Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A medal for Napoleon's sister-in-law

detail of a painting portraying Giulia Clary Bonaparte

Jean-Baptiste wicar, Giulia Clary Bonaparte (detail) - Caserta, Royal Palace

On 25 December 1805 Napoleon pronounced: "The House of Naples has ceased to reign!" 
The decision had been taken and a 45,000-strong French army commanded by the emperor's brother and deputy 
undertoof the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples.

Giuseppe entered the city on 15 February 1806 and on 30 March the emperor's decree arrived 
from Paris to name him king of Naples and Sicily (though neither he nor his successor ever really had 
power over the island).  So began the period of government of the Kingdom of Naples by the so-called 
"Napoleonic sovreigns" which, continuing with Gioacchino Murat, lasted until 1816.

In 1794 Giuseppe had married Maria Giulia Clary and the woman found herself catapulted into the 
role of queen, but Giulia waited until 1808 before arriving in the capital of her kingdom.At 2 pm on 3 Aprl, 
the qeen arrived in cognito in the city and the salons buzzed with comments on her:"They say she is an excellent 
and pious woman" (The judgement of the people on the anonymity and concealment of her arrival, however, 
was: "The queen has come like an old rag").

The city authorities started preparations for a great feast in madame's honour and, as a reporter of the time 
put it, "She has already prepared the mould of a coin to be made: on one side there will be portraits of 
Giuseppe and Giulia, on the reverse side the unbridled horse, the ancient coat-of-arms of the City of
 Naples, with a motto given by the Archbishop of Taranto, president of the Academy: effraenis paret 
(It seems unbridled). A completely new area for the celebration was prepared in the vast warehouse 
where wheat was stored, once called "wheat ditches" (somewhere near the present-day Via Pessina)"

On 23 May 1808, after little more than a month, Giuseppe Bonaparte left the city and the kingdom 
in obedience to yet nother of his brother-emperor's orders, this time to assume the crown of Spain
Giulia left Naples just afterwards on 7 July, in a six-horse coach "with her royal Guard and (...) followed by all
 the generals who ride a horse here (...), the Police general and all the Ministers (...) as well as the 
chamberlains, all of whom accompanied her as far as Aversa". 
medal with sovereigns' profiles and wild horse
The medal was coined in both silver and bronze. Its diameter is 41 mm. Its main side shows the overlapping profile of the sovreigns, facing right, with the words JOSEPHUS NAPOLEO IULIA MARIA and its reverse size carries the motto EFFRAENIS PARET, theunbridled horse, symbol of the city, and on the esergue: ADVENTUI REGINAE EXPECTATISSIMO / O.(rdo) P.(opulus) Q.(ue) N.(neapolitanus) / ANNOREGNI III.

The models of the medal were presented for the approval of the king on 17 May during the festivities that the 
city authorities had organised to celebrate the queen's arrival. 
Direzione Centrale IX - Politiche Culturali, Sportive e del Tempo Libero
Servizio Archivi Storici
Salita Pontenuovo, 31
Dirigente: Dott.ssa Ida Alessio Vernì
tel: 081 7956502
fax: 081 7956511

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