Sicilian Vesper's War: Fight for the Crown

The medieval conflict, the war of the Sicilian vespers, was preceded by a struggle for the crown between the actual ruler of Sicily, Manfred Hohenstaufen and the appointee of the papal throne, Charles of Anjou.

Sicilian Vesper's War: Fight for the Crown

Battle of Benevento

Sicily cannot be called an inconveniently located island - its location in the central part of the Mediterranean gives its ruler obvious military, trade and economic advantages. Already in ancient times for the possession of this island tirelessly crossed swords of the rival state. On its territory armies fought and died, cities and fortresses were besieged and taken by storm, and whole fleets were beating and sinking in the surrounding waters. In the Middle Ages in this region it was no less noisy and lively, because the number of participants of the performance in the international arena only increased. In the second half of the XIII century, the island of Sicily once again became the center of the whirlwind of events called the Sicilian Vespers' Wars.

Kings and inheritance

By virtue of its location, the island of Sicily was constantly in the field of attention of monarchs who wanted to become famous far from the field of theology or philosophy. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the island was consistently owned by ostrogoths and vandals, who were driven out by the Byzantines in the middle of the 6th century. At the end of the 9th century, the Arabs replaced them, and in the 11th century, Sicily came into the possession of successful adventurers and additional land holdings - the knights of the brothers Roger and Robert Guiscard of Otvilski. In the native duchy of Normandy, the existence of these worthy husbands was scanty, and they decided to seek military luck in a foreign land.

However, the Sicilian kingdom, founded by immigrants from Normandy, retained independence for no more than a hundred years. In the 1194 year, after the intervention of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in the next small party, the kingdom became the possession of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In addition to the island itself, it included vast territories of southern Italy.

Emperor Frederick II, who died in 1250, carefully left the Sicilian kingdom to his illegitimate son Manfred. In addition to the inheritance, the sons of the late emperor (Manfred had a brother for his father Conrad, who was in charge of Germany during the reign) received an unpleasant appendage in the form of enmity with the Pope of Rome.

Pope Innocent IV, who lived in exile in Lyon, met with enthusiasm the death of Emperor Frederick II, who, due to the political circumstances of his confrontation with the Holy See, was enrolled almost as antichrists. Hateful for the Pope, the monarch died, and the conflict was inherited. Innocent IV, of course, did not recognize the rights of the son of his worst enemy to the throne of the Sicilian kingdom and began to seek justice for Manfred. All negotiations between the warring parties led to nothing. Attempts to force Manfred to abandon his claims to the Sicilian throne in exchange for significant land plots in Northern Italy were unsuccessful, and the political opposition soon turned into a military one.

In the wake of the successes of Manfred, who had a powerful army in southern Italy, Innocent IV dies in 1254 year. Alexander IV is becoming the new Pope. Without thinking twice, he excommunicates Manfred from the church and tries to organize a crusade against the de facto ruler of southern Italy involving the English and Norwegian kings. However, these steps did not give any tangible results - the son of Frederick dreamed of reviving the former power and influence of the Hohenstaufen dynasty.

In Rome, they were ready to promise the Sicilian throne to anyone who could conquer it - so seriously in the Eternal City they regarded the threat of the unification of Germany and southern Italy. And a suitable candidate for the role of a fighter against the "genus of vipers" (this is how the representatives of the Hohenstaufen dynasty were called at the Holy See) was found. It was Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis X. of Saint Louis of France.

Coronation of Manfred

Meanwhile, in the 1258 year, increasingly self-confident, Manfred crowned himself king of the Sicilian kingdom, without waiting for the approval of the Pope or anyone else. Intrigue to the situation was added by the fact that his brother Conrad had a young son, Conradin, who, as a direct descendant of the legitimate heir of Frederick II, had rights to the Sicilian throne.

Knight and Island

While in Rome, feverishly for an unhurried medieval pore, they were looking for someone to entrust the difficult question of the Sicilian crown, the head of the Holy See again changed. This time, the pious kind-hearted Alexander IV was replaced by the purposeful pragmatist Urban IV. The son of a cobbler from Troyes, rising from the bottom of the church hierarchy, the new pontiff looked at what was happening around from a slightly different angle than his predecessor.

