Sunday, 26 August 2012

Brief survey of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies Succession Dispute

The succession law of the Two Sicilies is laid down in the Pragmatic Decree of Charles III of 1759, the laws on dynastic marriages of 1829 and 1836, re-enforced in the Constitutions of 1848 and 1860. The 1759 decree required that the Two Sicilies Crown pass by male primogeniture among the descendants of Charles VII (III of Spain), being ceded first to his 3rd (2nd surviving) son Infante D. Ferdinand, and failing his male heirs, to the descendants of each of his other sons (all Infants of Spain) in order of birth, and failing them to the nearest female heiress of the last king. This act was required under the treaties of Vienna of 1736 and Naples of 1759, designed to preserve the European balance of power by separating the Spanish and Italian sovereignties. If the Sovereignty of the Two Sicilies should be combined with the Crown of Spain, the former was to be ceded to the next line immediately after the Prince of the Asturias. Under the Pragmatic Decree of 1759, the entire male line descendants of Charles III remained both Spanish and Two Sicilies dynasts.  

In 1830/33 mixed male priority succession was reintroduced in Spain; under the terms of the 1834 and 1876 Constitutions, all the descendants born of equal marriages of Francis I of the Two Sicilies and Infanta Isabel, his 2nd wife, enjoyed a right of succession to the Spanish Crown (thus including all the existing branches of the Two Sicilies royal house descended from dynastic marriage). Renunciations of future succession were prohibited by the Two Sicilies civil code (particular any renunciation made as part of a contract of marriage), as well as the civil codes of Italy and France. The Two Sicilies Crown could only be alienated in the event of the combination of the Spanish and Two Sicilies sovereignties. In 1868 when Prince Gaetano of the Two Sicilies (a younger brother of Francis II) married Infanta Isabel (who was herself princess of Asturias following her brother, Alfonso XII’s accession) in very similar circumstances to 1900, he was not required to renounce, although a renunciation was drawn up for him to sign in the event that his wife became Queen of Spain and he also inherited the headship of the royal house.  

The succession to the Grand Magistery of the Constantinian Order, an ecclesiastical office hereditary in the House of Farnese (and its heirs) by the Papal Brief Sincerae Fidei of 1699, and the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of 1718, must pass by male primogeniture. The inheritance in 1731 by the immediate Farnese heir, Carlos de Borbón (later Charles VII of Naples and III of Spain) was confirmed by the Pope in 1739. By a separate act of 16 October 1759, Charles III declared his son Ferdinand “first born legitimate Farnese” heir and as such Constantinian grand master (evidence of the separate nature of the grand mastership); this was confirmed by the Pope in 1763. An addition to the statutes of 1796 confirmed that in the person of the King were two “distinct qualities” of King and Grand Master each governed by their own laws.  Hereditary primogeniture succession in “the House of Bourbon as heirs of the Farnese” was reconfirmed in the Statutes of 1934, with no mention of any exclusion or renunciation.

On 7 January 1901 Prince Carlo of the Two Sicilies, 2nd son of the Count of Caserta, Head of the Royal House of the Two Sicilies, married Infanta Maria de las Mercedes, then heiress presumptive to the Spanish Crown. The groom’s father, the Count of Caserta, wrote to the Spanish Queen Regent (6 December 1900) that a renunciation of future succession rights was not necessary and that only a renunciation of nationality, under Spanish nationality law, was required; the Queen Regent confirmed this in her reply of 10 December. Nonetheless, on 14 Dec 1900, he required his son, Carlo, to sign the “Act of Cannes” in which he renounced the “eventual succession” to the Crown of the Two Sicilies, promising to obey the laws of the House in “execution of the Pragmatic Decree” of 1759. This Decree did not in fact require a renunciation in the circumstances of 1900. The Spanish government announced in the Cortes on 18 December 1900, and advised the Queen Regent, that a renunciation of dynastic rights was unnecessary and would in any case be illegal [there is no evidence that the government or queen regent was even informed about the act of Cannes, of which there is no copy in any official archives in Spain]. The concern that Carlo’s wife could become Queen in the event of the death of her brother and the successions combined was obviated by the birth of several children to King Alfonso XIII (the first in 1907). Prince Carlo and his descendants appeared in every addition of the Almanach de Gotha (until it ceased publication in 1944) under both Spain and the Two Sicilies, with no mention of any renunciation or exclusion; these entries were all approved by the head of the House.

In 1960, with the death of Prince Carlo’s elder brother, Ferdinand, who had indicated his preference that his fourth brother, Ranieri, succeed him, the succession was disputed between Carlo’s son Infante Alfonso, and his uncle Ranieri. The former asserted that as primogeniture male heir he succeeded under Two Sicilies law, the latter, Prince Ranieri, claimed that the act of Cannes was a legal and valid complete and final dynastic renunciation. Infante Alfonso was supported in his claim by the Count of Barcelona, successor to Alfonso XIII, Infante D. Jaime, then head of the House of Bourbon, by the then Duke of Parma and by the Duke of Braganza among other Heads of Royal Houses. Prince Ranieri’s marriage to Carolina Zamoyska was recognized as dynastic by his father but Alfonso XIII had refused to do so; their son Ferdinand’s marriage was only recognized subsequently by the then head of the House. Prince Charles of Bourbon is married to someone born of parents who were not capable of making a valid canonical mariage at the time; his wife's latefather was a convicted felon. His claimed titles are not recognized by the King of Spain and his Order is not authorized to be worn in Spain.
Following  an official investigation commanded by the present King of Spain, as heir of Charles III who as King of Spain and the Two Sicilies had established the succession laws of both countries on 6 October 1759, it was announced in a communication from the Head of the Spanish Royal Household dated 8 March 1984 that the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, the Institute Salazar y Castro and the Council of State had reported unanimously after investigating this dispute that the legitimate heir is HRH D. Carlos, Duke of Calabria. No other official body of any state has investigated this succession. On 16 December 1994, HRH D. Carlos de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón-Parma was created an Infante of Spain “as representative of a dynastic line historically linked to the Spanish Crown” (“como representante de una línea dinástica vinculada históricamente a la Corona española”).

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