Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ranuccio I Farnese (28 March 1569 – 5 March 1622) reigned as Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Castro from 1592. A firm believer in absolute monarchy, Ranuccio, in 1594, centralised the administration of Parma and Piacenza, thus rescinding the nobles' hitherto vast prerogative. He is best remembered for the "Great Justice" of 1612, which saw the executions of many Piacentine nobles suspected of plotting against him. Because one of the conspirators, Gianfrancesco Sanvitale, falsely implicated several Italian monarchs, namely Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Cesare d'Este, Duke of Modena, in the plot, Vincenzo and Cesares' names appeared on the list of conspirators during formal court proceedings; as a result, Ranuccio's reputation among the monarchs of Italy was irreparably damaged because it was evident that he gave credence to Gianfrancesco's obviously false confession. When, consequently, in the early 1620s, Ranuccio was scouting for a bride for his younger legitimate son and heir, Odoardo, none of the Italian ruling families were forthcoming with princesses. He did, however, manage to engineer a match with Margherita de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo II of Tuscany.

The husband of Margherita Aldobrandini, niece of Pope Clement VIII, Ranuccio, the son of a Portuguese infanta, was considered as a potential monarch of Portugal when his childless great-uncle King Henry I died. The throne, however, passed to Philip II of Spain, whose troops had promptly occupied the country after Henry I's death.



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