Pope Urban IV

The last years before his ascension to the papal throne, Urban spent on the bubbling Middle East and was able to assess the situation in Western Europe with a fresh eye. Understanding that there is no one right at hand who could measure himself with the "villain" Manfred, under whose control all Italy was at that time, the new pope turned his gaze to his homeland, France.

In the spring of 1262, representatives of the Pope were sent to Paris for negotiations. At first, the idea of ​​Urbana, prone to intrigues, did not provoke a surge of enthusiasm in the French court. Louis upstart Manfred frankly did not like, but the king with all his heart and body sought to go on a crusade to the Middle East and was not eager to get stuck in the local war for Sicily. Louis IX, despite his nickname "Holy", was not devoid of sophistication and resourcefulness in politics. Seeking, on the one hand, not to get bogged down in Italian affairs, and on the other - not wanting to quarrel with the pope, the French king made a sophisticated compromise solution. Louis abandoned the rights and claims to the Sicilian throne, but was not at all opposed if this interesting offer had been made to his sibling, Charles of Anjou.

Carl of Anjou. Statue on the facade of the royal palace, Naples

Karl of Anjou was a colorful figure requiring a separate narration. It was the youngest of four brothers, the sons of Louis VIII. In an extensive family, he almost did not get attention, and the boy grew up on his own. Despite this fact, Karl received a good education and was well developed physically. Under the royal testament, he inherited the region of Anjou, in whose possession entered into 1246 year.

Successfully marrying, Karl added to his possessions and the county of Provence. Provence, by virtue of its location, was in vassal dependence on the Holy Roman Empire, and therefore, in order to comply with all the formalities, Carl needed to take the vassal oath of the emperor Frederick II, who reigned at that time, to Hohenstaufen. However, this procedure Karl refused, which marked the beginning of a misunderstanding between him and representatives of the imperial dynasty.

In 1248, Charles went with Louis IX and other brothers on the Seventh Crusade. In this, though unsuccessful, campaign, the Count of Anjou showed himself a brave warrior and capable commander. While Karl fought in Egypt, a revolt broke out in his Provence possession provoked by the local nobility. With the permission of the king, the earl returned to France, and in 1252, the uprising in Provence was put down - and Karl was quite lenient towards the rebels. He managed to expand the boundaries of his own possessions, acquiring several areas from the outdated owners. Revenues from the rich Provence subsequently helped Carl recruit and maintain an army of decent quality.

In the 1262 year, with the permission of King Louis IX, his brother, Karl begins negotiations with representatives of the Holy See. No matter how rich and strong the count was in France, the chance to get his royal crown from the hands of the pope was very tempting. Negotiations began. However, Urban was not a good simpleton at all. Charles received the crown of the Sicilian kingdom under clearly defined conditions. He could not appoint anyone to spiritual positions, solve or even interfere in any matters having ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The future king could not collect taxes from the clergy.

In addition to domestic there were a number of dynastic restrictions. Signing the contract, Charles did not have the right to claim the imperial throne, and even hold any post in the possessions of the Holy Roman Empire in Italy. He also pledged, upon the first demand of the pope, to set up an army or a fleet and pay the tax annually to the papacy in 10 thousand ounces of gold. In return, Urban IV graciously allowed Karl to continue to collect tithe in his possessions of Anjou and Provence, even when he became king of Sicily. And, of course, the graph was completely free of charge granted the high patronage of the Holy See.

The contract was clearly more beneficial for the cunning Urban IV, but this fact was balanced by the ambitions of Charles himself, who was already rather bored with being just a graph. It is quite possible that his wife Beatrice Provence also said her word. Her sisters have already firmly entered the highest strata of the then political elite of Western Europe. One sister of Beatrice was married to the King of France, Louis IX, and the other - became the wife of the English monarch Henry III. During ceremonial dinners, Karl's wife, as a simple countess, had to sit at a table held by a lower-ranking public, and not sit next to her queen sisters. This circumstance strongly offended her, so the corresponding suggestions were made on the subject of building a career.

