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The Emperor Henry VI presents both in character and appearance a striking contrast to his father; instead of the fine figure, the attractive mien, the charm of manner which distinguishes the personality of Frederick Barbarossa, we are confronted with a man, spare and gaunt, of an unprepossessing appearance, which thinly disguised the harsh, cruel, unrelenting qualities of his character. Instead of the fearless and skillful soldier, the very personification of all that was knightly in an age of knights, we see a man whose honour even among friends could not be trusted, whose cruelty would stop short at nothing when it suited his purpose; a man who cared not for the field of battle, and whose only active pursuit was falconry and the chase. Certainly it was not Henry's personal attributes that made him a great Emperor, nor was it in field-sports or deeds of arms that Henry excelled; it was as a man of learning, as one “more learned than men of learning”, as a man of great business capacity, that Henry impressed his contemporaries. One writer will dwell on his eloquence and on his prudence, another will praise his intellectual attainments, his knowledge of letters and of canon and secular law. “I rejoice”, writes Godfrey of Viterbo in his dedication of the Speculum regnum to Henry, “that I have a philosopher king”.

But if the characters of the two Emperors have so little in common, there is a striking similarity in their political outlook. Henry inherited from his father not only the problems that required solution, but the methods and the ideas with which to solve them. The Peace of Venice, though the end of one phase of the struggle, was also the beginning of another. Frederick’s last years, which coincide with Henry’s first, are occupied with the solution of the old problem on new lines; the three powers whose combined strength had defeated him, the Papacy, the Lombards, and the Normans, must be separated and separately dealt with. The first step in this direction was achieved when Alexander III, who had long been excluded from his capital, and who hoped with the Emperor's aid to become once more master in Rome, was induced to sign the Peace of Venice from which the Lombards and the Normans were excluded. These had to content themselves with truces, the former for six, the latter for fifteen years. As in the famous dramatic episode at Canossa a hundred years before, the Emperor cloaked a diplomatic triumph under the guise of abject humility. Considered by results it is not too much to say, with a recent writer, that the Pope entered Venice as judge and left it as protégé of the German Emperor. That Frederick remained with the upper hand seems proved from the fact that, in spite of the agreement at Anagni, he refused to evacuate the terra Mathildis which he claimed as of right to be imperial territory. Moreover Alexander gained little by his compliance; he was, it is true, reinstated at Rome by Christian of Mainz and German soldiery, but only to be hounded once more from the city to die, two years later, in exile at Civita Castellana. Alexander’ successor, Ubald, Cardinal-bishop of Ostia, who took the name of Lucius III, was a man of advanced years and well-disposed towards the Emperor; he would, he declared, deny him nothing; nor could he well do otherwise, for he too after a short struggle was forced to abandon Rome, a fugitive from the hostile Romans. Pope and Emperor were now working for the same object—a durable peace; but there were still questions to be settled, above all the question of the lands of Matilda. In the course of the negotiations which occupied the years 1182-3 the Emperor through his representatives suggested two solutions: first, that the disputed territory should be definitely assigned to him, while he in return should compensate the Pope with a tenth, the cardinals with a ninth, of the revenues; or secondly, that a commission appointed from both parties should revise the boundaries and, by means of mutual exchanges, arrive at a settlement agreeable to both of them. However, neither plan commended itself to Lucius, who proposed a personal conference at Verona, where he had taken up his residence in July 1184 and whither the Emperor came in the following October.

Here the issue was complicated by new difficulties: the demand of Frederick for the reinstating of the Bishops of Metz, Strasbourg, and Basle, who had been deposed in accordance with the second decree of the Third Lateran Council (1179) which pronounced the ordinations by schismatic Popes to be invalid; the demand for the imperial coronation of the young King Henry; the question of the disputed election at Treves. Lucius was prepared to fall in with Frederick’s wishes as far as he could, but he was old, weak, and procrastinating; he would gladly restore the deposed bishops, but a decision of a General Council could only, he thought, be reversed by a similar body. He may not have been entirely averse to crowning the young king, and according to one authority it was the cardinals and not the Pope who stood in the way; but he soon seems to have come round to the view that there could not be two Emperors reigning simultaneously, and that Henry could only acquire the title if Frederick was himself ready to abdicate in his favour. As regards the Treves election dispute there is little doubt that Lucius had every intention of satisfying the Emperor, was willing, that is to say, to consecrate the imperial candidate; but the matter was not a very simple one. In June 1183 one party of the electors had chosen Folmar, the archdeacon, the other party the provost Rudolf. The dispute was referred to the Emperor, who decided for the latter and forthwith invested him with the regalia of his see; the disappointed Folmar thereupon appealed to the Pope. Lucius procrastinated more curiae, as the Treves historian comments. At last the cardinals decided that as the appeal had been made the case must, at least as a matter of form, be heard, and Rudolf was summoned to Verona; this all meant further delay, and no decision was reached when Frederick in November 1184 left the conference. But what is of importance is that Frederick left Verona under the strong impression that all was going well, that a decision favourable to him would ultimately be pronounced; and so no doubt it would, had not Henry taken precipitate action in Germany—he treated Folmar and his supporters as traitors and seized their property—and had not, soon after the news of this ill-judged act reached the papal Court, the well-intentioned Lucius died.


