Heraldry in Pre-Unification Italy

See also Arnaud Bunel's illustrated armory of Italian territories.

When Italy was formed in 1859-60, a number of independent states disappeared in the process. They had national arms and flags, which I now describe, based on Bascapè and del Piazzo (1983), as well as evidence from coins.

The following table gives a sense of the relative sizes of these states as of 1850.

State Population Size

(m) (%) (km2)
Stati Sabaudi4.972074.94
Stato Pontificio3.021241.96
Due Sicilie8.7736104.55


  • Savoy/Piedmont/Sardinia
  • Florence
  • Genoa
  • Milan/Lombardia
  • Lucca
  • Mantua
  • Massa
  • Modena
  • Naples and Two-Sicilies
  • Papal States
  • Parma
  • Venice
  • Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy
  • Genoa

    the arms of the Republic of Genoa were Argent a cross gules since at least December 1138. The flag was initially a red banner with Saint George on horseback, and it is known since 1198. In 1218 the banner with the cross began to be used on land, and on sea after a treaty of 1238 between Genoa and Venice which prescribed that the banner (insignia) of each state be displayed on ships. Soon after, in 1258, the cross was also adopted by mechant ships. The Republic of Genoa lasted until 1797; it was replaced by the Ligurian Republic (1797-1805) which kept the flag, and briefly revived in December 1814 before article 86 of the treaty of Vienna gave Genoa to the kingdom of Sardinia.


    Lombardia corresponds roughly to the region around Milan. Milan was in the hands of the Visconti family since 1277, and their arms were Argent a serpent vert (crowned) swallowing a child gules (see a discussion of this emblem in Alciato's Emblematum Liber of 1531).

    arms of Milan

    15th c. depiction of the Visconti arms on the facade of the cathedral, Lucca.

    Milan was made a duchy by the Emperor Wenceslas in 1394, and in 1397 he granted the Visconti permission quarter the Empire with their own arms. As counts of Pavia they bore Visconti impaled with or three eagles sable per pale. The Sforza who succeeded the Visconti in 1447 used the same arms. In 1535 Milan passed to Spanish control, and in 1713 to Austria. Coins minted in Milan in the 16th and 17th c. show quarterly the Empire and Visconti, with a ducal crown. It remained to Austria until 1859, with a Napoleonic interlude. By the treaty of Zurich of Nov. 10, 1859, Austria ceded Lombardy to France, which in turn ceded it the same day to Sardinia.

    The arms of the "Regno Lombardo-Veneto" from 1814 to 1860 were:
    Quarterly Milan (Visconti) and Venice, over all Habsburg-Lorraine (tierced in pale Habsburg, Austria and Lorraine). The escutcheon, surmounted by the Iron Crown of Charlemagne (kept in Munza near Milan), is placed on the breast of an Austrian imperial double-headed eagle, each head crowned, and surmounted by an Imperial Crown.

    In 1796 the invading French armies created the Transpadane Republic in Lombardy and the Cispadane Republic in Emilia. In Milan, an urban militia in existence since 1633 used green and white as its colors (no doubt derived from the arms of Visconti): with the adjunction of red, in three vertical stripes, these became the colors of the Lombard legion created in October 1796. On January 7, 1797 the Cispadane Republic adopted the green-white-red as its colors, in horizontal striped with red on top.

    On July 17, 1797 the two Republics merged to become the Cisalpine Republic, which on May 11, 1798 adopted the modern Italian tricolor as flag. But the Italian tricolor became too closely associated with patriotic and revolutionary feelings in Italy, and Napoleon had the Italian Republic (new name of the Cisalpine Republic) change to a new flag in August 1802: the new flag was a green rectangle placed on a white rhomboid itself on a red field. In 1848, the tricolor became the flag of the kingdom of Sardinia (with the arms of the house of Savoie in center) and in 1860 that of the kingdom of Italy. The arms of Savoie were removed in 1946.


    Lucca was a free city; briefly dominated by the Castruccio family in the early 14th century, then by the Pisans, it became again an independent republic in 1369. The Commune used a flag of two striped white and red, while the State and merchant flag was blue with the word LIBERTAS in gold letters per bend. In 1799 it became a democratic Republic under French influence and adopted a variant of the Italian tricolor, but returned to the white-red flag in 1801. In 1805 it was united with the principality of Piombino and given on March 18 to Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, and her husband Felix Bacciochi: the flag became three horizontal stripes, sky-blue, white and red. In 1809 Lucca was included in Tuscany. In 1815 it was transferred to the Bourbon-Parma while their Parma duchy was given for life to Napoleon's wife, Maria-Luisa of Austria. The state flag from 1814 to 1847 was white with the State arms and a canton with two horizontal striped yellow and red. A merchant flag also appeared, with two bars gules on a field or (or five horizontal striped alternating yellow and red). After the death of Maria-Luisa, on October 5, 1847 the new duke of Lucca abdicated and renounced the temporary sovereignty he held over Lucca to the Grand-Duke of Tuscany (cf. article 102 of the Vienna Treaty of 1815).

