HOUSE OF THE TWO
Real Casa delle Due Sicilie Royal House of the Two Sicilies Official Site - Sito Ufficiale - Ordine Costantiniano di San Giorgio Constantinian Order of Saint George
THE TWO SICILIES SUCCESSION
1. The background
In 1759 Charles VII King of Naples succeeded to the throne of Spain following the death of his childless older brother, Ferdinand VI. The European balance of power was considered so precarious, however, that ever since the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, Spain had been prohibited from holding any possessions in Italy. Charles VII of Naples became King of Spain as Charles III and, by the terms of the Treaty of Naples of 3rd October, 1759, he agreed to abdicate the Two Sicilies throne to his third (but eldest surviving) son, the Infant Don Ferdinand. Three days later by the Pragmatic Decree of 6th October, 1759, Charles solemnly resigned the Two Sicilies Throne to Ferdinand while reserving the eventual rights to the Spanish and Two Sicilies thrones to all his descendants. Following Charles III's death in 1788 his eldest surviving son succeeded him as Charles IV - he is the ancestor of the present King of Spain.
Ferdinand was invested with the Constantinian Grand Magistery just ten days after receiving the Throne, not by virtue of becoming King but as declared legitimate primogeniture heir of the Farnese dynasty. Succession to the Constantinian Grand Magistery was ruled by male primogeniture with the requirement that on the extinction of the male descendants of the House of Bourbon-Farnese (which included the male line of Borbone-Parma), the Grand Master would be elected by the Bailiffs or nominated by the last grand Master, subject to Papal approval. Under canon law the investiture of the Grand Magistery by primogeniture descent cannot be alienated by cession or renunciation,, unless the act of cession or renunciation is accepted by the Pope. Hence Charles III's abdication of the Grand Magistery required (and received) Papal approval. The Two Sicilies throne was only limited to the male heirs of Charles III upon whose extinction it would pass to the Princess most closely related to the last King. Hence, in certain circumstances the system of succession meant that the Two Sicilies Crown and Constantinian Grand Magistery could be separated.
In 1830 Ferdinand VII of Spain, son and successor of Charles IV, abolished Salic law which since 1713 had guaranteed the succession of the throne of Spain to the male heirs of Philip V. This act had a serious affect on relations with the Royal Families of France and the Two Sicilies. The French King, Charles X, considered that as head of the House of France of which the Spanish Royal Family was a branch, this was an affront to his authority. Furthermore it put into question the continued validity in international law of the renunciations of the French Throne by Philip V, and the Spanish Throne by the Dauphin and the Duke of Orléans. The Two Sicilies King was angered because his own rights to the Spanish Throne - and hitherto he had followed immediately after the youngest brother of Ferdinand VII - were considerably diluted.
Thus, in 1868, when the younger brother of the exiled King Francis II of the Two Sicilies, Prince Gaetano, married the heiress presumptive to the Spanish Throne, the Infanta Isabel, an act was drawn up for his signature which would require him to renounce the Two Sicilies Throne if his wife became Queen of Spain - to prevent the union of the Spanish Crown and Italian dominions as required under the Pragmatic Decree of 1759. Gaetano was created an Infante of Spain but was never required to sign the act undertaking to renounce which remains, unsigned, in the Family Archives in Naples. He died in 1871 without leaving issue.
The Events of 1900
When Prince Don Carlo of the Two Sicilies, second son of the then head of the Dynasty, the Count of Caserta, wanted to marry the then heiress presumptive to the Spanish Throne in 1900, the situation was slightly different. Spain had twice been divided over the Carlist wars which had arisen because the conservative Infante Don Carlos, younger brother and (until 1830) heir presumptive of Ferdinand VII considered he was legitimate heir to the throne. In the second Carlist war of 1872-74, the Carlist forces were led by the Duke of Madrid, grandson of Don Carlos, but his chief of staff was the Count of Caserta. The government of Spain in 1900 was a liberal government and the Cortes viewed the proposed marriage with considerable suspicion. The fear was expressed that Prince Carlo probably sympathized with his father's political beliefs and would try and impose an authoritarian conservative Monarchy should his wife succeed. In reality this was an excuse by those hostile to the Crown to attack the Monarchy.
Nonetheless, it was necessary for the Queen Regent to distance herself as far as possible from the Count of Caserta and so he was informed that King Alfonso XIII, still a minor, would not accept the Two Sicilies Order of Saint Januarius. Fearing that his son Carlo would be made to put aside the Two Sicilies claim should his wife become Queen, and angry at the Spanish Court, he had his secretary draw up the notoriously badly drafted Act of Cannes which was signed on December 14th, 1900. This included an undertaking to renounce his "eventual" rights to the "Two Sicilies Crown ...... in execution of the requirements of the Pragmatic Decree of 1759.
