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< A PROTESTANT SWISS COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF AT THE VERY OBSERVANT

CATHOLIC COURT OF THE KINGDOM OF NAPLES AND BOTH SICILY > (*)

 

 

< UN GENERALISSIMO SVIZZERO PROTESTANTE ALLA

CATTOLICISSIMA CORTE DEL REGNO DELLE DUE SICILIE > (*)

 

 

< EIN REFORMIERTER SCHWEIZER KOMMANDANT AM STRENG KATHOLISCHEN

HOF VOM KOENIGREICH BEIDER SIZILIEN > (*)

 

Bruno J.R. Nicolaus 

 

 

Emanuel Burckhardt  (French: Don Emanuel De Bourcard ) (1744-1820).

 Neapolitan  Commander-in-chief (Capitan Generale Napolitano) (1815).

Oil painting 1,10 x 0,90 of unknown author, beginning of XIX cent.,

 Nicolaus Collection, Naples.

Given to the custody to the < Musèe des  Suisses  dans le Monde >, Chateau de Penthes, Pregny-Geneve; exhibited at this location, Room 16 D, von Schwarzenbach (www.chateau-de-pentes.ch/musee/les salles ).  

Emanuel Burckhardt (1744-1820) was born in Basle as eldest son of  Emanuel Burckhardt-Linder (1719-1765), Jurist and Lieutenant at the service of Louis XV in the Swiss  Regiment Salis-Samaden located in Paris  [1,2,3,5].

True to the ancestor’s tradition, Emanuel junior started a military career at the early age of 10 (1754) in the father’s regiment, making his first painful experience during the <seven years war>, when his uncle Johann died blood-be-spotted at his site. At the age of 15, Emanuel junior became Cadett and shortly after Flag Bearer (1759). Thereafter, he continued serving as Captain and Instructor until 1787, when he was offered to join his Commander Baron von Salis-Marschlins (1731-1815) at the Kingdom of  Naples  with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and the task of Chief-Instructor of the Neapolitan troops.

As a matter of fact, Ferdinand IV King of Both Sicily, aware of the poor stand of his troops,  asked King Louis XVI to lend him temporarily some good instructor in order to reorganize his army. Two years later, Paris eager to get them back, offered Emanuel an honourable return, promoting him to Major. Emanuel rejected this offer and decided to stay in Naples. The decision to pass the Rubicon was undoubtedly well taken and had positive consequences for Emanuel life and career. He avoided for instance, to get involved into the tragedy of the forthcoming French Revolution, during which the largest part of Swiss soldiers at the service of the King died [4,6].

The choice to stay in Naples offered Emanuel, furthermore, the opportunity of his life, giving him the chance of showing his military talent, the knowledge acquired during many years of previous service, his outstanding courage, undertaking and common sense.

At that time, the court was practically ruled by Queen Caroline, daughter of the Empress  Maria Theresa and sister of Marie Antoinette, an observant catholic, whereas Emanuel and his wife Theresa were and remained protestant for life. Despite of the difference of faith, Emanuel succeeded in developing an excellent relationship with the Queen, as well as with various court members, the most of which belonged to old families, looking with mistrust to an heretic individual. Emanuel success must be therefore credited to his fine feeling and diplomatic talent: two seldom qualities  in a man of arms. The fact of being protestant, precluded however the way to some  conferment and charge, like the official appointment to Vicario Generale (Vice King), for which other political solutions were preferred [9,10].

During his life, Emanuel performed several commendable actions, enabling him to climb up to highest rank of Commander-in-chief of all troops of the Kingdom.

Some relevant steps of Emanuel’s career are listed below:

 

1787-Lieutenant Colonel, Commander of the Regiment Vallone-Borgogna;

1788-Colonel, Commander of the Regiment Calabria;

1798-Field Marshall, Conquest of Rome;

1799-Reconquest of Naples; conquest of Rome and appointment to Lieutenant General;

1802-Governor of Sicily with full civil and military powers; President of the Court-Martial;

1809-Landing and conquest of Procida and Ischia;

1815-Appointment to Captain General (highest military rank);

1819-Conferment of the knightly orders:<Ordine di San Gennaro> and <Gran Croce dell’Ordine di San Giorgio della Riunione> (highest civil and military orders in the Kingdom).

