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The Duchy of Parma was created in 1545 from that part of the Duchy of Milanmarker south of the Po Rivermarker, as a fief for Pope Paul III's illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, centered on the city of Parmamarker.

In 1556, the second Duke, Ottavio Farnese, was given the city of Piacenzamarker, becoming thus also Duke of Piacenza, and so the state was thereafter properly known as the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza.

The Farnese family continued to rule until their extinction in 1731, at which point the duchy was inherited by the young son of the King of Spain, Don Charles, whose mother Elizabeth Farnese was the Farnese heiress. He ruled until the end of the War of the Polish Succession in 1735, when Parma was ceded to Emperor Charles VI in exchange for the Two Sicilies.

The Habsburgs only ruled until the conclusion of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, when it was ceded back to the Bourbon in the person of Don Philip, Don Charles's younger brother, which received also the little Duchy of Guastallamarker. As duke Philip, he became the founder of the House of Bourbon-Parma reigning over the Duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla.

The duchy of Parma and Piacenza (in red) in the context of late 18th century Italy.
In 1796, the duchy was occupied by French troops under Napoleon Bonaparte, and the political situation of the State became extremely confused. Duke Ferdinand maintained his throne under French military governors until the Treaty of Aranjuez of 1801, when a general agreement between the House of Bourbon and Napoleon formally decided the cession of the duchy to Francemarker in change of Tuscany, but the Duke lasted in Parma until his death in 1802, maybe by poisoning. However, Napoleon was undecided about the future of the duchy, aspiring to a total engagement of the Bourbons in the European wars as his allies. Even if French laws and administration was gradually introduced, the formal annexation to the French Empire was declared only in 1808 after the outbreak of the conflict against Bourbonic Spainmarker. The duchy formed out the D├ępartement of Taro.

Flag after the Bourbon Restauration, 1847
1814, the duchies were restored under Napoleon's Habsburg wife, Marie Louise, who was to rule them for her lifetime. After Marie Louise's death in 1847, the Duchy was restored to the Bourbon-Parma line, which had been ruling the tiny Duchy of Lucca. In this context, Guastalla was ceded to Modena. The Bourbons ruled until 1859, when they were driven out by a revolution following the Piedmontese victory in their war against Austria.

The duchies of Parma and Piacenza joined with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Modena to form the puppet United Provinces of Central Italy in December 1859, and were annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia in March 1860.

The House of Bourbon continues to claim the title of duke of Parma to this day. Carlos-Hugo (Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne in the 1970s) has held the title since 1977.

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