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The origins of the family can be traced back to the Ruspoli of Florence in the 13th Century and through the family's claimed direct descent from Marius Scotus in the 8th Century and the Marescottis of Bologna. In the 17th Century the Ruspolis moved to Rome where the last descendant, Vittoria Ruspoli Marchioness of Cerveteri married Sforza Vicino Marescotti Count of Vignanello, a descendant of the Farnese family on both his mother's and father's side. One of Vittoria's sons took the Ruspoli name and coat of arms to guarantee the continuity of the House.
In 1708, Vittoria's grandson, Francesco Ruspoli head of the Ruspoli Regiment fought to defend the Vatican State. In 1709 he forced the Austrians to a retreat and Pope Clement XI named Francesco first Prince of Cerveteri.
There are traces of members of the Ruspoli family from the 13th Century on the tomb stones in the churches of Ognisanti and of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.
Some of its members, in chronological order:
It is Bartolomeo, son of the above mentioned Lorenzo, that the family moved away from the imperial Ghibellines and came closer to the Vatican State.
Bartolomeo Ruspoli was born in Florence in 1496. He formed a business partnerships with the Altoviti family, who were influential wool traders and bankers. In 1529 Bartolomeo travelled to Rome where he married Maria Ardinghelli niece of Cardinal Niccolò Ardinghelli, an influential member of the Farnese fraction and an intimate associate of Alessandro Farnese, future Pope Paul III. The Ruspoli were thus integrated into the Roman Curia and the papal court, and Bartolomeo’s children, both sons and daughters, were all married into families of the Roman nobility: Muti, Cavalieri and Floridi. In 1531 Bartolomeo Ruspoli was named Petitioner of the apostolic letters by Pope Clement VII. In 1535 he was made Prior of Florence.
Gradually, and certainly by the seventeenth century, the Ruspoli had lost their identity as Florentine merchants and bankers, referring to themselves exclusively as Roman nobles.
According to the Marescotti-Ruspoli archive and as often seen on various family trees and reported on the official "Libro d'oro della Nobiltà Italiana" published by the Collegio Araldico, the origins of the Marescotti can be traced back to Marius Scotus born in Galloway in south west Scotland in the 8th Century.
In the year 773 king Charlemagne started a military campaign against the Lombards in Italy, because they were not respecting an agreement made with Pepin the Short to give part of their land to the state of the Church. He asked for help from king of Dál Riata (Western Scotland) Eochaid IV. The latter asked his cousin Count William of Douglas to recruit and bring to France a brigade of 4,000 men, which he did. But soon thereafter he had to return to Scotland to govern the family clan, leaving his command to his younger brother Marius, who at the time was described as courageous, tall, strong and with a reddish beard.
The army of the Franks crossed the Alps and took base in the Benedictine Abbey of Novalesa, in the high valley of Dora Riparia. Mario Scoto, as he was known in Italy, discovered a small path through forests between the mountains which was absolutely unusable by the army, but perfect for the Scottish highlanders. After walking quietly for three days along the path, Mario Scoto and his men attacked the Lombards by surprise from the back, while king Charlemagne attacked with the cavalry from the front. It was a major victory for the Franks which marked the decline of the Lombards in Italy.
In the spring of the following year, Pope Adrian I and the king decided to meet. With a small escort, amongst whom Mario Scoto was present, Charlemagne travelled the ancient via Cassia to Saint Peter's Basilica where he was received and blessed by the pope. Mario Scoto was Catholic as were the majority of Scottsmen at the time and at the service of his king became himself a defender of the Faith. He became an appreciated military advisor and distinguished himself in the Spanish campaign and in the battle against the Saxons at the confluence of the Weser with the Aller in which of the 5,000 Saxons, only the 500 who chose to be baptised were spared their lives.
Towards the end of the Century Mario Scoto retired from the army, married an Italian noblewoman called Marozia and, for his devotion to the Pope, settled in Rome where he was granted the honor to escort the Pope. He was therefore present when in April 799 Pope Leo III was assaulted and kidnapped near the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Mario Scoto was able to find the pope in a monastery on the Aventine Hill and rescued him and returned him to his throne at the Holy See. The scene was later painted in Bologna by Giuseppe Antonio Caccioli.
On Christmas Day 800 Mario Scoto was invested Count of Bagnacavallo in Romagna and was granted the privilege to ornate his family crest, which already had the rampant leopard of Scotland, with the three fleur-de-lis, characteristic symbol of the French kings.
The family still conserves a very ancient portrait of a soldier with the following encryption in Latin: "Marius de Calveis, Scotus, Carl Mag M Dux Familiam Marescotti Fundavit ANN D. DCCC" (Marius of Galloway, Scottish, military commander under Carlemagne, founder of the Marescotti family. AD 800)
In the 9th Century the Marescotti people (name derived from Mario Scoto) carried the title of counts of Bagnacavallo, a large fiefdom between the Lamone and Savio rivers. Charlemagne had received vast lands in the Bologna area and had later distributed them, as was the custom in those days, to the veterans of his army.
Alberto il Malvicino de Calveiso de' Calvi Count of Bagnacavallo. Alberto Count of Bagnacavallo. Ermes, Massimiliano and Oddo Marescotti (Mariscotti) were Consuls of Orvieto respectively in 1035, 1091 e 1099. Carbone - in 1120 build a tower in Bologna. Marescotto - Consul of Imola nel 1140
Marescotto - Consul of Bologna e Captain general of Bologna in the war against Imola in 1179. Pietro de' Calvi Marescotti - Podestà of Faenza in 1185. Marescotto Consul of Bologna 1227 Guglielmo - Podestà di Siena nel 1232, his son Corrado was Chancellor of Emperor Frederick II in 1249. Alberto Marescotti son of Ugolino was Consul of Bologna, Captain general of the infantry of Bologna, then took Faenza in 1281 and regained Imola in 1290.