Policy of Pope Lucius III


It has been generally stated that the mild old man sitting at Verona was struck as it were by a thunderbolt by the news from Augsburg of the betrothal on 29 October 1184 of Henry with the aunt and heiress of the reigning King of Sicily, and in consequence all hope of a peaceful settlement between Pope and Emperor was at an end. At one blow the Curia would be deprived of its strongest ally, the Empire of its most formidable enemy; in the next phase of the papal-imperial contest the southern kingdom would be on the side of the Emperor, the Pope would be between two fires. But it must be remembered that Lucius meant that there should not be another phase of the hitherto incessant struggle. Professor Haller has gone far to prove that this betrothal was not, as usually supposed, a devastating blow to the Pope—for the simple reason that the Pope himself had planned it. Nor was the event so certainly to lead to the union of the Empire and Sicily. When the scheme was set on foot, Constance was not heir-apparent but merely presumptive, and the presumption rested on the fact that William II and Joanna, whose respective ages in 1183 were 30 and 18, would die childless: the birth of an heir was still within the bounds of possibility, even of probability; Constance herself at the age of 40 gave birth to the future Emperor Frederick II in the ninth year of her married life. Barbarossa was influenced, no doubt, by the results the alliance might yield, but he must also have been aware that the incorporation of Sicily in the Empire was as yet but a possible eventuality. Lucius was perhaps less far-sighted; he saw that the independent kingdom in the south was an obstacle in the way of a durable peace with the Empire, that the surest way to attain his object was to unite the two enemies in a family alliance, and he laid his plans accordingly. While he was conferring with the Emperor over the boundaries of papal territory at Verona, the seal was set to his marriage-project at Augsburg. A year later, 25 November 1185, Lucius died, believing till the end that his cherished scheme for a lasting peace between the spiritual and temporal rulers of Christendom would yet come to pass.

At Rieti on 28 August 1185 Constance was handed over to the German envoys, who conducted her to Milan. This town, the arch­enemy of Frederick in the days of the Lombard League, had been won over to the imperial friendship by the grant of a comprehensive charter of privileges in February 1185, and here, at the request of the Milanese themselves, Constance and Henry were married on 27 January of the year following, in the presence of a large concourse of German and Italian princes. The marriage festival marks the triumph of Frederick’s diplomacy. The enemies who had threatened his position in Italy for twenty critical years of his reign were now bound to him by close ties of friendship. The ceremonies were concluded by three coronations: Frederick himself received the Burgundian, Constance the German, Henry the Italian crown. If Henry had been denied by the Pope the insignia, he had now at least the substance, of imperial power. Since the age of four he had been King of Germany; he was now King of Italy also. For all practical purposes he was co-Emperor. He was given in fact the title of Caesar. When Frederick in the following August returned to Germany, Henry remained behind in charge of the administration of the Italian kingdom.


