Wednesday, June 13, 2012

June 13: Infante Philip, Duke of Calabria (1747-1777)

Infante Philip, Duke of Calabria (1747-1777)
An 18c. portrait of a young blond boy, standing,
wearing ornate dress, and a red sash

Ever heard of the Infante Philip?  He had a lot of names.  He was born and baptized in the Kingdom of Naples, as Filippo Antonio Gennaro Pasquale Francesco de Paula.  His title from birth was Duke of Calabria, because he was the Heir Apparent of the Kingdom of Naples, son of the king.  He was named for his grandfather, King Philip V of Spain.  His birth was much heralded, coming as it did after five girl babies, in a world that valued sons, and especially firstborn royal sons, so much more.   A beautiful fan was painted to commemorate his birth.  But Philip would never rule a kingdom. 

Philip, son of King Charles, grandson of King Philip, was born with disabilities that became more apparent as he grew.  His head was large for his body; he had seizures; he did not learn to speak.  Witnesses said he didn't easily make eye contact.  He was raised with his siblings and tutored with his younger brother, Charles.  When Philip was twelve, a group of doctors and officials were charged with determining if he was competent to reign; they watched him for two weeks, and said no, Philip cannot fulfill that inherited role. 

So, as a young man, relieved of the right and obligation to be king, Philip, Duke of Calabria, lived in palaces at Capodimonte and Caserta.   He was not hidden; his regular public appearances were important for clarifying the reasons behind his younger brothers' positions.   He apparently enjoyed eating and drinking, and a particular quirk was mentioned in one account:  he enjoyed having gloves put on his hands--layers and layers of gloves, finger by finger, sometimes more than a dozen layers of gloves on each hand.  (I wonder what today's occupational therapists would make of that!  Was there a special case of Philip's glove collection, numbered by size, so they would nest just right?)  Into adulthood, palace staff had some difficulty keeping Philip from "embracing" women at the court; they tried to keep him away from women, but he learned to slip away. 

Philip, Duke of Calabria, died in the fall of 1777, from smallpox.  He was thirty.  He's buried in Naples, at the Church of Santa Chiara.  I wish I knew that when I visited Naples several years ago; I might have gone to pay my respects.

UPDATE April 2015:  I found a mention of Infante Philip in a 1770 Pennsylvania newspaper; evidence of how widespread knowledge of his disability was beyond Naples.


GirlWithTheCane said...

That is so interesting.

My father told me about an English royal (don't remember the name; nowhere close being an heir) who was kept out of the spotlight because he had epilepsy. I've often wondered how a royal family would handle it if an heir to the throne had a disability.

Penny L. Richards said...

I think he was probably taking about Prince John (1905-1919):

There was a TV movie called "The Lost Prince" a few years ago, about him:

Anonymous said...

My great grandfather WA Stimson made suits for the 'lost prince', and was also sworn to secrecy at the time.