Ferdinand I of Naples

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Ferdinand I of Naples should not be confused with Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, a later king of Naples.
Ferdinand I
Ferdinando I Napoli.JPG
Contemporary bust of Ferdinand
King of Naples
Reign27 June 1458 – 25 January 1494
Coronation 16 August 1458
Barletta, Apulia
Predecessor Alfonso I
Successor Alfonso II
Born2 June 1423
Kingdom of Aragon
Died25 January 1494(1494-01-25) (aged 70)
Naples, Kingdom of Naples
Spouse Isabella of Clermont
Joanna of Aragon
among others...
Alfonso II, King of Naples
Eleanor, Duchess of Bari and Ferrara
Frederick I, King of Naples
Cardinal John
Beatrice, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia
Joanna, Queen of Naples
Ferdinand, Duke of Montalto
House Trastámara
Father Alfonso V of Aragon
MotherGiraldona Carlino
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ferdinand I (2 June 1423 – 25 January 1494), also called Ferrante, was King of Naples from 1458 to 1494. He was an illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon.


Early life

Ferdinand was born to King Alfonso V of Aragon and his mistress Giraldona Carlino. [1] Alfonso conquered the Kingdom of Naples in 1442. In order to arrange a good future for Ferdinand, King Alfonso had him married in 1444 to Isabella of Clermont, who was the niece and heir presumptive of childless Prince Giovanni Antonio del Balzo Orsini of Taranto. She was a granddaughter of Mary of Enghien, who had been queen consort of Naples between 1406 and 1414. Ferdinand's wife stood to inherit remarkable feudal possessions in Southern Italy.


In accordance with his father's will, Ferdinand succeeded Alfonso as king of Naples in 1458, when he was 35 years old. Pope Calixtus III, however, declared the line of Aragon extinct and the kingdom a fief of the church. Calixtus died before he could make good his claim (August 1458), and the new Pope Pius II within the year publicly recognized Ferdinand's titles.

In 1459, Ferdinand's rule was threatened by a long revolt of the barons. Among the leaders of revolt were the prince of Taranto, uncle of Ferdinand's wife. The rebels joined to offer the crown to John of Anjou, a son of the former king René. With the help of the Genoese, John brought a fleet and landed, slowly taking some towns including Nocera. On July 7, 1460, Ferdinand was defeated by John in the plain beside the mouth of the Sarno River south of Mount Vesuvius. Ferdinand was nearly captured and escaped with a guard of only twenty men. The pope and the duke of Milan sent reinforcements under the count of Urbino Federico da Montefeltro and condottiero Alessandro Sforza, but these arrived after the defeat and were themselves crushed by John's ally Piccinino at San Fabriano. [2]

Despite subsequently receiving the surrender of most of the strongholds in Campania, John did not immediately march on Naples and Ferdinand and his wife Isabella were able to hold it and slowly regain their position. Isabella appears to have been responsible for dissuading Orsini from supporting John and Genoa removed its, assistance. The papacy, Milan, and the Albanian chief Skanderbeg—who came to the aid of the prince whose father had aided him—provided forces which decisively defeated John's land forces at Troia on August 18, 1462. His fleet was finally demolished by the combined forces of Ferdinand and King Juan II of Aragon off Ischia in July 1465. [3] By 1464, Ferdinand had re-established his authority in the kingdom, although some antipathy from the barons remained.

In 1478 he allied himself with Pope Sixtus IV against Lorenzo de' Medici, but the latter journeyed alone to Naples, where he succeeded in negotiating an honorable peace with Ferdinand.

Crown issued by Ferdinand I of Naples Coronato 1458.jpg
Crown issued by Ferdinand I of Naples

The original intent of making Taranto as his and his heirs' main principality was no longer current, but still it was a strengthening of Ferdinand's resources and position that in 1463 his wife inherited from her uncle the rich principality of Taranto, county of Lecce and other fiefs in Apulia. Isabella died in 1465, and by 1476, Ferdinand had married Joanna of Aragon, his first cousin.

In 1480, forces of the Ottoman Empire under orders of Mehmed II captured Otranto, and massacred the majority of the inhabitants, but in the following year it was retaken by Ferdinand's son Alphonso, duke of Calabria. In 1482, abandoning his traditional position of paladin of the Papal States, he fought alongside Ferrara and Milan against the alliance of Sixtus IV and the Republic of Venice (see War of Ferrara).

