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King Charles I of Anjou of Sicily


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Beatrice de Provence

King Charles I of Anjou of Sicily

  • Born: 21 Mar 1226-1227, Paris, Isle de France
  • Marriage: Beatrice de Provence on 7 Feb 1246
  • Died: 7 Jan 1285, Foggia Castle, Foggia, Apulia at age 58
  • Buried: Napoli, Apulia

  General Notes:

Charles of Anjou (March 1227 [or 1226]-1285), also Charles I of Sicily. He was King of Sicily 1262-1282 (and under that title, King of Naples 1282-1285), King of Albania 1272-1285, King of Jerusalem 1277-1285, Prince of Achaea 1278-1285, Count of Provence and Forcalquier 1246-1285, and Count of Anjou and Maine 1247-1285. He was the posthumous son of Louis VIII of France and Blanche of Castile, and hence brother to Louis IX of France and Alphonse of Toulouse. He conquered the Kingdom of Sicily from the Hohenstaufen in 1266 and began to acquire lands in the eastern Mediterranean. However, the Sicilian Vespers freed Sicily from his control, and the resulting war forced him to abandon his plans to reassemble the Latin Empire.

Biography Early Life

Charles was born in 1227, shortly after the death of his father, King Louis VIII. In his will, his father had left to him (should he be male), the Counties of Anjou and Maine, with which he was invested in 1247. The affection of his mother Blanche seems largely to have been bestowed upon his brother Louis; and Louis tended to favor his elder brothers Robert of Artois and Alphonse. The self-reliance this engendered in Charles may account for the tremendous drive and ambition he showed in his later life.

Marriage and Children

Charles was wedded to Beatrice of Provence on January 31, 1246, in Aix-en-Provence. Beatrice was the youngest daughter of Ramon Berenguer IV, Count of Provence and Forcalquier, who had died on August 19, 1245. As his elder three daughters had all married kings and received substantial dowries, Raymond settled his entire inheritance upon Beatrice, making Charles Count of Provence and Forcalquier. They had the following children:

1. Louis (1248, Nicosia)
2. Blanche (1250 - July 1269), married 1265 Count Robert III of Flanders
3. Beatrice (1252-1275), married October 15, 1273 at Foggia to Philip of Courtenay, titular Emperor of Constantinople
4. Charles II of Naples (1254 - 1309)
5. Philip (1256 - January 1, 1277), King of Thessalonica and Prince of Achaea, married May 28, 1271 to Isabella Villehardouin
6. Robert (1258-1265)
7. Elizabeth or Maria (1261 - c. 1300), married bef. September 1272 to Ladislas IV of Hungary

Accession in Provence

Upon his accession as Count of Provence and Forcalquier in 1246, Charles rapidly found himself in difficulties. His sisters-in-law felt cheated by their father's will, and the Dowager Countess Beatrice of Savoy claimed the entire County of Forcalquier and the usufruct of Provence as her jointure. Furthermore, while Provence was technically a part of the Kingdom of Burgundy and hence of the Holy Roman Empire, in practice it was free of central authority. The recent counts had governed with a light hand, and the nobilities and cities (three of which, Marseille, Arles, and Avignon were Imperial cities technically separate from the county) had enjoyed great liberties. Charles, in constrast, was disposed towards a rigid administration, and aroused considerable hostility by his punctilious insistence on enjoying his full rights and fees. In 1247, while Charles had gone to France to receive the Counties of Anjou and Maine, the local nobility (represented by Barral of Baux and Boniface of Castellane) joined with Beatrice and the three Imperial cities to form a defensive league against him. Unfortunately for Charles, he had promised to join his brother on the Seventh Crusade. For the time being, Charles' only recourse was to compromise with Beatrice, allowing her to have Forcalquier and a third of the Provençal usufruct.

