-1934.
King Ferdinando principally wished his kingdom to be independent of all foreign influence. His opinions in this respect and his enlightened measures – which were at first mistaken for liberalism, inspired Italian nationalists who quickly urged him to adopt their cause and become the first King of a united Italy. As King of the largest and most prosperous Italian state, the King would have been much more eligible than that of Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy whose territories were much sma ller. King Ferdinando however refused to be a tool of Italian nationalists and lead the Italian unification movement, His objections were principally that he had no wish to remove legitimate sovereigns, including the Pope, from their respective thrones. As a result, the revolutionaries turned against him.