The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies: a controversial history
Auth: Salvatore Scarfone
The coat of arms of the Bourbon family
The dynasty of the Bourbons of Naples and the two Sicilies on Southern ruled since 1734 to 1861.
The Neapolitan Republic
The napoleonic domination
The birth of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
In 1860 the situation of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in front of the other states of the peninsula, was the following, given its wealth and the number of its inhabitants:
- The taxes were lower than those of other states.
- State property and assets of the church represented an enormous wealth, and, taken together, exceeded the goods of the same nature, possessed by other states.
- The public debt, tenuous, was four times lower than that of Piedmont, and much lower than that of Tuscany.
- The number of employees, calculating based on pensions in 1860 was half that in Tuscany and almost half of that in the Kingdom of Sardinia.
- The amount of coinage in circulation, later withdrawn from circulation of the State, was in absolute figure two times higher than that of all other states in the peninsula joined together.
Francesco Saverio Nitti,President of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Italy,in its book "North and South" said that at the time of the introduction of the lira, from The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were withdrawn 443. 3 million of various coinage coins, of which 424 million were silver coins, accounting for 65. 7% of all circulating coins in the italian peninsula.
Desired by King Charles of Bourbon, the San Carlo Theatre in Naples it is the most imitated and also the oldest theatre in the world (active since 1737). It revolutionized the world theater architecture by introducing the horseshoe shape and balconies. Every theatre in the world with this shape was inspired by the San Carlo, also, for example, La Scala in Milan, the court theater at Versailles, or the Opera Royale in Paris.
The historical controversy
The current history of the Two Sicilies as we know it today, is strictly due to the post units italian historiography. There are two completely contradictory stories, one official and one supported today by more and more intellectuals.
For the official history of the italian official history school books, this Kingdom is described as culturally and economically underdeveloped, and governed in an abusive way by the Bourbon. On the old school books was not uncommon the use of an ironical and derogatory tone, and in many current italian dictionaries the word "Bourbonic" stands for retrograde, backward. The unification history (simplifying) said that Garibaldi and his thousand men travelled Italy defeating all the dynasties, freeing the people from their oppressors and creating a united Italy.
The revisionist thesis
Many intellectuals today describe this Kingdom as the third economic power of Europe, with Naples as the capital of European culture and innovation along with Paris and London. The Two Sicilies were annexed to the Kingdom of the dynasty Savoy after being invaded without any declaration of war. The Savoys, almost went in bankrupt, were supported by English Freemasonry, which provided men, military equipment and money (to be used to bribe the Bourbon generals), that helped them to invade the very rich Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which at the time held 60% of all Italian wealth, and was made of gold and silver coins, not paper banknotes.
- The UK did it because the Two Sicilies, thanks to its central position in the Mediterranean, and its large fleet, it would be greatly benefited from the opening of the new Suez Canal (1869), which allowed direct access to Southeast Asia to no more have to circumnavigate Africa. Naples would become the main commercial hub between Europe and the Indies, an area ruled by UK, and so the UK should have used Naples, a rival State, to go to its Asian areas;
- The Savoys, instead, just done this to take possession of the wealth of the Two Sicilies to avoid bankruptcy, paying off their debts with banks. They were not really interested to Unitification, the Savoy family not even spoke the italian language, but French.
Obviously it is a very controversial story, never officially investigated.
Below you can read a common introduction to the italian unification typical of history school books. In this case there is a description of the general economical conditions of the 1861 pre-unification italian Kingdoms. The first part talks about the northern italy, the highlighted part is the one dedicated to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the remaining talks about the Kingdom of Sardinia. The highlighted part says:
". . . Especially in Southern Italy the politics of the Bourbon, was expression of interests of the big landowners (so-called barons), and did little or nothing for the modernization of agriculture, and to boost manufacturing activities. Just think that in 1854 only 700. 000 ducats were spent for public works (roads, railways, ports, commercial ports), while military spending exceeded 13 million. "
Leading figures of the italian culture and society corroborate revisionist thesis about the Unification of Italy, and on the reputation of the Kingdom in general.