The Pragmatic Decree, however, did not require a renunciation in the circumstances of 1900, particularly as it was limited to preventing a union of the Spanish crown with the Italian dominions and the Bourbon-Sicily family had ceased to have any Italian dominions since 1861. Since the circumstances envisaged in the Pragmatic Decree were the only ones which permitted a dynastic renunciation and Two Sicilies civil law prohibited renunciations of future inheritance (as did French law where the decree was signed, and Italian law to which its signatories were subject as citizens), it could not bind the signatories.
The legality of this renunciation and its extent is central to the dispute over the succession which followed and has been much debated. The supporters of the representatives of the junior line of the Two Sicilies Dynasty claim it as the linchpin of their case; the supporters of the senior line maintain that not only did it contravene Two Sicilies dynastic law, but point out that in 1900 the Spanish Government itself had advised the Queen Regent of Spain that no such renunciation was necessary and could not have any legal effect. If Prince don Carlo could not make a legally binding renunciation of his "eventual rights" in "execution of the Pragmatic Decree" then the Act of Cannes has no validity. If it was unnecessary for Princed Gaetano to renounce in similar circumstances in 1868, why should it have been necessary for his nephew in 1900?
With the death of Ferdinand-Pius, Duke of Calabria, in 1960, the senior heir by birth was the only surviving son of his next brother Infante and Prince don Carlo, the Infante don Alfonso of Spain, born in 1901 and married to Princess Alice of Bourbon-Parma. According to a straightforward interpretation of the succession laws the Infante don Alfonso was the legitimate heir. Several of the most senior officers of the Deputation of the Constantinian Order, however, particularly the Neapolitans (remembering two centuries of Spanish colonization), found the succession of a Spanish Grand Master most unwelcome. Prince don Ferdinand-Pius, Duke of Calabria had stated his personal preference that he should be succeeded by his next surviving brother, Prince don Ranieri [Fourth son of the Count of Caserta, he assumed the title of Duke of Castro on his elder brother's death] whom he named heir to the Headship of the House but without mentioning the Constantinian Grand Magistery. [By the time of the Infante don Carlo's death in 1949, Don Ferdinando Pio had came to believe that the 1900 renunciation included the Headship of the Dynasty. Following the death of the Infante don Carlo in 1949, the estrangement between the Duke of Calabria and his nephew, the Infante don Alfonso, led him to state in a 1950 letter that his heir as Head of the Dynasty was Prince don Ranieri. He made no written statement on the destination of the Grand Magistery of the Constantinian Order however. Neither succession could legally be disposed of by Will or designation, unless, in the case of the Order, the entire male line of the House of Bourbon became extinct].
Prince don Ranieri was the only member of the family to hold the rank of Bailiff Grand Cross of Justice decorated with the Collar of the Constantinian Order; his younger brother Prince don Gabriele was a Bailiff but did not have the Collar. [Of the Count of Caserta's sons, the four elder all received the San Gennaro before 1900, but none were given the Constantinian Order until Ferdinando Pio, Duke of Calabria was made a Bailiff in 1912. Prince Gennaro and Prince Ranieri both received it in 1920 but the Infante don Carlo never received it (since the Queen Regent had made it clear in December 1900 that her son the King could not accept the San Gennaro). The Infante don Alfonso did not receive the Constantinian Order from his grandfather or uncle]. The Infante don Alfonso had been estranged from both his uncles since his father's death and had declined to continue the occasional financial subsidy Prince and Infante don Carlo had made his younger brother. Earlier in the century, Prince don Ferdinando Pius had also been the recipient of a pension from the Queen Regent of Spain which had been continued after her death by King Alfonso XIII until he was himself driven into exile in 1931. This intermittent financial dependence had led to some misunderstandings and the Infante don Carlo had later generously offered to give to Prince don Ranieri part of his share of the Farnese estates in Italy sold to the Italian Crown.
An emissary of the Infante don Alfonso, the Marquess of Desio [Former Spanish Ambassador to Italy], met with Prince don Ranieri to try and settle the succession, and an agreement was initially reached. This agreement was rejected, however, following the intervention of the former Vice-Grand Chancellor of the Constantinian Order. Both Princes now separately claimed the Headship of the Dynasty and the Constantinian Grand Magistery. The legal validity of the Act of Cannes of 1900, is questioned by the supporters of the senior line and by many jurists, who consider it conflicted with Two Sicilies dynastic law. Even if valid as an affirmation of the separation of the Spanish Crown from the Headship of the Two Sicilies dynasty, it is difficult to see how it could prevent a Prince who had not become King of Spain from inheriting the Headship of the House or the Constantinian Grand Magistery. Many of those who have supported one side or the other have paid less attention to the central legal issues than to traditional national prejudices and the position taken by family or friends. Personal loyalty to the wishes of the late Prince don Ferdinand Pius, Duke of Calabria, cannot be sufficient reason to ignore the laws of succession; in no European Monarchy can the heir to the throne be designated by the preceding Sovereign.
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