Amid the Soldier Kings
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Naples and Sicily first became a united
kingdom in 1130, when Norman adventurers conquered
southern Italy. Naples ruled southern Italy
and usually Sicily as well from the Middle
Ages until Giuseppe Garibaldi and his Red
Shirts overthrew the kingdom in 1860 and united
it with the new Kingdom of Italy. Though often
called the “Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,”
this only became its official moniker in 1816.
The kingdom’s close ties to Spain date
to 1282, when the uprising known as the “Sicilian
Vespers” led to the nobility offering
the crown to Pedro III of Aragon. With some
interruptions, both Naples and Sicily remained
subject to Aragon until 1504, when the two
lands were directly incorporated into the
newly united kingdom of Spain. They remained
Spanish provinces until Austrian armies conquered
Naples in 1707 during the War of the Spanish
Succession; the Spanish crown yielded Naples
and Sicily (as well as Sardinia) during the
Peace of Utrecht that ended that conflict.
Austria received Naples and Sardinia, while
Piedmont took Sicily; they swapped islands
Sergeant and musketeer of the Palermo
Ruled by a Habsburg viceroy, Naples was
treated as an imperial backwater. Emperor
Charles VI could not raise the tax revenue
from the impoverished countryside to adequately
defend the kingdom, and the Habsburg crown
lacked the funds to build the ports and merchant
ships and the fleets to protect them that
the emperor’s advisors claimed could
make Naples an economic powerhouse for the
mostly land-locked Empire.
At the end of the War of the Polish Succession
in 1735, Austria ceded Sicily and Naples back
to Spain in exchange for a Spanish promise
to recognize the eventual accession of Maria
Theresa to rule Austria. Don Carlos, son of
the ambitious Spanish queen Elisabeth Farnese,
became King Charles VII of Naples in 1738.
During the 1740 War of the Austrian Succession,
Spain and Naples promptly ignored their promises,
fighting against Maria Theresa and fending
off an Austrian invasion in 1744.
Like almost all of the rest of Italy,
Naples remained neutral throughout the Seven
Years’ War, the period of Soldier
sent troops to fight alongside the Austrians). Charles VII abdicated his Neapolitan
throne in 1759, to become Charles IV of Spain.
Three years later, he led his new kingdom into the war on the side of France and Austria,
but Naples did not participate. A poor kingdom,
Naples nonetheless maintained a fleet and
a standing army built around Swiss mercenary
regiments. Neither was noted for its efficiency.
When Charles left for Spain, his son Ferdinand
became king. With Ferdinand still a child,
chief minister Bernardo Tanucci, a Tuscan
bureaucrat, served as regent. Tanucci had
no desire to involve the kingdom in his former
patron’s wars, as the royal government
had its hands full trying to curb the powers
of both nobility and church. Naples became
a haven for Enlightenment thinkers and artists,
especially those of the Roman Catholic persuasion,
drawn by the Tanucci regime’s relaxed
views and the standard draw for artists and
writers — the lowest cost of living
in Europe. Naples fell under Austrian influence
in the 1770s when Ferdinand married Maria
Theresa’s daughter, Maria Carolina,
and entered the Napoleonic Wars with disastrous
results: Mount Vesuvius exploded soon after
Naples declared war on France, and the revolutionaries
overran the kingdom in 1798.
Officer and musketeer of the Neapolitan
Royal Guard, 1758.
Under both Charles and Ferdinand, Tanucci
tried to instill the enlightened despotism
of the bigger European monarchies. Landowning
nobles resisted agricultural reform, and Tanucci
hoped to divert them to military service.
The army expanded in hopes of enrolling noble
youths as officers, but ended up having to
recruit foreigners to lead its new troops.
The church — especially the many monasteries
and convents — was pressed to yield
up centuries of tax privileges, and eventually
Tanucci expelled the Society of Jesus from
the kingdom due to Jesuit resistance. Though
economically weak, Naples would no doubt have
played the same games of power politics as
the rest of enlightened Europe if given the
I’m no longer sure why we left the Neapolitan
army and fleet out of Soldier Kings. The two land areas weren’t on designer
Rob Markham’s original map, and so they
had no corresponding pieces in the original
submission. For some reason we did not expand
the mix of pieces accordingly when we expanded
Officer and trooper of Prince Ferdinand’s
Own Dragoons, 1758.
Naples consists of both Naples and Sicily
and begins all scenarios as a Spanish minor
ally. It has starting forces of two armies
and one fleet, and a recovery/new unit number
Major Power influence numbers are:
You can download the
new Neapolitan counters here.
Send the Neapolitans into battle! Order Soldier Kings today.
Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.