The Farnese Family : Origin and family tree

Italian translation

By Stefania Fidanza, Liceo Scientifico A. Meucci, Ronciglione (Bassano Romano), ITALY, 1997

(English translation of the Italian original by Barbara Buddeke, Accademia Farnese, Caprarola (VT), ITALY)

Contribution to the EDUVINET "European Identity" subject

We have reliable news about Farnese family only since the XIV century. As for the previous centuries we can only make conjectures, but hypotheses are often based on wrong interpretations of documents.
A 1154 document inform us about a certain Prudenzio Farnese, son of Pietro, who probably was "console" in Orvieto as well as Pietro, his successor in 1174.
It was probably during these years, which were characterized by the growth of aristocratic communes that small feudal country lords joined the civic patriarchate in the ruling of the town of Orvieto.
Actually in the document the two consuls are not mentioned as "Farnese" but as "Domini de Farneto" (today Farnese - Viterbo) and as "Domini de Ancarano" (that is "Castrum", now ruins on Marta river in Viterbo area), which, as Litta (1) tells us, was one of family possessions.
Even on the origin of the Farnese family we have strong doubts; some suggest a Longobard or Frankish origin; the german origin might be grounded on a false certificate of Ottone I, but the most probable hypothesis is that the family received its name from a property acquired in the early Middle Ages, as many contemporary families did. Farnese was probably the first feud of the family which later ruled over many villages in the area (Montalto, Castro, Ischia, Marta, Valentano, Latera, Capodimonte, Canino and later Ronciglione and Caprarola).
As usual in that period, the places connected with the Farnese family joined their names with that of an important town, first with Orvieto, than with Siena, Firenze, Bologna, Perugia, Viterbo, Lucca.
In spite of active political partecipation of the Farense family in the local policy, they did not manage to consolidate their power and therefore did not become "Signori" of these towns. In XIV century, we have already documents which testify to the existence of important membres of this family who were connected with the political events of the Guelph party in Orvieto.
In 1302 a Guitto Rainutti Peponis was bishop of Orvieto and his brother Pietro di Ranuccio di Pepone was appointed as temporary "rector et defensor Civitatis" in 1313.
Some of his descendants also held important offices in the same town and were included in the 1322 "Declaratio" of the nobles.
The main activity of the Farnese family up to the end of the XIV century and the beginning of the XV century were military campains aiming at territorial expansion as exemplified by such characters as Pietro and Ranuccio il Vecchio.
Thanks to these succesful activities, the family gained large properties and money: at the beginning of 1400 they owned at least 11.000 florins deposited in Forence.At the death of Ranuccio the properties of Latera and Farnese passed on to his brother Meo who was to build a new branch of the family unconnected with the future "Ducato di Castro".
At the end of the XV century the Farnese family was already acknowledged as part of nobility: in 1472 the Gonzagas addressed the Farneses in order to arrange a possible marriage for their daughter.
"The true fortune of the family wasn't to be built on war but on the church" (2) when in 1534 Paolo III became pope favoured his family and made it even more important not only in Italy but in Europe as well.

(1) Litta, Famiglie celebri italiane, in Odorici F. 1860-1868

(2) Letizia Arcangeli, Atlante genealogico della Famiglia Farnese, in Catalogo Mostra, 1995.

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