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Suppressed Identity: The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies

It seems a paradox of history, or perhaps it is an example of dialects? We often find anomalies in the “Right,” where the Right has not sufficiently repudiated the Zeitgeist of 1789, and reflects rather than repels certain doctrines and historical acts. Two of the most obvious are the defense by French nationalists of the legacy of 1789, and the holy aura accorded by “American patriots” to the typically Masonic-enlightenment credo expressed in the Constitution. Italian Fascism (Fascism arose in France at least as early as it had arisen in Italy [1]) paid homage to the sanctity of the “Risorgimento,” albeit while rolling back the Masonic legacy of 1861.

The “Right” has become synonymous with the nationalism of the modern nation-states. However, these nation-states emerged as part of the mid-19th-century liberal revolt against the remnants of tradition that were based around dynasties and regions. Hence, what is assumed to be “Right” is often a legacy of liberal-enlightenment doctrines. The “aggressive nationalism” and total-statism identified today with the “Right” and with “Fascism” originate more with Jacobinism, which destroyed the regions of France (reaching genocidal proportions in Vendee) and launched its wars in the name of ideology; and the totalitarianism of the social contract theories of Rousseau. Maurras in France was consistent in his “Rightism” in rejecting the entire legacy of “The Republic”, as was Julius Evola in Italy who was a critique of Fascism because of what he saw as certain democratic-liberal elements inherited from the Risorgimento. Evola wrote of the “nation” as a “deviation” from traditional state authority; anti-aristocratic, anti-hierarchical, schismatic; tending towards centralization, the “nation” emerged with the French Revolution as “an exclusively demagogical function… since then nationalism allied itself with revolution, constitutionalism, liberalism, and democracy, becoming a symbol of the revolutionary movements from 1789 to 1848, all the way to 1918,” “subverting whatever remained of Europe’s preceding order.” This was Evola’s judgment on the “‘patriotic’ ideologies.” [2]

Evola’s nation Italy as the product of such a revolt. The “unification” of Italy was achieved by the destruction of the identity of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The destruction of the Kingdom is an example of the leveling tendency of liberalism. While Sicily is today thought of as a poor, peasant-based, mafia-ridden island, the name is all that remains in the general consciousness of a vast region that was one of the richest and most advanced in Europe.

The Kingdom: Forgotten Jewel of European Civilization

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies encompassed the greatest expanse of territory of all the states. Existing since 1130, the Kingdom underwent several divisions and reunifications between Sicily and Naples. Apart from the Napoleonic interlude (1799-1815), the Kingdom remained united from 1720 until its invasion and conquest by the House of Savoy in 1860.

The expanse of the Kingdom meant a home market that allowed it to industrialize in comparison to the other pre-unification states. With a population of 9,000,000 the state encouraged home industry by import and export controls. A large merchant fleet enabled commercial contacts over the world. The fleet was the third largest in Europe, with 9,800 vessels, and about forty shipbuilding yards. Naples was the center of metal and textile industries. Prices were kept stable, and the bank issue was based on 100% gold backing, as distinct from fractional reserve banking. Although not reliant on agriculture like the other states, the Kingdom nonetheless produced an agricultural surplus during the final forty years of its existence. [6]. (Around 60 years later Mussolini had to embark on a “battle for wheat” as the unitary Italian state could no longer feed itself).

The region of Calabria, prior to unification, was the richest in pre-Italy; subsequent to unification it was the poorest. The steel works covered an area of 12,000 square meters. An armaments factory covered 4000 square meters. Calabria led in iron and cast iron production, silk production, and shipbuilding. The regions of Puglia and Basilicata were centers of cotton, wool and flax products exported over the world. Foggia and Bari were world renowned for agricultural machinery, the chemical industry, and the fishing and battle fleets. The salt mine in Barletta supplied much of Europe. Abruzzio and Molise were noted for the production of tools, metal blades, cattle and goat farming, and there were many textile factories and paper mills. In Campanian steamships, locomotives, industrialized armaments, tools, chemical pharmaceuticals, paper, glass, leather, foodstuffs, ceramics, and building materials were manufactured and processed. There were many factories producing technical instruments, clocks, and balances. The island of Sicily built ships, and exported sulphur, olive oil, citrus fruits, sea salt and wine. [7]

