Principality of Piombino
Principato di Piombino
Coat of arms of Piombino
Coat of arms
Repubblica di Siena e Principato di Piombino tra XV e XVI secolo.png
Official languagesLatin
Roman Catholicism
• 1398–1405
Gherardo Appiani
(first lord)
• 1777–1801
Antonio II Boncompagni Ludovisi
(last prince)
Historical eraMiddle Ages
• Established
• Raised to principality
• Prince deposed by
    French troops

1799 and 1801
• Annexed by French-
    controlled Lucca

June 23, 1805
• Granted to Tuscany
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of Pisa
Principality of Lucca and Piombino
Lordship of Piombino (1398-1701)
Lordship of Piombino (1398-1701)

The Lordship of Piombino (Signoria di Piombino), and after 1594 the Principality of Piombino (Principato di Piombino), was a small state on the Italian peninsula centred on the city of Piombino and including part of the island of Elba. It existed from 1399 to 1805, when it was merged into the Principality of Lucca and Piombino. In 1815 it was absorbed into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.


On February 19, 1399 Gherardo Appiani ceded Pisa, which his family had owned since 1392, to the Visconti of Milan for 200,000 florins, reserving Piombino for himself and his successors, becoming its lord; moreover he also took possession of Populonia, Suvereto, Scarlino, Buriano, Abbey of San Pancrazio al Fango and the islands of Pianosa, Montecristo, and Elba; making Piombino the capital of this newly created state.[1]

Gherardo had his residence built in Piombino in the small square (now Piazza Bovio) and on his death, in 1405, he left the state to his son Iacopo II. The latter, born in 1400, for the first years was under the tutelage of his mother, Donna Paola Colonna. During the years of regency and afterwards, the politics of the Appiani family were oriented first towards an alliance (obtaining protection with a deed of pardon) with the Republic of Florence, then that of Siena, and finally again with Florence.[1]

When Paola Colonna Appiano died in 1445, the power instead of Emanuele, son of Gherardo, passed to his sister Caterina, who counted on the support of her husband Rinaldo Orsini, a mercenary leader. In 1447 Orsini had the ravelin erected as a better defense of the ground gate characterized by a tower, in anticipation of the attack of his brother-in-law Emanuele, who in fact allied himself with Alfonso V, King of Aragon and Naples, who the following year besieged Piombino, also with Sienese and Florentine help: after four months of useless attempts, the king abandoned the invasion, retreating to his own territories and Rinaldo Orsini ruled the lordship until his death from the plague in 1450, a year before his wife.[2]

When Caterina died, the Council of Elders of the city proclaimed Emanuele as lord who, like his descendants, held the fiefdom with a valid alliance with the Kingdom of Naples and provided for the well-being of his subjects by encouraging industry and the construction of new buildings. On behalf of Iacopo III, new lord of Piombino, Andrea Guardi, Florentine architect and sculptor, between 1465 and 1470 carried out many works that changed the appearance of the city: the citadel, with the Villanova residential palace inside it replacing the old Appiani palace, the chapel and the cistern, he also built the cloister and the baptismal font in the cathedral of the city.[2]

Residence of the lords from 1399 to 1465,
Residence of the lords from 1399 to 1465,

Iacopo III was succeeded by his son Iacopo IV who, between 1501 and 1503, lost the lordship to the work of Cesare Borgia, who occupied Piombino: in 1502 his father, Pope Alexander VI, visited the city and the territory staying for some days.[3]

With the death of Pope Alexander VI, Cesare Borgia was deprived of the conquered power, and Piombino returned to Iacopo IV: the latter, advised by the Florentines, hosted Niccolò Machiavelli as a strategic consultant, who invited Leonardo da Vinci to study the city defenses in an optimal way. Iacopo IV was succeeded by Iacopo V, who welcomed famous artists into his court, such as Il Sodoma and Rosso Fiorentino. On his death he was succeeded by Iacopo IV, under the tutelage of his mother Elena Salviati. In 1548 the lord left Piombino, which from then on started to be a possession of the House of Medici. In 1557 Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, gave up Piombino, in exchange for Siena and Portoferraio.[4]

Iacopo VI, at odds with his subjects for lack of loyalty, left his natural son Alessandro Appiani govern the Piombino state. Alessandro, a dissolute man, attracted the disapproval of the most influential families of the island, who conspired against him, and killed him in an ambush in via Malpertugio in 1590, and entrusted Piombino to the Spanish Felix d'Aragona, commander of the garrison.[4]

The minor age of Alessandro's successor, Iacopo VII, caused fear of a Spanish annexation, a danger that was repeated on the death of the young prince in 1603: thus began an extremely agitated and confused thirty-year period in which the influence of the Spaniards became more marked, up to the military occupation of Piombino and the island of Elba. After an Appiani family member of a collateral branch had in vain claimed the lordship, it was the sister of Iacopo VII, Isabella Appiani, married to an Iberian noble, who ruled the state, until a revolt fueled by both Spain and the Medici deposed her in 1628.[5]


After a few years of Spanish rule, in 1634, despite the protests of the Appiani cadet line, Piombino was assigned to Prince Niccolò Ludovisi, son-in-law of Isabella Appiani: these and his heirs, politically linked to Philip IV of Spain, paid little attention to the principality which, from 1646 to 1650, was even occupied by the French by order of Cardinal Mazarin. Due to the extinction of the Ludovisi family, the government of Piombino was assumed by the Boncompagni family: it was the period of the Boncompagni-Ludovisi, who neglected the state, leaving it to be conquered, in the years of the wars of succession, by the French, Spaniards and Neapolitans. The princes, who were also Dukes of Sora and Arce and Grandee of Spain, resided in Rome or in Isola del Liri and rarely visited the principality. After the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, the situation calmed down and the princes, given their remoteness, left the local magistrates, primarily the Council of the Elders, to administer the state in their name.[6]

From 1796 the French invasions resumed (which formed a short republic), but the English and the Neapolitans kept the island of Elba. After the Battle of Marengo, the Napoleonic troops annexed Piombino to France. At the behest of Napoleon I, on June 23, 1805, the Principality of Lucca and Piombino was created, assigned to her sister Elisa Bonaparte and her husband Felice Pasquale Baciocchi.[7]

List of rulers

Coat of arms of the Appiani family, the founders and longest rulers of the Principality.
Coat of arms of the Appiani family, the founders and longest rulers of the Principality.


  1. ^ a b Cappelletti, Licurgo (1897). Storia della Città di Piombino (in Italian). Forni Editore. p. 35.
  2. ^ a b Carrara, Mauro. Signori e Principi di Piombino (in Italian). Bandecchi & Vivaldi.
  3. ^ Il potere e la memoria. Piombino Stato e città nell'età moderna (in Italian). EDIFIR. p. 18. ISBN 8879700243.
  4. ^ a b Carrara, Mauro (1996). Signori e Principi di Piombino (in Italian). Bandecchi & Vivaldi. pp. 22–23.
  5. ^ Cappelletti, Licurgo. Storia della Città di Piombino. Forni Editore. p. 82.
  6. ^ "BONCOMPAGNI e BONCOMPAGNI-LUDOVISI in "Enciclopedia Italiana"". (in Italian). Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  7. ^ "Piombino ed Elba, principato di in "Dizionario di Storia"". (in Italian). Retrieved 2022-01-14.