In the recent issue of Royalty Digest Quarterly (no 1-2010) I have an article on the Pontecorvo, the small Italian principality which was granted Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte by Emperor Napoléon I in 1806 and whose arms still feature in the escutcheon of the Bernadotte dynasty and thereby in Sweden’s Great Coat of Arms.
Formerly a Papal enclave, Pontecorvo is situated approximately halfway between Rome and Naples. Bernadotte was created Sovereign Prince and Duke of Pontecorvo on 5 June 1806. This set him apart from the other marshals, who were only made dukes and princes of non-territorial locations at a later date. The principality was granted Bernadotte at the time when the relationship between him and Napoléon was at its best, but it has also been suggested that the Emperor through the grant wanted to draw Bernadotte closer to him.
The Prince of Pontecorvo never set his foot there and had to renounce the principality when he was elected Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810. The title was later held for a few years by Achille Murat, the son of King Joachim (Murat) of Naples, and was offered to Prince Eugène, the former Viceroy of Italy, by the Congress of Vienna on the condition that he never settled there, which made him decline the offer.
Most of Pontecorvo was destroyed in a wartime air raid in 1943, after which it was rebuilt in a quite ugly manner. There are no great tourist attractions and this city of some 13,000 inhabitants lies far away from the tourist track.
Except for Via Giovanni Battista Bernadotte I found no traces of the Bernadotte reign when I went there in January 2008. Apparently Gustaf VI Adolf is the only Bernadotte to have visited Pontecorvo, which he did while still Crown Prince in 1949.
My article explores the history of Pontecorvo while focusing on Bernadotte’s reign. In fact this was the first out of the three realms which the Bernadotte dynasty came to rule, and in the 19th century Pontecorvo was often used as the name of the dynasty before the name Bernadotte took over entirely.
The photo shows the bridge, the most famous landmark in Pontecorvo and still part of the arms of the town as well as of the dynasty. To the right is the Cathedral and further to the left one can glimpse the tower of the Town Hall, both buildings which were severely damaged in 1943.