Alfonso II of Naples

Alfonso II (4 November 1448 – 18 December 1495) was Duke of Calabria and ruled as King of Naples from 25 January 1494 to 23 January 1495.[1] He was a soldier and a patron of Renaissance architecture and the arts.

Alfonso II
Andrea guacialotti, medaglia di alfonso d'aragona, duca di calabria, 1481.JPG
Medal of Alfonso as Duke of Calabria by Adriano Fiorentino, 1481
King of Naples
Reign25 January 1494 – 23 January 1495
PredecessorFerdinand I
SuccessorFerdinand II
Born4 November 1448
Naples, Kingdom of Naples
Died18 December 1495(1495-12-18) (aged 47)
Mazara del Vallo, Kingdom of Sicily
SpouseIppolita Maria Sforza
FatherFerdinand I, King of Naples
MotherIsabella of Clermont
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Arms of Alfonso II, King of Naples, KG

Heir to his father Ferdinand I's Kingdom of Naples, Alfonso held the dukedom of Calabria for most of his life.[1] In the 1480s Alfonso commanded the Neapolitan forces in Tuscany in 1478-79, against the Ottoman Empire in Apulia in 1480-81, and against the Republic of Venice in 1484.[1] In 1486 Alfonso's repressive conduct towards the Neapolitan nobility prompted a revolt; the violent excesses of suppressing this uprising further discredited Alfonso and King Ferdinand. Under Alfonso's patronage the city of Naples was remodelled with new churches, straightened roads, and an aqueduct supplying fountains.[1]

Alfonso became King of Naples in 1494 on his father's death. Within a year he was forced by the approaching army of Charles VIII of France to abdicate; he was succeeded by his son Ferdinand II of Naples.[1] Alfonso went into an Olivetan monastery at Mazara del Vallo, on Sicily, where he survived until 18 December 1495.[1]


Born in Naples, Alfonso was the eldest child of Ferdinand I of Naples by his first wife, Isabella of Clermont.[2] In 1463, when Alfonso was fifteen, his maternal great uncle Giovanni Antonio del Balzo Orsini, Prince of Taranto, died, and he obtained some lands from the inheritance. When his mother died in 1465, he succeeded to her feudal claims, including the title King of Jerusalem.

Alfonso's education was at his father's humanist court.[1] His tutor between 1468 and 1475 was the humanist Giovanni Pontano, whose De principe describes the proper virtues and manner of life becoming to a prince; the work took the form of letter of advice to the twenty-year old Alfonso, then Duke of Calabria, in 1468.[3] Pontano dedicated a further treatise on courage, De fortitudine, to Alfonso in 1481, after his victory over the Ottoman invasion of Otranto, and remained close as his personal secretary until Alfonso's abdication.[3]

As a condottiero, Alfonso fought in the most important wars of the age, such the war following the Pazzi Conspiracy (1478–1480) and the War of Ferrara (1482–1484). Alfonso had shown himself a skilled and determined soldier, helping his father in the suppression of the conspiracy of the barons (1485) and in the defense of the Kingdom's territory against the Papal claims.

When his father died, the kingdom's finances were exhausted and the invasion of King Charles VIII of France was imminent;[4] Charles, (instigated by Lodovico Sforza, who wished to stir up trouble to allow him to seize power in Milan), had decided to reassert the Angevin claim to Naples. Charles invaded Italy in September 1494. Alfonso managed to regain the support of Pope Alexander VI, who invited Charles to devote his effort against the Turks instead. Alfonso was crowned on 8 May 1494 by the papal legate Juan de Borja Lanzol de Romaní, el mayor.

Charles, however, did not relent; by early 1495 Charles was approaching Naples, after having defeated Florence and the Neapolitan fleet under Alfonso's brother Frederick at Porto Venere. Alfonso, terrified by a series of portents, as well as unusual dreams, abdicated in favour of his son, Ferdinand II. He then fled to a Sicilian monastery. He died in Messina later that year.