    The arms, from 1814 to 1824, were: quarterly, 1. per pales Medici and Farnese, 2. quarterly Castile and Leon, 3. Gonzaga (for Guastalla), 4. per pale Austria and Lorraine. En surtout per fess argent and gules a panther rampant or (Lucca), en surtout du tout Bourbon-Parma (France, on a bordure gules eight escallops argent). From 1824 to 1847, the arms were Quarterly Lucca (per fess argent and gules) and Spain (Castile-Leon), en surtout Bourbon-Parma).

    Prior to 1801, Piombino belonged to the Boncompagni-Ludovisi family. It had been raised to a noble fief of the Holy Roman Empire on 8 Nov 1509, and to a principality of the Holy Roman Empire on 7 Feb 1594. It was invested in the king of Spain, with the condition that he invest it in turn to a designated person: the sub-investiture went to Nicola Ludovisi on 24 Mar 1634 (documents in Klüber: Akten des Wiener-Kongresses, vol. 4, pp. 328-390). The arms of the Boncompagni-Ludovisi were: Quarterly, 1 and 4. gules three bends couped or issuant from chief (Ludovisi), 2 and 3. gules a dragon issuant or (Boncompagni), overall a pale of augmentation argent with the papal keys and umbrellino. The flag was white with the arms in the center.


    Ludovico Gonzaga (d. 1360) expelled the local tyrant and became captain of Mantua in 1328, establishing his dynasty, succeeded by his son Guido (1290-1369). Ludovico was made Imperial vicar by the Emperor in 1329. His arms, at least as born by his grandson Ludovico (1334-82) were barry of siz or and sable. In 1397, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, duke of Milan, granted to Ludovico's son Francesco I Gonzaga (1366-1407) the permission to quarter the arms of Visconti with those of Gonzaga, but this quartering did not last long. On 2 Dec 1394, the Emperor Wenceslas, king of Bohemia, allowed Francesco to quarter his arms with those of Luxemburg, with mark of difference. The arms of Gonzaga became quarterly Gules a lion argent tail forked gorded or, and Barry of six or and sable. In 1403 Sigismond IV granted to Francesco the title of marquis of Mantua and the right to add four eagles to his arms. Francesco was deposed; but, on 6 May 1432, Emperor Sigismond IV granted to his son Gianfrancesco the title of marquis of Mantua; and, on 22 Sep 1433, allowed him to add the four eagles sable to his arms. The arms of the Gonzaga became Argent a cross patty gules between four eagles sable, on an escutcheon over all Gonzaga.

    Gianfrancesco was succeeded in 1444 by his son Ludovico II (1412-78), whose son Frederico I (1441-84) was in turn succeeded by Francesco II (1466-1519), who was made gonfalonier in 1510 and added the insignia of this office to his arms (see the page on papal heraldry).

    On 8 Apr 1530, his son Federico II Gonzaga (d. 1540) was made duke of Mantua by the Emperor Charles V and was granted a crest: on Mount Olympus an altar and above it the word FIDES. In 1531, Federico II married Margherita Paleologo (d. 1566), heiress of Montferrat, in 1531, and the marquessate of Montferrat was attribute to him by Charles V 3 Nov 1536, after the death of the last male of the Paleologo line in 1533. Consequently, the arms of the Paleologhi were quartered with those of Gonzaga on the escutcheon of pretence: Quarterly gules a double-headed eagle displayed or (Paleologhi), per pale Jerusalem and Aragon, per pale Saxony and Bar, and Gules a cross between four letters B addorsed or (Constantinople); overall argent a chief gules (Montferrat). Federico II was succeeded by his sons Francesco III (d. 1550) and Gulgielmo (d. 1587). Monferrato became a duchy in Dec 1575. On that occasion, Emperor Maximilian II granted to Gulgielmo that the eagles be displayed and affronty. The escutcheon or pretence was changed to quarterly of nine in three rows of three, Byzantium, Bohemia, Gonzaga, Jerusalem, Aragon, Montferrat, Saxony, Bar, Constantinople. On 20 July 1588 Emperor Rudolf II granted to Guglielmo's son Vincenzo I (1562-1612) the right to an escutcheon of Austria surmounted by an archducal coronet in point of honor, above the escutcheon of pretence. On 25 May 1608 Vincenzo I created the Order of the Redemptor or of the Most Precious Blood (approved with some reluctance by pope Paul V); its collar henceforth surrounded the Gonzaga arms. Vincenzo I was succeeded by his sons Franceso IV (d. 1612), Ferdinando (d. 1626) and Vincenzo II (d. 1627), on whose death the senior line became extinct.