But Karl and without the influence of Beatrice wanted to become king. True, on the way to the crown, he will have to solve the problem of Manfred and his strong army. But why not do it in order to enter Palermo or Naples on a white horse!

Carl gathers troops

The relevant agreement between Carl of Anjou and Urban IV was concluded in June 1263. It is quite likely that the pope understood that he was taking as a partner a person who would be hard to keep within such narrow limits. However, Manfred was a serious threat, so there was no choice in the methods of eliminating it.

Louis IX expressed his full understanding to his younger brother and promised all possible help. Karl of Anjou began to show his character to the other high contracting party soon after signing. His representatives, who were in Italy, began to bargain with the pope for easing the terms of the contract - and especially in the part that dealt with the economic component. The count sought to show that the role of the official defender of the Pope is worth something, especially considering the rather dangerous situation of Urban IV himself.

By this time, the pontiff felt an acute shortage of useful allies, he was seriously afraid for his life, believing that Manfred would approach assassins to him. While Karl of Anjou was preparing to march to Italy, while he was trying to bargain for more favorable conditions, Urban IV passed away in October 1264.

The count, whose willingness to become king of Sicily was no longer in doubt, was concerned: would the new pope continue the work begun by his predecessor? Will not the game, the main prize for which Charles will be Sicily and Southern Italy? The election of the next chapter of the Holy See lasted a long time - almost four months. The Cardinals are divided. Some were in favor of expressing complete trust in Charles of Anjou, while others were in favor of the possibility of negotiations with Manfred.

Finally, in February 1265, a new dad named Clement IV was selected. He was the son of a nobleman from the province of Languedoc. From the first steps of his reign, Clement sought to emphasize that all the treaties concluded by his predecessor remained in force - the connection with Carl of Anjou was maintained constantly. He was asked to arrive in Italy as soon as possible.

10 May 1265, Carl of Anjou, not having finished all the preparations, plunged into the ships with a small army and sailed from Marseille. Due to bad weather, he managed to escape from the Sicilian squadron patrolling in the Ligurian Sea and land in Ostia in ten days, after which Karl hastily moved to Rome.

Everybody was delighted with his appearance in the Eternal City - Papa and his supporters breathed a sigh of relief, the townspeople applauded, and Manfred was pleased with what he delightedly described as a “bird in a cage”. At the insistence of the Pope, Karl of Anjou settled in the senatorial palace on Capitol Hill and began to live in clover, surrounded by honor and respect. Still, Clement IV had no other effective arguments in the fight against Manfred.

The public support expressed by Karl influenced to some extent the alignment of forces in Italy. Feeling the change of the rose of political winds, several strong allies of Manfred reconciled with the pope. His position weakened, and the current head of the Sicilian kingdom was forced to retreat to the south of Italy.

Karl has not yet had enough strength to vigorously counter his rival. The army brought with them was small, and money was needed to equip a larger contingent. Clement IV, besides approval and blessing, could do little to help - for many years the pope used the services of such worldly representatives as Tuscan bankers. These gentlemen, who were not too sure about the success of Karl, at first gave money reluctantly. Carl and Clement IV had to literally take desperate steps to get the money: the treasures of the papal chapel, church silver and the property of several Roman temples were laid. Beatrice Provence did not regret for raising her husband of her family jewels.

Finally, by the autumn of 1265, the necessary finances had been collected in order to pay the troops for several months. The army of Charles was formed in Lyon - in Italy it was supposed to arrive on foot through Lombardy. All the time, while his opponents literally scooped up money, Manfred indulged in hunts and feasts, hoping that the enemies could not cope with the financial difficulties that engulfed them. However, Karl was not one of those who were accustomed to retreat.

The army he recruited in October 1265 came out of Lyon under the command of Guy de Mello. The chronists testified to six thousand well-armed knights, six thousand horse archers and twenty thousand infantrymen. Given the tendency to exaggerate the authors of such works, it can be assumed that at the disposal of Charles of Anjou was still a smaller army, albeit of excellent quality. The troops, having made a difficult transition, arrived in the area of ​​Rome in January 1266, much to the relief of Clement IV.