Seventh Crusade and Return

Charles sailed with the rest of the Crusaders from Aigues-Mortes in 1248, and fought gallantly at Damietta and during the fighting around Mansourah. However, his piety does not seem to have matched that of his brother (Jean de Joinville relates a tale of Louis catching him gambling on the voyage from Egypt to Acre) and he returned with his brother Alphonse in May 1250. During his absence, open rebellion had broken out in Provence. Charles moved with his characteristic energy to suppress it, and Arles, Avignon, and Barral of Baux had surrendered to him by June 1251. Marseille held out until July 1252, but then sued for peace. Charles imposed a lenient peace, but insisted on the recognition of his full panoply of comital rights, and acknowledgement of his suzerainity by Marseille.

Wider Ambitions

In November 1252, the death of his mother Blanche of Castile caused him to go north to Paris and assume the joint regency of the kingdom with his brother Alphonse. While in Paris, he was approached by envoys from Pope Innocent IV. Innocent was then seeking to detach the Kingdom of Sicily from the Holy Roman Empire (in the person of Conrad IV of Germany), and offered it to Charles, after his brother-in-law Richard, Earl of Cornwall had declined it. Alphonse, however, was cool to the idea; and King Louis forbade it outright. Balked, Charles took up the cause of Margaret II of Flanders against her son, John I, Count of Hainaut, and she granted him the County of Hainaut for his service. King Louis again disapproved, and on his return from Outremer in 1254 he returned Hainaut to John. The disappointed Charles returned to Provence, which had become restive again. The mediation of King Louis led to a settlement with Beatrice of Savoy, who returned Forcalquier and relinquished her claims for a cash payment and a pension. Marseille had attempted to involve Pisa and Alfonso X of Castile in the quarrel, but they proved unreliable as allies, and a coup by the supporters of Charles resulted in the surrender of the city's political powers. Charles spent the next several years quietly increasing his power over various lordships on the borders of Provence. A final rebellion occurred in 1262, when he was absent in France; Boniface of Castellaine rebelled yet again, as did Marseille and Hugh of Baux. However, Barral of Baux now remained loyal to Charles, and Charles quickly returned to scatter the rebels. The mediation of James I of Aragon brought about a settlement; while Marseille was forced to dismantle its fortifications and surrender its arms, it otherwise went unpunished. Surprisingly, this lenity worked to good effect; hereafter, the Provençals proved staunch supporters of Charles, providing money and troops for his further conquests. Many of them were to be rewarded with high posts in his new dominions.

With the usurpation of the Sicilian throne from Conradin by Manfred of Sicily in 1258, the relationship between the Papacy and the Hohenstaufen had changed again. Instead of the boy Conradin, safely sequestered across the Alps, the Papacy now faced an able military leader in Italy. Accordingly, when negotiations broke down with Manfred in 1262, Pope Urban IV again took up the scheme of disseising the Hohenstaufen from the Kingdom, and offered the crown to Charles again. Manfred's own usurpation from Conradin told upon King Louis' scruples; this time, he was persuaded to admit the offer, and Charles ratified a treaty with the Pope in July 1263. The terms were heavily in favor of the Pope; the Kingdom must never be re-united with the Empire, and the King was never to hold Imperial or Papal office, or interfere with ecclesiastical matters in the Kingdom. Nevertheless, Charles accepted eagerly.

Conquest of Sicily

Having endorsed the treaty, Charles could now play for time. With Manfred's troops advancing on the Papal States, Charles obtained an extensive renegotiation of the treaty on more favorable lines. As instructions went out to the clergy to submit contributions for the war, Urban IV died in October 1264 at Perugia, fleeing Manfred. This raised the possibility of a reversal of Papal policy. To underscore his resolve, he broke sharply with his previous policy of lenity and ordered the execution of Hugh of Baux and several other Provençal rebels, who had been in his hands for a year. Fortunately for Charles, the new Pope Clement IV was the former adviser of his brother Alphonse and strongly supported the accession of Charles. Charles entered Rome on May 23, 1265 and was proclaimed King of Sicily.

