Ferdinand II

Ferdinand II
1. ("the Catholic") 1452-1516, founder of the Spanish monarchy 1506: king of Sicily 1468-1516, king of Aragon 1479-1516; as Ferdinand III, king of Naples 1504-16; as King Ferdinand V, joint sovereign (with Isabella I) of Castile 1474-1504.
2. 1578-1637, king of Bohemia 1617-19, 1620-37; king of Hungary 1619?-37; emperor of the Holy Roman Empire 1620-37.

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born Jan. 12, 1810, Palermo, Sicily
died May 22, 1859, Caserta

King of the Two Sicilies (1830–59).

He followed his father, Francis I, as king and initially instituted reforms, but his rule gradually became authoritarian, and he severely repressed a number of liberal and national revolts. His heavy bombardment of Sicilian cities in 1848 earned him the name "King Bomba." His government's increasingly absolute character denied the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies a role in the Risorgimento and caused its collapse and incorporation into Italy in 1860.
born July 9, 1578, Graz, Styria
died Feb. 15, 1637, Vienna

Holy Roman emperor (1619–37), archduke of Austria, king of Bohemia (1617–19, 1620–27) and king of Hungary (1618–25).

A year after he was recognized by the Bohemian Diet as king, they deposed him and elected Frederick V, an event that effectively marked the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. After annihilating the rebel army in 1620, he greatly reduced the Diet's power. A rigidly Catholic ruler, he forcibly Catholicized Bohemia and suppressed Protestantism throughout his lands. He maintained much of his power through the victories of Albrecht W.E. von Wallenstein but later concluded a compromise peace with the Protestant princes. He was the leading champion of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and of absolutist rule in the Thirty Years' War.
known as Ferdinand the Catholic Spanish Fernando el Católico

born March 10, 1452, Sos, Aragon
died Jan. 23, 1516

King of Aragon from 1479, king of Castile (as Ferdinand V) from 1474 (joint sovereign with Queen Isabella I until 1504), king of Sicily (as Ferdinand II, 1468–1516), and king of Naples (as Ferdinand III, 1503–16).

The son of John II of Aragon (1398–1479), Ferdinand married Isabella of Castile in 1469 and fought to impose his authority over the nobles in the two kingdoms. As part of an effort to modernize Castile, they banned all religions other than Roman Catholicism, leading to the Spanish Inquisition (1478) and the expulsion of the Jews (1492). Conquest of Granada in 1492 made it possible to support Christopher Columbus's voyages to the New World. Ferdinand furthered his expansionary policies in the Mediterranean and in Africa. After the conquest of Naples in 1503, during the Italian Wars, Spain rivaled France as the most powerful state in Europe. By uniting the Spanish kingdoms into the nation of Spain, Ferdinand began Spain's entry into the modern period of imperial expansion.

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▪ Holy Roman emperor
born July 9, 1578, Graz, Styria [now in Austria]
died Feb. 15, 1637, Vienna

      Holy Roman emperor (1619–37), archduke of Austria, king of Bohemia (1617–19, 1620–27), and king of Hungary (1618–25). He was the leading champion of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation and of absolutist rule during the Thirty Years' War.

Early years.
      Ferdinand was born in Graz, the eldest son of the archduke Charles, the ruler of Inner Austria (Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola), and Maria, a daughter of Albrecht V, duke of Bavaria. From 1590 to 1595 he was educated at the University of Ingolstadt by Jesuits whose aim was to make him a strict, rigidly Catholic ruler. In 1596 he took over his hereditary lands and, after a pilgrimage to Loreto and Rome, set about suppressing Protestantism by forcing the great majority of his subjects to adopt the Roman Catholic faith. In 1600 he married Maria Anna of Bavaria, who bore him four children. He avoided committing himself in a quarrel between his cousins, the Holy Roman emperor Rudolf II and his brother Matthias, who eventually succeeded Rudolf as emperor. Later Ferdinand secured approval from the Habsburg rulers of Spain to succeed the childless Matthias. In return he promised in a secret treaty (1617) to cede to them Alsace and the imperial fiefs in Italy. In the same year, Ferdinand was recognized by the Bohemian (Bohemia) Diet as king of Bohemia and in 1618 was elected king of Hungary. In 1619, however, the largely Protestant diet of Bohemia deposed him, electing Frederick V, elector of the Palatinate, as their king. This was, in effect, the beginning of the Thirty Years' War. Though elected Holy Roman emperor on Aug. 28, 1619, Ferdinand was able to maintain himself only with support from Spain, Poland, and various German princes. Aided by Maximilian I, duke of Bavaria, his troops annihilated the rebel army on the White Mountain, near Prague, on Nov. 8, 1620. He confiscated the estates of the rebel magnates, reduced the Diet to impotence by a new constituent ordinance (1627), and forcibly catholicized Bohemia. The Protestants of Upper and Lower Austria were subjected to compulsory conversion.