    The junior branch of Gonzaga-Nevers succeeded after a brief succession war with the Guastalla branch (the Gonzaga-Nevers sold their French inheritance of Nevers to cardinal Mazarin in 1659). This branch was issued from Ludovico (1529-95), third son of Federico II, naturalized French in 1550, married in 1565 to Henriette de Clèves, heiress of the duchy-peerage of Nivernais, countess-peer and then duchess-peer of Rethelois in 1581. Ludovico was the very first knight to be received in the Order of the Holy Ghost in 1578. His arms were:Quarterly: 1, Gonzaga-Mantua (argent on a cross patty gules between four eagles displayed sable affronty an escutcheon bearing quarterly gules a lion argent tail forked gorged or, and barry of six or and sable; 2 and 3, quarterly of seven in one row of 4 and one row of 3, Clèves (gules an escarbuncle or), La Marck (or a fess chequy argent and gules), Artois (France ancient on a label gules three castles or on each pendent), Brabant (sable a lion or langued gules), Nevers (France ancient a bordure gobony argent and gules), gules three or (Rethel), Albret-Orval (quarterly France and gules a bordure indenty argent); 4, quarterly of six in two rows, Paleologue, Jerusalem, Aragon, Saxony, Bar, Constantinople, over all Montferrat. Over all France a bordure gules bezanty (Alençon).

    His son Charles I (1580-1637) became duc de Nevers and Rethel in 1595, and duke of Mantua in 1627. By Catherine of Lorraine (d. 1618) sister of the duc de Mayenne, he had François de Paule (1606-22), duc de Mayenne, Charles (1609-31), duc de Rethelois, and Ferdinand (d. 1631), duc de Mayenne. By Maria of Gonzaga (daughter of Francesco IV) Charles had Charles (1629-65), duc of Rethel, Mayenne, Nevers (all of which were sold to cardinal Mazarini in 1654 and 1659), duke of Mantua, naturalized French in 1646. By Isabella Claire of Austria (d. 1685) he had Charles IV, last duke of Mantua (d. 1708), without issue. In 1707 Mantua was conquered by the Austrians and annexed to their Northern Italian domains in 1713, while Monferrato was handed over to the kingdom of Piedmont.

    Another branch of the Gonzaga family, issued from a younger son of Francesco II in the 16th century, was given the county of Guastalla by Charles V in 1541. It was made a duchy by the emperor Ferdinand II in 1621. Guastalla was conquered by Spain in 1745 united to Parma-Piacenza in 1748. Other branches were the dukes of Sabionetta and princes of Gazzolo (from a son of Ludovico II) and the counts of Novellare (from a son of Luigi, the founder of the dynasty).

    The heraldic information is from Giancarlo Malacarre and Rodolfo Signorini: Monete et Medaglie di Mantua e dei Gonzaga dal XII al XIX secolo. The information on the Nevers branch is from Levantal, the arms from Popoff.

    See some examples of imprese of the Gonzaga.


    The cities of Massa and Carrara were ruled by the Malaspina family, who bore per fess or and gules a thorn branch sable five flowers argent in pale, on a chief or a double-headed eagle sable crowned gules holding a scroll argent inscribed LIBERTAS (the latter an augmentation granted by Frederic II ca. 1212). In the 16th c. Massa passed to the Cybo family, who bore: Gules a bend chequy of three rows argent and gules, on a chief argent bearing a cross gules (Genoa). The arms were combined as Malaspina with Cybo en surtout (1590). The crown was open and alternating spikes and fleurs-de-lys (coin of 1663). [John Law claimed that he was offered Massa for sale in 1720 (Oeuvres Complètes, 1934, vol. 3, p. 255]).