Esortazione di insorgere contro i baroni ribelli, 1486 Ferdinando - Esortazione di insorgere contro i baroni ribelli, circa 1486 - 2391599.jpg
Esortazione di insorgere contro i baroni ribelli, 1486

Ferdinand's oppressive government led in 1485 to a reinvigorated rebellion of the aristocracy, known as the Conspiracy of the Barons, which included Francesco Coppola and Antonello Sanseverino of Salerno and supported by Pope Innocent VIII. Coppola and Antonello Petrucci were arrested during a wedding at Castel Nuovo, and subsequently executed. Ultimately this uprising was crushed, and many of the nobles, notwithstanding Ferdinand's signing of a general amnesty, were afterwards jailed and executed at his command.

In December 1491 Ferdinand was visited by a group of pilgrims on their return from the Holy Land. This group was led by William I, Landgrave of Hesse.

Encouraged by Ludovico Sforza of Milan, in 1493 King Charles VIII of France was preparing to invade Italy for the conquest of Naples and starting the Italian Wars, and Ferdinand realized that this was a greater danger than any he had yet faced. With almost prophetic instinct he warned the Italian princes of the calamities in store for them, but his negotiations with Pope Alexander VI and Ludovico Sforza failed.

Ferdinand died on 25 January 1494, worn out with anxiety; he was succeeded by his son, Alphonse, Duke of Calabria, who was soon deposed by the invasion of King Charles which his father had so feared. The cause of his death was determined in 2006 to have been colorectal cancer (mucinous adenocarcinoma type with mutation in the KRas gene), by examination of his mummy. His remains show levels of carbon 13 and nitrogen 15 consistent with historical reports of considerable consumption of meat. [4]

Ferdinand's reputation

1473 depiction Ferdinand I of Naples SOAOTO - Folio 074R.jpg
1473 depiction Ferdinand I of Naples

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "Ferdinand was gifted with great courage and real political ability, but his method of government was vicious and disastrous. His financial administration was based on oppressive and dishonest monopolies, and he was mercilessly severe and utterly treacherous towards his enemies."

Ferdinand had many enemies, especially considering his kingdom's importance to other rulers, and he was ruthless in response to any perceived slight. He even fiercely plotted against Pope Alexander VI, after he realized that the pontiff could not secure his position. [5]

As further testimony to the latter, Jacob Burckhardt described his recreational activities as follows: "Besides hunting, which he practiced regardless of all rights of property, his pleasures were of two kinds: he liked to have his opponents near him, either alive in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime." [6] Fearing no one, he would take great pleasure in conducting his guests on a tour of his prized "museum of mummies".

Marriages and children

Ferdinand married twice.
First to Isabella of Clermont in 1444. Isabel was daughter of Tristan de Clermont, [7] Count di Copertino and Caterina Orsini. She died in 1465. They had six children:

Second to Joanna of Aragon (1454 – 9 January 1517). [7] She was born to John II of Aragon and Juana Enríquez, his second wife. She was a full sister of King Ferdinand II of Aragon (died 1516) and a half sister of the unfortunate Prince Charles of Viana (1421–1461), John II's son by his first marriage. Joanna and Ferdinand I were married on 14 September 1476. They had two children:

Ferdinand also had a number of illegitimate children:

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  1. Perez 2013, p. 142.
  2. History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages, p. 186.
  3. Modern Europe, by Thomas Henry Dyer, Page 103-105.
  4. Ottini L, Falchetti M, Marinozzi S, Angeletti LR, Fornaciari G (2010) Gene-environment interactions in the pre-Industrial Era: the cancer of King Ferrante I of Aragon (1431-1494). Hum. Pathol.[ full citation needed ]
  5. Br. J.B. Darcy, CFC, What you don't know about the Borgia Pope: Alexander VI (1492-1503) (Catholic Insight). Quote: "Guiliano immediately began to plot with King Ferrante of Naples against the Pope. I have mentioned already that Ferrante refused to acknowledge that he held his kingdom as a fief of the Papacy. Whether he was as evil a man as history has depicted him is hard to say, but he was certainly an ambitious, treacherous person. Determined to extend his rule to parts of the Papal States, he was blocked at every turn by Alexander. To obtain the Pope's approval for his plans, he offered his granddaughter in marriage to Jofre, the Pope's grandnephew but was refused. Finally, he decided that, to make any progress, he had to get rid of his nemesis. For this purpose, to convince the rulers to depose the Pope, he began to write a series of letters to his relatives, the sovereigns of Europe, accusing Alexander of all sorts of evil conduct, particularly of obtaining the papacy by simony."[ better source needed ]
  6. Jacob Burkhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, 1.5 - The Greater Dynasties
  7. 1 2 Williams 1998, p. 144.
  8. Hill, George: A History of Cyprus , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1948.


Ferdinand I of Naples
Born: 2 June 1423 Died: 25 January 1494
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Alfonso I
King of Naples
Succeeded by
Alfonso II