Monumento a Giovanna II e Ladislao I di Napoli, chiesa di S. Giovanni a Carbonara, Armando Mancini - Flickr, 2010


Ladislao I, king of Naples, called the Magnanimous, wanted to unify Italy in the kingdom of Naples, he passed unscathed so many battles but was killed by a fatal woman.

Ladislao I of Anjou-Durazzo, which in addition to the title of King of Naples also had the titles of King of Sicily, Jerusalem and Hungary, was born in Naples on 11 July 1376, he was the son of Carlo III and Margherita of Durazzo; Carlo was cousin of Queen Joanna I of Naples. Ladislao was orphaned of his father at age 10, was crowned King of Naples under the regency of his mother Margherita.

The mother did not know how to rule with a firm hand, and the various factions, which divided the Neapolitan nobility, took advantage of this, the nobles favorable to the French branch of Anjou called Louis II of Anjou, which considered himself to be the rightful claimant to the throne of Naples. The French of Louis II, backed by the powerful Sanseverino family and Otto of Brunswick, came to Naples with an army and defeated the troops of Margherita of Durazzo. Margherita and his son Ladislao took refuge inside the Castel Dell’Ovo, where they remained besieged by the French; luckily they managed to escape by sea to Gaeta.

Louis II, became King of Naples, lacking the support of a large part of the nobility, was forced to fight against rebel feudal lords to consolidate his kingdom.

In 1389 Ladislao married Constanza Chiaramonte, daughter of Manfredi, Count of Modica, the most important feud of the kingdom of Trinacria (Sicily). At the time Manfredi was appointed vicar of the king and held the Sicilian kingdom. The marriage lasted only three years; Chiaramonte fell out of favor and Andrea Chiaramonte, a relative and successor of Manfred, was beheaded in a square in Palermo; after these events Ladislao repudiated Constance.

It was the first Sunday of July of 1392, during a solemn Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Capua, the bishop read a letter of repudiation of Ladislao towards his wife, to the surprise of all present including the same Constance; the repudiation was possible because in 1390 Pietro Tomacelli was elected Pope with the name of Boniface IX, he was member of a noble Neapolitan family sided with Ladislao, he agreed to marriage annulment.

In 1399 the young king decided to take back the throne of Naples; taking advantage of the absence of Louis II who was in Puglia to subdue the rebellious barons, Ladislao head of his army conquered Naples.

Louis realized that he had lost the match against Ladislao, then retreated in good order in France, renouncing the throne. Ladislao, consolidated his power in the kingdom of Naples harshly fighting and defeating pro-French nobles, completely destroying the power of the Sanseverino family, physically eliminating many of its members who had been in charge of the front in favor of Louis II.

At the beginning of 1400, consolidated his power in the kingdom of Naples, Ladislao extended his aims to the whole Italian peninsula, including the papal possessions. It was the standard-bearer with four centuries in advance of Joachim Murat and Garibaldi who had the same objective.

While he was organizing his campaign of conquest towards the north of Italy, in 1403 Ladislao married Maria of Lusignano, daughter of James I, King of Jerusalem and Mary of Brunsvick-Grubenhagen; Maria died the following year without having had children, it seems that the same was precipitated “accidentally” by the staircase of the castle mortally injuring or, perhaps, he “fall” from the stands and drowned in the sea waters.

In the same year, Ladislao, who had dynastic claims on Hungary and Dalmatia, was crowned King of Hungary in Zadar; the title was not real because the young Ladislao never took possession of the kingdom.

Wanting to consolidate his power in the kingdom of Naples, before embarking on the Italian campaign, Ladislao moved with his army against the principality of Taranto, who was not submissive. To support the principality was Maria of Enghien widow of Raimondo Orsini del Balzo. The siege of the castle of Taranto did not give the desired results by Ladislao, extending over time. The king, who was in a hurry to liquidate the case “Taranto”, to confront with the much more important case “Italy”, he decided to ask as his wife Maria of Enghien in order to resolve quickly and well the conflict. Bridal negotiations were very hard-working; Maria, despite being discouraged by his associates that they did not trust the promises of Ladislao, he agreed to marry him.