Ferdinand and Wallenstein.
      During the first decade of the Thirty Years' War, Ferdinand strengthened his position by transferring the Palatinate's electoral office to Maximilian of Bavaria. In addition, with the help of Spain and the league of Catholic princes of Germany, and through the victories of his generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein (Wallenstein, Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von, Herzog von Friedland, Herzog von Mecklenburg, Fürst Von Sagen) (q.v.), he gained important successes over his German opponents and the king of Denmark. Until then the war largely had been confined to Germany, but Swedish and, later on, French intervention turned it into a European conflict. Ferdinand's Edict of Restitution (1629), which forced Protestants to return to the Roman Catholic church all property seized since 1552, revealed to the German princes the threat of imperial absolutism. Their opposition forced Ferdinand in 1630 to dismiss Wallenstein, the mainstay of his power. The victorious advance of the Swedish army, however, made the emperor recall Wallenstein. Eventually, for reasons of state, Ferdinand reluctantly gave his consent to a second dismissal and the assassination of Wallenstein, who had treacherously entered into negotiations with the enemy (1634). After his victory over the Swedes (September 1634) at Nördlingen, Ferdinand reached a compromise with the Protestant princes in the Peace of Prague (1635) and, in 1636, succeeded in having his son Ferdinand elected king of the Romans (successor-designate to the emperor). Ferdinand II, who had been married to his second wife, Eleonora Gonzaga of Mantua, since 1622, died in Vienna in 1637.

      In the prime of his life Ferdinand was described as a blue-eyed, somewhat corpulent, middle-sized man who wore Spanish court dress. A good-natured, benevolent, affable monarch, he was imbued with the belief in the splendour of the imperial crown and the greatness of his dynasty. Besides German he spoke Italian, French, and Spanish, was fond of music, and liked reading religious books, but his passion was hunting. Although he kept a frugal court, he was a bad financier who too generously gave away the greatest part of confiscated estates to his faithful followers. A very pious Catholic, he especially favoured the Jesuits. Yet, basing his policies chiefly on religious principles, he suffered from discrepancies between his religious goals and the maxims of a modern raison d'état. An indecisive man, he depended much on the influence of his counselors and his Jesuit confessors. Yet in the face of the shifting fortunes of war, he showed much steadfastness, although he often lacked political agility. A person of moderate talents and willpower, he nevertheless exerted a strong influence on the events of his time by his strict and uncompromising religious policy.

      By promoting the Counter-Reformation, Ferdinand II set the course of Austrian Habsburg policy for the next century. By creating an independent Austrian court chancellery and by establishing in his will the principles of Austria's indivisibility and of primogeniture in his family, he made an essential contribution to the country's national integration. Yet by maintaining the country's historical provinces and estates, after their subjugation, he preserved the principle of federalism in Austria. Ferdinand's Roman Catholic contemporaries considered him a saintlike monarch; his Protestant opponents feared him as a tyrant. Roman Catholic historiography of the 19th century assigned him too high a place, while liberal historians were likely to underestimate his importance. Modern historians tend to view Ferdinand's religious policy as determined by his time, to acknowledge his importance in molding Austria's provinces into an integral whole, and to see in his imperial policy an attempt at creating a Roman Catholic German state, however inconsistently carried out.

Hans Sturmberger

Additional Reading
C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (1938, reprinted 1989); and Robert Bireley, Religion and Politics in the Age of the Counterreformation: Emperor Ferdinand II, William Lamormaini, S.J., and the Formation of Imperial Policy (1981).

▪ grand duke of Tuscany
original name  Ferdinando de' Medici 
born July 14, 1610
died May 24, 1670

      fifth grand duke (granduca) of Tuscany, a patron of sciences, whose rule was subservient to Rome.

      He was a boy of 10 when his father, Cosimo II, died in 1621; and his grandmother, Christine of Lorraine, and his mother, Maria Magdalena of Austria, were nominated regents. The young Ferdinand was sent to Rome and Vienna to complete his education, and the government of Tuscany remained in the hands of two jealous and quarrelsome people. Thus the administration of justice and finance speedily went to ruin. They conferred exaggerated privileges on the new Tuscan nobility, which became increasingly insolent. They resumed the old Medicean practice of trading on their own account, and, without reaping much benefit thereby, did the utmost damage to private enterprise.

