Military Review

The war of Sicilian vespers. Fail tournament and sea battles

The direct intervention of His Majesty Pedro III of Aragon in the Sicilian problems of Charles I finally transformed the internal conflict of the Sicilian kingdom into a war between different states. No one then could predict how long it would last and what the losses, casualties and gains of all its participants would be. It seemed that moderate effort would be enough to achieve the desired results. But it turned out that it took years, and not all the instigators and drama members survived to its completion.

The war of Sicilian vespers. Fail tournament and sea battles

The landing of Pedro III in Trapani

Pedro III - King of Sicily

The islanders, who carried out the merciless sweep of Sicily from everyone who had at least some relation to the Anjou house, understood what they were going to. Their shaky power over the territory captured by the uprising could be ended by a more or less large army crossing the strait. And she did not take long to wait - Karl disembarked and laid siege to Messina.

Pedro III of Aragon

Of course, in the person of Pedro III, the leaders of the rebels and inconspicuous at all times people who know how to convincingly whisper, saw and implied a worthy alternative to Karl. While the Aragonese monarch "visited" on the North African coast, along with his army and fleet, ambassadors and delegations of Sicilians were sent to him tirelessly one after another. The topic of discussions and consultations was one: would Pedro III of Aragon be kind enough to become a Sicilian one as well? The wife of the king and the daughter of the late Manfred, Queen Constance, was not at all against the increase in the territorial possessions of her husband.

Algerian landscapes were already fed up with the Aragonese himself, and the army was languishing from idleness. Having gathered a military council, he gave the order to his commanders to prepare for a speech. By the end of August, 1282, the camp in the North African town of Kollo was abandoned, and the army began loading ships — to the great joy of the Sicilians. They were graciously announced that the king generously agreed to the modest role of the savior of Sicily and, concurrently, to the position of its king. A special diploma was sent to the pope, where they humbly said something like "sorry, but it just happened."

August 30 Pedro III landed in Trapani, and on September 2 solemnly entered Palermo. In this city, he solemnly declared himself king of Sicily - he had to refuse to participate in the ceremony because the local bishops had died, and the second had run away. The new king promised new and old liberties to the people and announced his enlistment in the army. To the joys of enlarging the personnel, the army slowly came out to liberate Messina, and ambassadors were sent to Karl with a courteous demand to clear the island.

The failed conqueror of Constantinople received a delegation of September 16, after the failure of the general assault. The king was cold and not very polite. He consulted with his commanders. September 17 Aragonese ambassadors received a response in rather vague terms. Pedro III is not the king of Sicily, because he was, is and will be Charles I. Angevin will generously remove his army from under Messina and forward it to the mainland, but being a man of good education will surely return. Moreover, in order to preserve the factor of pleasant surprise, he will do it suddenly and without warning. Karl did not want to fight with the superior forces of the enemy at the walls of Messina - especially since the Aragonese fleet was superior in power to all those naval forces that were at its disposal. In addition, it was necessary to wait for reinforcements from France.

By the end of September, the French army crossed over to Calabria, leaving the enemy a large number of trophies in the form of various property. October 2 Pedro III triumphantly entered Messina. Inspired by the success and support of the population, the new owner of Sicily decided to try his luck in the Apennine peninsula. Aragon troops landed on the Italian coast, crossed the isthmus with the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto. Charles Army, located in Reggio, was cut off from the rest of the kingdom.

But the attempts of the Aragonese to advance inland were stopped by a well-built defense of the French, who held key locks and fortresses in their hands. The Reggio blockade was full of holes, and reinforcements were leaking to Karl. Soon the Aragonese troops were pushed aside to the coast. By the winter of 1282 – 1283 the war is at an impasse.

Bordeaux tournament failed

Other countries began to show interest in the events taking place in the south of the Apennine Peninsula. Besides that Pedro III, that Carl were not averse to getting help from his allies. The initial calculation of the Aragonese to cooperate with Byzantium, which hated the Anjou house, was not justified. Mikhail Paleologue died at the end of 1282. His son Andronik was, more likely, a theologian on the imperial throne and did not show any interest or ability in foreign affairs.

The commercial republic of Genoa, which also hated Carl in words, was a typical commercial state, where economic benefits were always placed above political priorities. Her loyalty as an ally was measured by commodity prices and market stability.

