Roger and his descendants created the first parliamentary government
in history, Lu Regnu di Sicilia (The Kingdom of Sicily).
This first modern nation was not confined only to the
of Sicily. It reached from Abruzzo on the mainland to Palermo on
the island. The present-day regions that were a part of the Kingdom
of Sicily comprised Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Napoli, Puglia,
Basilicata, Calabria, and the island of Sicily. In 1130 AD, all were
ruled from the capital, Palermo. While the north was the locale of
squabbles, disagreements and wars between various princes and dukes,
Lu Regnu, as the Kingdom of Sicily was popularly called, was
the heart of Western culture, art and science. An inclusive
society that welcomed diversity, it benefited from the knowledge of
the Moors, whose government it replaced, but whose philosophers and
scientists were retained in the Court of Stupor Mundi, the
Wonder of the World, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily,
Federicu Secunnu (Frederick II).
While the rest of Europe was sinking into the depths of the 'Dark Ages', the Kingdom of Sicily was a beacon of enlightenment.
Lu Regnu drew literary students from around the known world to its Sicilian School of poetry, and inspired Dante Alighieri to apply the techniques he learned there to his development of the new Tuscan dialect, which was to become the 'Italian' language, well after the first Romance language, Sicilian, had developed.
This origin of the 'Italian' tongue is ironic, considering that most modern-day 'Italian' speakers demean Sicilian, having no concept of the fact that it preceded and significantly affected that Northern dialect.
Wars, political intrigue, papal meddling and other
factors temporarily led to a division, with Naples ruling the
mainland regions and Palermo the island provinces. For this period
there was still no country known as ‘Italy’, but there
were two nations, both calling themselves the Kingdom
of Sicily! Think of cold-war East Germany and West Germany. We
called them that, but both nations called themselves just
‘Germany’. To distinguish between the two Sicilies, historians now
refer to the historical island nation as the
and to the mainland one as the
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, by that time ruled from Naples, had its own government, customs and language (Sicilian, with dialects of Sicilian in the various regions). Those of us with roots in Abruzzo, or Bari in Puglia, San Fele in Potenza, Reggio in Calabria, or any of the towns and cities in the provinces of the combined kingdoms, will find that if we extend our family trees to before 1860, our ancestors were ‘regnicoli’: subjects of the realm of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies or even earlier, of the Kingdom of Sicily – that is, our ancestors were Sicilian. Upwards of 80% of ‘Italians’ in the great migration of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were from the regions that formerly comprised the Kingdom of Sicily. Today those southern regions are called, collectively, 'lu mazzijiurnu' or 'high noon', reflecting the hot climes experienced there. Most present day ‘Italian’-Americans had ancestors from the mazzijiurnu.
In spite of the poverty and forced illiteracy of the
common people, the treasury coffers of the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies far exceeded the holdings of all the northern duchies and
city-states combined. For this and other geopolitical reasons there
was a groundswell for ‘uniting’ the overall region and establishing
a new nation. Then came Garibaldi.
It's this history that leads me to give a curt response whenever a new acquaintance asks: "Coniglio, eh? Are you Italian?"
my answer remains the same: "No,
|SICILIAN LINKS||Sicilianità||Is Sicily 'Italy'?||The Sicilian Languge|
|Cognomi ~ Sicilian Surnames||Ngiurii ~ Sicilian Nicknames||Place-names as surnames||Sicilian Coats of Arms|
|Foundlings||The Sicilian Naming Convention||Americanized Sicilian Given Names||Converting Latin given names to Sicilian|
|La Bedda Sicilia ~ My history of Sicily||Heritage Path ~ original Sicilian records||Civil Record Format ~ 1820 - 1910||I'm a Sicilian American|
|My Lectures on Sicilian Genealogy||Sicilian Occupations in Civil Records||Sicilian Records at the Buffalo FHC||The Thing|