Charles was popular in Rome, where he was elected Senator, and his diplomacy had already undermined Manfred's support in northern Italy. While Charles' campaigns were delayed for lack of money, Manfred, curiously, idled away his time hunting in Apulia, while his support in the north of Italy dwindled. Charles was able to bring his main army through the Alps, and he and Beatrice were crowned on January 6, 1266. As Charles' army began an energetic campaign, Manfred suddenly shed his lethargy and moved to meet him. Worried that further delays might endanger the loyalty of his supporters, he attacked Charles' army, then in disarray from the crossing of the hills into Benevento, on February 26, 1266. In the Battle of Benevento that followed, Manfred's army was defeated in detail and he was killed in the melee. Upon his death, resistance throughout the Kingdom collapsed, and Charles was master of Sicily.

While Charles' administration in his new Kingdom was generally fair and honest, it was also stringent. As in Provence, he insisted on maximizing the revenues and privileges he could obtain from his new subjects. Discontent was high; but for now, Charles could focus on extending his power in northern Italy (which alarmed the Pope, who feared a powerful king of all Italy as much as he did an Emperor). But the Pope was willing to allow this; for in September 1267 Conradin marched south to reclaim the rights of the Hohenstaufen, and one of his agents instigated a revolt in Sicily. He entered Rome on July 24, 1268, where his arrival was wildly celebrated. At the Battle of Tagliacozzo, on August 23, 1268, it appeared he might win the day; but a sudden charge of Charles' reserve discomfited his army and he was forced to flee to Rome. Told it was no longer safe, he attempted to escape to Genoa, but was arrested and imprisoned in the Castello dell'Ovo in Naples. In a trial carefully managed by Charles, Conradin was condemned for treason, and he was beheaded on October 29, 1268. By the end of 1270, he had captured Lucera and put down the revolt in Sicily, executing many of the captured. With the whole kingdom powed beneath his strict, if fair, rule, he was ready to consider greater conquests.

Ambitions in the Latin Empire

After the defeat of Manfred at Benevento, Charles immediately began to plan his expansion into the Mediterranean. Historically, the Kingdom of Sicily had at times controlled parts of the eastern Adriatic seaboard, and Manfred had been possessed of the island of Corfu and the towns of Butrinto, Avlona, and Suboto, which had formed the dowry of his wife Helena. Charles seized these at the end of 1266. From thence, he passed on to intrigue with the remaining nobility of the Latin Empire. In May 1267, he concluded the Treaty of Viterbo with the exiled Baldwin II of Constantinople and William II Villehardouin (through his chancellor Leonardo of Veruli). Taking advantage of the precarious situation of the remains of the Empire in the face of rising Greek power, he obtained confirmation of his possession of Corfu, the suzerain rights over Achaea, and sovereignty over most of the Aegean islands. Furthermore, the heirs of both the Latin princes were to marry children of Charles, and Charles was to have the reversion of the Empire and Principality should the couples have no heirs. With few options to check the Byzantine tide, he was well placed to dictate terms.

Charles' wife Beatrice died on September 23, 1267, and he immediately sought a new marriage to Margaret, daughter of Bela IV of Hungary. However, Margaret wished to be a nun (and was later canonized); Charles instead married (on November 18, 1268), Margaret, Countess of Tonnerre (1250 - September 4, 1308, Tonnerre), the daughter of Eudes of Burgundy. However, he was able to make a marital alliance with the Hungarians: his son Charles, Prince of Salerno married Maria, daughter of crown prince Stephen, while Charles' daughter Elizabeth married Stephen's son Ladislas.