    The last duke Alderano died in 1731, and his daughter Maria-Teresa married the Ercole III d'Este, duke of Modena: the arms from 1743 to 1790 were impaled Este-Modena and Cybo-Malaspina. From 1790 to 1829 the simplified arms were Cybo-Malaspina with an escutcheon of Austria in fess point (the complete arms being Austria impaling Este-Cybo). At the death of Maria-Beatrice Cybo Malaspina d'Austria Este in 1829, Massa was united with Modena under her son Francesco IV. In 18th and 19th c. depictions the marshalling of Cybo and Malaspina becomes very confused: the chief of Genoa becomes a chief supporting the chief of Empire, and the thorn branch migrates to the field of the Cybo arms, while the field per fess or and gules disappears completely. Woodward says that Maximilian II (1564-74) granted a chief of Empire to the Cybo family, which probably explains the lowering of the chief of Genoa.

    The flag of Massa was white with the arms in the center.



    The family of Este was said to descend from Sigibert, who was of Longobard origin and ruled over Lucca, Parma and Reggio around 904. They received the fief of Este from Otto I around 1049. Modena was ruled by the Este family since 1288, and they bore Azure an eagle argent armed, beaked and crowned or since the earliest times. In 1431, Charles VII granted to Niccolo d'Este a quarter Azure three fleurs-de-lys or and a bordure indented gules and silver.

    Arms of Este, from a 16th c. ceiling fresco in the Villa d'Este, Tivoli.

    On May 18, 1452 the emperor Frederic III granted Borso d'Este the county of Rovigo and the title of Imperical Vicar at which point the arms became: Quarterly 1. Or an eagle sable, 2 and 3. Azure three fleurs-de-lys or and a bordure indented gules and silver, 4. Per pale azure and or a two-headed eagle per pale silver and sable (Rovigo) en surtout Este (in later versions the quarter of Rovigo is replaced by another Imperial quarter). Modena was made a duchy in 1453. Ferrara was made a duchy by the Pope on 15 April 1471. In 1474 Ercole I d'Este was granted by Sixtus IV a pale gules with the papal keys, placed in the middle, with the escutcheon d'Este over the pale. In 1508 Alfonso I, duke of Ferrara, became gonfalonier, and the tiara was added to the keys. Although Alfonso lost the title the next year he and his descendants retained the pale of augmentation. In 1598 the d'Este were expelled from Ferrara which they held since 1240, and made Modena their capital. In the 18th century they used an open crown of fleurs-de-lys.

    In 1797 Ercole III d'Este lost his territories by the Treaty of Campo-Formio (he was given the principality of Brisgau in exchange). He died in 1803, and his only daughter Maria-Beatrice (1750-1829) had married the archduke Ferdinand of Austria (1754-1806) in 1771. Their son returned to Modena in 1814 as Francesco IV, followed in 1846 by Francesco V. They both bore per pale Habsburg-Lorraine and Este in the small arms, and this escutcheon en surtout of a complicated quartering as grand arms. The style used by Francesco V was "per la grazia di Dio Duca di Modena, Reggio, Mirandola, Massa, Carrara, Guastalla, Arciduca d'Austria, principe reale d'Ungheria e di Boemia, etc". When war broke out between Sardinia and Austria in April 1859, Francesco V declared for Austria, but his states were soon invaded by Sardinia. He left Modena on June 11, 1859, and protested against the invasion on June 22. A plebiscite led to annexation by Sardinia on March 18, 1860.


    The duchy of Modena used the arms of Este (Azure an eagle argent crowned or) as banner and flag since 1239, until 1796 and again from 1814 to 1829. In 1829 a new flag was devised, with three horizontal striped red-white-red, the middle stripe itself divided in three vertical striped blue-white-blue, with the ducal arms in the center.

    Naples and Sicily or Two-Sicilies


    Sicily and most of southern Italy was under the domination of Arabs since the 9th c. when Norman knights began to immigrate in the 1030s and build for themselves a kingdom. The most notable were the sons of Tancrède de Hauteville: Guillaume Bras-de-Fer, Drogon (d. 1051, count of Puglia), Humphroy, Robert Guiscard (d. 1085, prince of Tarento, whose son Bohemond became prince of Antioch), and Roger (d. 1101, count of Sicily, duke of Calabria). Roger's son Roger II (d. 1154) was made king of Sicily by the antipope Anaclet, an investiture later confirmed by pope Innocent II by a bull of 26 July 1139 (at the same time making him duke of Apulia and prince of Capua; Magnum Bullarium Romanum. 2:247). He was succeeded by his son Guillaume I and grandson Guillaume II. The latter left in 1189 a sister married to Henri VI of Hohenstaufen, emperor of Germany, who fought off the claims of an illegitimate cousin Tancrede and became king of Sicily. His son Frederic II reigned from 1197 to 1250. The next ruler Conrad IV died in 1254, leaving only a two-year old son Conradin. The pope took the occasion to offer the throne in 1265 to Charles of France, count of Anjou, ounger brother of king Louis IX of France. Charles accepted and defeated Conrad IV's brother Manfred in 1266 at Benevento, and Conradin in 1268. With Conradin's execution in 1268 the Hohenstaufen dynasty ended. Charles moved the capital to Naples.

