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States and Sovereigns in the Italian Peninsula:  1 January 1794

By Stephen Millar


“The word ‘ Italy ’ is a geographical expression, a description which is useful shorthand, but has none of the political significance the efforts of the revolutionary ideologues try to put on it, and which is full of dangers for the very existence of the states which make up the peninsula."

- Klemens-Wenzel-Nepomuk-Lothar, Furst von Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein (Austrian Foreign Minister 1809-1848) in 1847.

A diverse assortment of fiefdoms, religious statelets, and republics, the Italian peninsula in 1794 was no longer ruled by powerful Italian medieval and renaissance families. The Sforza line of Milan had come to an end in 1535; the Farnese line in Parma died out in 1731; the Medici line in Tuscany had died out in 1737; the Este line of Modena would die out in 1803. Only the House of Savoy, founded in 1003, still governed (as Kings of Sardinia and dukes of Savoy).

The two great secular powers inItaly at this time were the Spanish/Italian branch of the French Bourbon family (founded 1734) and the Austrian family of Hapsburg-Lorraine (founded in 1736), which also held the position of Holy Roman Emperor in Germany . The religious power was the Catholic Church, headed by Pope Pius VI – Bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States.

It is interesting to note that the Most Serene Republic of Genoa ceded the island of Corsica (its last outlying possession and a source of numerous rebellions) to King Louis XVI of France in 1768 – a year before Napoleon’s birth.

A. Two states controlled by House of Hapsburg-Lorraine ( Austria ):

1. Duchy of Milan

Ceded to Austria in 1714 at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Duchy of Milan had previously been a fiefdom of the Sforza family.

Holy Roman Emperor Franz II (12.02.1768-02.03.1835) held the title of Francesco III, Duke of Milan, three times: 01.03.1792-09.05.1796; 29.04.1799-29.04.1800; 1814-02.03.1835). Like his younger brother Ferdinando III, Grand-Duke of Tuscany (see below), he had married a daughter of Ferdinando I, King of Naples and Sicily.[1]

2. Grand-Duchy of Tuscany

A former fiefdom of the Medici family and the subject of a complicated succession in 1736, the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany had been given to the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine in 1737.

The second son of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II (05.05.1747-01.03.1792), Archduke Ferdinand ofAustria (06.05.1769-18.06.1824) was created Ferdinando-Giuseppe-Giovanni-Baptista, Grand-Duke of Tuscany on 22.07.1790. His family connections included Holy Roman Empeor Franz II (his older brother), Ferdinando I, King of Naples and Sicily (father-in-law) and Carlos III, King of Spain (his maternal grandfather).

Ferdinando III actually reigned three times as Grand-Duke of Tuscany: 22.07.1790-27.03.1799; 07.07.1799-15.10.1800; 27.04.1814-18.06.1824.[2] During the Napoleonic period, he successively acquired the titles of Prince-Elector of Salzburg (1803) and Grand-Duke of Wurzburg (1806).[3]

B. Two states controlled by the House of Este (later Austria-Este):

3. Duchy of Modena (Modena and Reggio)

Ercole III, Duke of Modena and Reggio (22.11.1727-24.10.1803) was the last member of the male line of the House of Este – one of the oldest reigning families in Italy . In 1741, he married the only child of Alderando Cibo, Duke of Massa and Carra (which later brought the duchy under the control of the Este family). Ercole III’s only child, Maria-Beatrice d’Este, later became Duchess of Massa and Princess of Carrara with the death of her mother (and, through her marriage, became Duchess of Modena).

Ercole III reigned from 22.02.1780 to 06.10.1796; That year, he was deposed and the duchy became the Cispadane Republic (and, in 1805, the Kingdom of Italy). At his death, the ducal title – without the territory – was inherited by his son-in-law, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (the son of Holy Roman Emperor Franz I). The ruling ducal house now became known as Austria-Este.

Ferdinand’s and Maria-Beatrice’s son, Ferdinando-Giuseppe-Carlo-Ambrogio-Stanislao (06.10.1779-21.01.1846), became Ferdinando IV, Duke of Modena in 1814 (the Congress of Vienna reunited the ducal title and its former territory). At his mother’s death on 14.11.1829, he also became Duke of Massa and Prince of Carrara.

4. Duchy of Massa and (Principality of) Carrara

The only child of Ercole III, Duke of Modena and Reggio (see above), Maria Beatrice d’Este (07.04.1750-14.11.1829) was Duchess of Massa and Princess of Carrara (26.12.1790-19.05.1797; 07.1814-14.11.1829). From 30.03.1806, Napoleon’s Minister of Justice, Claude-Ambroise Regnier (06.11.1749-24.06.1814) held the title of duc de Massa et Carrara.

C. Two states controlled by the House of Borbone

5. Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla

Created in 1545 by Pope Paul III for his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese, the Duchy of Parma (from 1556, Parma and Piacenza; from 1735, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla) had been ruled by the Spanish branch of the French Bourbon family since 1748.

Ferdinando I, Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla (20.02.1751-09.10.1802) had connections with three royal houses – his paternal grandfather was King Felipe V ofSpain , his maternal grandfather was King Louis XV of France and his father-in-law was Holy Roman Emperor Franz I. He succeeded his father as Duke of Parma on 18.07.1765.

Occupied by France after his death on 09.10.1802, the duchy was annexed to the French Empire in 1808 and turned into a departement.[4] Napoleon made his sister, Marie-Pauline Bonaparte (20.10.1780-09.06.1825), Princess and Duchess of Guastalla on 30.03.1806. Two of Napoleon’s ministers were granted ducal titles from the fromer Bourbon duchy: on 24.04.1808, Arch-Chancellor Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambaceres (18.10.1753-12.03.1824) was created duc de Parme and former Third Consul Charles-Francois Lebrun (19.03.1739-16.06.1824) was created de de Plaisance ( Piacenza).