Eighth Crusade

Having thus made secure his position in the East, he began to prepare a crusade to recover the Latin Empire. Michael VIII Palaeologus was greatly alarmed at the prospect: he wrote to King Louis, suggesting that he was open to a voluntary union of the Roman and Latin churches, and poiting out the interference a descent on Constantinople would pose to Louis' own crusading plans. Louis took a dim view of his sincerity; but he was eager to take up the cross again, and he notified Charles of his intentions. Charles continued with his preparations against Constantinople, hoping the crusade might be postponed, but he also prepared to turn his brother's crusade to his own advantage. The Caliph of Tunis, Muhammed I al-Mustansir had been a vassal of Sicily, but had shaken off his allegiance with the fall of Manfred. However, there were rumors he might be sympathetic to Christianity. Accordingly, Charles suggested to his brother that the arrival of a crusade in his support might bring about Mustansir's conversion. Thus it was that Louis directed the Eighth Crusade against Tunis. Charles did not arrive until late in the day on August 25, 1270, only to find that his brother had died of dysentery that morning. Charles took command, and after a few skirmishes, Mustansir concluded a peace treaty and agreed to pay tribute to Charles. Illness continued to plague the army, however, and a storm devastated the fleet as it returned to Sicily. Charles was forced to postpone his designs against Constantinople again.

Conquest of Albania and Genoese War

In February 1271, Charles began to expand his Adriatic possessions by capturing Durazzo, and he soon controlled much of the Albanian interior. In February 1272, he proclaimed himself King of Albania and appointed Gazzo Chinardo as his Vicar-General. He hoped to take up his expedition against Constantinople again, but was delayed by the rise Pope Gregory X, consecrated on March 27, 1272. Gregory had high hopes of reconciling Europe, unifying the Greek and Latin churches, and launching a new crusade: to that end, he announced the Council of Lyons, to be held in 1274, and worked to arrange the election of an Emperor.

In November 1272, the strained relations between Charles and Ghibelline-ruled Genoa finally broke into war. Ghibelline revolts broke out across the north of Italy, and increasingly occupied the attention of Charles, even as Michael Palaeologus was negotiating a union of churches with the Pope. At the same time, he had made contact with Genoa and was sending money to encourage the revolts in the north. At the apparently successful conclusion of the Council of Lyons, a Union of Churches was declared, and Charles and Philip of Courtenay were compelled to extend a truce with Michael. This was a blessing in disguise for Charles, for the Ghibellines now controlled most of the north, and he was forced to retreat from Piedmont in late 1275. In truth, Pope Gregory was not entirely displeased; he regarded north Italy as best dealt with by its new Emperor, Rudolph of Habsburg, and preferred that Charles be confined to the south. If he wished to make war, let him look to Outremer; and to this end, Gregory endorsed the sale to Charles of the claims of Maria of Antioch on the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which had been rejected by the Haute Cour there. On March 18, 1277, he bought her claim and assumed the title of King of Jerusalem, sending Roger of Sanseverino as his bailli to Acre. There Roger ousted Balian of Ibelin, the bailli of Hugh I and compelled the nobles to swear fealty. In the meantime, Gregory had been succeeded by Pope Innocent V, who arranged a peace between Charles and the Genoese.

Breakdown of the Union

Meanwhile, in Constantinople, the Union of the Churches was proving difficult to arrange, and the Emperor Michael had great difficulty in imposing it on his people. Nevertheless, he persuaded Innocent of his sincerity in working towards it, and Charles was again forbidden to attack Constantinople. Knowing this, Michael began a campaign in Albania in late 1274, where he captured Berat and Butrinto. He also enjoyed some success in his campaigns in Euboea and the Peloponnese.

Affairs dragged on for several years, until the accession of Pope Martin IV on March 23, 1280. Pope Martin was a Frenchman, and lacked the evenhandedness of some of his recent precursors. He brought the full power of the Papacy into line behind Charles' plans. The Union, which had proved impossible to impose upon Constantinople, was called off, and Charles given authorization for the restoration of the Latin Empire.

