Becoming known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1282 to 1816
The first province:
CALABRIA, followed by SICILY, APULIA, CAMPANIA, BASILICATA, (LUCANIA), ABRUZZI/MOLISE and certain portions of LE MARCHE.
Annexation of: MALTA and GOZO.
In 1129, the first “Parliament of Europe” was founded by Count Ruggero II. Count Ruggero II made war on the Byzantines and captured Corfu in 1147 for Sicily, dying in 1154 and leaving the Sicilian Kingdom to his son William (Guglielmo) I. It is to be noted here that Count Ruggero II, also had a son named Roger of Apulia. This Roger of Apulia eventually had an illegitimate son called Tancredi, who will surface as the new King, later on.
During his reign, Guglielmo I engaged in struggles with his nobles and Sicilian towns who had been stirred into rebellion by Pope Adrian IV. Guglielmo I, is credited with destroying two invading Greek fleets (1156 & 1158), by putting down civil disorders with great cruelty. History remembers him as “King Guglielmo, the Bad.” During his reign, his sister, Princess Constance (Costanza d’Altavilla, of Norman blood) married German Prince Henry VI of Swabia, (the Swabians were Germans from the region of Bavaria) whose future son (Federico II) will be the first King to be born in Sicily…but getting back to Guglielmo the Bad, his death leaves the throne to his son, Guglielmo II.
King Guglielmo II, is a benevolent King and becomes everything that his father wasn’t. He married Joan, (daughter of Henry II of England) but their marriage was childless. During his reign he ordered the construction of the magnificent Cathedral of Monreale. Legend has it that King Guglielmo II, ordered the Cathedral built after a dream about the Blessed Mother, in which she requested that he build it for her. At the entrance to the Cathedral, statues depict Guglielmo II giving the Cathedral to the Blessed Mother.
When King Guglielmo II died in 1189, he willed the Kingdom to his aunt Constance (Costanza d’Altavilla), but instead it was passed to Guglielmo Il’s cousin Tancredi, illegitimate son of Roger of Apulia, and so the realm remained in the hands of the Norman bloodline.
Tancredi was crowned in 1190 in succession to Guglielmo II even though the crown had been left to Constance, wife of Henry VI. Although Tancredi’s rule was precarious, Henry VI (the Swabian) chose not to displace him.
In 1194, Norman Princess Constance and German Prince Henry VI, give birth to a son Frederick II, who is named after his grandfather Frederick Barbarossa, King of Germany! This son is very special because not only is he born to royalty but born in Sicily, in the royal court of Palermo and the realm is now considered Sicilian, with a Norman/Swabian bloodline.
Frederick II (called Federico II by the Sicilians) is coronated (1208) King of Sicily. He is fourteen years old and had been educated in the royal court of Palermo under the direction of Pope Innocent III. The Sicilians were elated, for Federico II was considered by them to be the first Sicilian King…and he did not let them down for a moment. From the Palermitan royal court under Federico II, comes the building of the Sicilian School of Poetry and Literature. Soon there is the emergence of prose in the first written language of Italy (other than Latin), Sicilian! During the reign of this intelligent and refined sovereign surfaces a new Sicilian quality of life, as Federico II engages his entire court of Sicilians, Arabs, (?) yes Arabs, as well as Roman Catholics, Byzantine Rite Christians and Jews. Federico II held a great deal of respect for the Arabs. He, his father and grandfather, spoke Arabic fluently. He recognized that the Arab civilization had already given the world an alphabet, a language and a religion. In mathematics, Arabs invented algebra and the use of the zero. In astronomy they used astrolabs for navigation as well as star maps and celestial globes; and they were familiar with the concept of gravity. In geography they pioneered the use of latitude and longitude. Arabs invented the water clock and in music the guitar and the lute. In agriculture they had already introduced oranges and grapes, sugar and cotton, and experimented with methods of irrigation. They taught the Sicilians the art of catching tuna in nets. The Arab contributions to medicine were especially outstanding. In the late tenth century they nurtured the first teaching hospital in Salerno, where they perfected the caesarian section. They also discovered the contagious nature of tuberculosis, and by early in the twelfth century, it was routine in the Kingdom of Sicily to diagnose stomach cancer, measles, smallpox and cholera.