      In 1627 Ferdinand II, then aged 17, returned to Italy and assumed the reins of government; but, being of a very gentle disposition, he decided on sharing his power with the regents and his brothers and arranged matters in such a manner that each was almost independent of the other. He gained the love of his subjects by his great goodness; and, when Florence and Tuscany were ravaged by the plague in 1630, he showed admirable courage and carried out many useful measures. But he was totally incapable of energy as a statesman. He contrived with difficulty to remain neutral, despite pressure from Spain, in the War of the Mantuan Succession (1628–31) and in the later Franco-Spanish hostilities of the Thirty Years' War. On the other hand, his relations with the papacy were unhappy. Pope Urban VIII's (Urban VIII) annexation of Urbino to the Papal States (1626) precluded Ferdinand from acquiring anything more than the freehold property of the former dukes of Urbino when he married their heiress, Vittoria della Rovere, in 1634 (this patrimony, however, included important treasures); and though he allied himself with Venice and Modena to support his brother-in-law Odoardo Farnese, duke of Parma, against Urban during the War of Castro (1642–44) and won a victory at Mongiovino, near Perugia, in 1643, he received no advantage under the treaty of peace.

      Deeply religious and austere, Ferdinand II was blamed for his acquiescence to the Holy Office's treatment of his teacher and protégé Galileo (1633); but he continued to take an interest in science, encouraging his brother Leopoldo, the future cardinal, in the foundation of the Accademia del Cimento in Florence (1657) and offering hospitality to scientists of all nations.

▪ king consort of Portugal
original name  Ferdinand August Franz Anton, Prince (prinz) von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha 
born Oct. 29, 1816, Vienna, Austria
died Dec. 15, 1885, Lisbon, Port.

      second husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal, who proclaimed him king consort with the title of Ferdinand II upon the birth of their first son (the future Peter V) in 1837.

      The son of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (and cousin of Prince Albert of Great Britain), he was married to Maria in January 1836, only 10 months after the sudden death of her first husband after two months of marriage. When Maria died in 1853, in childbirth, Ferdinand acted as regent for two years until Peter V came of age.

      Well educated and versed in music and the arts, Ferdinand did much to foster the arts in his adopted country and tried to give a rigorous but broad education to all his children.

▪ king of Leon

born 1137
died Aug. 22, 1188, Benavente, Leon

      king of Leon from 1157 to 1188, second son of Alfonso VII.

      Despite several internal revolts against his rule, Ferdinand's reign was notable for the repopulation of Leonese Extremadura and for the victories he secured farther south against the Almohads in the last 20 years of his reign. These included the capture of Alcántara (1166) and Badajoz (1169). He also gave important support to the new military order of Santiago, founded with his approval in 1170. Ferdinand, who called himself rex hispanorum (“king of the Spaniards”), established a temporary tutelage over Castile during the minority of his nephew Alfonso VIII and occupied Segovia and Toledo (1162–66), though Alfonso later reacted violently against Ferdinand. Ferdinand was also frequently engaged in hostilities with the nascent Portuguese kingdom but came successfully to the rescue of the Portuguese when the Almohads invested the key city of Santarém (1184).

▪ king of Naples

born June 26, 1467, Naples [Italy]
died Oct. 5, 1496, Naples

      prince of Capua, duke of Calabria, and king of Naples (1495–96), who recovered his kingdom from French occupation.

      A gifted humanist prince, Ferdinand was loved by the people, who affectionately addressed him in the diminutive Ferrandino. When his father, the unpopular Alfonso II, became king (1494), Ferdinand took command of Neapolitan troops opposing the advance of the French king Charles VIII in northern Italy. Failing to halt the French, Ferdinand returned to Naples and became king upon the abdication of his father on Jan. 23, 1495. The following month, however, the French captured Naples, and Ferdinand withdrew to Sicily. Aided by a Spanish army and the Venetian fleet, he recovered almost all his lands by the summer of 1496 and was received triumphantly by the populace of Naples. His sudden death opened the way for Spanish usurpation of the Neapolitan throne.

