A regiment to the conquest of a ... Gran Magisterium!

(To Enzo Cantarano, Luisa Carini)

Since ancient times military operations were used in the political sphere to justify various claims and this from before people like Sun Tzu or Vegezio or von Clausewitz noticed it!

An example known to very few history lovers is theAffair of the "succession" of the Farnese, dukes of Parma and Piacenza, to the Grand Magisterium of the Constantinian Order. The fact was absolutely not peaceful because of the many interests involved. The diplomatic maneuver to legitimize its acquisition must therefore have been wide-ranging and the duke Francesco Farnese (opening image) absolutely wanted to complete it through the achievement of military merits.

To this end, the Duke would have participated in the umpteenth anti-Turkish campaign of the Serenissima not as the Sovereign of a small State, but as Grand Master of an ancient and glorious Equestrian Order, heir to the Imperial tradition of the East, in the same territories of the ancient Despotato of Epirus, now disputed at the Sublime Porte1, in which the Order had established itself and had operated in previous centuries. .

The reconquest of these lands would have ensured, among other things, obvious merits on the part of Pope Clement XI2 who was drawing up the definitive Bull of approval of the assignment of the Order to the Farnese family by the last Grand Master Angelo Comneno, who remained without legitimate heirs.

The war conducted at that time by a League constituted by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Order of Malta and the Pope against the advance of the Sultan Amet in Dalmatia was the most important fact in international politics. The Sultan wanted to avenge the defeat of the 1683 in Vienna, by Giovanni Sobieski and that of the 1690 in Salankemen and Zeula, by Eugenio di Savoia, who had forced the Turks to sign, in the 1699, the extremely difficult Treaty of Carlowitz.

Precisely because of the very high stakes involved, the recruitment and endowments of the Constantinian soldiers were the object of the most meticulous care by the Farnese who, in his capacity as Grand Master of the Constantinian Order of Saint George, undertook to recruit one regiment out of two battalions of eight companies each, whose money would have been borne, however, by the Republic of Venice. It had been agreed that the staff of each company would be: 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, 1 standard bearer, 2 sergeants, 4 caporali, 2 drums, 12 grenadiers, 100 riflemen.

After some contrast with the arrival in Veneto, the 1 battalion of the regiment left for Split3, stronghold of the Serenissima in Dalmatia, on 17 June 1717.

In July the operations towards Sinj began4 to attack the Turkish stronghold of Livno in western Bosnia. The regiment, of the effective strength of a battalion, was placed directly under the Venetian commander, the general administrator, Count Alvise Sebastiano Mocenigo. For this reason and because it is considered non-veteran and unsuitable for real country service, it was kept in the rear. Despite this he had losses equal to 54% of the actual due to illnesses and infections !!! The following year, 1718, the now veteran regiment, was employed in the front line near Ulcinj (Ulcinj in southern Montenegro) to over 160 kilometers south-east of its primitive posts, but a short distance from Scutari and, therefore, from the ancient Grand Magisterial headquarters of Drivasto5. In fact, in August 1717 the Christian fleet, after having been engaged in bloody battles in the Aegean Sea, had asked for immediate help either on the sea or through actions on land which forced the Turks to reduce naval pressure. The Ulcinj attack responded precisely to these required lightening needs. Instead, the fleet promised by the Catholic King Philip V Bourbon never came to the rescue because it was diverted into Sardinian and Sicilian waters. This greatly irritated the Pope, Clement XI, who harshly rebuked the King of Spain and asked Duke Francesco, uncle of the Queen of Spain, Elisabetta Farnese, to interpose his good offices at the Catholic court, at the same time entrusting him with a role that it certainly suited the ambitious duke and coincided with his desire to act as a needle of the balance in the Balkan theater also thanks to the presence of his own troops.