Urban III’s hostile attitude towards the Emperor


In spite of his strong position in Italy, the task was not altogether an easy one. Urban III, who had succeeded Lucius on the papal throne, did not succeed to his policy; he was an old enemy of the Hohenstaufen; he was a Milanese, and his family had suffered in the destruction of Milan at Frederick’s hands in 1162. He hated the Sicilian marriage, hated too, no doubt, the cordial relations of his native city with the Emperor. On personal grounds, if not on political, he was determined to resist the rapidly developing imperial domination in Italy. Henry's ambassador, Conrad of Mainz, with untiring patience tried to reach a settlement by mutual concessions: Urban should cede the lands of Matilda, while Henry in return should subdue Rome and restore the Pope to his capital. But Urban was not of a conciliatory turn of mind; he raised new issues, the renunciation of the ius spolii among others; he demanded the unconditional surrender of the occupied territories; and on 17 May he took the decisive step—he confirmed the appointment of Folmar, and a fortnight later consecrated him Archbishop of Trèves. It was a declaration of war, and he risked the inevitable break, relying on the difficulties with which the Emperor was faced. There were weak links in the imperial armour: there were popular risings in the Tuscan towns, especially in Siena; the rebuilding of Crema led to the revolt of its rival Cremona; in Germany the rebellion of Philip of Cologne threatened to become general. These rebellions the Pope fostered by every means in his power; he forbade the towns and bishops under threat of excommunication to assist in the suppression of Cremona. But he had underrated the strength of his opponent. Henry in alliance with the Tuscan nobility speedily put down the rising of the Sienese, and deprived them of many of their privileges; while his father, after a siege of a few weeks, forced Cremona to submission. By way of retaliation for the part the Pope had played in the revolts, Frederick commanded his son to overrun the Campagna. Henry carried out his task with a thoroughness which characterised all his actions; he devastated the country to the frontier of Apulia, received the oath of allegiance from the towns and nobles of the Campagna and Romagna, and by the end of the year 1186 almost the whole of northern and central Italy were under imperial control.

Urban’s efforts to promote discontent in Germany met with little better success. Though the new issues he had raised, the question of the ius spolii, of the lay advocacies, of the taking of ecclesiastical tithes by laymen, all long-standing grievances of the clergy, were framed with the object of winning the German Church to his side, the bishops, with but few exceptions, stood firmly by Frederick (Gelnhausen, December 1186). Urban, isolated and deserted at Verona, perhaps in a moment of weakness, perhaps under pressure from the imperialist section of the cardinals, changed his front, abandoned Folmar, and agreed to a new election. This was in the summer of 1187. But before his death in the following October he had once more reverted to his former attitude of bitter hostility. He left the imperialist Verona for the papalist Ferrara, where he died, cogitating, it is said, the excommunication of both the Emperor and the king.


Gregory VIII and Clement III 


That the cardinals sympathized little with Urban’s policy seems clear from their choice of a successor. The aged Albert of Morra, who now as Pope took the name of Gregory VIII, had been the chief confidant of the Emperor among the cardinals; Gervase of Canterbury would even have us believe that he kept the Emperor informed of the secret counsels of the Curia, and in his official capacity of papal Chancellor he would have the best opportunities of furnishing him with accurate reports. But from political as well as from personal motives Gregory was anxious to restore the harmony between Empire and Papacy. The Christians in Syria had been defeated at Hittin on 4 July 1187, and the ill-tidings are said to have hastened the death of Urban; on 3 October Jerusalem was in the hands of Saladin. Gregory devoted the last energies of his life to the organization of the Third Crusade, for the success of which the co-operation of Frederick was essential. In his two months’ pontificate he worked hard to undo the mischief done by his predecessor; the question of the disputed lands falls into the background, papal support is withdrawn from the anti-imperialist Archbishop of Trèves, and the scribes of the papal Chancery are bidden to address King Henry as Roman Emperor-elect. Frederick on his side was not behind hand in meeting the Pope's advances; he sent instructions to Leo de Monumento, the Roman Senator, and to other princes to conduct the Pope to his capital, and it was on the way thither that Gregory died at Pisa on 17 December.

Clement III, equally well-disposed towards the Emperor, continued the work of conciliation which his predecessor had begun. He regained Rome, not by the help of German arms but by a somewhat disgraceful bargain with the Romans; he agreed to sacrifice the loyal Tusculum, totally to demolish it in the event of its falling into his hands, and, if it should not, to excommunicate its inhabitants and to employ the troops of the Papal States to accomplish its ruin. The terms, which, to their honour, Alexander and Lucius had refused as the price of recovering their capital, were ultimately carried into effect by Clement’s successor in co-operation with Henry VI. The negotiations between Pope and Emperor dragged on for another year; but the fruits of that year's work, engrossed in a document dated at Strasbourg on 3 April 1189, mark the final triumph of the imperial policy. The Emperor agreed to evacuate the Papal States with a reservation of imperial rights; Folmar, who had failed to answer the Pope's summons to Rome, was set aside, and John the imperial Chancellor became Archbishop of Trèves with the Pope’s sanction; finally, Clement promised the imperial crown to King Henry when he should come to Rome to obtain it.