    But Conradin's sister had married Pedro III of Aragon, whose claims were supported by the Sicilians after their revolt against the French (the Sicilian Vespers of 1282). Pedro succeeded in invading Sicily, and this marked the first and longest split between the kingdom of Naples and the kingdom of Sicily (1282-1443). Heraldically speaking, Pedro, by quartering the eagle displayed sable on argent of the Hohenstaufens with the four pallets gules on or of Aragon, created the arms of Sicily. On the other side of the Faro, Charles of Anjou was ceded the rights to Jerusalem by Marie of Antioch in 1277, and his arms (France ancient a label gules) impaling Jerusalem became the arms of the kingdom of Naples. His son and successor Charles II of Anjou married the daughter and heiress of king Stephen V of Hungary. Of their sons, the eldest Charles inherited Hungary, the second Louis became bishop of Toulouse (later Saint Louis bishop of Toulouse), Roberto (1277-1343) inherited Naples.

    The dynastic history of Naples becomes complex after Robert's death. His grand-daughter Giovanna I (1326-1382) succeeded him, but eliminated her husband and cousin Andrew of Hungary in 1345; Andrew's brother Louis king of Hungary invaded Naples and held it until 1352. In 1369 she adopted her cousin Carlo of Durazzo (Carlo III, 1345-86) as heir, but changed her mind and in 1380 adopted Louis d'Anjou, younger son of king Jean II of France, as heir. Carlo had her murdered in 1382 and he took the throne. The pope (as overlord of Naples) invested Louis as king of Naples but the latter's efforts at retaking the kingdom failed; Louis was succeeded by Louis II who was crowned by the pope in 1389 and held the kingdom until expelled by Carlo III's son Ladislao (1376-1414). In the meantime, Carlo III had in 1385 asserted his claim to the kingdom of Hungary after the death of Louis I. From that point on, the arms of the kingdom of Naples were tierced per pale Hungary (barry of eight argent and gules), Anjou and Jerusalem. Ladislao was succeeded by his sister Giovanna II (1373-1435), who left no children or siblings. She adopted as heir Alfonso V of Aragon in 1420, then changed her mind and adopted in 1423 the grandson of Louis d'Anjou, Louis III d'Anjou (1403-34); then she chose again Alfonso V in 1433, and then in 1434 Louis's brother René (1409-80).

    In 1442 Alfonso V of Aragon (1394-1458) conquered Naples and in 1443 was recognized as king of Naples by the pope: thus the two Sicilies were united again; it was under him that the expression "kingdom of Two Sicilies" first appeared. The triumphal arch which he erected at the entrance of the Castel Nuovo in Naples bears the inscription "Alfonsus rex Hispanus Siculus Italicus pius clemens invictus" and the simple arms of Aragon with a royal (open) crown and two griffons as supporters. Elsewhere, however, his arms appear as quarterly Aragon and Naples, where Naples is simply tierced per pale Hungary, Anjou, and Jerusalem. At Alfonso's death in 1458 Sicily remained with the king of Aragon, his son Juan II while Naples went to his bastard son Ferrante I (1423-94). The French king, however, having inherited Provence from the last of the Anjou line in 1481, considered themselves heir to the claim to Naples. Charles VIII of France succeeded in taking Naples in 1494, but it was soon retaken by the Aragonese dynasty in 1496. Lost again in 1501, it was retaken by Ferdinand V of Aragon in 1508. From 1503 to 1713 it was ruled by viceroys in Naples in the name of the king of Spain. At the peace of Utrecht Naples was given to Austria while Sicily was given to Savoy, but exchanged in 1720 for Sardinia and given to Austria too.

    In 1734, the Infant of Spain Carlos, then duke of Parma, conquered the kingdom of Naples; and in 1738, after his conquest was recognized by the treaty of Vienna, he was invested by the Pope with the kingdoms of Sicily and Jerusalem. His arms, which were very complex, became the state arms of the kingdom of Two-Sicilies from 1735 to 1860, except during the Napoleonic interlude. They were as follows:
    Per pale of three lines:
    I. quarterly of six in 2 rows of 3, 1 and 6 Farnese, 2 and 4 Austria, 3 and 5 Burgundy ancient, en surtout Portugal.
    II. per fess of 3 lines, 1) quarterly Castile and Leon ente en pointe Granada, 2) Austria, 3) per bend sinister Burgundy ancient and Flanders, 4) Naples.
    III. per fess of 3 lines, 1) per pale Aragon and Sicily, 2) Burgundy modern, 3) per bend Brabant and Tyrol, 4) Jerusalem.
    IV. Medici.
    En surtout Anjou.

