Important Italian family, which, from the late 12th century until 1731 when it became extinct, included Pope Paul III, five cardinals, and the dukes of Parma and Piacenza, notably Alessandro. This family, which became the ducal family of Parma, was neither rich nor important until the early 15th century. Before that the Farnese served Viterbo, Orvieto, and other towns as generals and were always loyal to the papacy. Pietro II fought for the guelfs against Emperor Henry VI, Pietro III against Henry VII. Guido was bishop of Orvieto from 1302 to 1328.
Ranuccio (d. 1460?) moved to Rome and became senator in 1417 and later general of Pope Eugene IV. The family gained prestige through the fiefs he acquired and through the marriages of his children into the oldest families of Rome. His eldest son, Pierluigi, married into the gaetani family, and his son Alessandro was the first cardinal in the family (1493), later becoming Pope paul iii (1534–49). Paul gave his natural but legitimatized son Pierluigi (d. 1547) and his family properties and offices. Pierluigi became duke of Castro and flagbearer of the Church. Two of Pierluigi's sons were created cardinals; Ottavio, another son, received Camerino, and his brother
Orazio was prefect of Rome. Ottavio's marriage with Margaret, the natural daughter of Emperor charles v, was the first international marriage of the Farnese. The family's greatest honor came in 1545 when the pope, after the approval of a consistory, bestowed Parma and Piacenza on Pierluigi with the rank of duke and with right of succession. This marked the end of the old Farnese loyalty to the papacy; Farnese dynastic considerations henceforth came first. From 1545 to 1547, when Duke Pierluigi restricted his nobles, Don Ferrante Gonzaga, Charles V's governor in Milan, encouraged them to rebel. The nobles assassinated Pierluigi, and Don Ferrante occupied Piacenza. Hence Pierluigi's son Ottavio (d. 1586) did not succeed immediately when the duke died in 1547. Instead, the pope, his grandfather, sent Camillo Orsini to govern Parma; Piacenza stayed in the imperialists' hands. In 1550 the new pope julius iii restored Parma to Ottavio, but when Ottavio joined with King Henry II of France against the emperor (and the pope), the pope once more deprived him of the duchy. However, French military successes forced Julius to recognize Ottavio as ruler of Parma in 1552. Piacenza was restored to him in 1557; the influence of his wife, Margaret of Parma, and that of her half-brother, King philip ii of Spain, was of assistance. Ottavio began the building of the huge Farnese palaces in Piacenza and in Parma. Ottavio's son and successor, Alessandro (d. 1592), was the most able member of the ducal family. He had already won a name for himself as a general and governor of the Netherlands for his uncle, Philip II, when he became duke of Parma and Piacenza. He remained in the Spanish Netherlands and never ruled personally in Parma.
His son, Duke Ranuccio I (d. 1622), contracted such large debts that his duchy began to decline. Odoardo (d.1646) was ten when his father died, and so his uncle, Cardinal Odoardo, served as regent. In time Duke Odoardo proved ambitious. He wished to add Lombardy to his possessions but failed in the attempt. As proud as he was ambitious, he treated the barberini, the nephews of Pope urban viii, with disdain when he visited Rome, and the war for Castro followed. Although he won the war and kept Castro, his debts added a burden to his duchy. Ranuccio II (d. 1694) was 16 when he succeeded his father. His uncle, Cardinal Francesco Maria, and his mother were regents. In Mazarin's quarrel with Pope innocent x the duke supported France and lost Castro, which became a part of the States of the Church. Duke Francesco Maria (d. 1727) succeeded Ranuccio. His brother Antonio (d. 1731) was the last duke.
There were five Farnese cardinals (the first date given being that of their cardinalate): Alessandro (1534–89), the son of Duke Pierluigi, held several offices; he was vice chancellor in 1535, legate to both Emperor Charles V and King Francis I (1539–41), and to Charles V (1543). He resembled his grandfather, Paul III, in being a great builder. The cardinal completed the Farnese palace, built the Gesù, purchased and completed the Chigi villa, which was renamed the Farnesina, and built the palace at Caprarola. He made the Farnese palace a meeting place in Rome for persons interested in art and literature. Ranuccio (1545–65), another son of Duke Pierluigi, was noted for his interest in learning and served as legate in the Marches. Odoardo (1591–1626), the son of Duke Alessandro, served as legate in Parma for 20 years and as a member of the first Congregation for the propagation of the faith (1622). He built the sacristy of the Gesù. Ludwig von pastor described him as one of the outstanding cardinals in 1622 (see gregory xv). Francesco Maria was cardinal from 1645 to 1647. Girolamo (1657–68) was nuncio in Switzerland, governor of Rome, and majordomo of Pope alexander vii before he became a cardinal.
Bibliography: g. moroni, Dizionario de erudizione storicoecclesastica, 103 v. in 53 (Venice 1840–61) 23:193–215. p. litta et al., Famiglie celebri italiane, 14 v. (Milan 1819–1923), v.5. l. callari, I palazzi di Roma (3d ed. Rome 1944) 212–229. j. wodka, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:27–28.
[m. l. shay]