The Kingdom of Naples during the "French decade" (1806–1815)

Florence Le Bars (translation Elli Doulkaridou)

1806: For the second time since the short-lived Parthenopean Republic (January 21 to June 24, 1799), Naples fell into the hands of the French. Napoleon appointed his brother Joseph to the throne on February 14 of the same year, while Ferdinand IV of Bourbon and Maria Carolina were exiled to Palermo. The Kingdom of Naples was separated from Sicily, which remained under British control. Two years later, Joseph Bonaparte was called by Napoleon to take over the throne of Spain. Joachim Murat replaced him by virtue of the Treaty of Bayonne of July 1808.

The new king pursued the administrative and social modernization of his predecessor. Slavery was abolished,  and the banking, legal and agrarian sectors were reformed in order to bail out a battered state. The arrival of Murat and his wife Carolina (Napoleon's sister) was also characterized by an artistic will and new urban projects. This cultural policy also extended to archeology. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum were privileged, and archaeological excavations in the rest of the kingdom took place under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Murat also called successively to the office two art lovers and collectors, the Archbishop of Taranto Giuseppe Capecelatro and Giuseppe Zurlo.

Despite the spectacular recovery of the state, on the foreign front Murat faced the economic pressure imposed by the Continental Blockade. It strongly penalized exports of the Kingdom of Naples traditionally destined to England. The Austrians were also gaining ground on the Italian peninsula and threatened Naples in a rather direct manner. On the domestic front, if the French sovereigns had the support of the liberal bourgeoisie supporting the ideas of the Enlightenment, the majority of the aristocracy, the lay people of the capital, and the peasants of the southern provinces of the kingdom, were strongly hostile and hoped for the return of the Bourbon dynasty. In 1814, after a short-lived agreement with the Austrians against Napoleon, Joachim Murat chose to join the Emperor during the Hundred Days. He was taken prisoner in Calabria at the beginning of October 1815 and Ferdinand IV condemned him to death by firing squad in Pizzo. The return of the Bourbons on the throne of Naples marked the end of this "French decade".

However, social and economic innovations were sustained and along with a certain modernization of the state infrastructure they brought Naples well into the nineteenth century.