Federico II had a chain of defensive castles built around the perimeter of his Kingdom that not only included Sicily, but Calabria, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata (incidently, Basilicata at that time was called Lucania) and Abruzzi. He introduced sugar cane, cotton and date trees to Sicily. He nurtured trade between the Republics of Genova and Venice as well as other Mediterranean trade centers. Beautiful Churches and parks are built and remain today in testimony to the works of King Federico II. In 1224 Federico Il founded the University of Naples and having married Yolanda of Brienne, he took the crown of Jerusalem. Although he was the son of a Norman mother and Swabian father, Federico II was essentially a Sicilian. He underwent influences of Byzantine and Moslem cultures. He spoke several languages other than Sicilian and Arabic, he was a poet, a patron of science and philosophy, he interested himself in geometry and astronomy as well as the anatomy of birds.
However, his troubles with the Papacy continued because of his reluctance to send Crusaders from his kingdom to fight the Moslems that were spreading their empire beyond the areas of Byzantium. The struggle between Federico II and the Popes Gregory IX and Innocent IV were the greatest and bitterest of the conflicts between the Papacy and the empire, a conflict in which the Papacy eventually won. As a result, Federico II was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church.
Upon the death of Federico II, the Papacy set her sights of revenge on the Kingdom of Sicily…but, Manfredi son of Federico II claimed the throne as the next rightful king and tries to mend fences with the Papacy by stating that he recognizes Pope Innocent IV as his overlord. But the Papacy was not about to forget that the Kingdom of Sicily refused or at least shied away from sending crusaders in support of the Roman Catholic Church and although Manfredi took control of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1258, Pope Innocent IV invited King Charles of Anjou to bring his (French) troops to Italy to do battle with the Sicilian kingdom in 1265.
In the battle of Benevento (1266) between the French forces of King Charles and the Sicilian Kingdom, Manfredi is slain. All over the realm, confusion reigned and factionalism reached its peak. Meanwhile, the Papacy pressed for its own goal to choose a new King of Sicily and to kill off the NormanlSwabian bloodline. It is to be remembered here, that Manfredi had a daughter Constance who will also play an important part in the future history of Sicily.
French King Charles of Anjou was just forty years old; he was energetic unscrupulous and cruel. When the corpse of King Manfredi was discovered on the battle field, King Charles ordered it cast on the banks of the Liri river at the crow’s disposal. Charles of Anjou, after sending news of his victory to the Pope, attended to his revenge. King Manfredi’s young wife Elena was cast into a dungeon, where she died in 1271 at 29 years of age. Manfredi’s four sons were imprisoned. Tancredi’s widow Sibilla and her children became chained prisoners in the Tower at Caltabellotta and it was clear that this Frenchman Charles wanted to put an end to everyone in this family of Norman beginnings.. .but only two more in the Norman lineage remained, Corradino and Constance.
Corradino was crowned King of Sicily. The Pope immediately recognized Corradino as a threat, excommunicated him and ordered King Charles to attack and to trap Corradino along the shores of Lake Fucino. A battle ensued but Corradino’s forces were no match for the reinforced French and Corradino was captured and condemned, after having been tried proforma, to death. The other prisoners taken by King Charles of Anjou were burned alive.
On orders from the Pope, King Charles proceeded to have Corradino beheaded in New Market Square, Naples, on 29 October 1268… .Now that there are no more Normans to rule as King, the French rule the Kingdom of Sicily.
French King Charles d’Anjou became the most hated ruler of Sicilian Kingdom. His rule was marked with reprisals and revenge. His taxing of the population was heavy and he moved the Capitol of the Kingdom from Palermo to the City of Benedetto Croce (Naples). Further, French aristocrats and functionaries in the service of this “new” king, took possession of the estates, wealth and valuables of the Sicilian nobles who were either killed in battle, executed or exiled.
