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Ferdinand I (January 12, 1751 – January 4, 1825), was the King of the Two Sicilies from 1816, after his restoration following victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Before that he had been, since 1759, Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples and Ferdinand III of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was also King of Gozo. He was deposed twice from the throne of Naples: once by the revolutionary Parthenopean Republic for six months in 1799 and again by Napoleon in 1805, before being restored in 1816.

Ferdinand was the third son of King Carlos VII of Naples and V of Sicily by his wife, Maria Amalia of Saxony. On August 10, 1759, Carlos succeeded his elder brother, Fernando VI of Spain, becoming King Carlos III of Spain, but treaty provisions made him ineligible to hold all three crowns. On October 6, he abdicated his Neapolitan and Sicilian titles in favour of his third son Ferdinand because his eldest son Felipe had been excluded from succession due to illnesses and his second son Carlos was heir-apparent to the Spanish throne. Ferdinand was the founder of the cadet House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.

Childhood

Ferdinand was born in Naples and grew up amidst many of the monuments erected there by his father which can be seen today; the Palaces of Portici, Caserta and Capodimonte.

Since Ferdinand IV-III of Naples was eight upon his accession to both thrones, a regency council presided over by the Tuscan Bernardo Tanucci was set up. The latter, an able, ambitious man, wishing to keep the government as much as possible in his own hands, purposely neglected the young king’s education, and encouraged him in his love of pleasure, his idleness and his excessive devotion to outdoor sports.

Ferdinand’s minority/childhood ended in 1767, and his first act was the expulsion of the Jesuits. The following year he married Archduchess Maria Carolina of Austria, the thirteenth child of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Holy Roman Emperor Franz I.

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.daughter of Empress Maria Theresa

Archduchess Maria Carolina was the de facto ruler of her husband’s kingdoms. Maria Carolina oversaw the promulgation of many reforms, including the revocation of the ban on Freemasonry, the enlargement of the navy under her favorite, Sir John Acton, and the expulsion of Spanish influence.

She was a proponent of enlightened absolutism until the advent of the French Revolution, when, in order to prevent its ideas gaining currency, she made Naples a police state.

Although peace was made with France in 1796, the demands of the French Directory, whose troops occupied Rome, alarmed the king once more, and at his wife’s instigation he took advantage of Napoleon’s absence in Egypt and of Nelson’s victories to go to war.

Ferdinand IV-III marched with his army against the French and entered Rome (November 29), but on the defeat of some of his columns he hurried back to Naples, and on the approach of the French, fled on December 23, 1798 aboard Nelson’s ship HMS Vanguard to Palermo, Sicily, leaving his capital in a state of anarchy.

When, a few weeks later the French troops were recalled to northern Italy, Ferdinand sent a hastily assembled force, under Cardinal Ruffo, to reconquer the mainland kingdom. Ruffo, with the support of British artillery, the Church, and the pro-Bourbon aristocracy, succeeded, reaching Naples in May 1800. After some months King Ferdinand returned to the throne.

The king, and above all the queen, were particularly anxious that no mercy should be shown to the rebels, and Maria Carolina (a sister of the executed Marie Antoinette, Queen of France) made use of Lady Hamilton, Nelson’s mistress, to induce Nelson to carry out her vengeance.