In 1814, the two duchies were restored by the Congress of Vienna and granted to Marie-Louise, the former empress of France (1810-14).

6. Naples and Sicily

Ferdinando IV, King of Naples and Sicily (12.01.1751-04.01.1825) succeeded to the kingdom when his father was crowned King Carlos III of Spain in 1759. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily had close ties withGreat Britain (the Royal Navy assisted Ferdinando and his family escape the French Army twice and protected them during their exile on the island of Sicily).

Known to history as a despotic ruler, Ferdinando IV was King of Naples and Sicily three times: 06.10.1759-23.01.1799; 23.06.1799-01.03.1806; 22.05.1815-08.12.1816). He later became Ferdinando I, King of the Two Sicilies (08.12.1816-04.01.1825).

D. One state controlled by the House of Savoy

7. Sardinia

Vittorio Amadeo III, King of Sardinia (26.06.1726-16.10.1796) was a member of the House of Savoy – a medieval dynasty which controlled several Italian territories (including Piedmont and the Duchy of Savoy). Acending the throne on 20.02.1773, Vittorio Amadeo III, he later married a daughter of King Felipe V of Spain .

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the House of Savoy lost all its possessions except Sardinia to the French Republic and, later, the French Empire. They were restored to Vittorio Amadeo III’s second son, Vittorio Emmanuel I, on 09.06.1815 at the Congress of Vienna.

E. Three Ecclesiastic/Imperial Territories

8. Papal States

The Papal States was a group of territories in central Italy which had each successive Pope as its temporal ruler.

Giovanni Angelico Braschi, later Pope Pius VI (27.12.1717-29.08.1799), was the eldest son of Marco-Aurelio-Tommaso, count Braschi. Nephew of Cardinal Giovanni-Carlo Bandi and uncle of Cardinal Romoaldo Braschi-Onesti (one of the cardinals who accompanied the Pope for the coronation of Napoleon in 1804), he was Pope of the Catholic Church and leader of the Papal States from 15.02.1775 to 29.08.1799. Taken from Rome by force by the French on 20.02.1798, he died imprisoned in the citadel of Valence.

9. Bishopric of Trento

Formed in 1027 by Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, the Bishopric of Trento was a semi-independent principality in northern Italy . Its bishops were princes of the Holy Roman Empire with membership in the Ecclesiastical Bench of the Imperial Diet’s Council of Princes. Peter-Michael-Vigil, Reichsgraf von Thurn und Hohenstein (13.12.1724-17.01.1800) was Prince-Bishop of Trento from 29.05.1776 to 17.01.1800.[5]

10. Bishopric of Brixen

Formed in 1179 by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I, the Bishopric of Brixen was similar to the Bishopric of Trento (see above). Franz-Karl von Lodron (18.11.1748-10.08.1828) was Prince-Bishop of Brixen from 16.08.1791.

F. Four Republics:

11. Genoa

Giuseppe Maria Doria, Duke of Massanova and Tacina (12.07.1730-08.03.1816) was elected Doge of the Most Serene Republic of Genoa on 16.09.1793. Son of a Genovese senator, Doria came from an aristocratic Italian family, whose members included the princes of Angri and the dukes of Eboli. Like all Genovese doges, Doria served a standard two-year term, relinquishing his position on 16.09.1795.

12. Lucca

Founded in 1100, the Republic (or ‘free commune’) of Lucca was located in northern Italy . It was governed by a Council of Elders. Although protected by extensive – if dated – fortifications, it nevertheless surrendered to General de Division Barthelemy-Louis-Joseph Scherer (18.12.1747-19.08.1804)  in 1799.

Like the majority of the Italian republics, Lucca was subsequently dissolved by Napoleon. Maria-Anna-Elisa Bonaparte’s husband, Felix Baciocchi (18.05.1762-28.04.1841) was made Prince of Lucca by the Emperor on 23.06.1805 at the request of Lucca’s Council of Elders.

13. San Marino

Its sovereignty confirmed by Pope Paul III in 1549,San Marino was the only medieval Italian republic to survive the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (even today, San Marino still has many of its ancient republican institutions intact). Marino Giangi and Felice Caroti were the Captains-Regent of the Republic of San Marino from 01.10.1793 to 01.04.1794.

14. Venice

Ludovico Manin, count of Polcenigo and Fanna (24.07.1726-21.10.1802) was elected Doge of the Republic of Venice on 04.03.1789. The son of a Venetian senator, Manin was doge for eight years. He was forced to abdicate by the French on 12.05.1797.

During the French Empire, the honorific title of ‘Prince of Venice’ was intended to be given to the heir-apparent of the Kingdom of Italy. Empress Josephine’s son, Eugene de Beauharnais (the Viceroy of Italy) held the title from 17.12.1807.



[1] Marie-Caroline, Queen of Naples and Sicily, had been born an Archduchess of Austria. The king and queen had a total of 17 children (some of whom died as children).

[2] Napoleon formally annexed Tuscany to the French Empire on 28.03.1808.

[3] One of Napoleon’s sister s (Maria-Anna-Elise) held the honorific title of Grand-Duchess of Tuscany from 03.03.1809 to 01.02.1814.

[4] Ferdinando I’s heir was created ‘Luigi I, King of Etruria ’ as compensation for the occupation. The kingdom was dissolved prior to the 1808 annexation.

[5] Another member of this family, Emanuel-Maria von Thurn und Hohenstein (20.03.1763-08.10.1818), succeeded him.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2007


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