BEETHOVEN 200 YEARS AGO TODAY: Saturday, March 24, 1821

Portrait of Ferdinand I by Anton Raphael Mengs, c. 1772-1773. The original is held in the Royal Palace of Madrid.

Back in the summer of 1820, the Carbonari initiated a military revolution in Naples, forcing King Ferdinand I (1751-1825) of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to grant Naples a written constitution. Rebellions broke out throughout the kingdom. This revolutionary activity was the subject of much discussion by Beethoven and his friends in the conversation books throughout the summer; Beethoven’s love of liberty was no doubt impressed by these efforts at freedom.

As you may recall from last autumn, the Troppau Protocol, entered into by Russia, Britain, Prussia and the Austran Empire under the leadership of Metternich, authorized the members of the Holy Alliance to take military action in the event of kings being popularly overthrown. Beethoven’s patron Archduke Rudolph took part in the Congress of Troppau and hobnobbed with the other royals while he also performed an endless string of confirmations.

On February 23, 1821, under the authority of the Troppoau Protocol, 50,000 troops arrived in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from Austria. King Ferdinand, having sworn twice to uphold the new constitution, canceled it instead, leading to further unrest. The Austrians crushed the rebellion, and on this date Austrian forces occupied the city of Naples. This put an effective end to the rebellion, though unrest continued due to King Ferdinand’s increasing repression. Beethoven was likely unhappy over this situation and Austria’s shameful part in in it.

Our next update is March 31.