24 October 2016

Another Mad Heir - Felipe of Spain and Sicily (1747-1777)

With Don Carlos (1527-1598), Spain had already had an imbecile heir to the throne, who had a tendency to molest women. Don Felipe (1747-1777), however, was even worse.

Charles VII of Naples
aka Charles III of Spain
King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (1716-1788) had become King at the age of 19. He married 13-year-old Princess Maria Amalia of Poland and Saxony (1724-1760). She had already given birth to 5 daughters when, late at night on June 13, 1747, their first son was born. He was christened immediately with the name “Felipe Antonio Januario Pascual Francisco de Paula”. Charles, besides himself with joy, seized the infant in his arms and embraced him, then lifted him up for all to admire. He thanked Heaven again and again.

Before Felipe was weaned, he had his first epileptic fits. Several nurses were discharged until one was found in whose care Felipe seemed to blossom. After a while, however, she refused to stay - in spite of every possible inducement. In the following years, Felipe was to substantiate the most dismal rumours about him. The Sardinian ambassador wrote: “There is something in his eyes that does not harmonize with the rest of his features. I have been assured that, although he is 7 years old, [..] he can scarcely utter a word [..].” The Prince - supposedly - suffered from “a great heaviness of head, which made him gloomy and ill-humoured”.

Don Felipe (1747-1777)
Don Felipe was not the first Spanish Royal with mental problems. His grandfather, King Philip V of Spain, had periodically been afflicted by fits of manic depression; suffering from delusions, screaming and biting himself. Felipe’s uncle, King Ferdinand V of Spain, suffered from a similar mental illness. Felipe’s mother, Maria Amalia, was impatient and ill-tempered. When she lost control, she boxed her pages and slapped her ladies-in-waiting.

Charles’ elder half-brother, Ferdinand VI, died childless on August 10, 1759. On August 22, the news reached Naples. Charles fainted and remained speechless for hours. Overcome with melancholy, he remained in his rooms for nine days. He knew he had to appoint a successor to the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. First, he appointed a committee of the highest officials and magistrates and 6 physicians. They were to examine the mental state of his eldest son and pronounce on his capacity to govern. Don Felipe was kept in close observation for 2 weeks, and the committee’s verdict was that his “complete imbecility” should exclude him from the succession. King Charles issued a declaration stating: “A considerable body of my counsellors of state, a member of the Council of Castile, of the Chamber of St. Chiara, the Lieutenant of the Sommaric of Naples, and the whole Junta of Sicily, assisted by the six deputies, have represented to me that after every possible investigation they have not been able to find in the unhappy Prince the use of reason, nor any trace of reflection, and that such having been his state from infancy, he is not only incapable of religious sentiments and the use of reason at present, but no shadow of hope appears for the future.” Felipe’s second brother, another Carlos (1748-1819), became heir to the Spanish throne, while a third brother, Ferdinand (1751-1825), became King of Naples and Sicily.