    Arms of the Two Sicilies, from the French Encyclopédie ca. 1760. The Constantinian Order of St. George surrounds the shield.

    They were essentially constructed as follows: take the arms of Spain (after the Bourbon accession in 1700; note that they already include Sicily since the 15th century), add two quarters of Naples and Jerusalem in point, and flank them with Farnese in dexter and Medici in sinister. These flanks come from Carlos' mother Elisabeth Farnese, grand-daughter of Odoardo I duke of Parma-Piacenza and Margherita of Medici; through her he claimed both the duchy of Parma (the Farnese male line died in 1731) and the grand-duchy of Tuscany (the Medici male line died in 1737).

of the kingdom of Two Sicilies (mid-19th c.)
    The classic representation of the arms of the kingdom of Two Sicilies, mid-19th century. The six orders are, from left to right: military order of King Francis I (founded 1829), order of St. Ferdinand and of Merit (founded 1800), Order of St. Januarius (founded 1738, center top), Order of the Golden Fleece (center bottom), Constantinian Order of St. George (16th c.), Spanish Order of Charles III (founded 1771).

    In the 19th century a simpler version was also used: Quarterly Burgundy modern, Sicily, Jerusalem and Naples, en surtout Anjou. The supporters were two lions or langued gules.

    During the Napoleonic interlude, Sicily remained in Bourbon hands, but Naples was separated from 1806 to 1815. From 1806 to 1808, the kingdom of Naples was in the hands of Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I, and, when he was promoted king of Spain, he was replaced by Joachim Murat (1808-15). Under both sovereigns, the arms of Naples were as follows: per fess, 1. per pale Azure two cornucopiae per saltire or and Azure a dolphin argent (Naples), 2. Or a trinacria (or triskele argent (Sicily). En surtout the arms of Imperial France. The supporters were two mermaids, the royal crown was a standard one, the mantle was azure with a lining of chequy of two rows argent and gules. The complete state arms were very unusual: in fess point were the arms of Imperial France, and 15 quarters were radiating around it (for Naples, Lavoro, Citra, Basilicata, Calabria Citra, Calabria Ultra, Otranto, Vari, Capitanata, Molise, Principato ultra, Chieti, Aquila, Teramo and Sicily).

    After 1816 the numbering of sovereigns changed: until then, the higher of the two numbers (Naples or Sicily) was used, so the emperor Charles V was Charles IV of the Two-Sicilies, Carlos II of Spain was Charles V, the emperor Charles VI (to 1734) was Charles VI, Charles of Spain was Charles VII (1734-59), his successor was Ferdinand IV; in 1816, he was renumbered I. In the 19th century, the style of the king was was "per la grazia di Dio Re del Regno delle Due Sicilie, di Gerusalemme, etc, Duca di Parma, Piacenza, Castro, etc; Gran Principe Ereditario di Toscana, etc."


    The flag of the Two-Sicilies from 1735 to 1860 was a white flag with the royal arms above. Sicily always remained in Bourbon hands, but Naples went through three interludes. In 1798-99 the French invaders created the Parthenopean Republic, which adopted in 1799 a vertical tricolor flag of blue-yellow-red. Under Joseph Bonaparte (1806-08), the flag was argent vêtu gules and sable (or quarterly gules and sable a lozenge throughout argent), with the royal arms in the center. Under Joachim Murat (1808-15), the flag (adopted in 1811) was celestial blue with a bordure gobony argent and amaranth; in the center, the royal arms.

    In April 1848 Sicily seceded from the kingdom and adopted the Italian tricolor with the triskele on the center stripe. This flag was flown until April 1849 when the secession was quashed.

    On June 23, 1860 the kingdom adopted a new flag, which was the Italian tricolor with the royal arms on the center stripe. This flag was flown by troops loyal to the Bourbons until March 1861 over the forts of Messina and Gaeta.

    Papal States

    The arms of the Papal States are discussed elsewhere.

