31 July 2015

Michele Imperiali (1719-82), Prince of Francavilla

Michele Imperiali Junior, Prince of Francavilla, was born on July 7, 1719. He was named after his grandfather, another Michele Imperiali (1673-1738). When the elder Prince disagreed with the verdict of an honest Judge, he had him exiled. Later, when his retainers happened to kill those of a neighbour, Francavilla Sr. was ordered to arrest the culprits. Instead of doing so, he rode to Naples, where the King refused to see him. He was told to arrest his men, or remove himself from Naples. While on his way to make another appeal for a royal audience the Elder Prince died of a fit on the steps of the Royal Palace. His grandson, Michele Jr., took over the title, because his son, Andrea Imperiali, had predeceased him.

One Michele Jr.'s ancestors had married into the Princely Grimaldi family of Monaco. His mother was Anna Maria Caracciolo (1702-1731), a daughter of the 3rd Prince Torella. Michele married Eleonora Borghese, a relative of Pope Paul V (1552–1621).

Heraldic shield of
the Imperiali Family
From 1770 onwards Michele Jr. was a Knight of the Golden Fleece. He acted as major domo to Ferdinand I (1751–1825), King of the Two Sicilies. Michele rented the magnificent Palazzo Cellamara in Naples. He restored and redecorated the Palace in the French style. His picture gallery was valued at 30,000 ducats. It contained a "Virgin and Child" by Titian, a "Magdalen anointing the feet of Jesus" by Paul Veronese, and many romantic scenes of ruins and architectural panels by Pannini. In addition, Michele collected classical sculpture. The palace’s furniture, porcelain and tapestries were exquisite, too. Its terraced gardens were among the most splendid in Naples.

Michele was known for his splendour and magnificently extravagant hospitality. He would entertain around 750 guests almost every other day. In 1770 Casanova was among his guests. After dinner, Casanova wrote, "the Prince led us to a pool beside the sea". A priest, Don Paolo Moccia, jumped stark naked into the water and without making any movement he floated like a pine plank. Next, Michele made all his pages dive into the pool together. These were boys of about 16 years old, as comely as cupids. On leaving the breasts of the waves almost simultaneously, they swam up under the public's eyes, "developing in strength and grace, and performing a thousand evolutions". All those Adonises were the “Sweethearts” of the homosexual Prince of Francavilla. On request, a chorus of female beauties gave a brilliant swimming display in the marble pool, too.

Michaele Imperiali Jr. died on February 10, 1782, aged 62.

Sources: Harold Acton's "The Bourbons of Naples", H.R.H. Princess Michael of Kent's "Crowned in a Far Country", it.wikipedia.org, George J. Homs, Nobilità Mediterranea.

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