Coronation of Charles of Anjou

Sensing the power behind him, Karl of Anjou hinted that it would be nice to get some political advance for his work, without having forgotten to send for his wife, who arrived by sea. 6 January 1266, the year Karl and Beatrice in St. Peter’s Cathedral were solemnly crowned king and queen of Sicily. Celebrations, however, were short - the newly-made king had little money, and they catastrophically disappeared.

January 20 Karl's army marched from Rome. The appearance of a large enemy army in Italy was a complete surprise for Manfred, who, to the last, was convinced that his rivals would be bogged down for a long time in monetary problems. He had to interrupt his idleness and begin to act.

While Hohenstaufen hastily put in order fairly relaxed troops, his opponent made a throw to the south. Encountered fortresses that did not receive support from Manfred, surrendered without resistance or with minimal opposition.

Battle of Benevento

Finally, both opposing armies met near the city of Benevento. Manfred took a more advantageous position and waited for reinforcements from the allies, but the spirit of his troops was not up to par, and the allies were becoming less reliable. His forces were evaluated in 5 – 6 thousand cavalry and infantry. The most battle worthy of them were 1,5, thousands of German mercenaries. Karl of Anjou had comparable forces. His people had not yet moved away from the consequences of a difficult march across Italy, were tired and suffered from a lack of food.

26 February 1266, both armies lined up for battle. Manfred, realizing that now time is working against him, decided to attack first. On the front line of his position were lightly armed horse archers, the second was made up of German mercenaries. The third line included mercenaries from Lombardy and Tuscany.

Representatives of the opposing sides: the warriors of Manfred on the left, the Angevins on the right. From the exposition of the Historical Museum, Lucher. Photos from open sources

Karl of Anjou also arranged his people in three lines. He put the infantry forward, including many crossbowmen. The basis of the second and third lines was heavy cavalry. Karl's troops were more homogeneous in composition: they were French and small Italian contingents.

The battle of Benevento began with the attack of the archers and the infantry of Manfred. It was successfully reflected by crossbowmen and Provencal cavalry. Then the German mercenaries entered the business on excellent horses and dressed in plate armor. The Provence was overthrown and retreated, suffering heavy losses.

It seemed that the German horsemen were invulnerable, but the French noticed that when their opponents raised their hands to strike, the armpits were unprotected. Karl's warriors reduced the battlefield, making their long swords of little use, and then sharp daggers went into action. Manfred made a fatal mistake, in time without entering the third line of his troops into battle - obviously, he overestimated the capabilities of his German mercenaries.

When Lombards and Tuscans approached the battlefield, they saw the dying German cavalry and jubilant French. After some resistance, the mercenaries of Manfred were put to flight. Himself still the king of Sicily had the opportunity to escape, but chose a different fate.

Together with a group of close associates, Manfred Hohenstaufen rushed into the thick of the battle, where he met his death, as befits a knight. The defeat of his army was complete, and the winners willingly finished off the wounded. Karl's victory was indisputable - he already wrote to the Pope of Benevento, which he had taken about the success of the enterprise.

Manfred's body was barely found two days later. Expressing respect for the defeated, but brave enemy, Karl ordered to put the opponent's body in a pit, and each of the soldiers of the French army threw in a stone there. Subsequently, this place was named Rock of Roses. This method of burial was chosen due to the fact that Pope Alexander IV excommunicated Manfred from the church. He was later reburied.

After giving rest and time to plunder his army, Charles of Anjou, together with his wife 7 March, drove solemnly into Naples. The Sicilian kingdom lay at his feet, but there was still a man who could challenge this circumstance. It was the son of Emperor Conrad IV and the grandson of Frederick II, young Conradin, with whom the French still had to cross their swords.