Henry was not, however, destined to be crowned Emperor while his father yet lived; after the latter's departure for the Holy Land at Easter 1189, the king took over entire charge of the affairs of the Empire, and the work kept his hands fully occupied. Frederick, before he left, had done all in his power to smooth the path; unity between Empire and Papacy had been completely restored, the troublesome affair of the Tréves election had been happily solved, Philip of Heinsberg, Archbishop of Cologne, had made his submission, and remained a loyal supporter of the crown during the rest of his life; the difficulties in the lower Rhenish districts had been peaceably settled; the leader of the Welfs, Henry the Lion, had withdrawn once more into banishment at the English court.


Rebellion of Henry the Lion


Nevertheless, in spite of Frederick's wise precautions, Henry’s task was not altogether an easy one. Saxony and the neighbouring districts to the east had been in a perpetual state of unrest since the fall of Henry the Lion in 1180. Bernard of Anhalt, the new Duke of Saxony, was at once unpopular and inefficient, lacking in decision and judgment, and his authority was disregarded by princes and people alike. The man most capable of maintaining order, Count Adolf of Holstein, had gone off with Frederick on Crusade, leaving the care of his lands in charge of his nephew, Adolf of Dassel. The opportunity was too tempting for the banished Welf; encouraged by the Kings of England and Denmark, actuated also by the death in the summer of his wife Matilda whom he had left to manage his affairs at Brunswick, Henry the Lion broke his oath and returned to Germany (October 1189). At first his enterprise met with astonishing success; he was welcomed by Hartwig, Archbishop of Bremen, who enfeoffed him with the county of Stade; he was joined by many of his old vassals, Bernard of Ratzeburg, Helmold of Schwerin, Bernard of Wolpe; many of the Holsteiners even transferred their allegiance to him. Town after town fell into his hands, and the helpless Adolf of Dassel fled with his family to Lübeck. On his way thither in pursuit, Henry met with resistance at Bardowiek, which he stormed, captured, and destroyed. When he reached Lübeck in November he found the inhabitants willing to open their gates on the condition that Adolf should be allowed to withdraw in safety; this was granted and Henry entered the town. The successful campaign of the autumn of 1189 was concluded by an attack on the strong fortress of Lauenburg which Duke Bernard of Saxony had built on the banks of the Elbe; after a month's siege the fortress fell. Holstein was his, save only the town of Segeberg which stood loyally by its absent count. It was while besieging this place that the tide of fortune turned; the garrison put up a brave resistance, and Henry’s besieging troops were finally defeated by a force under Duke Bernard (May 1190). Moreover the young king himself had taken steps to check the progress of the rebellion. At a diet at Merseburg (October 1189) he had proclaimed a campaign; but except the devastation of the country round Brunswick and the burning of Hanover nothing was accomplished, and the hardness of the winter made it necessary to postpone further operations till the next spring.

In the meantime events had occurred which made the king anxious for peace: William II of Sicily died on 18 November, and Henry, by right of his wife, was heir to the Sicilian crown. Through the mediation of the Archbishops of Mayence and Cologne peace was concluded at Fulda in July: Henry the Lion agreed to raze the walls of Brunswick and to destroy the fortress of Lauenburg; he was permitted to retain half the city of Lübeck on the understanding that Adolf should have undisturbed possession of the remainder. As surety for the fulfillment of his obligations, the ex-duke handed over his two sons Henry and Lothar as hostages.

Peace was restored, but Henry the Lion felt no compunction in disregarding the terms; he delivered over his sons, one of whom—Henry—was destined to accompany the Emperor on his first Italian expedition, to escape, and to play a part in the mighty conspiracy of 1192; but the walls of Brunswick continued to stand, the fortress of Lauenburg remained undestroyed, nor had Henry the least intention of surrendering half of Lübeck, as he had promised, or indeed any other of the Holstein lands he had occupied, to the absent Count Adolf.


Situation in Sicily and South Italy


It was the situation in Sicily which hurried King Henry into concluding a makeshift treaty with the Welfs. It was at once clear that the inheritance of his wife was not to be won without a struggle. There was a curiously strong national sentiment among the heterogeneous population which composed the kingdom of Sicily; correspondingly, there was a deep hatred, especially manifest in the island, to the idea of German domination, which the succession of Constance would inevitably bring with it; the children, we are told, were terrified by the raucous tones of German speech. Constance herself was not disliked; she was a member of the family of Hauteville, the founders of Sicilian greatness; but it was her German husband against whom their patriotic feelings revolted. Constance had been recognized conditionally by her nephew William II as his heir, and the chief barons had taken to her the oath of allegiance; the oath seems to have been repeated by some of the barons, and among them Tancred of Lecce, at Troia immediately after William's death. But the national party under the able leadership of the Chancellor Matthew of Ajello had soon brought nationalist candidates into the field. Two names were proposed: Count Roger of Andria and Count Tancred of Lecce. Tancred, both because he was of royal blood—he was a natural son of Duke Roger of Apulia, the son of King Roger—and because he was the choice of the clever and influential Matthew, was selected. The consent of Rome was secured, and at Palermo in January 1190 the Archbishop Walter placed the crown of Sicily on the head of Tancred.

