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Italian city-states of Venice, Milan, Florence and Genoa (10th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Northern Italian cities achieved wide autonomy by the end of 10th century and chosen their sovereigns or elected their own chief of state – the doge. Besides Venice that elected doges since 762, doges also ruled Genoa and Amalfi. German Kings who were weakened by the Investiture Controversy were unable to subdue the Northern Italian cities which gained great wealth during the economic progress in the 11th century and the period of Crusades.

Map of Venice drawn by Piri Reis, Ottoman admiral, geographer and cartographer

Map of Venice drawn by Piri Reis, Ottoman admiral, geographer and cartographer

Venice, Milan, Genoa and Florence achieved independence by the 12th century and evolved into a powerful city-states. The attempt of Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I Barbarossa to reassert his imperial authority in Lombardy resulted in the formation of the Lombard League under leadership of Milan and Frederick’s defeat at Legnano in 1176. Frederick I signed the Peace of Constance in 1183 and recognized the independence of the Lombard cities under his nominal suzerainty. The Lombard League was renewed against the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II in 1226 and repulsed his attempts to assert his authority in Northern Italy. Venice meanwhile extended its power in the Mediterranean by conquering one-fourth of the Byzantine Empire during the Forth Crusade, while Genoa gained new holdings in the Middle East.

Taifa Kingdoms

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Iberian Peninsula saw the rise of numerous more or less independent Taifa Kingdoms after the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1031. The period of Taifa Kingdoms also known as “the period of regional kings” strengthened the position of the Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula which started their expansion on the expense of Muslim lands. Taifa states were unable to defend themselves against the Christian Kingdoms on the north and the west, and were forced to seek help at the Almoravids, a Berber confederation that succeeded the Fatimid dynasty in Northern Africa.

Map of the Iberian Peninsula after the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba

Map of the Iberian Peninsula after the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba

The Almoravids under Yusuf ibn Tashfin defeated the Christian forces led by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1086. However, Almoravids afterwards subdued the Taifa Kingdoms and ruled the Muslim Spain until 1174 when they were overthrown by the Almohads, another Berber dynasty. The Almohads were defeated by a coalition of Christian kings under leadership of Alfonso VIII of Castile in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 which was a major turning point in the history of Reconquista.

Caliphate of Cordoba

27 Jul
July 27, 2012
Caliphate of Cordoba

Caliphate of Cordoba

Emir Abd-ar-rahman III (919-961) proclaimed himself Caliph in 929 after the establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate in Northern Africa (909). Thus the Emirate of Cordoba became Caliphate of Cordoba and ruled Al-Andalus until 1031 when the Caliphate fractured into numerous independent kingdoms known as the Taifa Kingdoms. The Caliphate of Cordoba reached its height in the 10th century, while Cordoba was the most prosperous city in Europe and one of the leading cultural centers of the Islamic world. However, inner conflicts and weak rulers who were unable to assert authority resulted in decentralization of power and a civil war between 1009 and 1013 which led to the collapse of the Caliphate of Cordoba.

Kingdom of Galicia

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Galicia was established in 910 when Alfonso III the Great divided the Kingdom of Asturias among his sons. The first King of Galicia was Ordono II (910-925) who succeeded his brother Garcia I as King of Leon after his death in 924. Ordono died one year later and the third brother, Fruela II of Asturias who was elected his successor incorporated Galicia into the Kingdom of Leon. Galicia became an integral part of the Kingdom of Castile in 1037 when Fernando I of Castile conquered Leon. However, the unified kingdom of Castile and Leon was divided among Fernando’s three sons on his death in 1063. Galicia was given to his youngest son Garcia II (1063-1072) who renewed its independence.

Kingdom of Galicia

Kingdom of Galicia

The tensions between the three brothers that followed the division of the Kingdom of Castile and Leon were taken advantage by Count of Portugal, Nuno II Mendes who proclaimed himself independent ruler and established the Kingdom of Portugal in 1065. He was defeated by Garcia II in 1071. Garcia added to his title King of Portugal but he was defeated by his brother Sancho II of Castile in 1072. The latter was murdered by the third brother Alfonso VI in the same year, while Garcia was imprisoned for lifetime. The Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal was an integral part of Kingdom of Castile and Leon until 1139 when Alfonso I (the son of Henry of Burgundy, Count of Portugal) proclaimed himself King of Portugal and declared independence from the Kingdom of Castile and Leon.

