The History of Sicily

The Treaty of Utrecht

From 1556-1700, Sicily was ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs. The last of these was Charles II (1665-1700), who died without issue and willed his entire realm to his grand-nephew Philip of Anjou (1638-1746), who was one of France’s King Louis XIV’s grandsons. The connection between the Spanish and French royal families was that King Louis XIII (1601-1643), who was a member of the House of Bourbon, had married Anne, daughter of Philip III of Spain (1578-1621) in 1615. Anne became the mother of Louis XIV. However, Philip of Anjou’s ascension to the Spanish throne was challenged by an alliance that included England, Austria, the Netherlands, and parts of the Holy Roman Empire and Italy, all of which feared that the French-Spanish connection would upset the balance of power in Europe. In addition, Leopold I (1640-1705), the Holy Roman Emperor, a descendant of another of Philip III’s daughters, who had married into the Austrian royal family, wanted Spain for his son.

The outcome was the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715), which ended with the Treaty of Utrecht. One part of the treaty granted Sicily to Victor Amadeus II (1666-1732), Duke of Savoy and father-in-law to Philip, now King of Spain. In 1715, his first wife, Maria Luisa of Savoy (1688-1714) having died, Philip married Elisabeth Farnese (1692-1766), stepdaughter of the Duke of Parma. Philip’s new wife was fixated on reuniting Spain and Sicily, but she first had to deal with Austria which, after the Treaty of Utrecht, controlled Naples and southern Italy and now wanted Sicily as well. The Austrians got their way, and in exchange for giving Sardinia to Victor Amadeus, they took control of the island. In 1860, a distant cousin of Victor Amadeus would become the first king of a united Italy.

In 1734, after Elisabeth Farnese convinced the French king to enter an alliance with Spain to make her son Don Carlos (1716-1759) king of both Naples and Sicily, and in that year the Spanish army entered Naples. A year later Sicily was annexed, with Austria renouncing its claims to territory in southern Italy in exchange for Carlos’s renouncing his claims to Tuscany, Parma, and Piacenza, in northern Italy. Still separate realms, Sicily and Naples now shared a king, who is remembered as Charles V of Sicily and Charles VII of Naples.


Cloister of the Church of Santa Chiara, Naples