Ottavio, I. principe Piccolomini d’Aragona

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Ottavio Piccolomini

Birthplace: Florence, Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Death: Died in Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Immediate Family:

Son of Silvio Pieri Piccolomini d'Aragona (delle Papesse), Signore di Sticciano and Violante Gerini
Husband of Marie Dorothée de Ligne and Maria Benigna Franziska von Sachsen-Lauenburg
Father of Ascanio Piccolomini and Diego Piccolomini
Brother of Enea Silvio Pieri Piccolomini d'Aragona (delle Papesse), Signore di Sticciano and Vittoria Piccolomini

Occupation: Duca di Amalfi
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Ottavio, I. principe Piccolomini d’Aragona

Ottavio Piccolomini (November 11, 1599 – August 11, 1656) was an Italian general who served as Generalfeldmarschall of the Holy Roman Empire.


Piccolomini was born in Florence, and carried a pike in the Spanish service at the age of sixteen.

Two years later, on the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in Bohemia, he was appointed a captain in a cavalry regiment sent by the grand duke of Tuscany to the emperor's army, and he fought with some distinction under Bucquoy at the battle of White Mountain in 1620 and in Hungary.

In 1624 he served for a short time in the Spanish army and then as lieutenant-colonel of Pappenheim's cuirassier regiment in the war in the Milanese. In 1627 he re-entered the Imperial service as colonel and captain of the lifeguard of Wallenstein, duke of Friedland. In this capacity he soon fell into disgrace for practising extortion at Stargard[disambiguation needed ] in Pomerania, but his adroitness secured him, after no long interval, the rank of "colonel of horse and foot."

About this time the appointment of his younger brother to the archbishopric of Siena secured him a position of influence in the diplomatic world. Diplomatic talent was indeed almost the birthright of a member of an Italian family, that had seen two of its members occupying the papal chair, and Wallenstein freely made use of his subordinate's capacity for negotiation and intrigue. In the events of the Mantuan War Piccolomini took a prominent part in the dual role of the subtle diplomatist and the plundering soldier of fortune.

At this moment came the invasion of Germany by Gustavus Adolphus. Piccolomini was interned at Ferrara as a hostage for the ratification of a treaty, but he added his voice to the general call for Wallenstein's reappointment as commander-in-chief. He was not, however, included in the list of promotions that followed the duke's reappearance, and he served as a colonel under Feldmarschallleutnant Heinrich Holk, an officer brought in from the Danish service, in the preliminary operations and in the battle of Lützen.

Nineteenth century authors were so impressed by Piccolomini's role in the battle of Lützen that they quite falsely ascribed to him the command of the entire Imperial left wing. In reality he indeed played a pivotal role at the head of his cavalry regiment, leading numerous cavalry charges against both Swedish horse and foot, having five horses shot under him and receiving five painful bruises from musket balls that deflected off his armour.

Piccolomini's ambition was gratified when, on reading the official report of the battle, the emperor made him a general-feldwachtmeister (a rank equivalent to Major-General). At the same time, however, Holk, who had played an even more crucial role in holding the Imperial army together at Lützen, was created a full field marshal at Wallenstein's insistence, much to his rival's chagrin.

In the campaign of 1633 Piccolomini held the command of an important detachment posted at Königgratz to bar the enemy's advance from Silesia into Bohemia. History repeated itself on the same ground in 1756, 1778 and 1866; in the first of these cases it was a Piccolomini, grand-nephew of Ottavio, who commanded the Austrians; in the last the victorious Prussians passed over the estate of Náchod, which after 1635 was a hereditary possession of the family. In May Wallenstein entered Silesia with the main army with the unavowed object of compelling or persuading the electors of Brandenburg and Saxony to make common cause with the emperor against the Swedes. Piccolomini was with him, and, disapproving of the duke's policy, joined in a military conspiracy, out of which grew the drama that ended with the murder of Wallenstein on February 25, 1634. Piccolomini's own part in the tragedy has been set forth in fictionalised form in Schiller's Wallenstein. His reward was his marshal's baton, 100,000 gulden and the beautiful estate of Náchod in the Orlické mountains in the East Bohemia.

He was Wallenstein's pupil as well as his slayer, and had learned the art of war from that master. On the 5th-6 September in the same year he distinguished himself amongst the foremost in the great victory of Nördlingen. He soon saw the necessity for following out the lines of military policy laid down by the duke, but neither he nor Gallas, the new lieutenant-general of the emperor, possessed the capacity for carrying it out, and the war dragged on year after year.

Piccolomini was in 1635 allied with a Spanish army, and bitterly complained that their sloth and caution marred every scheme that he formed. In 1638 he was made a count of the empire, and in 1639, having been fortunate enough to win a great victory over the French (relief of Thionville, July 7, 1639), he was rewarded with the office of privy councillor from the emperor and with the dukedom of Amalfi from the king of Spain. But instead of being appointed, as he hoped, Gallas's successor, he was called in to act as ad latus to the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, with whom he was defeated in the second battle of Breitenfeld in 1642. After this he spent some years in the Spanish service and received as his reward the title of grandee and the order of the Golden Fleece.

Some years later, having re-entered the Imperial army, he was again disappointed of the chief command by the selection of the brave veteran Peter Melander, Count Holzapfel. But when in 1648 Melander fell in battle at Zusmarshausen, Piccolomini was at last appointed lieutenant-general of the emperor, and thus conducted as generalissimo the final weary and desultory campaign of the Thirty Years' War.

Three days after the commission for executing the peace had finished its lahours, the emperor addressed a letter of thanks to the Prince Piccolomini, and awarded him a gift of 114,566 gulden.

Piccolomini died after an accident on 11 August 1656 (falling down from a horse). On 4 June 1651 he had married Maria Benigna Francisca of Saxe-Lauenburg, daughter of Duke Julius Henry of Saxe-Lauenburg. He left no legitime children (his only son Josef Silvio, was murdered by the Swedes after the battle of Jankov (near Votice, district Tábor) in the south Bohemia in 1645, whilst his son Max in Wallenstein is a fictional character invented by Schiller), and his titles and estates passed to his brother's son. He had two known illegitimate sons - Ascanio and Diego which had their descendants, one in Bohemia second in Italy. His son Ascanio died as a capitain of Intantery in the battle near Mirov in September 1643, while second son Diego died in Italy, gaining the title " don " and becoming a " nobile " married to Nobile Donna Maria Anna Tarragona Ruxoto. Ascanio himself had illegitimate son with Liduska Nyvlt, daughter of Urban Nyvlt, hereditary podesta of Rtyne v Podkrkonosi, like the Rtyne Folk tales are saying till today. (legend about the " Nine Crosses in Lhota ")

With the death of the latter's nephew Octavio Aeneas Josef in 1757, the line became extinct.

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Ottavio, I. principe Piccolomini d’Aragona's Timeline

November 9, 1599
Florence, Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Age 25
August 10, 1656
Age 56
Vienna, Vienna, Austria