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27 Jul

Kingdom of Sicily (13th – 15th c.)

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor and joint King of Sicily (1194-1197) was succeeded by his infant son Frederick II (1197-1250). The latter promulgated the Constitutions of Melfi in 1231 and made Kingdom of Sicily an absolute monarchy and the first centralized state in Europe. Frederick II was succeeded by Conrad IV (1250-1254) whose short reign was marked by a struggle with Pope Innocent IV who wanted to overthrow the Hohenstaufen rule in Italy. Conrad IV invaded Italy in 1251 but he failed to suppress the Pope’s supporters. He died suddenly of fever while preparing for a campaign in 1254.

Conrad IV was succeeded by his two year old son Conradin (1254-1268) but the Sicilian throne was assumed by his uncle and regent Manfred in 1258. Manfred (1258-1266) failed to resolve the struggle with Pope Innocent IV, while Innocent’s successor Pope Urban IV felt threatened by Manfred’s power and ambitions in central Italy and declared the Kingdom of Sicily a papal possession in 1262. Urban IV offered the Sicilian crown to Charles of Anjou who invaded Italy in 1266 and defeated Manfred in the Battle of Benevento. Manfred was killed in the battle, while Conradin was captured and executed. Charles of Anjou was crowned as Charles I of Sicily (1266-1282) and thus the Sicilian crown passed to the Angevin Dynasty. Charles I planned to conquer the Byzantine Empire and captured Corfu, Epirus and Albania in alliance with the deposed Latin Emperor Baldwin II. However, a rebellion broke out against his rule in Sicily known as the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282-1302) before he could complete his plans.

Image of Peter III of Aragon landing in Sicily

Peter III of Aragon invading Sicily

The rebells offered the Sicilian crown to Peter III of Aragon who was married to Constance, daughter and heiress of Manfred of Sicily. Peter III of Aragon accepted the offer, invaded Sicily and defeated Charles I. He was crowned King of Sicily in 1282 but Charles I retained his possessions in Southern Italy which came to be known as the Kingdom of Naples. The Angevin kings of Naples and Aragonese kings of Sicily – James II of Aragon (1285-1296) and Frederick II (1296-1337) continued the war for Sicily until 1302 when the Peace of Caltabellotta divided the old Kingdom of Sicily into the island and mainland parts.

The reign of Peter II (1337-1242) was marked by a struggle with nobility which severely weakened the central authority, while decline of royal power also marked the reigns of his successors Louis the Child (1342-1355) and Frederick III the Simple (1355-1377). The latter died without a male heir to the throne in 1377. Sicily was afterwards ruled by the junior Aragonese line until 1409 when it became an integral part of the Crown of Aragon directly ruled by Aragonese Kings and from 1516 by the Spanish Kings.

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