Italy from 1713 to 1789 Part I

By | February 19, 2022

According to transporthint, the war of the Spanish succession, which ended in 1713, was followed in a short time by three other wars that gave rise to new transfers of dominion: this troubled political crisis in Italy in the first half of the eighteenth century accelerated a process of exhaustion, which led to ancient dynasties are extinguished, such as those of the Estensi, the Gonzaga, the Farnesi and the Medici, ancient families of the dominant oligarchy, as in Lucca and Venice, they are economically, morally and physically impoverished; and their exhaustion is accompanied by that of their republics. Fortunately for Italy, that process of exhaustion is resolved in a selection process: the nation lives for new political energies, for new social groups active in thought and works and in new and renewed political centers. In 1713, it is true, Italy continued to be under foreign dominance, as Austria replaced Spain; but just then the Savoy principality was affirmed, and it was attracted more and more towards an Italian politics.

In 1720, a new order was given to Italy, following a war provoked by Spain to take back the Italian dominions. Spain had paid the price for the War of the Spanish Succession. The discontent was rekindled by the ambition of Queen Elisabetta Farnese, second wife of Philip V, and by the feverish, intriguing activity of the minister Alberoni, very devoted to the queen, to whom he owed his fortune. To the children of Elisabetta Farnese, Don Carlos and Don Filippo, the minister confided that he could have the dominions that had been Spanish obtained in Italy. Alberoni therefore tried to isolate Austria politically: he brigaded in France, England, Sweden and Turkey. But the diplomatic intrigues, of which he believed himself to be the master, were not fortunate; nor old Spain, exhausted, he found in himself sufficient strength to stand up to the coalition that was formed as soon as it took up arms, landing militias in Sardinia and Sicily (1717). At Capo Pachino the Spanish fleet was destroyed by the English (1718). Austria was urged to send soldiers to Sicily, who, regardless of the Savoy garrisons, fought the landed Spanish militias. It had the intention of uniting Sicily with the Neapolitan. And really with the Hague treaty (1720) he managed to preserve Sicily; Vittorio Amedeo II had to be content with having Sardinia with the royal title in exchange for that island; the court of Madrid was satisfied with don Carlos’ recognition of the succession of the duchy of Parma and Piacenza, which he took possession of in 1731, upon the death of Duke Antonio Farnese. Thus Austria reached its greatest expansion and its greatest prestige in Italy and Europe. German power, it exercised its political action in central Europe; a Danubian power, in those years (the years of the victories of Eugene of Savoy over the Turks), it went as far as Belgrade; dominating power in Italy, it stretched from the Alps to Sicily. But perhaps its great expansion in Italy was an element of weakness rather than strength, and in every way of diversion and consumption of energy, which it could have collected and explained more profitably, both as a German power and as a Danubian power. The war, in fact, which soon followed, and which inevitably had a theater of action in Italy, determined the decline of Austrian power in Europe. The occasion was given by the War of the Polish Succession, following the death of the Polish king Augustus II (1733). He supported France as a candidate of his; Austria, Russia and Prussia instead supported the candidacy of Augustus III of Saxony. Austria on the Polish front had strong allies, but it found itself isolated on the Italian front against the league of the Bourbons of France, Spain and Parma, which was joined by the king of Sardinia Carlo Emanuele III, who succeeded his father Vittorio Amedeo II in 1730. Nor was Austria able to defend and preserve southern Italy and Sicily, since it did not have its own fleet, nor could it count on the English fleet, since England, then ruled by Walpole, was not interested in the Polish question, and having allowed France acted freely in Italy. The army of Charles Emmanuel III played a major part in the war. In 1733, the king entered Milan, and the following year he won the Austrians in two battles in Parma (June 1734) and Guastalla (19 September 1734). At the same time the Austrians were defeated in southern Italy at Bitonto (May 1734) and were expelled from Sicily in 1935.

When, shortly afterwards, the peace negotiations began in Vienna, Austria possessed no more in Italy than a few fortresses in Lombardy; but she had a good game diplomatically, pleasing the Bourbons and isolating the king of Sardinia. Which therefore had to be satisfied with Novara and Tortona and the feuds of the Langhe: a small thing after great sacrifices and great hopes. The unsuccessful candidate for the Polish crown, Stanislao Leszczyński, obtained the duchy of Lorraine on an annuity basis, which after his death would pass to France. Stephen of Lorraine, who lost his duchy ancestry, obtained Tuscany, where in 1737 the last of the Medici, the Grand Duke Giangastone, died. Charles of Bourbon was recognized as the new king of Naples and Sicily.

The political conditions of Italy were improved by the new order due to the Treaty of Vienna of 1738. For two centuries, foreign domination had been pressing from the north and south; now it was reduced and limited to the Po valley alone; the kingdom of Naples, reconstituted with Sicily and with its own dynasty, became an important center of Italian political life; the seas of Italy were no longer of foreigners, Spaniards or Austrians. The new dynasty that Tuscany had was, yes, foreign and very tied to Austria, but it will soon feel the charm of that country of such distinguished beauty and civilization, and will take root there, and will give a certain prosperity to the Grand Duchy.

Italy from 1713 to 1789 1