As bad as things were going for the subjects of the Sicilian Kingdom, they were going good for King Charles d’Anjou, especially when due to his influence a French Pope (Cardinal Saint Cecilia Simone of Brie) was installed, taking the name, Pope Martin IV. To placate his new Pope, King Charles d’Anjou attacked Byzantium with 10,000 Knights and 10,000 foot soldiers and then King Charles d’Anjou received the news “Palermo, is in bloody revolt!”.
The day of reckoning was March 30, 1282. The history of “I Vespri Siciliani” (The Sicilian Vespers) began in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit, in Palermo. To quote the wording of the historian, Michele Amari, “A young Palermitan woman of rare beauty, noble bearing and modest demeaner, made her way toward the Church with her husband and their party. Seeing her, a French soldier with the name Drouette, wishing to offend or take undue liberties, stops to search the woman as if to search her for arms, manhandles her and even touches her breasts. She faints in her husband’s arms; and he, choked with rage, shouts “Death to the French, for once and for all!”. In a flash, a young man bursts from the crowd, disarms Drouette and stabs him through the heart.”
“Death to the French” the Sicilians roared and within moments, the raging battle began over Drouettes body, where the dead fall from both sides. That night, the Sicilians armed themselves with stones, canes and knives and hunted down all Frenchmen tearing them from limb to limb; 200 Frenchmen fought and 200 Frenchmen died. The slaughter continued for several days. Sicilian women married to Frenchmen and French monks in convents were summarily executed. Within 24 hours there were 2,000 dead French women and men. All Angevin flags were torn down and replaced with the Imperial banner of Federico II. Heralds were sent on horseback to the surrounding towns bringing the news of the revolt in Palermo. The people of Corleone took up the cause. The French Executor of Justice, Jean of Saint-Remy withdrew to the Castle of Vicari…he and his followers were hunted down and killed and it took very little time before all of the island was in revolt.
Within four months of the uprising, the French and their harsh rule (in Sicily) were obliterated.
The Sicilians, remembering that Constance, Manfredi’s daughter had married Peter of Aragon (now King of Spain), invite the Spanish King to rule Sicily. After all, the Sicilians still considered Constance as their legitimate Queen.
On August 30, 1282, the Aragonese King Peter landed at Trapani. Five days later he was proclaimed King of Sicily, in Palermo. Peter promised the Sicilians that he would respect the ancient Sicilian privileges enjoyed since the Norman times of King Guglielmo The Good. Then King Peter recruited every Sicilian Knight to join him and to meet the remaining enemy, the French, at the Straits of Messina so that the rest of the Sicilian Kingdom could be reclaimed.
That winter, a stalemate between the Aragonese and the Angevins prevailed. Then at the close of 1282, King Charles made a strange proposal to King Peter; a duel between the two monarchs to decide who would rule Sicily. Although the date was set, the duel (conveniently) never took place.
Meanwhile, Pope Martin IV, not content in just excommunicating King Peter of Aragon, sent a Papal armada against the Sicilians. In one of these encounters on the high seas, the Sicilians captured Prince Charles of Salerno, King Charles’ son. Although many Sicilians, remembering what the Pope and the French King Charles had done to their Corradino, demanded the captured prince’s head, but Queen Constance intervened and spared the Prince’s life.
In the next few years, both King Charles and King Peter abandoned their aggressiveness in doing battle on the southern Italian mainland. King Peter left his wife in charge of the island and King Charles withdrew to Apulia.
It was about this time that the feudal system was spreading from northern Europe into Sicily. Feudalism developed rapidly, for all classes were glad to put themselves under the protection of a system that would save them from the lawlessness that then prevailed. Kings and princes gave over their estates to feudal lords, who in turn granted sections of land to lesser tenants, and so on down. Land so granted was called a fief. The grantor of a fief was called a lord, the one who received it, a vassal. The vassal made pledges of loyalty, military service and other aid to his lord, and the lord in turn promised his vassal counsel and protection. Lowest in rank and forming the great bulk of the population, were the serfs, who were bound to the soil and who passed with the land when it changed masters.
As time passed, first King Charles, then Pope Martin IV and King Peter passed on, Charles of Salerno (King Charles’ captured son) was released from prison and a treaty was signed between France and Spain, compromises made and peace prevailed.
Sicily was ruled by the new Spanish King Federico Ill, who was the third son of King Peter of Aragon and Queen Constance.
