MARESCALCHI, Ferdinando; MELZI D’ERIL, Francesco

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Ferdinando Marescalchi, 1754-1816, comte (1809), Italian politician

Born in Bologna, then in the Papal States, on 26 February 1754, into a noble family, he became a hereditary  member of the Senate of that town. In June 1796, he rallied to the French and became acquainted with general Bonaparte, who showed him a great deal of esteem and confidence. As we shall see below, Marescalchi was to play an important role in the context of the Cisalpine Republic (1797-1805), and later in the Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814).

Francesco Melzi d’Eril, 1753-1816, Duc de Lodi (1807), Italian politician, vice president of the Italian Republic, Chancelier garde des sceaux of the Kingdom of Italy

Born in Milan on 6 October, 1753, into a patrician family, to a Milanese father and a Spanish mother of noble birth, Teresa d’Eril. After having travelled in France, England, and Spain, he returned to Milan where he became a member of the municipality.

In 1796, when the road to Milan was opened before Bonaparte, Melzi accepted the nomination as director of the delegation charged with handing the keys to the city to the conqueror and presenting the town’s best wishes. This meeting took place on 11 May, 1796, in Lodi, Corso Roma 102, in the ex-Palazzo Ghisi. From this moment on, Bonaparte appreciated Melzi and did not stop considering him as one of the most distinguished men in Italy.

Just like Marescalchi, Melzi d’Eril was to play an important role in the contect of Cisalpine Republic (1797-1805), and later in the Kingdom of Italy (1805-1814).

During the Cisalpine Republic

In the course of his victorious campaigns in Italy, Bonaparte came up with the idea to turn Northern Italy into a sister republic. This, the Cisalpine Republic, was to based on the French model (notably the constitution of An III, that is, that written by the Directory). On 9 July, 1797, the Cisalpine Republic was created, with Milan as its capital. It comprised all of Lomabrdy north of the river Po, the ex-Cispadane Republic south of that river (Modena, Ferrara, Bologna and the Romagna). In this political context, Marescalchi became Cisalpine ambassador to Venice, and then Plenipotentiary at the Congress of Rastadt (9 December, 1797 – 23 April, 1799).
Melzi d’Eril, member of the council of the Republic, was also present at Rastadt, but he left after six months. But in betwen May 1799 and June 1800, the French armies were to lose control of Italy. The Cisalpine Republic was wiped off the map, and «Italian Patriots» were imprisoned or deported. Marescalchi took refuge in France, in Chambéry, whilst Melzi d’Eril fled to Spain. After Marengo, the First Consul re-established the Cisalpine Republic; Melzi and Marescalchi returned to Milan. In July 1800, Marescalchi was appointed representative of the Cisalpine Republic in Paris.

In the process of establishing a new constitution for the Republic, the First Consul called an extraordinary Consulta in Lyons. The consulta comprised 440 Italian personalities, both civilian and religious (11-26 January 1802). A commission chosen from the Consulta first of all proposed that Melzi should be elected president. ON this being found inacceptable, Aldini was proposed. This too not meeting with favour, Talleyrand then intervened and suggested that the Italians elect general Bonaparte, given the fact that there were French troops in Italy and that other states were reluctant to recognise the Cisalpine Republic. Thus Napoleon was elected president of the Cisalpine Republic. On 26 January, 1802, in his acceptance speech (in Italian) he was to change the name to Italian Republic, to tumultuous applause, and he chose Melzi d’Eril as vice president residing in Milan.

Melzi received a triumphal welcome when he returned to (7 February, 1802). But he faced two main difficulties: on the one hand, the presence of French troops in Milan, and on the other hand, the task of bringing about huge reforms. On the first point, ghe was successful: on 30 March, 1803, French troops left Milan and were replaced by Italian regiments.

For his part, Marescalchi, who had played an active role in the Lyons Consulta, was appointed Minister for Foreign Relations for the Italian Republic, with residence in Paris (1802-1805). In this role, Marescalchi negociated the Italian Concordat with the Cardinal-Legate Caprara. After much negociation, the Italian Concordat was signed in Paris on 9 September, 1803 (Bulletin des Lois de la République italienne, 26 January, 1804).

During the Kingdom of Italy

In France, on 18 May 1804, the First consul became «Emperor of the French». And on 2 December, in Notre-Dame de Paris, took place the consecration and coronation of Napoleon and Josephine. Melzi d’Eril and Marescalchi were present with the Italian delegation.

For Melzi’s and Marescalchi’s role in the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, see the article, How Napoleon became ‘King of Italy.

Just like Cambacérès in France, Melzi d’Eril was covered with honours and financial rewards: chancelier garde des sceaux de la couronne, in other words the first of the grand officers of the crown, Councillor of State, President of the Electoral College of property owners, President of Censure (20 December 1807), Grand-Aigle of the Légion d’honneur (the highest distinction), Grand Dignitary of the Order of the Iron Crown, the first in the Kingdom of Italy to be ennobled (his title was Duc de Lodi, 20 December, 1807), with a stipend of 200,000 lira, President of the Conseil du sceau of the Noble titles of the Kingdom (1809-1814), Senator and person in charge during the absence of the viceroy (1809-1814). He was president of the Privy Council and the Council of Ministers reporting on current affairs. But Melzi suffered from only being consulted rarely. Furthermore, as a precursor of the Risorgimento, he wanted the Kingdom of Italy to become the lever for political unity in Italy, something which never occurred.

Marescalchi’s margin for manouevre in Foreign Affairs was very limited (although he did however sign a Franco-Italian commercial treaty with Cretet on 20 June, 1808).

The Order of the Iron Crown, based on that of the Legion of Honour, was creaed on 5 June, 1805. Napoleon was the Grand Master, Marescalchi the Chancellor and Aldini the treasurer (see the Almanach impérial 1810, p. 163). Arranged around the viceroy and installed in the Palazzo reale in Milan, the court was organised on the Parisian model. Furthermore, a Grand Orient Masonic lodge was founded on 20 June, 1805; Eugène was its Grand Master and Marescalchi the Grand Conservator. In the kingdom, for certain higher levels of responsibility, membership of Free Masonry was almost obligatory. On the other hand, a modern administration had been formed, and the young Italian agents (average age of under forty in), were soon integrated.

The end of their lives

In 1814, Marescalchi managed to stay afloat, becoming administratour of Parma, for Marie-Louise. He ended up as Minister Plenipotentiary in Modena for the Austrian Emperor. He was to die in that town on 22 June, 1816. his son, Baron Charles Alphonse Marcel Marescalchi, had been Chamberlain to the Eugène as viceroy of Italy.

As for Melzi, after Napoleon’s first abdication on 6 April, 1814, the Senate of the Kingdom of Italy refused to pronounce in favour of Prince Eugène (17 April). The population of Milan was in a state of agitation. Eugène left Italy with his wife, Auguste-Amélie de Bavière (1788-1851) taking the road for Munich (27 April, 1814). For his part, Melzi handed the seals of the kingdom to the provisory regency.
During the subsequent Austrian period, Melzi d’Eril stayed away from politics, and Austria left him his title of Duc de Lodi. He was to die in Milan on 16 January 1816. He was buried at villa Melzi, in Bellagio, on the banks of Lake Como. As literary enthusiast, he left behind him a magnificent library, particularly rich in 15th century writings.

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