Domenico Caracciolo

(Malpartida de la Serena, de Bodajoz (Spagna) 12 ottobre 1715 – Napoli, 16 luglio 1789)

Starting from the small feud of Villamaina, Irpinia, Marquis Domenico Caracciolo climbed the ladder of the international diplomatic career, becoming ambassador of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in Turin (1753), then in London (1763) and finally in Paris (1771). He was Viceroy of Sicily from 1781 and Prime Minister (1786-1789) of Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. Multifaceted intellectual and experienced reformer, he maintained close ties with the most famous British and French figures of the Enlightenment, i.e., Hume, Helvetius, D’Alembert, Diderot, D’Holbach. He was the first Italian to obtain affiliation to the Royal Society, the famous London academy founded by Isaac Newton. His culture and his patronage ranged from natural sciences to music, passing through literature, obviously. He mingled with the musicians Mozart, Bach, Piccinni (whom he brought to the court of France) and, among mathematicians, maintained close relations with Lagrange, Frisi and Condorcet. Friend of Filippo Mazzei, Vittorio Alfieri, Ferdinando Galiani and even of the libertine Giacomo Casanova, he was close to the royals of France and much appreciated by their most illustrious officials such as Turgot and Necker. He kept in contact with the founding fathers of the newly formed United States of America (Adams, Jefferson and Franklin). In Paris, he was named “Ambassador of the Enlightenment” for his reputation as a shrewd and lively conversationalist in fashionable salons. In Palermo, instead, he was the “executioner of the Inquisition”, which he abolished without hesitation, and the upright scourge of baronial arrogance. After returning to Naples as Prime Minister, he dealt with numerous reforms, giving absolute priority to the enhancement of cultural heritage. Madame de Staël defined him as a man of “extraordinary culture and great witticism”. Domenico Caracciolo was the first real statesman of a pre-unification Italian kingdom, a character much more in sight, at world level, even than the Count of Cavour. To this day, it’s still a mystery how such an important figure was relegated to the so-called “minor characters”. This research work has the primary purpose of giving him back the right centrality that History has so far inexplicably denied him.