Although King Federico Ill was Aragonese, he felt a strong fascination for his Norman/Swabian maternal roots and paternal Sicilian background. With such a sense
of heritage, the 25 year old Federico Ill, crowned King of Sicily in early 1296, appeared to his subjects as the ideal monarch.
In his coronation speech, Federico Ill, passionately reminded the Sicilians how Charles d’Anjou had been obsessed with subjugating their entire island. The Angevins, Federico stressed, were the eternal enemy to confront, stating categorically that he intended to reconquer the ancient parts of his northern realm still under the hated Angevins and, thereby to avenge the death of Manfredi and Corradino.
Again the Papacy, under Pope Boniface VIII, began to play games. The Pope convinced Queen Constance to give her daughter Yolanda in marriage to Robert d’Anjou, son of the late King Charles. After the marriage in Naples in March 1297, the Pope retracted the excommunication imposed on her and the elderly Queen retired to a convent where she died in 1300. By 1302, Robert d’Anjou, probably through the urgings of his wife Yolanda, commenced secret negotiations with his brother in law Federico Ill.
Upon finding out about these negotiations the Pope was outraged, commencing to foster battles and unrest between other Roman Catholic monarchs and Federico Ill. Finally, Pope Boniface VIII died and was laid to rest, but it would not be long until Pope John XXII would fly into his own Holy rage and excommunicate Federico Ill. Meanwhile Federico’s actions received the unanimous approval of the Sicilian Parliament, which met in Messina on July 17, 1320. As a consequence, the Pope excommunicated all Sicilians. Banished from Christendom for fourteen years, all Churches in Sicily were closed down and all bells that signified religious acts on the island were silenced.
After forty years of rule, Federico Ill died fighting powerful enemies in defense of his subjects and their territory. He succumbed on June 25, 1337 and is buried in the Cathedral of Catania.
Spanish rule in Sicily lasted for close to five centuries and it was plagued by an almost constant harassment by the Papacy who, Pope after Pope, displayed actions designed to bring the Sicilian Kingdom to an end. It can almost be a certain fact, that culpability for the feelings by the people of the mainland ie: the regions under control of the Angevins, of distrust of the people of Sicily can be laid at the feet of the Popes of that era.
In 1571, Sicily found herself in happier relations with the Papacy especially following the Battle of Lepanto. The sea battle, fought on October 7,1571, was a crucial moment for Europe and the west. This event of legendary proportions meant the virtual end of the increasingly relentless Turkish expansion threatening the Mediterranean and the European continent. Prior to their crushing defeat at Lepanto, the Turks had not only terrorized the sea’s coastal population but also made Belgrade and Vienna tremble.
When the Turks stormed into Albania in 1488 and murdered their ruler Georges Skanderberg, the Albanian Christians fled to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where the Bishop of Palermo granted them thousands of hectares of land in which to settle. The Albanians have remained and today that area is known as Piana degli Albanesi.
Then (Turkish) Constantinople forced Cyprus, the last Venetian stronghold in the east, to surrender on July 1, 1570, all Europeans, with the exceptions of the pro-Turkish French, faced the gravity of the threat of the Ottoman Empire.
As the Turks invaded Cyprus and took this remnant of European and Christian power in the eastern Mediterranean, Spain responded quickly by forming and heading that League of Western Nations which would counteract Ottoman aggression.
The Spanish period in Sicily was from 1282 to 1713, however from 1535 to 1713 Spanish rule fell into decadence. In fact, during this period, no Spanish king set foot in Sicily. The rule that was meted out to the Sicilians from Spain, was administered by a Spanish Viceroy in Palermo. The same sort of rule happened in the Angevin holdings in southern Italy (Calabria, Naples, Apulia, Basilicata and Abruzzi). French administration of this portion of the Kingdom of Sicily was by a French Viceroy in Naples. As a result, the Kingdom of Sicily (Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) was drained of its resources and wealth, all going to serve the leaders of Spain and France.