The marriage took place in the chapel of the castle on April 6, 1407; the principality of Taranto and his vassals fiefs were incorporated in the crown estate. Some historian say that Maria and her first marriage children lived virtually imprisoned in the Castel Nuovo in Naples over the following seven years of her husband’s life, but this is not supported by any historical document; probably she lived in a situation of isolation but not segregation; certain is that Ladislao was not particularly enamored of Maria, who at the time of marriage was 40 years old in front of his 31: still in Taranto survives the saying: ” ‘u guadagne de Maria Prene (the return of Maria Brienne)”. Brienne was family name of Maria. It is a deal that promises a profit but then brings a loss.

Ladislao in 1405 had already carried out a military expedition in Southern Lazio pushing on to Rome; the attempt was resolved with a nothing; in 1408, after having arranged for the internal affairs of the kingdom, he tried again to conquer the possessions of the pope. He laid siege to Rome that conquered in a short time, so too Perugia and other cities in central Italy. He controlled Talamone, Umbria and a side of the Marche, he had created a formidable bridgehead to conquer the rest of Italy.

Florence and Pisa, feeling endangered, formed a league, meanwhile Genoa had allied with Ladislao, while Pope Alexander V, who had fled from Rome to Bologna, an ally of Florence and Pisa, proclaimed Louis II of Anjou King of Naples, causing it to come from France in anti-Ladislao alliance help.

Despite the excellent positioning of the army, Ladislao had sold his rights on Dalmatia to Venice for 100,000 ducats to cope with the needs of the war, he had to give up in Rome and other cities of Lazio, defended only by small rearguard of the Neapolitan troops. They were recaptured by the forces of Florence-Pisa league returned to the new pope Giovanni XXIII, it was actually an anti-pope, who took possession of Rome.

In 1411, as the forces of Ladislao, despite defeats in Lazio, continued to be fearful, Florence and Pisa agreed with the King of Naples to end hostilities. Giovanni XXIII, had left alone against Ladislao by Louis II, who had been defeated in battle by the Neapolitan army, returning for the second time in France, the pope had no choice, he came to an agreement with Ladislao.

He gave up the alliance with Louis II recognizing, by virtue of the ancient feudal rights of the pope over the kingdom of Naples, Ladislao as king of Naples. Ladislao consented to peace, interpreting it as a necessary stop in order to cure his state affairs and having time to reorganize his army to pursue its objective to unite Italy under its power.

In 1413 he moved again with his army, whose command had appointed the famous captain Angelo Tartaglia, invading the papal possessions. Roma surrendered almost without resistance. He, conquered the Papal States, was about to invade the rest of Italy, occupying Florence without a fight under the treaty of peace concluded between the Florentines and Ladislao. Florence became his new bridgehead towards northern Italy.

In 1414 Ladislao, while he was in Florence, was struck by a serious illness. He went to Rome to receive the best care, but arrived in that city his condition worsened, then he was transported by ship to Naples where arrived on August 2. On 6 August died in Castel Nuovo cared for by his wife Maria of Enghien and his sister Giovanna, who took his place on the throne, Ladislao having not had children.

Different assumptions are made about the nature of the disease that suddenly struck the king. The most likely is what Ladislao, attending a substantial number of women, had contracted syphilis, which would lead him to death within days.

Another theory was that he had been poisoned during a living relationship with a young woman, daughter of a famous doctor of Perugia in league with the Florentines, from which he had gone to cure syphilis. The cyanide would have been administered to him in a drink of milk and honey; according to a different version, girl’s life would be sacrificed with a poisonous cream, spread on her skin, that poisoned Ladislao.

Giovanna II of Naples had built in honor of his brother a tomb monument inside the church of San Giovanni a Carbonara where the same was buried. The widow Maria of Enghien was able to regain, after various vicissitudes, her feuds in Puglia.

(Photo at the top: Monumento a Giovanna II e Ladislao I di Napoli, chiesa di S. Giovanni a Carbonara, Armando Mancini – Flickr, 2010 CC BY-SA 2.0)