    A flag for the Papal States can first be identified when Inocent III adopts in 1204 the banner gules a cross argent of the Imperial party but adding to it four keys upright argent. In the early 14th century appears the banner gules two keys per saltire or and argent, to which is added under Alexander VI (late 15th c.) the umbrellino or gonfalon. Gules and or were the Papal colors, but Napoleon appropriated them for his troops when he created the kingdom of Italy and merged the Papal states with it. The Pope then switched to or and argent, the tinctures of the two keys: on Sept. 17, 1825 the flag per pale or and argent was adopted, and it became on June 7, 1929 the flag of the State of the City of the Vatican.

    The maritime flag of the Papal States until 1870 was white either a depiction of the Crucifixion, or else the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

    In the wake of the French invasion, a Anconine Republic was proclaimed in Ancona on November 19, 1797. The maritime republic of Ancona traditionally used a merchant flag Gules a cross or. The new Republic adopted a horizontal tricolor blue-yellow-red with the words REPUBBLICA ANCONICA on the middle stripe. On March 7, 1798 this Republic merged with the Roman Republic, which used a vertical tricolor black-white-red, until its abolition on Sept. 29, 1799.


    The city of Parma, bought by Milan in 1346, was ceded to the Holy See in 1511. The duchy of Parma was created in 1545 for a natural son of pope Paul III, Pier-Luigi Farnese. The arms of Farnese were Or six fleurs-de-lys azure 3, 2 and 1. In 1545 he was made gonfalonier of the Church, and as such added a pale gules bearing the papal keys per saltire or and argent and the umbrellino proper. In 1556, his son Ottavio married Marguerite of Parma, a natural daughter of Charles V of Spain, who bore per pale Austria-Burgundy ancient, and the Farnese arms became quarterly Farnese and Austria-Burgundy, over all a pale gules with the keys and umbrellino. The crown was an open crown of alternating acanthus leaves and fleurs-de-lys (on a 1599 coin). Their son Alessandro married the daughter of a pretender to the throne of Portugal (at the time part of Spain) and an escutcheon of Portugal was added en surtout. In 1641 Odoardo lost the office of gonfalonier (which was abolished) and the pale was removed.

    Arms of cardinal Farnese on a ceiling decoration, palazzo Farnese, Caprarola.

    Odoardo was succeeded by Ranuccio II (1646-94), Francesco (1694-1727) and Antonio (1727-31), with whom the Farnese male line ended. In 1720, it was agreed among European powers to let Parma go to the eldest son of Isabella Farnese, niece of the last two dukes, from her marriage with Felipe V of Spain, namely Don Carlos de Borbon y Farnese. Carlos seized the kingdom of the Two-Sicilies in 1734, but lost Parma to the Austrians the next year. By the treaty of Aachen in 1748, Parma was given to his younger brother Felipe, whose descendance the Bourbon-Parma reigned from then on. The state arms incorporated a number of quarters and France on a bordure gules eight escallops argent en surtout, a differenced version of the Anjou arms of the Bourbons of Spain.

    Parma-Piacenza was annexed to France in 1802 and granted in 1806 to Cambacérès (Parma) and Lebrun (Piacenza), former colleagues of Bonaparte as Consuls of France. The Bourbons-Parma were given Etruria (Tuscany) in exchange from 1801 to 1807. In 1814, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla were given for life to Napoleon's wife Marie-Louise of Austria, while the Bourbons-Parma moved to Lucca. Her arms were: Per pale Farnese and Gonzaga, overall Habsburg, Austia and Lorraine, and her style was "Imperial princess, archduchess of Austria, by the grace of God duchess of Parma Piacenza and Guastalla".

    arms of Maria Luigia
    Arms of Maria Luigia on the palace of Colorno, near Parma.

    On her death on 17 Dec. 1847, Lucca and Parma were united. Some territorial adjustments were made in execution of the treaty of Florence of 28 Nov 1844: Guastalla and l'Oltrenza (part of Parma) were ceded to Modena, and the Lunigiana was acquired from Modena and Tuscany. In 1848-49 the small arms were Per pale 1. Farnese and 2. per pale Medici Malaspina (Massa), over all Bourbon-Parma (France on a bordure gules eight escallops or). In the great arms, Bourbon-Parma is en surtout on a quarterly Castille-Leon, itself en surtout on more complex quarterings. The style was "Carlo III di Borbone, Infante di Spagna, per la grazia di Dio Duca di Parma, Piacenza e Stati annessi". The Bourbon-Parma lost their throne in 1859, and their territories were annexed to Sardinia on March 18, 1860.

    The flag from 1545 to 1731 was simply the Farnese coat. From 1731 to 1801 the duchy used the Bourbon white flag. From 1815 to 1847, under Marie-Louise, the flag was per pale gules and argent. From 1851 to 1859 the national flag became gironny or and azure a bordure gules.