▪ king of Spain
byname  Ferdinand the Catholic,  Spanish  Fernando el Católico 
born March 10, 1452, Sos, Aragon
died Jan. 23, 1516, Madrigalejo, Spain
 king of Aragon and king of Castile (as Ferdinand V) from 1479, joint sovereign with Queen Isabella I. (As Spanish ruler of southern Italy, he was also known as Ferdinand III of Naples and Ferdinand II of Sicily.) He united the Spanish kingdoms into the nation of Spain and began Spain's entry into the modern period of imperial expansion.

      Ferdinand was the son of John II of Aragon and Juana Enríquez, both of Castilian origin. In 1461, in the midst of a bitterly contested succession, John II named him heir apparent and governor of all his kingdoms and lands. Ferdinand's future was assured when he came of age, in 1466, and when he was named king of Sicily, in 1468, in order to impress the court of Castile, where his father ultimately wished to place him. In addition to participating in court life, the young prince saw battle during the Catalonian wars.

      John II was careful about Ferdinand's education and took personal charge of it, making sure that Ferdinand learned as much as possible from experience. He also provided him with teachers who taught him humanistic attitudes and wrote him treatises on the art of government. Ferdinand had no apparent bent for formal studies, but he was a patron of the arts and a devotee of vocal and instrumental music.

      Ferdinand had an imposing personality but was never very genial. From his father he acquired sagacity, integrity, courage, and a calculated reserve; from his mother, an impulsive emotionality, which he generally repressed. Under the responsibility of kingship he had to conceal his stronger passions and adopt a cold, impenetrable mask.

      He married the princess Isabella (Isabella I) of Castile in Valladolid in October 1469. This was a marriage of political opportunism, not romance. The court of Aragon dreamed of a return to Castile, and Isabella needed help to gain succession to the throne. The marriage initiated a dark and troubled life, in which Ferdinand fought on the Castilian and Aragonese fronts in order to impose his authority over the noble oligarchies, shifting his basis of support from one kingdom to the other according to the intensity of the danger. Despite the political nature of the union, he loved Isabella sincerely. She quickly bore him children: the infanta Isabella was born in 1470; the heir apparent, Juan, in 1478; and the infantas Juana (called Juana la Loca—Joan the Mad), Catalina (later called—as the first wife of Henry VIII of England—Catherine of Aragon), and María followed. The marriage began, however, with almost continual separation. Ferdinand, often away in the Castilian towns or on journeys to Aragon, reproached his wife for the comfort of her life. At the same time, the restlessness of his 20 years drove him into other women's arms, by whom he sired at least two female children, whose birth dates are not recorded. His extramarital affairs caused Isabella jealousy for several years.

      Between the ages of 20 and 30, Ferdinand performed a series of heroic deeds. These began when Henry IV of Castile died on Dec. 11, 1474, leaving his succession in dispute. Ferdinand rushed from Zaragoza to Segovia, where Isabella had herself proclaimed queen of Castile on December 13. Ferdinand remained there as king consort, an uneasy, marginal figure, until Isabella's war of succession against Afonso V of Portugal gained his acceptance in 1479 as king in every sense of the word. That same year John II died, and Ferdinand succeeded to the Aragonese throne. This initiated a confederation of kingdoms, which was the institutional basis for modern Spain.

      The events of this period bring out the young king's character more clearly. In portraits he appears with soft, well-proportioned features, a small, sensual mouth, and pensive eyes. His literary descriptions are more complicated, although they agree in presenting him as good-looking, of medium height, and a good rider, devoted to games and to the hunt. He had a clear, strong voice.

      From 1475 to 1479 Ferdinand struggled to take a firm seat in Castile with his young wife and to transform the kingdom politically, using new institutional molds partly inspired by those of Aragon. This policy of modernization included a ban against all religions other than Roman Catholicism. The establishment of the Spanish Inquisition (1478) to enforce religious uniformity and the expulsion of the Jews (1492) were both part of a deliberate policy designed to strengthen the church, which would in turn support the crown.

      The years 1482–92 were frantic for Ferdinand. In the spring months he directed the campaign against the kingdom of Granada, showing his military talent to good effect, and he conquered the kingdom inch by inch, winning its final capitulation on Jan. 2, 1492. During the months of rest from war, he visited his kingdoms, learning their geography and problems firsthand.

      The conquest of Granada made it possible to support Christopher Columbus (Columbus, Christopher)' voyages of exploration across the Atlantic. It is not known what Ferdinand thought of Columbus or how he judged his plans, nor can it be stated that the first trip was financed from Aragon; the sum of 1,157,000 maravedis came from the funds of the Santa Hermandad (“Holy Brotherhood”). Nevertheless, Ferdinand was present in the development of plans for the enterprise, in the negotiations to obtain the pope's backing for it, and in the organization of the resulting American colonies.