Karl and his allies were better off. Among them was Venice, who also sought her economic interest in the outbreak of the war. An important role in the Catholic world was played by the direct support of the Pope. Martin IV not only wholesale excommunicated all the enemies of Charles, including Pedro III, but also provided considerable financial assistance. And, of course, his relative was ready to support his nephew, King Philip III of France. What happened in Sicily, he took as a personal insult. The protracted conflict with the queen mother Margarita of Provence was decided to be resolved by revising her claims to Provence. French gold and soldiers flowed to Italy.

However, the position of Charles, despite the strong and not poor allies and relatives, was not easy. He desperately needed money - one of the richest regions of his state, Sicily, now did not belong to him. Revenues from the Epirian lands in the Balkans were barely enough to pay for the troops stationed there, and the emir of Tunisia, under the guise of the political crisis, stopped paying tribute. Karl was afraid of a protracted war, because papal and French gold was barely enough for running costs, and his army was absorbing resources with catastrophic speed. Debts grew, and the war had to end.

Karl had a curious idea. A Dominican monk was sent to the Aragonese camp to Pedro. He told the King of Aragon that his Sicilian rival was proposing to decide the outcome of the war with a knightly duel. The winner unconditionally got Sicily. Pedro III agreed - the financial system of his kingdom worked in an accelerated mode, and although all possible taxes and fees were raised to the limit, there was not enough money for the war either.

In the process of discussing the organizational details, it was decided that since the forces of the opposing monarchs were clearly not equal (Karl was already fifty-five years old, and Pedro was fifteen years younger), together with the kings they would fight a hundred knights. The selection of team members remained for Their Majesties. As a place for a tournament or, rather, a duel, the city of Bordeaux was chosen. He was at that time part of the possessions of the English King Edward, the neutral side. The meeting day was determined by 1 June 1283 of the year.

The reaction of the international community to such an unusual way of ending the war was ambiguous. Pope Martin IV was very puzzled and even scared. He wrote Carl a heartfelt message in which he reminded the king that he was the representative of God's will on earth and if God's judgment is needed, then he, the Pope, can help. And to resort to the help of swords is a rash and controversial decision.

King Edward puzzled his shoulders, considering the duel of two monarchs in the spirit of the legendary era of King Arthur not a very solid deed. Martin IV even banned Edward from holding a royal duel in Bordeaux, but too much was at stake. Neither Carl nor Pedro could allow their honor to be tarnished by the refusal of the tournament. 18 January 1283, by special decree, Charles I entrusted the entire royal power in the country during his absence to his son Karl Salernsky and headed north.

In early March, he arrived at the residence of the Pope in Viareggio and reassured Martin IV - they say everything is under control. Through Marseille, the king of "temporarily occupied" Sicily reached France, and in April in Paris he was met by the crowned nephew of Philip III, who gave a warm welcome to the guest.

Pedro III, unlike his opponent, was in no hurry to leave the theater of operations, wanting to strengthen his position. His fleet made a number of successful raids, landing tactical landings on the coast. Wanting to enlist the support of the local population, he released two thousand captured Italians who served Karl. In response, Karl of Salerno, who remained behind the chief, implemented a series of decrees that were to significantly improve the life of the kingdom’s population and streamline its interaction with the authorities.

In February, Pedro III also went to Bordeaux via Valencia. King Edward, while preserving the appearance of decency and remembering the ban on the pope, did not leave the island. However, not wanting to get into an uncomfortable position, he nevertheless ordered to prepare a lists for the fight. Karl arrived in Bordeaux with his nephew Philip III and a huge retinue, in which a large detachment of French knights stood out. The arrival of Pedro III was arranged with much less fanfare and passed modestly and almost imperceptibly.

The fight was to be held on 1 Jun. True, there was a small but important detail, which for some reason none of the opposing sides paid attention to. Or pretended not to pay. The day of the fight was clearly known, but his time was not determined. This, however, was the detail that makes history.

