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Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma


Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma

Duke of Parma
Reign 26 May 1727 – 20 January 1731
Predecessor Francesco Farnese
Successor Charles of Spain
Consort Enrichetta d'Este
Full name
Antonio Farnese
House House of Farnese
Father Rannuccio II of Parma
Mother Maria d'Este
Born (1679-05-29)29 May 1679
Parma, Parma
Died 20 January 1731(1731-01-20) (aged 51)
Parma, Parma
Religion Roman Catholicism

Antonio Farnese (29 May 1679 – 20 January 1731) was the eighth and ultimate Farnese Duke of Parma and Piacenza. He married, in 1727, Enrichetta d'Este of Modena with the intention of begetting an heir; the marriage, however, was childless, leading to the succession of Charles of Spain–whose mother, Elisabeth Farnese, was Antonio's niece–to the ducal throne.


Born in Parma, Antonio was the third son of Ranuccio II Farnese, Duke of Parma, and his wife Maria d'Este of Modena. At the age of 18, Prince Antonio embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe with the intention of establishing contacts in courts across the continent; however, he simply dissipated 1,580,000 lire on galas.[1]

As a prince he spent most of his time at the court of his cousin the Hereditary Prince of Modena, because his sister-in-law, Duchess Sophia Dorothea, disbarred masques and other merriments, distractions which Antonio revelled in.[2][3] The castle of Sala, which he zealously enlarged and renovated, served as his Parmese residence. Here, Antonio threw lavish parties frequented by his favourite and mistress, the "domineering" Countess Margherita Bori Giusti.[3]

By the time of his accession in February 1727, morbidly obese Antonio had scant desire to rule.[2] His life of hedonism continued unperturbed: he stayed up all night, sat for dinner one hour before dawn, played faro and basset and attended Countess Bori's salons on a daily basis.[4] As there was no heir to the duchy, the secretary of state, Count Anvidi, and Bori coerced an unwilling Anotnio to marry Enrichetta d'Este, his friend the Hereditary Prince of Modena's sister.[5] On 21 July 1727 the marriage contract was signed. His bride was adored by the people of Parma, and Antonio treated her kindly.[6] The marriage, despite all Anotnio's attempts at conception, was childless.

Spain, France, Great Britain, Austria and the Dutch Republic provisioned for a Parmese male-line succession failure in the Treaty of London (1718), promulgating that the heir to the duchy would be Elisabeth Farnese's elder son with Philip V of Spain, Infante Charles.[7] Elisabeth, unconvinced of the treaty's permanence, extraced from France, in 1729, its permission to insert 6,000 Spanish troops into Parma. They too agreed to repudiate Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI's claim of suzerainty over the duchy. An incensed Charles VI responded by stationing 40,000 soldiers in his Duchy of Milan, north of Parma.[8] In the midst of the diplomatic fray, Anotonio died, ostensibly from a boil, caused, according to a comteporary, by oft sporting "a wig that was too hot for him".[8] Thus ending the House of Farnese, who for 184 years had served as sovereigns to Parma and Piacenza.

Six days after his death, 20 January 1731, Austrian troops marched into the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, intent on staying there until Spain re-subscribed to the terms of the Treaty of London. However, it was soon discovered that Antonio's will left the country to "the pregnant stomach of my wife".[9] A diplomatic flurry ensued. Pope Clement XII, the King of France and Elisabeth Farnese spurned Enrichetta's pregnancy. They were correct: Austria convinced Enrichetta that she was pregnant to keep the Bourbons out of Italy long-enough for it to occupy Parma. Upon discovering she was in fact not pregnant, Spain and Austria put aside their differences so as not to worsen the "precarious state of European affairs"; the ensuing rapprochement saw Charles of Spain mount the ducal throne as a vassal of the Emperor.[10] Charles, after resigning the throne of Parma in 1735, took all the Farnese treasures, including several pieces by Correggio, the Ducal library and archives and the Ducal Palace's marble staircase, with him to Naples, the seat of his new kingdom.[11][12]


Titles and styles

  • 29 November 1679 - 26 February 1727 His Highness Prince Antonio
  • 26 February 1727 - 20 January 1731 His Highness The Duke of Parma




  • Acton, Harold: The Bourbons of Naples, Methuen & Co, London, 1956
  • Solari, Giovanna: The House of Farnese: A Portrait of a Great Family of the Renaissance, Doubleday & Company, New York, 1968

Antonio Farnese, Duke of Parma
Born: 29 May 1679 Died: 26 February 1731
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Francesco Farnese
Duke of Parma and Piacenza
Succeeded by
Charles of Spain
Religious titles
Preceded by
Francesco Farnese
Grand Master of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George
Succeeded by
Charles of Spain
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