La Bella Italia, the Renaissance epoch!
Usually after these words you imagine a sublime world inhabited by geniuses and great artists of the past. It was the time of discoveries and a flourishing culture.
Surely, Italy have looked like that… rich and attractive. Attractive for wolves, encircling their defenseless prey. The Italian peninsula was a sweet slice of the pie for the most powerful states of Europe: France, Spain, The Holy Roman Empire. Italy couldn’t confront them, because there was no united Italy at all, just a bunch of different bigger and smaller states, always feuding with each other. So the whole Catholic world was waiting for just a spark, which would turn into a big fire of war.
And the Kingdom of Naples was that spark. It was bogged down in series of conflicts of dynastic successions, which had a pretty long history. From the XIII century Naples was ruled by the House of Anjou, originally belonged to the French royal Capetian dynasty. But there was a danger, that it would be ended with the death of the last queen of Anjou, Joanna II. She hadn’t any children, and the French proclaimed their right for the throne of Naples. So, in 1421 she decided to call on her old acquaintance, the brother of her erstwhile betrothed, the mighty king of Aragon, Alfonso V. She adopted him and promised the hereditary title to Naples in exchange for help. And that’s how the Kingdom was given into the hands of the foreigner — the Spaniard. But the French didn’t give up.
For a short period of time there was peace during the reign of Alfonso V, which became for Naples the king Alfonso I. Like many rulers of that time, he was a patron of the arts and science, created a brilliant court and invited a lot of Aragonese nobility in his new capital. The storm calmed down, but the dark clouds were still there: Alfonso’s marriage was childless. But he had children from other women! And Alfonso bequeathed the throne to his illegitimate son Ferdinand. Just to notice, it was common to consider illegitimate children as a part of family; they even could have been in the order of succession. So, this event wasn’t shocking for contemporaries, and in another circumstances the illegality could be ignored. But not it the case with Naples, because Alfonso was still an usurper. By the way, Ferdinand also wasn’t a popular guy. He was cruel and almost a sadistic person. There are evidences, that he had a special room in his palace, where he collected mummies of his enemies, killed or tortured to death.
During his reign Ferdinand I not only protected his kingdom from French and Turkish invaders but also put down domestic revolts. One of the revolts in was supported in 1485 by the Pope Innocent VIII himself. Ferdinand’s response was fatal for the future of Naples: firstly, he has officially pardoned mutineers and invited them to his niece’s wedding, thereafter arrested and executed them. He even confiscated the lands and properties of the mutineer’s relatives. Though, he didn’t get away with it — Pope has excommunicated him and his son, and called out foreign states to invade Naples and overthrow the lawless dynasty.
Innocent VIII had passed away soon, and three potent candidates clashed during the Conclave: Spaniard Rodrigo de Borgia, Giuliano della Rovere, financially supported by France, and Ascanio Sforza, who was from the reigning Milanese family, which also had some claims on Naples as a result of dynastic marriages. Borgia prevails and becomes the new Pope Alexander VI, who is destined to choose his side in the forthcoming war…
And here our story begins.