    The banners of Venice, as early as 1177, showed Saint Mark. In the early 14th c. the saint was replaced by his symbol the winged lion, initially red on a white background, but by the middle of the 14th century it had assumed its familiar tinctures or on a field gules. The lion was depicted in various ways, either whole or issuant. It remained on the arms and flag of the Republic until 1797.

    In the 18th century Venice used a large version of its arms:
    I. Quarterly Azure an eagle or armed, membered, beaked and crowned gules (Friuli), argent a cross gules Padova), Azure a cross or (Verona), Argent a lion azure armed gules (Brescia).
    II. Quarterly Argent a cross and two stars of eight points in chief gules (Treviso), Azure a cross and two dragons issuant in chief or (Belluno), Gules a cross argent (Vicenza), Gules a castle surmounted by two towers inclined toward the flanks argent, masoned and port sable (Feltre).
    III. Per pale gules and or (Bergamo), per fess gules and argent (Crema), Azure on a point vert a triple-towered castle on three steps or grieces, the middle tower higher, all argent, masoned sable (Adria), Vert on a two-towered castle or masoned and port sable a lion of Saint Mark of the second (Polesine).
    IV. Azure issuant from sinister flank the galley of the Argonauts or (Corfu), Azure a hyacinth flower slipped argent (Zante), Argent a cross gules (Cefalonia), Vert a horse rampant argent maned and unguled sable (Cherso).
    En surtout five escutcheons, each crowned:
    In chief, Cyprus, which is quarterly Argent a cross potent between four crosslets or (Jerusalem), barry of 8 argent and azure a lion gules armed and crowned or (Lusignan), or a lion gules (Armenia) and argent a lion gules (Luxemburg).
    In dexter Candia (or Crete), which is gules a minotaur argent armed purpure, on a chief azure an eagle rising sable, armed or, clasping a thunderbolt of the last.
    In sinister Dalmatia, which is quarterly Gules three lions' heads guardant or (Dalmatia), chequy gules and argent (Croatia), or three horseshoes sable (Rascia), and or a lion gules armed and tongued azure (Albania).
    in point Istria, which is Azure a goat passant or, horned purpure.
    In fess point Venice, which is Azure the lion of Saint Mark or.
    The pavilion is purpure lined with ermine, and it is crowned with the dogal crown, as is the escutcheon of Venice in fess point.

    The Treaty of Campo-Formio gave Venice and the Veneto to Austria (1797). On April 7, 1815 the Lombard-Venitian Kingdom (Regno Lombardo-Veneto) was formed, a territory of the Austrian Empire, composed of the Governo Lombardo and the Governo Veneto. In 1859, parts of Mantova not ceded to Sardinia were added to the Governo Veneto. Italy annexed the Veneto in 1866.

    Arms of Venice

    Source: Giulio Cesare de Beatiano, L'Araldo Veneto, 1680.

    Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy (1805-14)

    On March 15, 1805, Napoleon became king of Italy. His kingdom did not actually include all of Italy, and in fact corresponded to the former Cisalpine or Italian Republic, mainly Lombardy and Emilia. In fact, later annexations in Italy (Tuscany, Papal States) were made by the French Empire without increasing the kingdom of Italy, and no attempt was made to unify the Italian peninsula. It was Napoleon's expressed intention to pass on the crown of Italy to one of his sons and to maintain France and Italy as separate realms. Napoleon was crowned in a splendid ceremony in Milan on May 22, 1805.

    The arms of the kingdom of Italy were:
    Tierced per pale:
    I. per fess, 1. Gules on an umbrellino or two keys per saltire or and argent, and 2. Azure an eagle argent wings inverted, armed and crowned or;
    II. Argent a serpent vert crowned or, swallowing a child gules;
    III. per fess, 1. Azure the lion of Saint Mark or, and 2. Gules a cross argent in chief a label azure and in dexter base a tower or;
    en surtout vert a crown radiant or (alias argent).
    The escutcheon is surrounded by the collar of the Legion of Honor and placed on the breast of a French Imperial eagle surmounted by a star of five points or thereon the letter N radiant sable. The mantle is vert fringed argent and lined ermine, topped by the crown of the kingdom of Italy, which is a crown of laurels with arches.

    The flag was that of the Italian Republic.


    • Bascapè, Giacomo and Marcello del Piazzo: Insegne e Simboli, Araldica Pubblica e Privata Medievale e Moderna. Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Roma; 1983.

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    François Velde

    Last modified: Sep 25, 2003