Collection of Benjamin Weiss
FRANCESCO I FARNESE, DUKE OF PARMA AND PIACENZA
HAMERANI, Giovanni: Italy, 1696, Bronze, 51 mm
Francesco Farnese (1678-1727) was the son of Ranuccio II Farnese and Maria d'Este of Modena. In 1694, when Francesco was only 17 years old, his father gave him the domain of Parma, a small northern-Italian duchy that was weak, land-locked and greatly in debt. Two years later, in 1696, he was given the duchy of Piacenza.
Historically, these two northern Italian cities, Parma and Piacenza, with their dependent territories, were detached from the Papal States by Pope Paul III in 1545 and made a hereditary duchy for his son, Pier Luigi Farnese. It was retained by the Farnese family until the family’s extinction in 1731, when it passed to the Spanish Bourbons in the person of Don Carlos (the future Charles III of Spain).
After taking the duchies, the young Francesco Farnese was conciliatory in his foreign policy. In 1700 when Charles II of Spain died without an ostensible heir, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out between France and Austria. Duke Francesco, anxious to keep foreign troops out of his duchy, adopted a policy of neutrality. This weak stance, however, led to the occupation of parts of the Farnese territories by Prince Eugene of Savoy, and ultimately Parma was declared a fief of the Duchy of Milan, an Austrian province in Italy.
In 1714 Francesco tried to restore the Farnese dominions to his family, using the machinations so prevalent of the period. Francesco arranged for the marriage of his stepdaughter, Elisabetta, to Philip V of Spain, the French claimant to the throne of Spain, for Francesco wanted Elisabetta's eldest son, Don Carlos, to ascend the Farnese dominions. But this required that Francesco’s brother and heir, Antonio, not have any children as heirs. So Francesco tried to dissuade Antonio from marrying and perpetuating his line. Although Antonio did marry, he died childless, paving the way for Don Carlos's accession. All the intrigue was for naught, however, as Don Carlos left Parma four years later for the Kingdom of Naples, bringing with him all the Farnese treasures, including even the Ducal Palace's marble staircase.
LINK to Portrait and Biography of Francesco Farnese (from wikipedia)