Ferdinand II, King of Naples (1467-1496)

Ferdinand II, King of Naples (1467-1496) was the penultimate member of the independent Aragonese dynasty of Naples. He was a popular prince but a short-lived monarch who died just after he regained his throne with the help of a Spanish army sent by his cousin Ferdinand II of Aragon.

In 1442 Alfonso V, king of Aragon and Sicily, had conquered the Kingdom of Naples (the mainland part of the original Norman Kingdom of Sicily). Alfonso had no legitimate sons, and so the kingdom of Aragon was going to pass to his brother Juan, but he did have an illegitimate son, Ferdinand. Alfonso had Ferdinand legitimised, and made him his heir in Naples (but not on Sicily). When Alfonso died in 1458 the kingdom was thus split, and Ferdinand I became king of Naples. He had to overcome a revolt in favour of René of Anjou, the alternative claimant to the throne, but then held the throne until his death in 1494.

Ferdinand was succeeded by his unpopular son Alfonso II. For some time Charles VIII of France, who had inherited the Angevin claim to the kingdom, had been planning an invasion, and the death of Ferdinand gave him his chance. In 1494 a massive French army advanced south through Italy, brushing aside what little opposition there was (First Italian War/ Italian War of Charles VIII).

Alfonso's succession made the young Prince Ferdinand heir to the throne. The king sent Ferdinand north to try and stop the French advance, but the Neapolitan army was outflanked after the French took a key fortress within hours of arriving outside it (the entire French invasion came as a great shock to the system in Italy, where warfare had become somewhat formalised and slower paced). Ferdinand returned to Naples, where by now his father had begun to panic. On 23 January 1495 Alfonso II abdicated, and his son became King Ferdinand II of Naples.

He would have a short reign. The French were now unstoppable, and in February he was forced to flee from his capital, taking refuge on Sicily. Charles made a triumphal entry into Naples, and spent some time organising his new kingdom, but behind him an alliance was forming. At a meeting in Venice the Pope, the Emperor Maximilian, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (this being Ferdinand II of Aragon), Venice and even Charles's former ally Milan, lined up against Charles. It soon became clear that he was in real danger of being trapped in the south, and so in May Charles left Naples. He left behind half of his army, under the command of Gilbert, duke of Montpensier.

While Venice and Milan concentrated on blocking the French route north, the Spanish sent an army, commanded by Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba (El Gran Capitán), to try and restore Ferdinand in Naples. Cordoba and Ferdinand advanced towards Naples, but they were defeated by a French force at Seminara (28 June 1495). This defeat at the hands of a force of Swiss pikemen later inspired Cordoba's reforms of the Spanish infantry.

For the moment it had little impact on the war. Ferdinand made his way to Naples by sea, and was quickly welcomed into the city by the inhabitants, who had been alienated by the French garrison. Montpensier retreated to the citadel of Naples, but then abandoned the city. He remained on the loose until July 1496 when he finally surrendered to Cordoba.

Ferdinand had been a popular Humanist prince, and the Neapolitans addressed him by the diminutive Ferrandino. He was only 29 when he was restored to his throne, and might have been expected to have been a successful monarch. He married his half-aunt, who was actually rather younger than him, but on 5 October 1496 he died after a short illness. He was succeeded by Frederick, the brother of Ferdinand I, but his reign was cut short by a secret alliance between Louis XII of France and Ferdinand II of Aragon, who agreed to split the kingdom between them (Second Italian War/ Italian War of Louis XII).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 August 2014), Ferdinand II, King of Naples (1467-1496) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_ferdinand_II_naples.html

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