Ferdinando e Carolina (Ferdinando  and Carolina) (1999)





Director:    Lina Wertmller.

Starring:        Sergio Assisi (Ferdinando I Borbone),  Gabriella Pession (Maria Carolina d'Asburgo),  Nicole Grimaudo (Princess of Medina),  Adriano Pantaleo (Ferdinando I Borbone, child),  Lola Pagnani (Sara Goudar),  Carlo Caprioli (Emperor Giuseppe d'Asburgo),  Moira Grassi (Countess S. Marco),  Vanessa Sabet (Maria Giuseppa),  Matt Patresi (Angelo Goudar),  Yari Gugliucci (Gennarino Rivelli),  Lucilla VacondXo (Lady Stratfordshire),  Elena Presti (Princess of Floridia),  Paolo De Giorgio (Principe di Caramanico),  Giuseppe Bottiglieri (Giacomo Goudar),  Giuliano Amatucci (Fedele).

King Ferdinando I of Naples weds Mary Caroline of Austria, daughter of Empress Mary Theresa, in a political marriage


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

"I'm Ferdinando di Borbone, King of Naples, at the end of my very messy reign."  In the palace are the older woman servant and the newer one, her niece.  The Queen is playing pool.  It is the King's second wife.  The King is Ferdinando I of the Two Sicilies,  III of Sicily, and Ferdinando IV of Naples.  The King suffers from colitis and while he plays cards strong gurgling noises come from his belly.  Suddenly he faints and falls to the floor.

Flashback to when Ferdinando was a young fellow.  As a kid he did not like Maria Theresa of Austria, the heaviest Empress in Europe.  He had already known for some time that he would marry one of her daughters.  She had four or five daughters.  Poor Empress Franz.  The Queen  wanted to use her daughters to establish an Austrian peace.  Phillip did everything to return Naples to Spain.  Maria Theresa says that they will make Naples Austrian.  She says to her daughter:  "That's your task Maria Giovanna." 

As a kid, Ferdinando was pretty mischievous.  He would go around with other boys looking like a street urchin.  He leads the boys to walk all over the freshly washed sheets of the washer women with their muddy feet, laughing all the way.  The women chase them away.  The boys hide from the Prince of San Severo.  He's a wizard, they say.  When he finds the children, the Prince starts to scold them, but Ferdinando only asks him:  "Do you know who you are talking to?"  From the way the question was asked, the Prince figures out that it must be the Prince of Naples.  Ferdinando is pleased that he figured it out.  The wizard then tells Ferdinando that King Ferdinando of Spain is dead.  That means that the boy's father, Carlo, has taken the throne of Spain.  And Ferdinando, the Prince of Naples, now becomes the King of Naples.  

Ferdinando's father tells the young boy:  "Son, be worthy of this sword Louis XIV gave your grandfather, Phillip." 

Ten years later.  The Princess of Medina arrives and Ferdinando falls in love with her.  Ferdinando sends her husband to London to be the ambassador.   The King and the Princess find a place they can be alone in the woods.  They kiss. 

In Vienna the young Maria Giovanna cries because she does not want to be the Queen of Naples.  Her sisters constantly tease her with taunts of "You're marrying 'honker nose'."  Maria Theresa has thirteen living children.  Her son Joseph rules by her side.  With the birth of Maria Giovanna's first child, she can participated in the State Council.  The Austrian ambassador comes to see the King of Naples.  He is told the King is at Three Oaks.  The King sweeps up the Princess of Medina dressed in the costume of an Arab belly dancer and takes her to a small house that looks like it came from China.  The abbot with the Austrian ambassador tells him that the King likes China.  But they cannot disturb the King now.  They have to wait until his little tryst is over.  So they wait for him to come out of the house.  The ambassador then reports to the King that Maria Giovanna has smallpox.  And the one thing that the King is afraid of is smallpox.

Ferdinando's father arranges another wedding with a daughter of Maria Teresa.  Her name is Maria Giuseppa and she, like her sister is not happy about the marital arrangement.  She sees a picture of Ferdinando and says he's ugly.  Ferdinando also does not want to marry another daughter of Maria Teresa.  He wants to marry the Princess of Medina.  But the idea of a Naples-Sicily arrangement is nothing of political note. 