 

Despite of this brilliant career, Emanuel Burckhardt is poorly known in Switzerland and almost fully ignored in Italian history. At this regard, one can make following hypothesis. Instead of returning home at the end of his career, as customary according to the <bon ton de l’epoque > and to his family tradition, Emanuel preferred to remain with his sons in his beloved Sicily, integrating themselves in this beautiful country. Furthermore, changing the glorious Burckhardt name into the melodic French De Bourcard contributed to the separation from fatherland and to the progressive oblivion of Emanuel and his exploits. There is no doubt about, that both facts were not well accepted by the family in Basle[1].

As to the other point concerning Italian history, it is evident that both the Savoy Family and fascist regimen shared a common interest in denigrating and putting in oblivion the Bourbons, their achievements and all individuals cooperating closely with them.

A new critical and objective evaluation of the merits of the dynasty, started by Benedetto Croce some years ago, is pursued nowadays by Carlo Knight [3] and the new British School of History [11].

 

 

 

Bibliography and Notes

 

 

 [1] Hans Adolph Voegelin: <Militaers in fremden und einheimischen Diensten>,pp.225-230, in <CKDT (Basel) Streiflichter auf Geschichte und Persoenlichkeiten des Basler Geschlechtes Burckhardt>,Herausgeberin: Burckhardtsche Familienstiftung, 1990 Buchverlag Basler Zeitung, 4002 Basel.

 

[2] Carlo Knight: <Emanuel De Bourcard, generalissimo svizzero al servizio di Ferdinando IV di Borbone>, Atti della Accademia Pontaniana, Napoli, vol. XL, pp. 1-33 (1991).

 

[3] Carlo Knight: <Un Generale Svizzero al Servizio dei Borbone> in  < Sulle orme del Gran Tour- Uomini Luoghi Società del Regno di Napoli > Electa  Napoli, pp. 41-65 (1995).

 

[4] August Burckhardt: < Basler in fremden Diensten >, Basler Neujahrsblatt nr. 95 (1917).

 

[5] Theophil Burckhardt-Biedermann, Basler Jahrbuch 1883.

 

[6] P. De Vallière: < Honneur et Fidelitè, Histoire des Suisses au Service Etranger >, pp. 469, Lausanne 1940.

 

[7] Archivio di Stato di Napoli, Sezione Militare: < Generali Antichi >, Fascio 17, inc 35, < Stato in cui si dimostrano gli impieghi occupati al servizio di Sua Maestà il Re, del Tenente Generale De Bourcard delle Armi del Regno di Sicilia >.

 

[8] <Serie cronologica dei Viceré, Luogotenente e Presidente del Regno di Sicilia > dal < Giornale Araldico-Storico-Genealogico >, Palermo 1896.

 

[9] According to the family archive and other documents deposited in Basle [1,4,5,6], Emanuel was conferred the title of Vice King concomitantly to the appointment of Governor of Sicily (1802). According to other sources [2,3,7], Emanuel, when appointed  Governor of Sicily with full civil and military powers  (1802), did not obtain the title of Vice King [7,],  mainly because of internal political reasons (opposition of the Sicilian people against any Vice King; Faith of Emanuel). Emanuel operated thereafter as Governor and Lieutenant General, with the same powers of a Vice King, to the full satisfaction of Ferdinand IV and the Sicilian folk [10].

[10] According to the abovementioned sources [1,4,5,6] and to information collected personally among living direct descendants, Emanuel was conferred by King Ferdinand IV the title of < Count of Gaeta  >, (1815). His name does not appear, however, in the Annals of the Araldic Society of Sicily [3,8].  Emanuele De Bourcard-Pellecchia (1904-1987), the last male offspring of Don Emanuele, passed away in Milan, Italy a few years ago, closing in this way the direct glorious Italian branch of the Burckhardt family.

 

[11] For further information and inquiries, please contact: bruno.nicolaus@virgilio.it

 

(*) Text on line:  www.brunonic.org  (/main topics/12.history)