Authorities do not agree on the origin of this noble Roman family. It is generally believed that in the eleventh or twelfth century the family took its name from its fief of Castrum Farneti, then called Farnese. Up to the fourteenth century the Farnese were small feudalists at the service of various cities, particularly Viterbo and Orvieto. The oldest sources on the family indicate that in 1154 a Prudenzio Farnese received Adrian IV into the town of Orvieto. A Pietro defended the city against Henry VI, and another Pietro went to the aid of Florence when it was threatened by Henry VII. Guido was bishop of Orvieto in 1303 and in 1309 consecrated the Duomo.
Ranuccio the elder (d. 1460) transferred the Farnese residence to Rome, where he was made senator in 1417 and given benefices by Martin V and Eugene IV. His sons entered into the Roman aristocracy through marriage. Gabriele married Isabella Orsini and Pier-Luigi married Giovannella Caetani di Sermoneta. A son of Gabriele Ranuccio died in the battle of Fornovo. Laura, a daughter of Giulia, married Niccolo della Rovere, nephew of Julius II.
Alessandro Farnese (1468-1549) received a humanist education at Rome and Florence. After his ordination in 1519 he reorganized his private life and became identified with the reform party in the Roman Curia. He was elected pope in 1534 and took the name Paul III. A true Renaissance pope, he restored the University of Rome, enriched the Vatican Library, and exploited the talents of artists, notably Michelangelo, whom he commissioned to complete the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. He made great efforts to establish the Farnese family among the powerful houses of Italy. His pontificate was marked by a number of important events. He excommunicated Henry VIII of England (1538); approved the establishment of the Society of Jesus (1540); and convened the Council of Trent (1545) for which his far-reaching report on the state of the church (constitution Regimini militantis ecclesia, Sept. 29, 1540) formed the basis.
Antonio Farnese (1679-1731), duke of Parma and Piacenza, was the last of the Farnese line. On Antonio's death in 1731 his niece Elisabetta Farnese, wife of Philip V, king of Spain, obtained the agreement of England and France to the succession of her son Charles to the duchy. In 1738, however, Charles relinquished the title to Parma and Piacenza upon receiving the crown of the Two Sicilies. In 1748 Philip, younger brother of Charles, became duke of Parma and Piacenza.
From the description of Carte Farnesiane, 1475-1762 (bulk 1542-1569). (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 145568946