Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma

Ranuccio I Farnese (28 March 1569 5 March 1622) reigned as Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Castro from 1592. A firm believer in absolute monarchy, Ranuccio, in 1594, centralised the administration of Parma and Piacenza, thus rescinding the nobles' hitherto vast prerogative. He is best remembered for the "Great Justice" of 1612, which saw the executions of a large number of Piacentine nobles suspected of plotting against him.[1] Claudia Colla his mistress and her mother were accused of using witchcraft to stop him from having offsprings, and both were sentenced to death by burning.[2] Because one of the conspirators, Gianfrancesco Sanvitale, falsely implicated several Italian princes, namely Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua and Cesare d'Este, Duke of Modena, in the plot, Vincenzo and Cesare's names appeared on the list of conspirators during formal court proceedings; as a result, Ranuccio's reputation among the rulers of Italy was irreparably damaged because it was evident that he gave credence to Gianfrancesco's obviously false confession. When, consequently, in the early 1620s, Ranuccio was looking for a bride for his younger legitimate son and heir, Odoardo, none of the Italian ruling families were forthcoming with princesses. He did, however, manage to engineer a match with Margherita de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo II of Tuscany.

Ranuccio I
Duke of Parma and Piacenza
Reign3 December 1592 – 5 March 1622
Born28 March 1569
Parma, Parma
Died5 March 1622(1622-03-05) (aged 52)
Parma, Parma
SpouseMargherita Aldobrandini
Issue(illeg.) Prince Ottavio
Odoardo, Duke of Parma
Maria, Duchess of Modena and Reggio
Vittoria, Duchess of Modena
Cardinal Francesco Maria
FatherAlexander Farnese, Duke of Parma
MotherInfanta Maria of Guimarães
ReligionRoman Catholicism

The husband of Margherita Aldobrandini, niece of Pope Clement VIII, Ranuccio, the son of a Portuguese infanta, was considered as a potential king of Portugal when his childless great-uncle King Henry I died. The throne, however, passed to Philip II of Spain, whose troops had promptly occupied the country after Henry I's death.

His great-uncle Henry I of Portugal's death triggered the struggle for the throne of Portugal when Ranuccio was 11 years old. As the son of the late elder daughter of Infante Edward, 4th Duke of Guimarães, the only son of King Manuel I whose legitimate descendants survived at that time, Ranuccio was according to the feudal custom the first heir to the throne of Portugal. However his father was an ally and even a subject of the Spanish king, another contender, so Ranuccio's rights were not very forcibly claimed. Instead, Ranuccio's mother's younger sister Catherine, Duchess of Braganza, claimed the throne, very ambitiously, but failed.

Under Ranuccio I's rule, the dukedom annexed the territories of Colorno, Sala Baganza, and Montechiarugolo. He guided a cultural renewal in the city of Parma, supporting the arts and constructing the 4,500 seat Farnese Theater. Numerous improvements and monuments in Parma were constructed under Ranuccio I at his behest, including a revitalization of the University of Parma and the final expansion of the city walls. Construction of the Palazzo della Pilotta, the court palace of the Farnese family, was completed in 1620.

Ranuccio was succeeded by his son Odoardo, initially under the regency of Ranuccio's brother, Odoardo Farnese.


He married Donna Margarita Aldobrandini—the daughter of Don Giovanni Francesco Aldobrandini, Prince of Carpineto and his wife the heiress Donna Olimpia Aldobrandini, Princess Campinelli—on 7 May 1600 in Rome, St. Sixtus. The couple had nine children:

Before his marriage Ranuccio I had a relation with Briseide Ceretoli, who was at that time unmarried; she was daughter of Ottavio Ceretoli, a captain who had died in Flanders in the following of Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma. The couple had two natural children:


  1. "Farnese family (Italian family)". Enyclopædia Britannica. britannica.com. Retrieved 23 December 2009.
  2. Ceriotti, Luca; Dallasta, Federica (30 June 2008). Il posto di Caifa. L'Inquisizione a Parma negli anni dei Farnese: L'Inquisizione a Parma negli anni dei Farnese (in Italian). FrancoAngeli. ISBN 9788846493804.

Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma
Born: 28 March 1569 Died: 5 March 1622
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Parma, Piacenza and Castro
Succeeded by

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