There are numerous testimonies of the difficulties encountered during the Campaign by the Constantinian troops, both for the activity of the enemy, who already fought with the techniques typical of the "guerrilla", and, above all, for the hostility of the Venetian ally who denied the necessary logistic support in particular the "convenient of Doctor and Hospital" and "the little care that has taken place ... which has given cause to the death and desertion of soldiers and to many infirmities that still reign in the troops." (Letters of 28 and 31 / 10 / 1717 of the duke to his colonel commander). Precisely in order to cope with the enormous number of casualties due to death and desertion, Colonel Dal Verme returned to Venice to recruit soldiers to be incorporated into his regiment. Reconstructing, the regiment, strong of 1200 men, was engaged in operations in the areas of Split, Kotor, Ulcinj (Ulcinj), and near the fortress of Sinj. The 21 July 1718 the Empire and the Sublime Gate made the peace of Passarowitz. The Venetian Republic was not able to manage alone the unequal struggle against the sultan and asked, in turn, in the 1719, peace. The regiment was immediately repatriated in June of the same year. The further losses were of 439 men. Thus ended the Dalmatian campaign of the Constantinian Militia. It did not achieve all the goals set by the Farnese regarding its aims of international and dynastic politics, crowning its expansionist ambitions on a royal throne, but allowed it to secure the benevolent attention of the Holy See and the peaceful succession to the Comnenos in the title Grand Magistral of the Constantinian Order. The gratitude of Pope Clement XI, which had been cardinal protector of the Order, manifested itself with the long-awaited and awaited release of the Bull Militantis Ecclesiae of concession of the Grand Magisterium to the Farnese in full and unconditional form and with the bestowal to the Order and its knights of a very high and very large number of privileges and guarantees earned on the field and not by virtue of a nebulous and uncertain past.

There are no reliable sources about the colonel flag6 of the regiment. The officers dressed in very elaborate, rich and showy uniforms: a sumptuous turquoise jacket with red lapels bearing, on the heart, the Great Constantinian Cross, with a red sottbito, white trousers and stockings, a sky blue velvet belt, a sword with the insignia of the Order, a blue cloak and a Cross of Justice in the neck. The uniform of the troops was the most accurate of all the other military bodies of the Duchy: blue jerkin for red exhibitions, red waistcoat edged in gold with gallons, blue knee-length trousers, white calf socks, black tricorn with gold edging effigy of the Order, shoulder strap in natural leather with brass fuse-holder and saddlebag with the crest of the Order, leather belt with sword.



Auda-Gioanet I, Is it really possible to assert the extinction of Souverain or Noble Houses? Ed. Ferrari, Rome, 1952

AAVV The Constantinian Order of Saint George, Ermano Albertelli Publisher 2002

Bascapè GC, Knightly Orders in Italy - history and law, Milan 1992

Needs G, History and genealogy of Imperiali Families Angelo Comneno and Tocco Paleologo d'Angiò, Ed. Ferrari, Rome 1950

Cantarano E. Carini L. Elements of cultural anthropology of a timeless phenomenon: Cavalry. The Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George. UniversItalia, Rome, 2016

Comneno AM, The theory of sovereignty through the ages, Ed Urbinati, Rome, 1954

Ducellier A, Kapla M, Bisanzio, San Paolo, Milan 2002

Saenz A, La Cavalleria. The strength of weapons at the service of defenseless truth. Rimini, Il Cerchio, 2000

Fox M Signs of honor, 2 voll, Rome, 2004



1 The Sublime Gate or "Upper or Supreme Gate", or Ottoman Gate, is one of the best known and most evident architectural elements of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the former residence of the Sultan. Beyond it lay the inaccessible imperial residence whose symbolism referred to the Islamic Paradise. The expression, over the centuries, has been used as a metaphor to indicate the government of the Ottoman Empire together with that of Divan or Divan. The term dīwān, perhaps of Persian origin, or from the Arabic verb dawwana (to gather), is used in Arab-Islamic culture to identify, among other things, the seat of a department responsible for carrying out the administration of public affairs, in particular the place where the Sultan's Council of State met until 1654 .

2 Pope Clement XI, born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was the 243º Pope of the Catholic Church from the 1700 to his death in the 1721.

3 City of Croatia and the main center of Dalmatia, after the vicissitudes resulting from the succession of Byzantine, Croatian, Magyar-Croatian rule, it was part of the dominions of the Republic of Venice for almost four centuries and never fell into the hands of the Ottomans.

4 It is located in the Dalmatian hinterland and is about 35 Km north-east from Split.

5 See page 35.

6 The Colonel Flag was a flag used in the armies of the Ancient Regime. It was the most important flag in a regiment. In the seventeenth century each company of a regiment had its own flag that depicted the captain's "exploits". According to the customs of the time, the Colonel was himself captain of the oldest company of the regiment (even though it was actually commanded by another officer, often called captain-lieutenant), so the flag of this company depicted the Colonel's coat of arms. Later in the eighteenth century it was prevented from depicting personal coats of arms on these banners, which were replaced with the flag of the Sovereign, the same or similar for all regiments.