To be continued ...
Our news channels

Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. +2
    9 June 2018 06: 14
    Really Manfred just had fun while an open army was being prepared against him, history is ruled by great stupidity, and not great conspiracies.
    1. +4
      10 June 2018 01: 40
      Thanks Denis
      There was a gap in my knowledge over this period of history
  2. +2
    9 June 2018 06: 38
    Actually the Sicilian Vespers - is this not an example for the guys who arranged Bartholomew’s night later?
    Combat events
    Thank you interesting hi
  3. +3
    9 June 2018 11: 53
    "Sicilian Vespers" was under the motto: "Death to the French throughout Italy!" ("Mlocations Alla Forange ITalia Anela! "). The acronym of this motto is widely known:" MAFIA. "That as if hints.
  4. +5
    9 June 2018 12: 09
    Remembering the person of the Pope, I cannot but recall a semi-anecdotal incident, albeit from a later era.
    At one of the inter-allied conferences (I don’t remember which, either Tehran or Potsdam), the British and Americans, while discussing the division of Europe, advocated the interests of the Pope, and quite intrusively.
    But the question was closed with just one phrase by I.V. Stalin (that’s what it means - they knew how to deal with diplomacy before, and not to grind and see the root):
    "Good. And how many divisions does the Pope have?" )))
    The topic has been exhausted)
  5. +2
    9 June 2018 20: 53
    Denis, thanks for the interesting article. It was so nice to see Maurice Druon and Walter Scott.
    1. +2
      12 June 2018 01: 26
      Quote: Alex
      Denis, thanks for the interesting article. It was so nice to see Maurice Druon and Walter Scott.

      That's it! The affairs of bygone days, but ----- recognizable. I wanted to read everything in the weekend, and in a tumultuous atmosphere, it finally happened. Wonderful article, I look forward to continuing
  6. +1
    10 June 2018 05: 48
    An important prerequisite for the events under consideration was the era of Byzantine rule in Italy, as well as the actions later of Frederick 1 Barbarossa.
    By the way, Benevento is known for a number of medieval battles that took place nearby.
  7. +1
    10 June 2018 08: 46
    As far as I remember, Manfred had hired Saracen archers, but their participation went unnoticed.
    About useless long swords - Delbrück considered it an art whistle and I think he was right.
  8. +1
    11 June 2018 08: 23
    It is written lively and captivatingly. Thank. We look forward to continuing.
  9. 0
    2 August 2018 16: 18
    Great story! You understand that the Europeans are all interconnected by a thousand-year history, originating from Rome. We northerners have nothing to do there. A worthy intrigue, that's where the Game of Thrones really is. But about plate armor, 1266, this is already too much. Maximum Hauberg with jacket and stitched plates.

"Right Sector" (banned in Russia), "Ukrainian Insurgent Army" (UPA) (banned in Russia), ISIS (banned in Russia), "Jabhat Fatah al-Sham" formerly "Jabhat al-Nusra" (banned in Russia) , Taliban (banned in Russia), Al-Qaeda (banned in Russia), Anti-Corruption Foundation (banned in Russia), Navalny Headquarters (banned in Russia), Facebook (banned in Russia), Instagram (banned in Russia), Meta (banned in Russia), Misanthropic Division (banned in Russia), Azov (banned in Russia), Muslim Brotherhood (banned in Russia), Aum Shinrikyo (banned in Russia), AUE (banned in Russia), UNA-UNSO (banned in Russia), Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (banned in Russia), Legion “Freedom of Russia” (armed formation, recognized as terrorist in the Russian Federation and banned)

“Non-profit organizations, unregistered public associations or individuals performing the functions of a foreign agent,” as well as media outlets performing the functions of a foreign agent: “Medusa”; "Voice of America"; "Realities"; "Present time"; "Radio Freedom"; Ponomarev; Savitskaya; Markelov; Kamalyagin; Apakhonchich; Makarevich; Dud; Gordon; Zhdanov; Medvedev; Fedorov; "Owl"; "Alliance of Doctors"; "RKK" "Levada Center"; "Memorial"; "Voice"; "Person and law"; "Rain"; "Mediazone"; "Deutsche Welle"; QMS "Caucasian Knot"; "Insider"; "New Newspaper"