Habsburg in Sicily

Often, when we talk about the Habsburg domination in Sicily, it is defined as the Spanish domination.

This is because the Habsburg caste was the Castilian one, unlike the Aragonese family which has Catalan origins.

This formal distinction does not change the fact that in any case we are talking about Spanish domination in Sicily.

When Ferdinand II died, the island’s government passed to Charles V of Habsburg and officially began a new domination for Sicily, this awas in 1516.

This was only in a formal way as it changed very little in the island.

This period lasted for almost two centuries, until, in 1713, the island passed into the hands of the Savoy with the peace of Utrecht.

Sicily during all this period was administered by the Viceroys.

Let’s go in order.

Charles V

Carlo came to Sicily for the first time after almost twenty years that it was part of his reign. His empire was huge and this justifies it 😉.

Besides the management of the immense realm he also had to think about managing various disputes, first of all the one with the Ottomans.

The economic commitment to the management of his immense kingdom was supported thanks to the American colonization and the consequent (forced) withdrawal of precious items from the “new” land.

He made Sicily the fulcrum in the struggle with the Ottomans. In fact, he had several fortifications built throughout the island.

Philip II

After Charles V his successor was Philip II, his son, born from the marriage with Isabella of Portugal.

His dominion on the island was not very different from that of his father. His main feature was the clash with the Muslim empire and the consequent use of the island as a bulwark of defenses.

The very large military engagement was also very expensive. This means that the reign of Philip II is remembered above all for the large taxation that Sicily suffered in those years.

Sicily, in addition to the fiscal pressure and the economic crisis resulting from the high indebtedness of their King, was also hit by a great famine and various epidemics.

Philip III

In 1598 the kingdom went into the hands of Philip III, son of the late Philip II.

Philip III, remembered by the nickname “Il Pio”, had a completely different character from that of his father.

His character and nature were much calmer than Philip II.

His rule over Sicily is best remembered for the expulsion of the Moriscos throughout his reign.

The Moriscos were all those people who descended from Muslim families implanted in the kingdom, who had preserved their culture.

This expulsion was justified by the fact that the sovereign feared revolts from this copious part of the population of his empire.

The real reason was probably to replenish the coffers with the goods and properties of this slice of the population.

Also during his reign there was a great hunger and economic crisis.

The end of his rule over Sicily was in 1621 when that of his son Philip IV began.

Philip IV

During the reign of Philip IV, the island underwent a period of great poverty which was accentuated by the fact that the sovereign, to regain his finances, imposed a very severe taxation, especially in a period like the one Sicily was experiencing.

This situation created very strong social tensions which resulted many times in riots and rebellions, all in an anti-Spanish climate.

On his death in 1665, Charles II ascended the throne who will be the last king of the Habsburgs in command of the island.

Charles II

Last ruler of the Spanish domination in Sicily, his reign will be remembered for the catastrophe that struck the island: the 1693 earthquake.

The Val di Noto earthquake occurred on 9 and 11 January 1693, with a magnitude of 7.7 it was the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Italy.

In reality, today it is thought that these were two distinct catastrophic events.

This cataclysm destroyed a large part of eastern Sicily causing a large number of victims.

This destruction and subsequent reconstruction, in 1700, meant that the main architectural style of this part of the island is the Baroque.

Charles II reigned until 1700, when he died without having left heirs.

At his disposal, his successor was Philip V, nephew of Louis XIV, the first Spanish ruler of the Bourbon dynasty.

His rule on the island however lasted about a decade due to the various pretenders to the Spanish throne and also because of the fear of the rest of Europe of such a strong France-Spain axis.

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