Ramon Tusquets-i-Mannon. Pedro III arrived in Bordeaux for a duel with Charles I of Anjou

Early in the morning 1 Jun Pedro III, accompanied by the knights, went to the lists. Aragon herald announced the arrival of his king, but it turned out that the opponent is simply absent. There was neither Karl nor his knights. After waiting a while, displeased, and perhaps delighted, Pedro returned to his apartment, declaring himself the winner along the way, since the opponent did not show up for the match. A few hours later, the performance was repeated, but now the main character was Carl of Anjou. He also arrived at the appointed place in the absence of the appointed time. Noticing that he and his knights are alone, the king of Sicily also declared himself the winner because of the absence of Pedro.

A few days later, both kings left the restrainedly hospitable Bordeaux, showering each other with all sorts of epithets like "a miserable coward who was afraid to come to the judgment of God." Both the Aragon and Anjou sides had weighty grounds for asserting that it was she who was the winner in the failed duel, and equally weighty reasons for this duel not to take place.

Even on his way to France in an interview with Pope Martin IV, Karl reached a full understanding on the organization of such an enterprise as the Crusade against Aragon. Philip III would also gladly take part in this charitable work, because, in addition to the moral satisfaction of a devout Catholic, his son Karl Valois was to receive the Aragonese throne. The comrades-in-arms of Louis IX the Holy, who openly expressed their discontent, grumbled that the father of the current king would not approve of such a thing categorically, were announced by old men who did not understand the subtleties of modern politics.

While Pedro and Karl unsuccessfully fought over dynastic issues, the war continued. She walked not only on land, but also on the sea.

Maltese battle

Charles I was desperate for money. After his departure, the money became even smaller, and now his son Carl Salernsky had to take care of their multiplication. The son of the great king spun as best he could, with the temperament inherent in the southerners. He tirelessly took loans from the bankers of Florence and Lucca, the free cities of the kingdom, and even from the Tunisian emir. Emir, taking advantage of the difficult position of the Sicilian kingdom, stopped paying tribute, citing Aragonese pirates and “bad times,” but he lent willingly.

With hard-won funds, Karl of Salerno equipped a large fleet whose goal was to restore communications with formally friendly Tunisia and trade with the east. In addition, on the island of Malta, there was a blocked Anjou garrison, which was waiting for help.

The fleet, most of whose ships were manned by French Provencal crews, concentrated in Naples. Having increased its membership at the expense of local squadrons, this compound moved south with the aim of finally removing the blockade from Malta. The fleet commander was Provencal Admiral Bartolome Bonvin. He led his ships the shortest way through the Strait of Messina, but this circumstance did not escape the attention of the Aragonese. Their fleet, commanded by Ruggero di Lauria, immediately chased.

Ruggero di Lauria was appointed commander of the Aragonese fleet in April 1283, and this decision was correct. This naval commander won several victories over his opponents and played an important role in the war of Sicilian vespers and in accompanying events, such as a crusade against Aragon.

4 June 1283, anjou ships numbering more than 20 galleys, to the great joy of the garrison, entered a comfortable and extensive Maltese harbor. Their pursuers (of comparable size), slightly behind, approached the island on the morning of June 7.

Two small Anjou ships played the role of a fire watch, guarding the harbor entrance. However, instead of a systematic patrol, they were moored to the shore at the edges of the entrance. Rapid Aragon scout thanks to such carelessness managed to penetrate the harbor and find out the location and strength of the enemy.

Before dawn 8 June, Admiral Ruggero di Lauria gave the order to prepare for battle. He built his galleys in one line, connecting them with ropes. This tactic attributed to the Genoese, allowed not only to keep the line, but also to leave enough space between the ships for the unobstructed work of oars. In addition, it was possible to easily transfer reinforcements from one galleys to another — temporary bridges were moved for this purpose.

Aragon squadron in full combat readiness entered the harbor, after which di Lauria ordered to blow loudly, attracting the attention of the enemy. It was not at all a tribute to knightly traditions, but an elementary sober calculation. Anjou ships stood at the shore, moored by the bow, astern to the Aragonese. Thus, it was easy to defend them because of the high feed superstructures and the ability to replenish the crew directly from land. In addition, if successful, they will not be easy to quickly take in tow and withdraw from the harbor.

Andrey Alekseevich Shishkin. Crossbowman

The Angevins understood the signals of the enemy in exactly the same way as Ruggero di Lauria expected them to. With enthusiasm, their galleys one after another fell off the shore and also began to be built into battle formation. A fierce battle ensued that lasted all morning. On each of the galleries of the opposing fleets there were about a hundred or so warriors, including crossbowmen and spearmen. Aragonese ships were equipped with additional bulwarks, which, although it affected the speed, but provided the best protection for the crews. The teams included Catalan crossbowmen, whose skill was considered recognized in the Iberian Peninsula, and the Almogavar - well-trained infantry from the natives of the border with the Moorish territories.