The terrible earthquake of 1693, was heralded with an eruption of Mount Etna. Etna had erupted before, this was by far the worst. During the eruption, an earthquake rattled the area between the Valleys of Noto and Demone at 4:30am on the night of the 10th of January. Frightened residents raced from their homes on this moonless cold night. When dawn broke they were further disheartened to discover their homes with gaping cracks making them unliveable. But this was just a prelude to what would occur at 9:00pm on the l. Suddenly that evening, the whole earth seemed to split open. Magnificent edifices crumpled and giant cracks in the earth swallowed people up alive. The City of Catania was reduced to a pile of stones. Another 22 cities were completely destroyed, including; Noto, Lentini, Avola and Siracusa. The death toll was 57,700 people.
In 1713, as a result of the accords in the Peace Pact of Utrecht, the ruling party over Sicily changed hands from Spanish, to the House of Savoy. The House of Savoy (Casa Savoia) was a Duchy in the mountainous border between France and Italy. Savoiard King Amadeus Il used Sicily and the Sicilians as pawns. First he raised taxes, then he took Sicily’s finest statesmen and architects out of Sicily to practice their works in the northern part of Italy. Finally, he traded Sicily for the Island of Sardinia, so as to further strengthen his Kingdom. His brief reign in Sicily was a disgrace and until this day, you may hear a Sicilian farmer, upon seeing a devastation of his crops, utter; “It looks like the House of Savoy passed through here.”
By 1720, and as a result of the accords of the Convention of Aja, the Savoiards handed Sicily over to the Austrians.
Sicily, having a step-child status with Austrian governorship, is handed over to the House of Bourbon, as a result of the accords of the Battle of Bitonto (Ban), in which the Austrians were beaten in 1734.
In 1735, King Charles of Bourbon assumed the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, that included Sicily and Campania, Calabria, Apulia, Abruzzi and Basilicata.
The House of Bourbon, hereinafter referred to as “The Bourbons” were a noble family that had been the ruling barons In France for many years. Here again, the new Sicilian rulers are French and certainly not received well in Sicily. There were many Sicilian revolts “but” the economic situation in Sicily vastly improved under Bourbon rule. The citizens paid a “flat tax” based on their income only. Industry picked up and the sulphur mines supplied most of the world’s demand, Sicilian Marsala wine was substituted for port wine on English ships, and Sicilian vermouth graced the dining halls of Europe. The major producer of the wines in Sicily was (and still is) Florio and at the time of The Bourbons, Florio employed 800 workers. Management workers were able to retire with a pension and money was stable.
In 1812, the feudal system, around since medieval times was abolished, putting an end to the hundreds of fiefs owned by the rich lords and worked by the poor serfs who were “bought and sold” with the passing of land ownership.
The first Italian railroad line was established between Naples and Portici in 1839, then extended to make a stop at Caserta. The Bourbon naval fleet was more commercial than military, however the first steamship that made the crossing from Italy to America was the Sicilla, in 1852. The Sicilia was built at the DePace shipyard in Palermo. The terms “Liberty or Freedom” however, were barred from use in the streets of the Kingdom. It was illegal to even utter a negative word about the Bourbon regime. It would result in a long jail term or even death. According to a writer from Apulia, the Bourbon system was “nothing more than the wrath of God instituted into Bourbon law”.
As with all of the ruling parties since Federico Il died, the situation in Sicily at best was intolerably ruled by foreigners. To make matters worse, the Bourbons shunned Palermo and set up their capitol in Naples. This was enough for the island, and revolts ensued. Finally in January 1848 there was a general Sicilian uprising against the Bourbons that lasted 16 months in which the Sicilians publicly declared, Bourbon King Ferdinando II decadent and by 15 May 1849, the riots had been quelled with many Sicilians killed or imprisoned by the Bourbons. The Sicilians however, in one important accomplishment, got worldwide attention and a reaction from Garibaldi. It was to be ten more long years though, before Garibaldi was to come ashore in Sicily to commence the unification of Italy.
