Inside the Royal Palace of Caserta
The Odious Women Tour: Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, was born in Vienna. In 1768 she married Bourbon King Ferdinand IV and cried all the way down to Naples because she insisted that Neapolitan Kings were unlucky. She was sixteen years old. The first time she laid eyes on Ferdinand, she thought him very ugly. King Ferdinand, in turn, said that Maria Carolina slept like she'd been killed and sweat like a pig. Together they lived at Caserta Palace and pro-created seven children.
Ferdinand spoke in Neapolitan slang, loved nothing better than hunting, and often sold his fresh caught fish on the streets among the lazzaroni. A practical joker and absolutely positively inured to higher learning, Maria Carolina easily took over the reigns of day-to-day ruling. She built up the navy, established a silk factory in San Leucio, brought the Farnese collection to Naples, patronized artists such as Angelica Kaufmann, and supported the Freemasons for a time.
Then, in 1793 her sister, Marie Antoinette, was executed. Horrified, Maria Carolina turned Naples into a police state in hopes of avoiding a revolution in the Kingdom. The army was kept perpetually mobilized, which increased taxation. She set up spies as well as secret police forces and sub-divided Naples into twelve police wards controlled by government appointed commissioners, replacing the popularly-elected system. Further paranoid, she employed food-testers and switched the royal family apartments daily. The Queen, however, couldn't stem the tide of revolution. By 1812 Ferdinand abdicated and the very next year Maria Carolina was exiled to Austria where she died in 1814.
Today, the Royal Palace of Caserta still pays tribute to Maria Carolina whose portrait hangs in the Art Gallery. She occupied four rooms in the 18th-century apartments. Ask for a map at the ticket office and you can roam her opulent world.
For a comprehensive biography of this fascinating Queen, read: A sister of Marie Antoinette; the life-story of Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples by Catherine Mary Bearne
The Royal Palace and its Gardens