The Prince of Sansevero Experiments and inventions

Arquebus and light cannon

As an impassioned student of the military art, in 1747 Raimondo di Sangro published a work on infantry exercises, which was appreciated by the main courts in Europe. His interest in the matter was not limited however to theory and strategy. During his life, he did many experiments and created inventions concerning the artillery.

In 1739 the Prince of Sansevero invented an arquebus which could fire, depending on the requirements of the user, using powder or compressed air, even though it had – as Origlia, his contemporary biographer, states – “but a single firing plate and a single hammer, with only one vent”. The surprising weapon, created for di Sangro by Matteo Algaria, was donated to King Charles.

The most ingenious invention for war was presumably a cannon which, compared with other examples of the same type, weighed 190 lb less and had a much longer range. The lightness of the weapon was such that each soldier could easily carry one, if not even two, also on forced marches. The long note to the Lettera Apologetica dedicated to the inventions of the Prince, written in a literary fiction by an anonymous Duchess di S****, states that the cannon was made “of a certain very special component invented by the Author”. The formula of this special alloy was, however, never made known.