- Sep 25, 2009
The place was a palace in Portici, a picturesque Italianate structure with gleaming, golden outer walls and a rich red roof that overlooked the Bay of Naples. With Mt. Vesuvius looming overhead, the earth tones of the palace, evocative of both Mother Earth and the fires at the center of the planet, were especially fitting. Still, more than architectural feature, one man made this palace truly special. For the King and his young family resided and ruled a nation from this place.
Ferdinando Carlo di Borbone-Due Sicilie, known to his people and fellow sovereigns as Ferdinando II, King of the Two Sicilies, had ruled the Neapolitan and Sicilian lands for just over 5 years in January of 1836. So far his reign had been peaceful and mildly progressive: the first railway in all of the Italian Peninsula had been built at his direction between Naples and this very Royal Palace at Portici; likewise, the first steam powered warship in the Peninsula belonged to the Sicilian fleet and bore his name; and so far, even the more liberal segments of his people had not made much noise about upsetting the ancient foundations of the realm. As Ferdinando was well aware, his Kingdom was a new entity – an experiment in the adhesive powers of dynastic trans-nationalism. If the tree of the realm was a sapling, however, its roots were that of an old oak. Sicily and Naples had formed an integral and closely linked part of the Aragonese and Spanish Empires and, yet further back, the two regions had been ruled as a united entity under the Normans. Briefly, the two lands had fallen to Austria, until the Spanish re-conquest had installed a series of Borbone kings, who nevertheless governed the two regions as separate realms between 1734 and 1806. From 1806 to 1816, the Neapolitan estates had been under the thumb of a king of Bonaparte’s choosing. With the fall of the Little Frenchman, the fall of his lackey lord soon followed and the Borbone’s were restored to their rightful thrones; however, to preserve those thrones from future assault they had to be made one, so that united the Sicilians and Neapolitans might be strong enough to resist any aggressor. So far, unity had prevailed and strength certainly did pervade the realm. The Kingdom was the largest state in Italy in area, population, and wealth with the benefits of enlightened yet firm leadership now showing.
Now, as Ferdinando peered proudly down upon the cradle that held his newborn son, Francesco, he fretted that the firmness was not enough to ensure the future. He had received a number of dispatches from government officials from the Sicilian estates, warning of roiling discontent, which might grow into rebellion shortly. The peasantry and the bourgeoisie alike it seems were entranced by the enticing words of liberal nationalist orators and pamphleteers. The cherubic face and delicate eyes of his son caused him to worry more, for they resembled more his wife’s features than his own. If the forces unleashed by the beastly Bonaparte were this enduring, his son perhaps might have the fight them when he was king. But what if he had not the stomach for it? Clearly, he thought, something must be done to distract his people from the sinister seductions of these so-called “liberals.” At this thought, the King brought his gaze upwards from his infant son to the ceiling, and that is when he caught a glimpse of inspiration.
Tied to the chandelier and hovering just inches above his face was a fantastical mobile of ships and sea creatures. The whole thing was hand enameled in blues, ivories, and whites with the occasional touch of gold or silver gilding. He reached out and touched the children’s sculpture, causing it to clang gently. Francesco made some delighted infant noises. The King had found a counter-seduction. Naples and Sicily had once been hubs of trade. They had produced their share of great sailors, merchants, and explorers. Why could not they do so again? And why could not the acquiring of new lands in the unexplored reaches of Africa or the Pacific serve as the perfect outlet for a restless and rabblerousing people? Ferdinando looked down upon his son, kissed him on the forehead, and left the room. After closing the door ever so gently, he let out a loud cry of exultation.
“Aha! That is what I shall do!” said His Majesty. “I shall replace the seduction of the sinister with the seduction of the sea.”
Note: OK, well obviously I'm playing as the Two Sicilies. I'm using the 1.3 patch with no mods. My basic goal is to build one of the larger colonial empires, mostly in Africa and the Pacific while maintaining an industrial score in the top 5 or so. I will not unite Italy and shall try to avoid for as long as possible a change in the form of government, although social reforms and some limited political reforms will not be resisted (i.e. healthcare [this one will actually be encouraged], censored press, non-socialist unions, etc.). I've played ahead quite a bit, so you can expect updates fairly frequently, although they will probably be written in more of a history book kind of way, instead of the more novelized narrative I have in the prologue. Oh, and this is my first AAR, so yeah, be nice.