- Hi again,
Before I continue a couple of facts to straighten out. It was known as the
Kingdom of Two Sicilies first then the Kingdom of Naples when the two split.
King Ferdinand IV was a Bourbon of France. Spain and France over the years
were ruled by one Monarchy on and off. At one time the Kingdom of Naples was
ruled by King Phillip II of England.
Upon the fall of Louis XV, the new French Republic claimed the Kingdom of
Naples and with the help of England took it over. For many in Italy they did not
like this arrangement. The same mind set that gave us the Reign of Terror was
now in Itri. King Frdinand IV fled the Kingdom to Sicily which was still in
control by his family.
At this point I need to say that history is always written by the winner.
Many historical accounts of this period of Italy's history was written by English
historian's. They did not depict Fra Diavolo in a good light. Those who read
this account will be left with the impression that Michele Pezza was a
muderous thieve who had no conscience. They tell of accounts where he threw woman and
children off cliffs to thier death, pillage and rape Towns throughout the
countryside. But all these accounts are in encyclopedia's and tidbits of other
happenings. All the books written specifically about Fra Diavolo tell a
completely different story. They depict him as a hero who fought for his rights and
rights of his countrymen. Loyal to his King and a love story that could not
happen if he was a murderer of woman and children. All historical accounts of him
written by Italian's south of Rome tell the same stotry. Remember all of
Northern Italy was split into different countries where most traded and tried to
emulate the English.
Michele Pezza was born on April 7, 1771 in Itri. He was one of ten children.
His father Francesco Pezza was born in Itri on August 14, 1732 and died on
January 18, 1799.
The French who obtained the Kingdom of Naples sent troops through all the
towns to supress any uprising. In Itri the hate of the French was great and they
resisted fiercely to no avail. After a siege and shoot outs they captured
Itri. Based on the same philosophy that they were doing in France, they rounded up
60 sons of Itri and executed them on January 18, 1799. One of which was
Francesco Pezza. A minument sits in Itri honoring thier 60 sons who perished at
Francesco Pezza married Archangela Matrullo who was born on August 17, 1738
in 1760. they had ten children as follows:
Antonio Pezza, Born 1762
Maria Loreta Pezza, Born 1764
Zaccaria Pezza, Born 1765
Teresa Pezza, Born 1768
Michele Archangelo Domonico Pasquale Pezza (Fra Diavolo)
Vincenzo Pezza, Born 1772
Maria Giuseppa Pezza, Born 1776
Francesca Marianna Pezza, Born 1777
Maria Civita Pezza, Born 1779
Giovanni Nicola Pezza, Born 1780
When King Ferdinand IV fled to Sicily he solocited the help of Cardinal Ruffo
of Calabria to form bands of "Brigante's". One band was led by Fra Diavolo
and became the leading band to fight the French. Thier sucesses in fighting the
French eventually led to the Bourbon's taking back the Kingdom of Naples.
There are two versions where he got his name. The popular one is when he was
a child he used to dress as a monk and then his teacher who saw him as a
problem child named him "Father Devil".
The one I tend to believe is the one where he used to work in a store. The
owner and a friend of this store were one day making fun of a girl that Fra
Diavolo was in love with. The murder by Michele Pezza of these two person's were
well documented. Also documented was that he fled to San Giovanni in Fiore and
took up residence with Cappucino Monks. I believe his living among the monks
and wearing there robes, along with his sucesses against the French gave him
the name Fra Diavolo.
After King Ferdinand IV regained the Kingdom of Naples he awarded Michele
Pezza with the title of Duke of Cassano. FraDiavolo fell in love with Fortunata
Rachela Di Franco. Fortunata's mother is documented to have had an affair with
King Ferdinand IV and upon being pregnant with his illegiminate child arranged
for Fortunata to marry Aniello Di Franco who was the son of one of King
Ferdinand's inner circle members. Michele Pezza settled in Naples and had three
Carlo Pezza, Born March 17, 1802
Ferdinand Pezza Born March 18, 1803 and died May 17, 1805 (Note named after
Clementina Pezza, Born June 26, 1805
Michele Pezza's settled life was short. Soon Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France
and installed his Brother Joseph as King of Naples. Again Fra Diavolo again
was called to fight against the new French Government and unfortunately was
captured. He was allowed to escape execution by declaring his loyalty to
Bonaparte. He refused to and was hanged on November 11, 1906 by Victor Hugo's father.
As for Itri. It went through Bonaparte's rule and then Mureat's rule when
Garibaldi's Red Shirts finally defeated all the rulers and formed one united
Italy in the 1860's. But our story doe not end there.
Garibaldi gained a popular force on the premise that Italy would be unified
as a Republic. Due to all the in fighting he gave up and gave the country to
King Leopoldo of Lombard. This did not sit well with Itrani's. Pietro Ciccone of
Itri formed a rebellion against the new king. He was put down and brought to
trial. He was, along with his fellow rebels were finally aquitted to keep the
peace. Kinhg Leopoldo ruled until the First World War. After World War One
Italy finally became a Republic although a weak one. This weakness led to
Mussolini's party taking control in the 1920's and keeping it until the end of World
War Two. Since then based on how the Italian Constitution is written, Italy
formed and dissolved many forms of government. Today Prime Minister Bernisconi
along with his conservative party rules Italy. AT one time in the fifties they
did experiment with a President but failed. Today the President is the same as
the Prime Minister. It just depends on what the ruling party likes to call
Hope this was helpful. I apologize if some of my timeline is incorrect but it
is fairly accurate based on my research.
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WOW! I am impressed! Loved your historical dissertation on Italy, as well
as the background info on the FraDiavolo name/person - and can't thank you
enough for your kindness in taking the time to write that all out.....it's a
'keeper' for me - I've printed it out.
My maiden name is Pezzella - and, courtesy of my maternal grandmother, I also
have Ciccone blood running thru my veins. In some small way,
way-back-when-days, we are probably related......and if not so, it's definitely a nice
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