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Farnese

Farnese

[fahr-ne-ze]
Farnese, Italian noble family that ruled Parma and Piacenza from 1545 to 1731. In the 12th cent. the Farnese held several fiefs in Latium. They became one of the most prominent families in Rome and were Guelph supporters of the papacy. In 1534, Alessandro Farnese became pope as Paul III. He used his office to aggrandize his family and in 1545 he detached lands from the papal dominions to create the duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, 1503-47. Pier Luigi attacked fiscal and judicial abuses; he thereby gained the hatred of the nobility and was assassinated. His son, Ottavio Farnese, 1520-86, who succeeded him, married Margaret of Austria (see Margaret of Parma), illegitimate daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Ottavio's brother, Alessandro Farnese, 1520-89, was a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. A patron of men of letters such as Pietro Bembo and of artists such as Giorgio Vasari, he oversaw the completion of the Farnese Palace in Rome. Ottavio's son and successor was Alessandro Farnese, 1545-92, one of the great generals of his time (see separate article). Alessandro's son, Ranuccio I, 1569-1622, reformed the duchy's administration and judicial system and was a benefactor of education and the arts. The four dukes who succeeded Ranuccio I were less distinguished rulers, although they continued the family's patronage of the arts despite increasing economic and political troubles. The last duke of the line, Antonio, died in 1731. His niece, Elizabeth Farnese, queen of Philip V of Spain, secured (1748) the succession to the duchy for her son Philip, founder of the line of Bourbon-Parma.

See R. Solari, The House of Farnese (1968).

Farnese, Alessandro, 1545-92, duke of Parma and Piacenza (1586-92), general and diplomat in the service of Philip II of Spain. He was the son of Duke Ottavio Farnese and Margaret of Parma and thus a nephew of Philip II and of John of Austria, under whom he distinguished himself at the battle of Lepanto (1571). In 1577, Farnese joined John in the Low Countries to fight the rebels against Spain. Appointed (1578) governor of the Netherlands, he took Tournai, Maastricht, Breda, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp from the rebels and secured continued possession of the southern part of the Netherlands for Spain (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish). In 1590 he was sent to France at the head of a Spanish army to assist the Catholic League against Henry IV of France. He relieved the siege of Paris (1590) and the siege of Rouen (1592), but was wounded soon afterward and retired to Arras, where he died. Farnese showed exceptional skill in military art and diplomacy.

See R. Solari, The House of Farnese (1968).

Farnese, Elizabeth: see Elizabeth Farnese.

(born Oct. 25, 1692, Parma, Duchy of Parma—died July 11, 1766, Aranjuez, Spain) Queen consort of Philip V of Spain. A member of the ducal Farnese family of Parma, she became Philip's second wife in 1714 and quickly established ascendancy over her weak husband. Because his two sons by his first wife were in line to succeed him, she sought to secure Italian possessions for her own children, including Charles III. This quest embroiled Spain in wars and intrigues for three decades. However, she chose able and devoted ministers, who introduced beneficial internal reforms and improved Spain's economy. After Philip's death in 1746, she ceased to exert any real influence.

Learn more about Isabella Farnese with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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