Alfonso II of Naples

Alfonso II of Naples

Alfonso II of Naples (November 4, 1448 – December 18, 1495), also called Alfonso II d'Aragon, though he was King of Naples only from January 25, 1494 to 1495—with the title King of Naples and Jerusalem—was a patron of Renaissance poets and builders during his long tenure as the heir to the throne of Naples, with the title "duca di Calabria".


Born at Naples, Alfonso was the oldest child of Ferdinand I of Naples and his first wife, Isabel de Clermont, the daughter of Tristan, Count of Copertino and Caterina Orsini. He was the cousin of Ferdinand II of Aragon, king of Aragon and the first (co-)ruler of a unified Spain. His teacher was the humanist Giovanni Pontano, whose "De splendore" describes the proper virtues and manner of life becoming to a prince.

When his mother Isabella of Clermont died (1465), he succeeded to her feudal claims, which included the Brienne claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

In 1463, when Alfonso was fifteen, his great-uncle Giovanni Antonio del Balzo Orsini, Prince of Taranto, died, and he obtained some lands from the inheritance. Alfonso had shown himself a skilled and determined soldier, helping his father in the suppression of the Conjure of the Barons (1485) and in the defence of the Kingdom's territory against the Papal claims.

As a condottiero, he fought in the most important wars of the age, such the war following the Pazzi Conspiracy (1478-1480) and the War of Ferrara (1482-1484).

Alfonso's reign was destined to be short. When his father died, the kingdom's finances were exhausted and the invasion of King Charles VIII of France was imminent; Charles (instigated by Lodovico Sforza, who wished to stir up trouble to allow him to seize power in Milan) had decided to reassert the Angevin claim to Naples and the accompanying title of King of Jerusalem.

Charles invaded Italy in September, 1494. Alfonso managed to gain back the support of Pope Alexander VI, who invited Charles to devote his effort against the Turks instead. Alfonso received the official Papal coronation as "Rex Siciliae" on May 8, 1494 from Juan de Borja Lanzol de Romaní, el mayor, previously the papal legate to Alfonso II.

However, the King of France did not relent, and by early 1495 was approaching Naples, after having defeated Florence and Neapolitan fleet under Alfonso's brother, Frederick of Calabria at Porto Venere. Alfonso, terrified by a series of portents, as well as unusual dreams (perhaps attributable to memories of his victims), abdicated in favour of his son, Ferdinand or Ferrantino, and fled, entering a Sicilian monastery. He died in Messina later that year.

As Crown Prince, Alfonso had participated in the brilliant Renaissance culture that surrounded his father's court. His lasting contribution to European culture was the example set at his villas of "La Duchesca" and especially "Poggio Reale" just outside Naples, which so captivated Charles VIII of France during his brief sojourn at Naples during February-June 1495, that he was inspired to emulation of the "earthly paradise" he encountered [Charles' letter to his brother-in-law, Pierre de Bourbon, noted in William Howard Adams, "The French Garden 1500-1800" 1979, p 10.] Poggio Reale, which Vasari said was designed by Giuliano da Maiano and which was laid out in the 1480s, has utterly disappeared and no extensive description has survived; Decades later Vasari reported, "At Poggio Reale [Giuliano da Maiano] laid out the architecture of that palazzo, always considered a most beautiful thing; and to fresco it he brought there Piero del Donzello, a Florentine, and Polito his brother who was considered in that time a good master, who painted the whole palazzo, inside and out, with the history of the said king." ["A Poggio Reale ordinò l'architettura di quel palazzo, tenuta sempre cosa bellissima; et a dipignerlo vi condusse Piero del Donzello fiorentino e Polito suo fratello che in quel tempo era tenuto buon maestro, il quale dipinse tutto il palazzo di dentro e di fuori con storie di detto re." (Giorgio Vasari, Le vie de' più eccelenti architetti, piiori...").] There are no archives to connect Giuliano or his brother Benedetto with the project; for documentation only a section and plan, reproduced with apologies for its inaccuracy, by Sebastiano Serlio seems to show an idealized plan, [Suggestions that its design was sketched by Alfonso's friend Lorenzo de' Medici, whose own villa at Poggio a Caiano it somewhat resembled, are tenuous.] identical on all four sides, ranged round a court with a double arcading. It is clear that the Aragonese court at Naples introduced the Moorish garden traditions of Andalusia, with its shaded avenues and baths, sophisticated hydraulics that powered splendid waterworks [The first description of a surprise jet of water as a paractical joke, a garden feature with a long career, was remarked on at Poggio Reale.] , formal tanks, fishponds and fountains, as a luxurious and secluded setting for court life, and combined them with Roman features: Alfonso's Poggio Reale was built around three sides of an arcaded courtyard with tiers of seating round a sunken centre that could be flooded for water spectacles; on the fourth side it opened onto a garden that framed a spectacular view of Vesuvius. It was all unlike anything experienced by the French king, who retreated from Italy, loaded with tapestries and works of art, and filled with building and gardening ambitions.


Marriages and children

Like his father, Alfonso married twice. His first wife was Ippolita Maria Sforza, whom he married on October 10, 1465, in Milan. His second wife was Trogia Gazzela.

He had three children with Hippolyta:
* King Ferdinand II of Naples (born 26 August, 1469)
* Isabella of Naples, Duchess of Bari (born 2 October, 1470)
* Piero of Rossano, Prince de Rossano (born 31 March, 1472)

and two with Troggia:
* Sancha of Aragon (born 1478 in Gaeta)
* Alfonso of Aragon, Prince of Salerno (born 1481, in Naples)



*cite book|first=George L. |last=Hersey|year=1969|title=Alfonso II and the Artistic Renewal of Naples|location=New Haven|publisher=Yale University Press
* [ Alfonso's ancestry]
* [ Brief description of Poggio Reale]

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