Kingdom of Pamplona or Navarre (9th -13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Pamplona or Navarre emerged in the 9th century when the Franks withdrew from the country. At the same time began to rise the power and influence of the Vasconic dynasty and Inigo Arista became the first King of Pamplona in 825. The Kingdom of Pamplona greatly extended its territory under Inigo’s successors and came to be known as the Kingdom of Navarre.

The Kingdom of Navarre reached its height under successors of Sancho II Garces (970-994), especially during the reign of Sancho III the Great (1000-1035) who ruled Pamplona, Castile and Aragon, and conquered kingdoms of Castile and Leon at the end of his reign. He divided his kingdom among his four sons on his death: Garcia of Najera inherited the Kingdom of Pamplona, his eldest son Fernando received Castile, Gonzalo gained Sobrarbe and Ribagorza, while his illegitimate son Ramiro inherited the County of Aragon. The division resulted in severe conflicts between Sancho’s successors and led to further partition of the Kingdom of Navarre. Assassination of Sancho IV (1054-1076) in 1076 caused a dynastic crisis which enabled the Castilian and Aragonese kings to seize the territory of the Kingdom of Navarre.

Location of the Kingdom of Navarre

Location of the Kingdom of Navarre

The Kingdom of Navarre reached its territorial peak under Aragonese overlordship from 1074 to 1134. Garcia V of Navarre (1134-1150) restored Navarrese independence from Aragon in 1134 and tried to recapture the historic lands of Navarre from Castile. His son and successor Sancho the Wise (1150-1194) continued the fight against Castile. The dispute between the kingdoms of Navarre and Castile was settled by an arbitration of Henry II of England in 1177. Henry II gave each side what they actually controlled. However, Alfonso VIII of Castile took advantage of the absence of Sancho the Strong (1194-1234) and conquered western Navarre in 1200.

Kingdom of Castile (10th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

Castile achieved its independence from the Kingdom of Leon under Fernan Gonzalez, Count of Castile (923-970). Sancho III of Navarre inherited title to the County of Castile in 1026 and left it to his son Fernando I as a kingdom in 1035. Fernando I started a war with Kingdom of Leon shortly after his accession to the throne, defeated Bermudo III of Leon, unified both kingdoms and assumed the title Fernando I of Leon. He divided the Kingdom of Castile-Leon among his sons before his death in 1065: his eldest son Sancho II received Castile, the second and his favorite son Alfonso VI inherited Leon, while the youngest son Garcia gained the Kingdom of Galicia.

Alfonso VII

Alfonso VII

Sancho II of Castile turned against his brothers and captured both Leon and Galicia in 1072. However, he was assassinated in the same year and was succeeded by his brother Alfonso VI (1072-1109) who recovered the Kingdom of Leon, captured Galicia and proclaimed himself Emperor of all Spain. Alfonso VI was succeeded by his daughter Urraca (1109-1126). She married Alfonso I of Aragon in 1109 but the royal couple separated already in 1114. Urraca’s reign was marked by incessant warfare with her ex-husband who had seized her lands. She managed to recover most of her lands with help of her son Alfonso VII, King of Galicia who succeeded Urraca after her death in 1226.

Alfonso VII (1126-1157) renewed the supremacy of Kingdom of Castile over other Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula. He conquered Cordoba and Almeria but his campaigns against the Moors did not bring permanent success and his territorial gains were soon lost. Alfonso VII divided his kingdom between his sons: Sancho III became King of Castile and Fernando II became King of Leon. The division led to the rivalry between both kingdoms which split apart about 1195. However, on the death of Henry I of Castile in 1217 his sister Berenguela renounced her right of succession in favor of her son Fernando III who also succeeded his father Alfonso IX of Leon and permanently reunited the kingdoms of Castile and Leon.

Kingdom of Leon

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Leon was established with the division of the Kingdom of Asturias among the sons of Alfonso III in 910. The first King of Leon became Alfonso’s eldest son Garcia I (910-914). He was succeeded by his brother Ordono II who was also King of Galicia in 914. On his death in 924 Kingdoms of Leon and Galicia passed to the third brother Fruela II, King of Asturias who moved the capital from Oviedo to the city of Leon. Thus the Kingdom of Leon is practically a continuation of Kingdom of Asturias.

Ramiro II of Leon

Ramiro II of Leon

The period from Fruela’s death in 925 until the accession of Ramiro II (931-951) was marked by a dynastic crisis. Ramiro II brought stability to the kingdom and defeated the Muslims several times but he could not prevent the establishment of Kingdom of Castile under Count Fernan Gonzalez (923-970) nor the rise of Navarre and County of Barcelona. Ramiro’s death was followed by an inner crisis which was caused by the struggles over the throne and the attacks of the Muslims of Al-Andalus.