Secretly, many influential men from all parts of the Bourbon Kingdom of Sicily, conspired and advised Garibaldi. One thousand of these men met Garibaldi in Genoa and boarded two vessels. On 5 May 1860, they steamed out of Genoa, stopped at Talamone, just north of Rome for additional supplies and on the 11 of May put ashore at the Sicilian port city of Marsala undetected by the Bourbons. Quickly, they moved inland and before they arrived in Calatifimi, contact was made between the Garibaldi forces and Bourbon troops and fierce fighting began. The Bourbons moved back to set up positions on the hill called, Pianto Romano thinking that Garibaldi had but a small force. The Bourbons were unaware that in Calatafimi, thousands of young boys (picciotti) joined Garibaldi. The fighting at Pianto Romano had to be won by taking the hill, “one palm tree at a time”. Winning this first battle, Garibaldi triumphantly entered Calatafimi, where thousands more awaited to join him as “Garibaldini.” The Bourbons withdrew to Monreale. Garibaldi decided not to pursue them, but to establish strongholds at Piana degli Albanesi, Marineo and Misilmeri. Their fate sealed as being trapped, the Bourbons in Palermo/Monreale surrendered and Garibaldi entered Palermo, unfurling the tricolor flag of King Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Sicilians regarded Garibaldi, as their savior, brother of Santa Rosalia (their Patron Saint), and a paragon of Saint Michael the Archangel. As Garibaldi fought his way with his troops liberating all of Sicily, he crossed the Straits of Messina with no less than 30,000 Sicilian troops to fight his way northward through Calabria and Campania, until he met the forces of King Vittorio Emanuele II at Teano, just south of Rome. In order for Garibaldi to attract such a fighting force, on behalf of King Vittorio Emanuele II, Garibaldi promised that all government land usurped by the Bourbons in Sicily, would be returned to the patriots.
The promises that he made on behalf of the King to inspire the Sicilians were never kept and in 1868, Garibaldi confided to an Adelaide Cairoli, because of these broken promises he can “never again set foot in Sicily, for fear of assassination.”
The plebiscite voted upon for the unification of Italy was probably (according to Santi Correnti, author of the book; Sicilia da Conoscere e da Amare), the biggest fraud in electoral history. According to the celebrated novel; The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the Piemontesi records show that for example the Sicilian town Donnafugata voted a unanimous “YES” to the plebiscite, but then asks Ciccio Tumeo, among others, how do you explain our vote of “NO” not appearing in the count?
Not only the Island of Sicily, but all of its former provinces in the Kingdom came to be known as, “II Mezzogiorno”. Most of the industries of the Kingdom were moved to the north of Italy or abolished.
The people of II Mezzogiorno achieved a resounding NOTHING from the unification of Italy. Places such as Basilicata, Apulia, Abruzzi, Campania and Calabria remain in present times “in a struggle of survival”! Sicily has fared a bit better because of its resources, such as oil fields in Ragusa, refineries and tourism.
In its hey day, Sicily produced artisanry in hand painted clay, hand worked metal products, wine and table grapes, prickly pears, licorice, oranges (mandarin and blood), lemons, citrine, nuts, salt (sea salt and rock salt), sugar cane, sulphur, olives, olive oil, cereals, wheat, silk, cotton, hemp, magnesium, pumice, chalk, silver, copper, antimony, lignite, asphalt, and the world’s demand for tuna.
How can anyone explain the advantages to Sicily, or the “Mezzogiorno” if any to the 1861 unification? If you have an answer, please feel free to respond.
Kingdom of Sicily
The Kingdom of Sicily (Latin: Regnum Siciliae or Sicilie; Italian: Regno di Sicilia, commonly abbreviated Regno) was a state that existed in the south of Italy from its founding by Roger II in 1130 until 1816. The Kingdom of Sicily covered not only the island of Sicily itself, but also the whole Mezzogiorno region of southern Italy and, until 1530, the islands of Malta and Gozo. The island was divided into three regions; Valle di Mazzara, Valle di Demona and Valle di Noto.
It was sometimes called the regnum Apuliae et Siciliae until 1282, when the mainland separated from the island being known as Kingdom of Naples from then on. After 1302 it was sometimes called the Kingdom of Trinacria. Often the kingship was vested in another monarch such as the King of Aragon, the King of Spain or the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1816 the Kingdom of Sicily merged with Kingdom of Naples into the newly created Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Article from our May-June 2008 Newsletter (Volume 15, No. 2)