The King of Naples watches Mount Vesuvius.  The abbot and the Austrian ambassador arrive again.  They tell Ferdinando that Maria Giuseppa is dead of smallpox.  Ferdinando says:  "The Habsburgs are bad luck."  Vesuvius erupts.  Now Ferdinando has to choose between Maria Amalia and Maria Carolina.  But the King of Naples wants nothing to do with either sister.  So the members of the court play a trick on the King.  Since the King does not read what he signs, they have him sign a number of documents all at once.  One of them is an official request for the hand of Maria Carolina.  Then the abbot is given the job of telling the truth to the King.  Ferdinando says the wizard should get rid of Maria Carolina by turning her into marble or making her die. 

Maria Teresa insists that Carolina marry Ferdinando.  Carolina runs out of the room crying and faints.  She is tended to by her sister Marie Antoinette.  The fear is that Carolina may have smallpox.  The King of Naples refuses to marry her.  Instead he kisses the Princess of Medina.   The abbot arrives and tells Ferdinando that Carolina just had a cold, not smallpox.  She is on her way here. 

Back to the present.   The dying Ferdinando has several nightmares about his past.  He says:  "The dark memories return.."  One of them was of Caracciolo eaten by fish, hung by order of the king of Naples.  San Felice's throat was cut on the King's order.  Ferdinando asks:  "What do these corpses want from me?"  The priest talks with Ferdinando.  He reminds the gentleman that in his reign there was "a history of harsh repression". He beheaded a lot of people:  traitors, Jacobins, Republicans.  These type of people, says Ferdinando, murdered with war, revolution, Napoleons, terror and blood.  He blames it all on Carolina and says:  "I didn't want to marry her."  But then he was transfixed by her face. 

Flashback.  The wedding day of the King of Naples and Carolina.  In preparation for the wedding night, the ladies in waiting take off Carolina's dress and prepare her for bed.  At the same time the King's aides prepare him for the wedding night.  Ferdinando goes into the bedroom to find Carolina already there waiting for him.   They flirt and laugh.  The big laugh came when they both discovered that they had belts on to ward off the evil eye.  Each thought that the other had the evil eye.  In spite of this, it turns out that Ferdinando likes Carolina. 

Brother Joseph comes to court to see his sister Carolina.  The family wants to know why there are no children as of yet.  While playing some games at court, Carolina falls down in a faint.  The general feeling is that Carolina is pregnant.  This makes Joseph very happy.  Now he can bring good news to his mother, Maria Teresa.  First there were two girls.  Ferdinando's mother dies in Madrid. 

Ferdinando's father is mad.  He believes that Carolina is way too ambitious.  She dominates his son.   The King of Spain also believes that Austria wants Naples as theirs.  Carolina forces Ferdinando to memorize poetry using a riding crop to keep him in line. 

Bad news reaches Carolina.  Adviser Tanucci has had arrested everyone affiliated with three Naples Masonic Lodges (an Austrian tool).  She starts to downgrade Ferdinando's father to him, with which he takes issue.  Carolina says it's the age of the Enlightenment and that the emphasis is on ideas such as liberty and the Masons must spread these ideas.  She demands that her husband free her friends.  Ferdinando says that he is the one to give the orders and then he slaps her.  This just makes her even angrier and she hits him across the face with her riding crop. 

Ferdinando tells the council that his father exaggerated the threat of the Masons.  He also says that Tanucci must apologize to the Queen.  He adds "She's dangerous, crazy and she's taking it out on me!"  Tanucci says that he will have to write Ferdinando's father.

Maria Teresa is mad at Carolina for throwing her husband out of bed because of the Mason affair.  She says that her daughter should at least have waited until she had borne a son.  Ferdinando's father prays that the Austrians will not dominate his son.  To make sure of this, he wants to bring in a real beauty to satisfy his son's carnal desires.  Then maybe his wife would not have as much control over him.  Tanucci rejects the idea of the Princess of Medina.  Since no one can decide, they turn to the Goudar brothers, two Parisian adventurers seeking their fortune in Naples by running a gambling joint with plenty of sex on the side.  Angelo Goudar wants to use his red-head wife Sara to seduce the King.  They set up a meeting with between the King and Sara at the gambling establishment.  Ostensibly, the King has come to defeat Angelo at a game of cards (the Ensign).  Angelo lets the King win.  Then the king bets his money in order to win Sara.  Again the King wins and he in turn makes sure that Angelo honors the bet.  Sara has sex with Ferdinando.  She uses a special move on the King known as Salome's pirouette.  The Princess of Medina works hard and long on having an intimate relationship with Julian Goudar to discover the secret of the pirouette.  Then the King does something that leaves her feeling doubly cheated.  He brings back her husband from London, ending both her freedom and her relationship with Julian. 