The Kingdom of Leon retained its importance in the Iberian Peninsula until it was conquered by Fernando I of Castile and united with Kingdom of Castile in 1037. Ferdinand ruled both kingdoms as Fernando I of Leon until his death in 1065 when Kingdom of Leon renewed its independence. In 1072, Leon was reunited with Castile under Alfonso VI of Castile but the kingdoms were split again around 1195. However, Castile and Leon were permanently united by Fernando III of Castile in 1230.

Kingdom of Asturias (9th – 10th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Asturian throne was seized by Nepocian on the death of Alfonso II in 842 but he was defeated by Ramiro I (842-850) in the Battle of the Bridge of Cornellana in the same year. Ramiro I abolished the system of election and secured the crown of Asturias to his son Ordono I.

Alfonso III

Alfonso III

Ordono I (850-866) was succeeded by his son Alfonso III (866-910) who managed to consolidate the Kingdom of Asturias. However, he divided the Kingdom of Asturias among his three sons on his death in 910: his eldest son Garcia I received the Kingdom of Leon, the second born son Ordono II gained the Kingdom of Galicia and the youngest son Fruela II took the remaining part of the Kingdom of Asturias. Garcia I died in 914 and Ordono II was chosen as his successor acting both as King of Galicia and Leon until his death in 924. Kingdom of Asturias was reunited in 924 on Ordono’s death when Fruela II was elected his heir but came to be known as Kingdom of Leon.

Kingdom of Denmark 10th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The Kingdom of Denmark was established by Harald Bluetooth who unified the Danish lands about 980. His successor Sweyn I (986-1014) ruled over most of Norway and was also crowned King of England one year before his death. Sweyn was succeeded by his eldest son Harald II (1014-1018) as King of Denmark, while his younger son Canute the Great (1016-1035) was crowned King of England. Canute the Great assumed the Danish throne on Harald’s death in 1018 and conquered Norway and part of Sweden.

Canute the Great

Canute the Great

Both Sweden and Norway restored their independence after Canute’s death in 1035, while Danish rule in England collapsed in 1042. The Kingdom of Denmark fell into a crisis until the accession of Valdemar I (1157-1182). Valdemar ended the period of a civil war and strengthened his authority in Denmark with support of the Bishop of Roskilde, Absalon who canonized his father Canute Lavard and performed the coronation ceremony for his son Canute VI (1182-1202). Valdemar I was also active in foreign politics and extended Danish rule over southern Sweden and greater part of the Baltic coast. By the end of his rule Valdemar I rejected the overlordship of Frederick I Barbarossa.

Danish expansion continued under Valdemar’s son and successor Canute VI who refused to acknowledge the overlordship of the Holy Roman Emperor. He conquered Pomerania and Mecklenburg, while his younger brother Valdemar, Duke of Schleswig conquered Holstein, including Lubeck and Hamburg in 1201. Danish territorial expansion also took place through marriages of Canute’s sisters: Ingeborg to the French King Philip II Augustus and Helen to William of Winchester, Lord of Lunenburg and brother of Otto IV, Holy Roman Emperor.

Kingdom of Norway (9th – 13th c.)

27 Jul
July 27, 2012

The traditional date of the establishment of the Kingdom of Norway is year 872 when Harold I or Harold Fairhair (872-930) was crowned King of Norway. His successors King Haakon the Good (c.934-961), Olaf Tryggvason (c.995-1000) and Olaf Haraldsson (St. Olaf) (1015-1028) completed the Christianization of Norway. Norway was ruled by Canute the Great after Olaf’s death in 1028 but the Danish rule collapsed after Canute’s death in 1035. The Norwegian throne was assumed by Olaf’s son Magnus the Good (1035-1047).

History of the Kingdom of Norway in the 11th and 12th centuries was marked by struggles over succession which were accompanied by social and economic conflicts, and resulted in the so-called civil war era. The warring fractions eventually divided into two conflict groups: the birchlegs, the adherents of King Sverre (1184-1202) who defeated and killed King Magnus Erlingsson (1161-1184) and the baglers who supported the descendants of King Magnus Erlingsson in their claim to the Norwegian throne. The struggles between both fractions ended when both rival kings died in 1217. Both fractions recognized Haakon Haakonsson or Haakon IV (1217-1263) as King of Norway.

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