He opened his campaign in Albania, where his general Hugh of Sully captured Butrinto from the Despotate of Epirus in 1280 and besieging Berat. A Byzantine army of relief under Michael Tarchaniotes arrived in March, 1281: Hugh of Sully was ambushed and captured, and his army put to flight. The Byzantines took possession of the interior of Albania. Nor was Charles particularly successful in Achaea, where he had become (by the Treaty of Viterbo) Prince of Achaea on the death of William II Villehardouin in 1278. His bailli Galeran of Ivry was defeated at Skorta in his one attempt to engage the Byzantines, and was recalled in 1280 and replaced by Philip of Lagonesse. Nonetheless, Charles was to launch the body of his crusade against Constantinople in the spring of 1282.

Sicilian Vespers

But Michael had not been working upon the military front alone. Many Ghibelline officials had fled the Kingdom of Sicily to the court of Peter III of Aragon, who had married Constance, the daughter and heir of Manfred. Manfred's former chancellor, John of Procida, had arranged contact between Michael, Peter and the refugees at his court, and conspirators on the island of Sicily itself. Peter began to assemble a fleet at Barcelona, ostensibly for another Crusade to Tunis. In fact, the master-plan of John of Procida was to place Peter on the throne of Sicily, his Hohenstaufen inheritance. The result was the uprising known as the Sicilian Vespers, which was initiated in Palermo on March 29, 1282. It rapidly grew into a general massacre of the French in Sicily. A few officials notable for their good conduct were spared; and the city of Messina still held for Charles. But through the diplomatic errors of Charles' Vicar, Herbert of Orleans, Messina, too, revolted on April 28, 1282. Herbert retreated to the castle of Mategriffon, but was forced to abandon the Crusading fleet, which was burnt.

The news surprised Peter of Aragon, who had expected to intervene only after Charles had left for Constantinople. But the conspirators, aided by the Emperor Michael (who wished to see Charles balked in his expedition), had set the revolt in motion early. Peter did not immediately intervene; he sailed with the fleet to Tunis, where he discovered that the would-be convert on whose behalf the crusade had ostensibly been undertaken had been caught and executed. While he bided his time, the Sicilians made an appeal to Pope Martin to take the Communes of their cities under his protection. But Martin was far too deeply committed to Charles and French interests to heed them; instead, he excommunicated the rebels, the Emperor Michael, and the Ghibellines in north Italy. Charles gathered his forces in Calabria and made a landing near Messina and began a siege. Several attempts to assault the city were unsuccessful. Rejected by the Pope, the Sicilians now appealed to King Peter and Queen Constance; he duly accepted, and landed at Trapani on August 30, 1282. He was proclaimed King in Palermo on September 4; as the Archibishopric of Palermo was vacant, he could not immediately be crowned. In the face of the Aragonese landing, Charles was compelled to withdraw across the Straits of Messina into Calabria in September; but the Aragonese moved swiftly enough to destroy part of his army and most of his baggage. The Angevin house was forever ousted from Sicily.