Knowing the habits of the enemy widely use throwing weapon - arrows and darts, - di Lauria gave the order to his people to save ammunition and respond only from crossbows. When the rain of the Angevin arrows began to dry up, the Aragonese approached the dagger’s distance and began to shower enemy ships with coastal metal projectiles. A short distance and a sufficient amount of weapons allowed the Anjou to inflict devastating losses, after which the Aragonese went to board the ship.

Aragon Crossbow

Almogavar (Arabic al-Mugavari - scout)

The fierce battle ended in a complete victory for Ruggero di Lauria, his sailors and soldiers. Only seven Anjou ships could leave the battlefield, two of which were in such a sad state that they had to be abandoned. The casualties were also enormous: on this day, Karl Salensky lost his dead and prisoners from 3 thousand to 4,5 thousand of his people. The losses of the Aragon fleet were relatively small: no more than 300 people.

Di Lauria triumphantly returned to the shores of Italy and defiantly showed his ships near the harbor of Naples. Soon they took control of the island of Capri. These successes brought glory to the Aragonese arms, inspired the army, but failed to bring much-needed money to Queen Constance, who remained in lieu of a spouse in Sicily. The fact is that Pedro III, who returned from Bordeaux, remained in Aragon, preparing to repel an ever more distinct French invasion, while in Sicily his wife was engaged in all affairs.

Battle of the Gulf of Naples and the capture of Carl of Salerno

Constance racked her crowned head in search of the most needed resource now - money. They were few, they were not enough, they simply did not exist. Karl of Salerno, suffering from similar problems, retreated to the north, and the Aragonese army was strengthened in Calabria. But for the payment of salaries to the soldiers there was no money. Aragonese soldiers began to improve their own financial situation at the expense of the local population, which was already beginning to be asked an unequivocal question: why did Pedro III of Aragon better than Charles I of Anjou?

In desperation, Constance decided to ask for money from Constantinople and wrote a letter to her husband to consult as a family. The king was furious at this undertaking, since its implementation could, in his opinion, worsen the already disastrous relationship with the Pope. But Martin IV did not care where the excommunicated king would get the money: in Constantinople or in the nether regions. The question of the crusade was finally resolved, and its preparation began.

The invasion of Aragon was fraught with many organizational difficulties and was therefore scheduled for 1285 year. Charles of Anjou decided to assemble a large army and navy in Provence, and gave his son clear instructions. Karl Salernsky was to gather as many troops as possible in Naples and adhere to strictly defensive tactics. Despite the excellent personal courage and courage of his son, the father had no illusions about his leadership talent.

The orders of the king were obediently executed. In the area of ​​Naples, everything that was at hand at Salerno, including the feudal militia, contingents from the Saracens of the city of Lucera and the troops of the Tuscan Guelphs, was collected. Neapolitan shipyards quickly built new warships.

Meanwhile, Admiral Ruggero di Lauria with his fleet not only went to self-sufficiency, carrying out daring attacks along the coast, but also, thanks to the captured in this prey, somewhat calmed down the headache of Queen Constance. In May 1284, his fleet arrived in the Gulf of Naples and with the help of a landing force captured the island of Nisid, relying on which di Lauria could control the approaches to Naples. The blockade began, which hit hard not only on the nervous system of citizens, but also on their wallets.

Karl Salernsky was confused - his father categorically forbade him to attack a much more skilled enemy. His advisers and commanders, including the papal legate, also advised him not to make any sudden movements. Like many sons, who were trying to prove to their parents that they were not stubby stupid, Karl did exactly the opposite.

5 June 1284, he and a large number of warriors sank into galleys and left Naples in the sea. Karl of Salerno mistakenly assumed that the main forces of the Aragon fleet were carrying out raid operations, and Nizid’s island was guarded by a small squadron, which he would easily destroy. Admiral Ruggiero di Lauria was well aware by his intelligence officers of all the intentions and numbers of the enemy. The Angevins met the entire Aragonese fleet, far exceeding their number.

