Ruffian - Encyclopedia

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RUFFIAN (Fr. rufian, It. rufiano), a brutal, violent person, a swaggering, low bully. The etymology is obscure, but the word has been connected with "ruffler," a bully, swaggerer, one who "ruffles" (M. Du. roffeln, to pander). An early derivation, quoted in Du Cange, derives it from Lat. rufus, red, as the hair of the meretrices, with whom the ruffiani were generally associated, was red or gold, as contrasted with the black hair of sober matrons.

Buffo, Fabrizio (1744-1827), Neapolitan cardinal and politician, was born at San Lucido in Calabria on the ,6th of September 1744. His father, Litterio Ruffo, was duke of Baranello, and his mother, Giustiniana, was of the family of Colonna. Fabrizio owed his education to his uncle, the cardinal Thomas Ruffo, then dean of the Sacred College. In early life he secured the favour of Giovanni Angelo Braschi di Cesera, who in 1775 became Pope Pius VI. Ruffo was placed by the pope among the chierici di camera - the clerks who formed the papal civil and financial service. He was later promoted to be treasurer-general, a post which carried with it the ministry of war. Ruffo's conduct in office was diversely judged. Colletta, the historian of Naples, speaks of him as corrupt, and Jomini repeats the charge. Ruffo's biographer, Sachinelli, says that he incurred hostility by restricting the feudal powers of some of the landowners in the papal states. In 17 9 1 he was removed from the treasureship, but was created cardinal on the 29th of September, though he was not in orders. He never became a priest. Ruffo went to Naples, where he was named administrator of the royal domain of Caserta, and received the abbey of S. Sophia in Benevento in commendam. When in December 1798 the French troops advanced on Naples, Ruffo fled to Palermo with the royal family. He was chosen to head a royalist movement in Calabria, where his family, though impoverished by debt, exercised large feudal powers. He was named vicar-general on the 25th of January 1799. On the 8th of February he landed at La Cortona with a small following, and began to raise the socalled "army of the faith" in association with Fra Diavolo and other brigand leaders. Ruffo had no difficulty in upsetting the republican government established by the French, and by June had advanced to Naples (see Naples and Nelson). The campaign has given rise to much controversy. Ruffo appears to have lost favour with the king by showing a tendency to spare the republicans. He resigned his vicar-generalship to the prince of Cassero, and during the second French conquest and the reigns of Joseph Bonaparte and Murat he lived quietly in Naples. Some notice was taken of him by Napoleon, but he never held an important post. After the restoration of the Bourbons he was received into favour. During the revolutionary troubles of 1822 he was consulted by the king, and was even in office for a very short time as a "loyalist" minister. He died on the 13th of December 1827.

The account of Ruffo given in Colletta's History of Naples (English translation, Edinburgh, 1860) must be taken with caution. Colletta was a violent liberal partisan, who wrote in exile, and largely from memory. He has been corrected by the Duca de Lauria, Intorno all y storia del Reame di Napoli di Pietro Colletta (Naples, 1877). Ruffo's own side of the question is stated in Memorie Storiche sulla vita del Cardinale Fabrizio Ruffo, by Domenico Sacchinelli (Naples, 1836). See also Fabrizio Ruffo: Revolution and Gegen-Revolution von Neapel, by Baron von Helfert (Vienna, 1882).

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