War with Aragón

Despite his retreat into Calabria, Charles remained in a strong position. His nephew, Philip III of France, was devoted to him; and Pope Martin regarded the rebellion as an affront both to French interests and his own rights as suzerain of the Kingdom. Both sides temporized; the expense of a long war might be disastrous for both, and Peter and Charles arranged for a judicial duel, with a hundred knights apiece, on June 1, 1283 at Bordeaux. Skirmishes and raids continued to occur: in January 1283, Aragonese guerillas attacked Catona and killed Count Peter I of Alençon in his hostel. In February, the Aragonese crossed into Calabria to face off with Charles of Salerno. However, tensions between the Aragonese and the Sicilians had begun to rise. Both men now hoped to turn the war to their advantage, and the judicial duel turned into a farce, the two kings arriving at different times, declaring a victory over their absent opponent, and departing. Now the war was to escalate: Pope Martin had excommunicated Peter and proclaimed the war against the Sicilians a Crusade in January, and in March, declared Peter to be deprived of his dominions. On February 2, 1284, Aragon and Valencia were officially conferred upon Charles of Valois. The war continued in Italy: while little progress had been made in Calabria, a detachment of the Aragonese fleet was blockading Malta. Charles of Salerno sent a newly raised Provençal fleet to the relief of Malta; but it was caught by the main Aragonese fleet under Roger of Lauria and destroyed in the Battle of Malta. The Aragonese were now, however, running quite short of money, and Peter was threatened by the prospect of a French attack on Aragon. King Charles planned to raise new troops and a fleet in Provence, and instructed Charles of Salerno to maintain a strict defensive posture until his return from France. However, Roger of Lauria continued to command the sea and launch harassing raids up and down the coast of Calabria, and in May 1284 he successfully blockaded Naples, basing a small squadron on the island of Nisida to do so. The Neapolitans were infuriated by the blockade; and in June, Charles of Salerno armed the newly launched fleet at Naples and embarked on June 5 to destroy the blockading squadron. Evidently believing the main Aragonese fleet was raiding down the coast, he hoped to destroy the blockading squadron and return to Naples before it returned. However, Roger of Lauria had learned of his plans, and Charles found himself engulfed by superior numbers. After a short, sharp, fight, most of his fleet was captured, and he himself was taken prisoner.

News of the reverse caused anti-French riots in Naples, and Roger of Lauria was quick to take advantage of Charles' captivity to obtain the release of Beatrice, daughter of Manfred of Sicily, then held in Naples. King Charles arrived in Gaeta on June 6 and learned of the disaster. He was furious at his son and his disobedience; by the time he reached Naples, the riots had been quelled. He advanced on Calabria and attempted a landing in Sicily; but his main army was blocked at Reggio, and he retreated from Calabria entirely on August 3. He continued to make preparations for a campaign against Sicily in the new year; but his health failed. On January 7, 1285, he died in Foggia.

Death and legacy

On his death, Charles left all of his domains to his son Charles, then a prisoner in Catalonia. For the time being, they were held by a joint regency between a papal legate and Robert II of Artois. Charles had spent his life striving to assemble a Mediterranean empire out of whatever land he could get through law or force of arms. He did so, it seems, with a clear conscience; he regarded himself as God's instrument to uphold the Papacy and punish the Hohenstaufen. He ruled justly, but with the rigidity and severity that might be expected in one of his convictions. Ultimately, his unbending austerity could not inspire the devotion needed to hold his conquests together.

Still, he was to leave a substantial legacy to his heirs. Henry II of Cyprus reclaimed the Kingdom of Jerusalem after his death, for the few short years left to it; but his possessions otherwise remained within the Angevin dynasty which he founded, or their descendants. Both the Angevins and their Aragonese rivals were to claim the title of "King of Sicily"; but the Angevins, confined to the mainland, would be known to history as "Kings of Naples". But the style of "King of Sicily" persisted; and when the two realms were reunited, it was under the style of "King of the Two Sicilies".

However, his wars resulted in an even more serious consequence that the partition of the Kingdom of Sicily. Pope Martin IV had hopelessly compromised the Papacy in his cause; and the botched secular "Crusades" against Sicily and (after Charles' death) Aragon greatly tarnished its spiritual power. The collapse of its moral authority and the rise of nationalism rang the death knell for Crusading, and would ultimately lead to the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism. Charles was an able soldier and a good administrator; but his failure to understand the qualities of his diverse subjects, and his grasping, if pious, ambition, ultimately led him to failure.

Charles married Beatrice de Provence, daughter of Raymond V (IV) Bérenger Count Of Provence & Forcalquier and Beatrice de Savoie, on 7 Feb 1246. (Beatrice de Provence was born in 1234 in Aix-En-Provence, Provence, died on 30 Sep 1267 in Nocera, Calabria, Italy and was buried in Roque-Pymont, France.)

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