The Kingdom was the first state in the world to launch a steel ship to sea, in 1818. (England did not launch a steel ship until 1822, a tugboat called “Monkey.”) The first and second iron bridges in the world were built in 1832 and 1835, the first railway line in the Italian peninsula. Before the 1860 invasion, the capital had been raised to construct a rail network throughout the Kingdom. In 1840 the Royal Pietrarsa, industrial complex, employing over 1000 workers, was opened. It was a blueprint for industrial works elsewhere in Europe. By 1840 Naples, with 350 gas street lights, was the third most illuminated capital in Europe, behind London and Paris. Enormous land reclamation efforts enabled free land to be distributed for framing. The Vesuvius Observatory, the first scientific structure in the world for the observation of volcanoes was set up in 1841; a meteorological observatory in 1844. That year the first lenticular lighthouse was built in Nisidia, with other such lighthouses built along the coast thereafter. In 1877 the first electric light experiments were conducted in the Italian peninsula and in 1879 electric lights came into use. The first steam battleship was launched in 1843, and in 1847 the first Italian propulsion shop was launched. [8]

Kingdom Targeted for Regime Change

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was a grand prize for the House of Savoy, and for certain cosmopolitan financial interests. The “Risorgimento” had characteristics in common with the other “popular revolutions” that were undertaken in the name of some grandiose slogan but for the benefit of oligarchy and finance, a recurring historical phenomenon that I have considered previously in “Thermidor.” [9]

The Kingdom was a hindrance to the geopolitical strategies of France and Britain, both of whom opposed the alliance between the Kingdom and Russia and Austria, which happened to be the last bulwarks of tradition, despite Metternich’s reliance on Rothschild money. England regarded a future united Italy as a counterweight to France and Austria. The House of Savoy needed the wealth of the south. The Rothschild bank saw a unified Italy as a business “merger.” The Redshirts of Garibaldi provided the façade of a popular uprising, reminiscent of the “color revolutions” of today. The Redshirts and the “Risorgimento” were the façade to disguise and justify the invasion by Piedmontese troops, with backing from England.
Elements of the Sicilian bourgeoisie wanted the elimination of the Bourbon monarchy, coveting crown lands that had been granted to the peasantry.

The Kingdom had been rotted by liberalism, King Francis II having foolishly tried to placate the liberals with a constitution that empowered disloyal bourgeois elements and undermined the influence of the Bishops. One might sense the stench of Freemasonry in this liberalism. Garibaldi had been initiated into Masonry in Brazil in 1844, and was elected Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Italy. As in other Masonic revolts, such as those in Mexico, Spain, and Portugal, the clergy were targeted by the invaders.

The Piedmontese troops and the Garibaldi Redshirts invaded the Kingdom in 1860, with the British Navy ensuring Garibaldi’s legion could land at Marsala. The resistance to the invasion and occupation resulted in the destruction of 54 villages and the deaths of 70,000, with hundreds of thousands of prisoners. Millions of dispossessed peasants, workers and artisans emigrated. Garibaldi declared himself “dictator” of Sicily in the name of the Piedmontese King, Victor Emmanuel II, who was proclaimed “King of Italy.” The two rode into Naples together as conquerors. In 1864 Garibaldi was feted as a hero by anti-Catholic and Masonic elements in Britain, greeted by the Whigs, and met Prime Minister Palmerston.

The first act was to seize the financial resources and convey them to what became the Bank of Italy. The Kingdom’s immense gold reserves were shipped to Piedmont. The new financial system imposed on united Italy was based on fractional reserve banking, and this was the start of the National Debt, delivering the entire peninsula into the hands of the bankers. Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel had subjected Italy to the same type of financial servitude as that inflicted on England by the ironically named “Glorious Revolution” that installed William of Orange.

Industrial development was now focused on building up the north, industries in the south were destroyed, and the regions of the former Kingdom were increasingly de-industrialised, with the focus for investment on Lombardy and Piedmont. Free market economics was imposed and the home market that had been built up in the Kingdom was wrecked. Former crown lands were privatized (in today’s parlance), and lands that had been worked by the peasantry became the vast private estates of an oligarchy (shades of Henry VIII’s “Reformation”). The regime of the new Italy profited by 600,000,000 lire in selling the crown lands. [10]


Since The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was one of the wealthiest of Europe, it is not surprising that when Mayer Amschel sent his five sons out into different parts of the world to set up branch banks Naples was among these first five. The Rothschild archives state Carl Rothschild established the fifth branch of the bank in Naples in 1821 when negotiating a loan for Ferdinand II. As well as money-changing, they engaged in the trade of the Kingdom’s commodities. The others states, including the Papal states, sought Rothschild loans, as did Cavour, one of the heroes of the future “Risorgimento”:

“Further loans were issued to Tuscany and to Piedmont, of which the fourth in 1859 financed Cavour’s victorious Austrian campaign, heralding the formation of a united Italy. The business was also involved in railways in Sicily.” [11]

Of added interest is that while Rothschild was financing Cavour in his battle with Austria, the family branch in Vienna established in 1820, also handled the financing of Austria, and was particularly close to Metternich. [12]