Ramon Tusquets-i-Mannon. Sea battle in the Gulf of Naples 5 June 1284 of the year

In the ensuing fierce battle, very short due to a significant imbalance of forces, Karl of Salerno fought valiantly and fiercely, but was eventually captured. Most Angevin galleries surrendered after the capture of their commander. It was a disaster for the Sicilian kingdom.

The news of the capture of his son found Charles of Anjou in Gaeta. He was at the head of the Provencal fleet in order to wrest sea supremacy from Aragon and calmly proceed with the organization of the Crusade. From the son who did not know about the approaching father, it was only necessary to follow clear instructions. He did not. When Carl of Anjou was informed of the defeat in the Strait of Naples, he exclaimed in a rage: “Whoever loses a fool doesn’t lose anything!” And the war continued.

The ending should ...
Articles from this series:
War Sicilian vespers. Carl of Anjou loses the kingdom
The war of Sicilian vespers. Two kings for one kingdom
The war of Sicilian vespers. The last Staufen returns to Italy
Sicilian Vesper's War: Fight for the Crown

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  1. polpot
    polpot 9 July 2018 06: 00
    Thank you, we are waiting for the continuation.
  2. heavy division
    heavy division 9 July 2018 07: 37
    That's Pedro, cool guy
  3. Korsar4
    Korsar4 9 July 2018 07: 47
    It is necessary to listen to parents, and generals. Or understand what you are doing.

    And the story of arriving at a knightly duel at different times is simply wonderful.

    Thank. As usual, interesting.
  4. Mikhail Matyugin
    Mikhail Matyugin 9 July 2018 08: 51
    Good material, once again learned from Denis about the little-known naval battles of the Middle Ages.
  5. Trilobite Master
    Trilobite Master 9 July 2018 10: 53
    An interesting article about a typical medieval European war. Such a sluggish opposition, interspersed with short periods of activity. Diplomatic maneuvers, intrigues, courtly behavior of nobles and the eternal search for money, conquest campaigns instead of economic reforms, attempts to conquer something new, instead of trying to intelligently control what is.
    True, very soon the throne of France will be occupied by young Philip IV the Beautiful, and the European world will begin to change. But that's another story ... smile
    Thanks to the author for the article.
    1. antivirus
      antivirus 10 July 2018 20: 10
      A sort of sluggish confrontation, interspersed with short periods of activity. Diplomatic maneuvers, intrigues, courteous behavior of nobles and the eternal search for money,

      - apparently the main thing then - "our (?) merchants from Persia arrived in a month they will sell goods and we will receive money, including on credit. to continue the fighting"
      - "And how much money do they need for their repeated departure to Persia?"
      - "means the war is postponed until their second return"

      funny, money was everything in mercenary wars.
      apparently, it was possible to calculate profit and taxes ahead to a certain horizon - then they did not lend
      1. Mikhail Matyugin
        Mikhail Matyugin 13 July 2018 01: 21
        Quote: antivirus
        funny, money was everything in mercenary wars.

        Your little bit is false. The overlords, right up to the king, could demand military service from their vassals without money and rather quickly collect them. So not money in the Middle Ages decided everything, but ... FAITHFUL.
        1. antivirus
          antivirus 13 July 2018 08: 00
          for 5 years to call under the banners and rot the vassal in the swamp without salary- content? - and who conducted the activity in the estate-castle of the vassal?
          1. Mikhail Matyugin
            Mikhail Matyugin 13 July 2018 11: 12
            I spoke of brief periods of hostilities (the agreement on the feud stipulated the exact number of days of compulsory military service of the vassal without payment from the overlord per year, usually from 40 to six months); for a longer time, of course, it was necessary to pay salaries even to vassals.
          2. Alex
            Alex 14 July 2018 19: 56
            Quote: antivirus
            and who conducted the activity in the estate-castle of the vassal?
            Agile managers were often left there. And in peacetime, they often ruled for the owners - it is not a royal thing to climb barns. But on the account of fidelity, it is correct: not all vassals were so disinterestedly loyal to the overlord.
  6. Jääkorppi
    Jääkorppi 9 August 2018 12: 43
    Thank! Great, just some Maurice Druon :). Now it becomes clear where the legs of the Italian Wars and the intrigues of the Pope of the Borgia clan grow from.