Renaissance cultureEdit

Alfonso participated in the brilliant Renaissance culture that surrounded his father's court. His lasting contribution to European culture was the example set at his villas of La Duchesca and especially Poggio Reale just outside Naples, which so captivated Charles VIII of France during his brief sojourn at Naples during February–June 1495, that he was inspired to emulation of the "earthly paradise" he encountered.[5]

Poggio Reale, which Giorgio Vasari said was designed by Giuliano da Maiano and which was laid out in the 1480s, has utterly disappeared and no extensive description has survived. Decades later, Vasari reported, "At Poggio Reale [Giuliano da Maiano] laid out the architecture of that palazzo, always considered a most beautiful thing; and to fresco it he brought there Pietro del Donzello, a Florentine, and Polito his brother who was considered in that time a good master, who painted the whole palazzo, inside and out, with the history of the said king."[6] There are no archives to connect Giuliano or his brother Benedetto with the project; for documentation only a section and plan, reproduced with apologies for its inaccuracy, by Sebastiano Serlio. Serlio's reproduction seems to show an idealized plan,[7] identical on all four sides, ranged around a court with a double arcading.

It is clear that the Aragonese court at Naples introduced the Moorish garden traditions of Valencia, with its shaded avenues and baths, sophisticated hydraulics that powered splendid waterworks,[8] formal tanks, fishponds and fountains, as a luxurious and secluded setting for court life, and combined them with Roman features: Alfonso's Poggio Reale was built around three sides of an arcaded courtyard with tiers of seating round a sunken centre that could be flooded for water spectacles; on the fourth side it opened onto a garden that framed a spectacular view of Vesuvius.

It was all unlike anything experienced by the French king, who retreated from Italy, loaded with tapestries and works of art, and filled with building and gardening ambitions, but he would die young only three years later.

Marriage and childrenEdit

Alfonso's wife was Ippolita Maria Sforza, whom he married on 10 October 1465 in Milan.[9] His mistress, by whom he also had children, was Trogia Gazzela.

He had three children with Ippolita:

And two with Trogia :

In popular cultureEdit

Alfonso II of Naples is portrayed by Augustus Prew in the Showtime series The Borgias, although he is portrayed as much younger and flamboyant than his historical counterpart was in the 1490s. Sancia of Aragon is portrayed as his half-sister rather than his daughter. In the European series Borgia written by Tom Fontana, where he is played by Raimund Wallisch, his portrayal is more historically accurate in terms of his age and Sancia being his daughter. In Da Vinci's Demons he is played by Kieran Bew and is depicted as a sadistic warlord, bitterly jealous of Lorenzo the Magnificent.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Campbell, Gordon, ed. (2005) [2003]. "Alfonso II of Aragon". The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780198601753.001.0001/. ISBN 9780191727795.
  2. ^ Previté-Orton 1978, p. 767.
  3. ^ a b Webb 1997, p. 69.
  4. ^ Atlas, Allan W., Music at the Aragonese Court of Naples, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 5 ISBN 9780521088305
  5. ^ Charles' letter to his brother-in-law, Pierre de Bourbon, noted in William Howard Adams, The French Garden 1500-1800 1979, p 10.
  6. ^ "A Poggio Reale ordinò l'architettura di quel palazzo, tenuta sempre cosa bellissima; et a dipignerlo vi condusse Piero del Donzello fiorentino e Polito suo fratello che in quel tempo era tenuto buon maestro, il quale dipinse tutto il palazzo di dentro e di fuori con storie di detto re." (Giorgio Vasari, Le vie de' più eccelenti architetti, piiori...).
  7. ^ Suggestions that its design was sketched by Alfonso's friend Lorenzo de' Medici, whose own villa at Poggio a Caiano it somewhat resembled, are tenuous.
  8. ^ The first description of a surprise jet of water as a practical joke, a garden feature with a long career, was remarked on at Poggio Reale.
  9. ^ Fallows 2010, p. 39.
  10. ^ Black 2009, p. 83.


  • Black, Jane (2009). Absolutism in Renaissance Milan: Plenitude of Power Under the Visconti and the Sforza, 1329-1535. Oxford University Press.
  • Fallows, Noel (2010). Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia. The Boydell Press.
  • Hersey, George L. (1969). Alfonso II and the Artistic Renewal of Naples. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Previté-Orton, C. W. (1978). The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History. Volume 2, The Twelfth Century to the Renaissance (9th ed.). Cambridge University Press. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Webb, Nicholas (1997). "Giovanni Pontano". In Kraye, Jill (ed.). Cambridge Translations of Renaissance Philosophical Texts. 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 69-87.
  • Brief description of Poggio Reale
Alfonso II of Naples
Cadet branch of the House of Ivrea
Born: 4 November 1448 Died: 18 December 1495
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ferdinand I
King of Naples
Succeeded by
Charles the Affable