To get even with the King, the Princess of Medina spills the beans to the Queen.  At first the Queen does not believe her, but the Princess has brought proof.  The Queen then says:  "Poor rascal, his sin will cost him dearly. . . . Now my hunting season begins."  She has a tryst with a Prince.  The Princess of Medina then tells the abbot about the Queen's affair.  And in no time, the King of Naples knows.  It is reported that he is very mad.  He goes in to his bedroom to strangle his sleeping wife.  But she is probably not sleeping, for she keeps repeating "Ferdinando! My love!" in a sexy voice just at the right time.  The King says:  "So, you're dreaming of me."  He forgives her and has sex with her.  What a web of love, infidelity and politics. 

Back to the present.  The woman servant says that maybe the King should have strangled the Queen because that night was when the fun stopped and God's fury began.  Carolina conceived a son and that gave her the power to rule over Naples.  The dying King suddenly sees a vision of the corpse of the deceased Carolina laying next to him.  He dies of fright. 


Fairly good movie.  It's a bit of a farce with all the political and sexual machinations involving love and infidelity with lots of twists and turns.  Maria Teresa was using her children as political pawns to gain greater power for her and Austria.  And her daughter Carolina was very much like her for she was determined to also dominate her husband, the King of Naples.  My wife told me she did not like the movie.  There was too much talking and not enough action.  But it was interesting seeing all these different political and familial relationships between various heads of state of different European nations.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

1751  --  Ferdinand I, later King of Naples and Sicily, is born, the third son of King Charles VIII of Naples and Sicily.  His mother was Maria Amalia of Saxony. 

1752  --  birth of Maria Carolina of Austria to Maria Teresa of Austria. 

1759  --  Charles VIII of Naples and Sicily succeeded his brother as King Charles III of Spain.  He had to abdicate from the Naples-Sicily position in favor of his seventeen-year old son Ferdinand.  (Charles's eldest son, Philip, was mentally retarded, while second son, Charles, was set to inherit the Spanish crown.)

1768  --  Maria Carolina marries the young Ferdinand IV of Naples and Ferdinand III of Sicily. She soon used his laziness against him and assumed control of the affairs of the kingdom.

1768-1799  --  as Queen of Naples and Sicily, Maria Carolina was queen consort and de facto ruler of Naples.

1768-1812  --  Maria Carolina was queen consort and de facto ruler of Sicily.

1777  --  Maria Carolina gives birth to a male heir they named Francis.  With this she became a Councilor of State.  She used this to her advantage.  It is said she was ambitious and cruel. She actually established tyrannical rule in the kingdom of Naples. 

1789  --  the French Revolution.  Maria Carolina at first was favorable to the revolution. 

1792  --  the French monarchy is abolished, turning Maria Carolina against the French Revolution.

1793 (January)  --  Maria Carolina is upset at the execution of first her brother-in-law Louis XVI of France.  

1793 (October)  --  Maria Carolina is further upset when her own younger sister Marie Antoinette is executed.   She uses her influence to bring the Neopolitan and Sicilian armies into the First Coalition against France.

1796  --  peace between Naples and France. 

1799 (early)  --  a short-lived republic is established in Naples, the Parthenopaean Republic. 

1799-1806  --  once again Maria Carolina was queen consort and de facto ruler of Naples. 

1806  --  King of Naples deposed by Napoleon Bonaparte.  

1812  --  Maria Carolina lost the de facto power over Sicily.  The King unofficially abdicated in favor of his son Francis.  This deprived Carolina of her power and she was exiled to Austria. 

1814  --  death of Maria Carolina in Austria.  Her husband then became subservient to the will of Austria. 

1825  -- at age 73, death of Ferdinand I.


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