The navy commander Fabrizio Ruspoli son of Bartolomeo Ruspoli and Maria Ardinghelli distinguished himself in the Battle of Lepanto. The Ottomans lost all but 30 of its ships and as many as 30,000 men, a decisive victory for Christianity and a strategic military one, that marked the start of the decline of the Ottoman's power in the Mediterranean. The Christians attributed the victory to the protection of the Virgin Mary, whom they had invoked by reciting the Rosary, and Pope Pius V instituted a feast in its honor as Our Lady of Victory.
Orazio Ruspoli, brother of Fabrizio, became a successful banker and was then named magistrate of the colleges in 1557. After the Battle of Lepanto, he started the Banco Ruspoli in Siena and the family became very wealthy. Orazio married Felice Cavalieri and had two children.
Lorenzo Ruspoli, their cousin, was in the wool trade and then also became a successful banker in Florence and then Consul. he then married lady Maria di Bernardo Franceschi and had two children; Antonio and Francesco (born on August 20, 1579). The latter became a published satirical poet.
Vittoria Ruspoli, daughter of Orazio and Felice Cavalieri, married in 1617 Sforza Vicino Marescotti, Count of Vignanello, lord of Parrano, Roman noble and Patrizio of Bologna, Magistrate of Conservatori of Bologna in 1632 and Conservatore di Roma in 1654. Vittoria's brother, Bartolomeo Ruspoli after acquiring the fiefdom of the Marquis of Cerveteri and in Rome the Palace on the Ara Coeli donated everything to the heirs of her sister.
Vittoria's husband, Sforza Vicino, descended from the Farnese family from both his mother's and his father's side (see the image on the right). From his father's side he inherited the fieifdom of Vignanello (from the wedding between Sfortia Marescotti and Ortesia Farnese Countess of Vignanello). The mother of his mother Ottavia, was Giulia Farnese. The entire branch of the Farnese (Dukes of Latera) went extinct and the descendants of the Marescottis (later called Ruspolis by will of Vittoria Ruspoli) kept the fiefdom and the Castle of Vignanello up to our days.
Meanwhile, Clarice born March 6, 1585, sister of Sforza Vicino Marescotti, became a nun in the convent of San Bernardino in Viterbo with the name of Sister Giacinta. She was canonized Saint by Pope Pius VII in 1807.
Her feast is celebrated on January 30.
Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, first-born son of Alessandro (of Sforza Vicino Marescotti, 4th Conte di Vignanello and Vittoria dei Principi Ruspoli), was born March 2, 1672. In 1695 he married lady Isabella Cesi, daughter of Giuseppe Angelo, fifth Duke of Acquasparta and Giacinta Conti of the Dukes of Poli and Guadagnolo (sister of Pope Innocent XIII).
After various legal battles he inherited from the Marescottis, Capizucchis and Ruspolis. On September 4, 1705, by notarial act Floridi, he could finally add to his titles that of Marquis of Cerveteri.
Francesco Maria appreciated and helped the development of Academy of Arcadia of which he was a member under the pseudonym Olinto. He was the first patron to welcome them in one of his villas on Via Merulana. The first volume of the Rime degli Arcadi was dedicated to Francesco Maria. In 1725 the Arcadia took permanent residence in the Gianicolo villa of Bosco Parrasio.
In 1707 George Frideric Handel arrived in Rome where for two years he was a guest of Francesco Maria Ruspoli, who named him Kapellmeister. During this period he composed Salve Regina (HWV 241) which he performed in the Ruspoli Castle in Vignanello and Diana Cacciatrice (HWV 79) which he performed in Palazzo Ruspoli in Cerveteri. In Rome at the Ruspolis and the Ottobonis he performed the oratorios La Resurrezione (HWV 47) and the Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (HWV 46a) both dedicated to Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli. Between 1709 and 1716 he was succeeded as Kapellmeister by Antonio Caldara.
Cardinal Galeazzo Marescotti watched over his beloved nephew and was pleased with the brilliant life, but more so with the great culture, munificence, and devotion to God of Francesco Maria. The Cardinal had a precise plan: to persuade the Pope to elevate the title of the fiefdom of Cerveteri from Marquis to Prince. Other Roman noble families such as the Aldobrandini, Boncompagni, Borghese and Erba-Odescalchi were made Princes by their respective Popes. The Ruspolis did not have a Pope and it was necessary to make a munificent gesture and to acquire particular merits with the Holy See. In 1707 the Cardinal persuaded his nephew to arm a brig to donate to the Holy See. The modern hull with wide sails was delivered in Civitavecchia. Handel had composed for the occasion a choral of white voices on a text greeting the Pope King. But that was not enough to elevate Cerveteri to a Principality.
In 1708 Francesco Maria created the Ruspoli Regiment at his own expense. Formed by nearly 1,000 men, the regiment enjoyed some minor victories, until 1709 when in Ferrara thanks to a superior armament they were able to push the Austrians back to the north of the Po River. A great victory for which on February 3, 1709, full of gratitude, Pope Clement XI elevated Cerveteri to a Principality.
In 1710 Prince Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli acquired the fiefdom of Riano where he enriched the town with privileges and public works.
In 1713 he acquired the fiefdom of San Felice Circeo which then passed in 1718 to his daughter's husband, Filippo Orsini.
Still in 1713 Francesco Maria bought the Palazzo Ruspoli in Rome from the Caetani who had charged Martino Longhi the Younger to build the sumptuous loggia on the courtyard and the famous staircase, one of the four wonders of Rome.
The Princely family is represented by H.E. Prince Francesco Maria Ruspoli, Prince of Cerveteri (b. 1967).
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