Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ferdinand I (Ferdinando Antonio Pasquale Giovanni Nepomuceno Serafino Gennaro Benedetto, Naples, 12 January 1751 – Naples, 4 January 1825) was King variously of Naples, Sicily, and the Two Sicilies from 1759 until his death. He was the third son of King Charles, King of Naples and Sicily, later Charles III of Spain, King of Sicily by his wife Maria Amalia of Saxony. On 10 August 1759, Charles succeeded his brother as King Charles III of Spain. Treaty provisions made Charles unable to hold the titles of all three Kingdoms. On 6 October 1759 he therefore abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand (Charles's eldest son, Infante Felipe, was mentally retarded and the second son, Charles, was destined to inherit the Spanish throne).


Ferdinande's minority ended in 1767, and his first act was the expulsion of the Jesuits. The following year he married Archduchess Maria Carolina, daughter of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and sister of Emperor Joseph II of Austria and the future Queen Marie Antoinette of France. By the marriage contract the queen was to have a voice in the council of state after the birth of her first son, and she was not slow to avail herself of this means of political influence.

Beautiful, clever and proud, like her mother, her ambition was to raise the kingdom of Naples to the position of a great power; she soon came to exercise complete sway over her husband, who much preferred to leave the government in her hands.

Tanucci, who attempted to thwart her, was dismissed in 1777, and the Englishman Sir John Acton, who in 1779 was appointed director of marine, succeeded in so completely winning the favour of Maria Carolina, by supporting her in her scheme to free Naples from Spanish influence and securing a rapprochement with Austria and Great Britain, that he became practically and afterward actually prime minister. Although not a mere grasping adventurer, he was largely responsible for reducing the internal administration of the country to a system of espionage, corruption and cruelty.

On the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 the Neapolitan court was not hostile to the movement, and the queen even sympathised with the revolutionary ideas of the day. But when the French monarchy was abolished and the king and queen (Maria Carolina's sister) were executed, Ferdinand and Maria Carolina were seized with a feeling of fear and horror and joined the first coalition against France in 1793.

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