With the invasion Adolph Rothschild closed down the Naples branch and withdrew to Gaeta with King Francis, then into retirement. James Rothschild had alluded on two occasions to Cavour to his favoring unification. When the exiled Francis sought separate loans from James and Anselm, both requests were denied. [13]

Rothschild remained the primary creditor of united Italy. The first loan of the new state was raised in 1861, with Rothschild underwriting 150 million of the 500 million francs. Rothschild underwrote the entirety of a loan in 1863 of 700 million francs and underwrote 425 million francs of the next loan in 1865. [14]

The significance of railway networks across Europe should not be underestimated in influencing financial policies. Niall Ferguson writes:

“In the short run, the Creditanstalt secured the Rothschilds the dominant position they had sought in the developing Central European railway network. In 1856 the Pereires were once again defeated in the contest for the crucial Lombard and Central Italian lines, the defection to the Rothschild side of their former ally Galliera proving fatal to their efforts. It was now that the Rothschilds’ access to the London capital market also began to tell: when the new Imperial Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian Railway Company was launched, £1.2 million of its total £6 million shares were taken by an English group led by the London house, which also issued bonds for the company worth £3.1 million. The Paris house provided just under half the total funds required, the Creditanstalt the rest. This gave the Rothschilds and their associate's control of more than 600 miles of Italian railways, of which 260 miles were already in operation.” [15]

What James Rothschild saw, according to Ferguson, was “states as businesses.” “Thus where historians… see nation-building, James saw mergers and de-mergers…” [16]

Returning to the issue of the railways relating to Italian unification, the Rothschild attitude was that,

“Piedmont’s hostile takeover of Italy made sense and had succeeded; Austria was as financially weak in the wake of defeat as before; therefore she should sell her rights over Venetia or Holstein to the powers which could afford them — Italy and Prussia. It faintly puzzled him that the Austrian Emperor preferred to suffer further military defeats rather than to commercialize Habsburg decline in this fashion. After all, it made no difference to James whether Venetia was governed from Vienna or Turin or Florence; he continued to think of the map of Europe in terms of railways rather than borders. Indeed, as Shaftesbury quite rightly divined, the most important consequence of the Italian war for the Rothschilds was that it transferred a substantial part of the territory over which their Imperial Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian railway line ran from Austria to the new Kingdom of Italy. The crucial clauses of the Treaty of Zurich (November 1859) confirmed the validity of the existing concessions granted by Austria in Lombardy, substituting the new Italian state in the contracts where appropriate, and the same principle was applied to concessions granted by the old Italian states in July 1860. Formally, separate companies administered the tracks on either side of the Italian-Austrian border; in practice, the same shareholders still met in Paris to discuss the affairs of the whole north Italian network under James’s chairmanship.” [17]

With the sacrifice of the Naples branch, Rothschild nonetheless emerged from unification with enhanced prospects over winners and losers alike: Austria, France, Italy.

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies is one of the many historic identities that have been obliterated through the leveling process of liberal-inspired “nationalism.” Perhaps we might understand the failure of the noble ideal of a united Europe in the manner by which European union has sought to amalgamate nation-states that are themselves flawed at their foundations? Perhaps a new Europe can emerge that enhances rather than obscures genuinely organic identities such as those of Breton, Flemish, Walloon, Cornish, Basque, Lombard, and Sicilian?

[1] Zeev Sternhell, “The Birth of Fascist Ideology,” Princeton, 1994.

[2] Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins, Inner Traditions, 2002, 127-128.

[3] Cornelia Di Gaetano, et al., “Differential Greek and northern African migrations to Sicily are supported by genetic evidence from the Y chromosome,” European Journal of Human Genetics (2009) 17, 91–99;

[4] Ibid.

[5] F. Brisighelli, et al., “Uniparental Markers of Contemporary Italian Population Reveals Details on Its Pre-Roman Heritage”, PLoS ONE 7(12): e50794, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050794,

[6] Antonio Pagano, “The Two Sicilies: An Italian colony,” The Scorpion, No. 23, Winter 2003/4.

[7] Pagano, ibid.

[8] Pagano, ibid.

[9] Bolton, “1789 – The Long Romance of Socialism and Liberal Democracy,” Thermidor,

[10] Pagano, op. cit.

[11] “Brief History of the Naples House,” The Rothschild Archives,

[12] “Brief history of the Vienna House,” Rothschild Archives,

[13] Niall Ferguson, “The House of Rothschild: The World’s Banker, Penguin Books, 2000, 99.

[14] Rondo E. Cameron, “France and the Economic Development of Europe 1800-1914,” Psychology Press, 2000, 452.

[15] Ferguson, op. cit., 87.

[16] Ferguson, ibid., 100.

[17] Ferguson, ibid.