      At the age of 50 Ferdinand was an incarnation of royalty, and fortune smiled on him. For various reasons, particularly for his intervention in Italy, Pope Alexander VI gave him the honorary title of “the Catholic” on Dec. 2, 1496. But he also suffered a succession of tragedies: the heir apparent and his eldest daughter both died, and the first symptoms of insanity appeared in his daughter Juana. He was wounded in Barcelona in 1493, but this was unimportant compared with the family injuries he suffered, which culminated in the death of Isabella in 1504, “the best and most excellent wife king ever had.”

      In 1505, to secure his position in Castile, Ferdinand signed a contract to marry Germaine de Foix, niece of the king of France. This, too, was a political marriage, although he always showed her the highest regard. A stay in Italy (1506–07) demonstrated how badly he was needed by the Spanish kingdoms. Once more in Castile, he managed his European policy so as to obtain a hegemony that would serve his expansionary ends in the Mediterranean and in Africa. In 1512, immediately after the schism in the church in which the kings of Navarre (Navarra) participated, he occupied their kingdom and incorporated it into Castile—one of the most controversial acts of his reign.

      In 1513 Ferdinand's health began to decay, although he was still able to direct his international policy and to prepare the succession of his grandson, the future emperor Charles V. In early 1516 he began a trip to Granada; he stopped in Madrigalejo, the little site of the sanctuary of Guadalupe, where he died. The day before his death, he had signed his last will and testament, an excellent picture of the monarch and of the political situation at his death.

      Many considered Ferdinand the saviour of his kingdoms, a bringer of unity. Others despised him for having oppressed them. Machiavelli attributed to him the objectionable qualities of the Renaissance prince. The German traveler Thomas Müntzer and the Italian diplomat Francesco Guicciardini, who knew him personally, compared him with Charlemagne. His will indicates that he died with a clear conscience, ordering that his body be moved to Granada and buried next to that of his wife Isabella, so that they might be reunited for eternity. He died convinced that the crown of Spain had not been so powerful for 700 years, “and all, after God, because of my work and my labour.”

The Rev. Tarsicio de Azcona

Additional Reading
An outstanding foundational work, although now somewhat dated, is William Hickling Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, 3 vol. (1838), and many later editions, also available in an abridged edition with the same title (1962). B. Netanyahu, Don Isaac Abravanel, Statesman & Philosopher (1953, reissued 1982), is indispensable for understanding Ferdinand's role in the expulsion of the Jews. Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Ferdinand and Isabella (1975), contains an extensive bibliography.

▪ king of the Two Sicilies

born Jan. 12, 1810, Palermo
died May 22, 1859, Caserta

      king of the Two Sicilies from 1830. He was the son of the future King Francis I and the Spanish infanta María Isabel, a member of the branch of the House of Bourbon that had ruled Naples and Sicily from 1734.

      Ferdinand II's initial actions on ascending the throne on Nov. 8, 1830, raised the hopes of the liberals in the kingdom. He granted amnesty to political prisoners, reinstated army officers suspected of republicanism, and showed himself eager to provide good government and to institute reforms. But he gradually came to adopt an authoritarian policy. He severely repressed a number of liberal and national revolts (including that of the Bandiera brothers in 1844). Even his marriage to an Austrian, the Archduchess Theresa, in 1837 (after the death of his first wife, the Piedmontese Maria Cristina), was taken as a sign of his growing conservatism.

      A successful revolution at Palermo on Jan. 12, 1848, and subsequent agitation among Neapolitan liberals forced Ferdinand to grant a constitution on January 29. After his army defeated a group of Neapolitan rebels on May 15, 1848, Ferdinand regained his confidence. He ignored the constitution, recalled troops sent by his liberal ministers to help expel the Austrians from northern Italy, and regained control of Sicily. The heavy bombardment of Sicilian cities in this campaign gained him the name of “King Bomba,” while his harsh treatment of the participants in the revolts earned him the dislike of many Europeans, notably of the future British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone, who denounced Ferdinand's regime as “the negation of God erected into a system of government.”

      During the final years of his life, Ferdinand became more and more isolated from his people and fearful of conspiracies against his life. The increasingly absolute character of his government denied the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies a role in the Risorgimento (movement for Italian unification) and contributed directly to the easy collapse of the kingdom and its incorporation into Italy in 1860, only shortly after Ferdinand's death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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