“Behold an ape is crowned”, wrote Peter of Eboli, and indeed, if the illuminator of Peter’s manuscript portrays him with any faithfulness, the simile is not inept. The small, misshapen, and horribly ugly appearance of Tancred disguised, however, a fine and brave character. His military prowess had won for him in the past high commands both on land and sea; his practical efficiency had been rewarded by the grant of administrative posts of great responsibility. He was in fact Grand Constable and Master Justiciar of Apulia and of the Terra di Lavoro. He was a man, too, of some intellectual capacity, familiar with the Greek tongue, versed in a knowledge of astronomy and of the peculiar Arabic-Byzantine culture which characterized the Norman kingdom of Sicily and South Italy.

Tancred's election had not been carried through without the shedding of blood; and much more was to be spilt in his attempts to maintain himself on the throne thus won. In Sicily the Saracens, seizing the favourable opportunity to pay off old scores—in particular a massacre of their people perpetrated by the Christians of Palermo—revolted. The suppression of the Muslims occupied Tancred's attention during the greater part of the year 1190. In the Norman provinces of South Italy, in Apulia, Salerno, and Capua, Tancred's election was regarded with disfavour. The supporters of Constance and the supporters of the rejected candidate, Count Roger of Andria, made common cause, and under the leadership of Count Roger himself the malcontents took up arms. Then, in May 1190, Henry of Kalden, Marshal of the Empire, crossed the Norman frontier near Rieti with the first detachment of German troops.

In conjunction with Count Roger of Andria, the German commander pushed along the coast of the Adriatic for the invasion of Apulia. At first he encountered but little resistance; when, however, he struck westward across the Apennines to join forces with the rebels of Capua and Aversa, he received a check. And the German army had to retire before the attack of Count Richard of Acerra, the brother-in-law of Tancred; the Count of Andria fell into a trap, was captured, and shortly afterwards put to death. The optimistic report, omnia facilia captu, of Henry's Chancellor Diether, who was sent in the summer to reconnoitre the position, was hardly warranted by the facts.


Demolition of Tusculum


In September Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur-de-Lion arrived at Messina on their way to Palestine. Their presence, especially that of the English king, was an additional embarrassment to Tancred; there were constant broils between the unpopular English troops and the people of Messina and the surrounding districts; Richard himself made extravagant demands on Tancred both on his own behalf and on that of his sister Joanna, the widow of William II, whom Tancred had imprudently thrust into prison. At last, however, in November the two kings came to an agreement, and a treaty was concluded according to the terms of which Richard promised, so long as he remained in the Norman dominions, to lend aid to the Sicilian king in his struggle with Henry VI.

With the opening of the new year Henry had entered in earnest upon the long-delayed Italian campaign; he spent a month in strengthening his position in Lombard; he secured on 1 March the assistance of the Pisan fleet for the conquest of Apulia by the confirmation and augmentation of the charter of privileges granted by Frederick Barbarossa in 1162; he then resumed his journey Romeward. He was, it appears, already in communication with Clement, who seems to have been prepared to fulfill his earlier promise to grant Henry the imperial crown, stipulating only for the confirmation of the rights and possessions of the Romans. Then in the spring, towards the end of March, Clement died; and for the better part of a month Henry was forced to linger in the neighbourhood of the city, while a successor was appointed and new conditions for Henry's coronation were arranged. Clement, whether from inability or from disinclination it is impossible to say, had not carried out the compact, by which he had gained admission into his capital in 1188, with regard to Tusculum. Nor yet had Henry complied with the condition of the Peace of Strasbourg (1189) which related to its evacuation, for there was now a German garrison in the fortress. The vigorous old cardinal Hyacinth—he was well past eighty years old—who was now Pope Celestine III, belonged to the family of Bobo, a branch line of the Orsini; the interests of the Roman Senate were the interests of his own house. Perhaps, too, he still had dim memories of how in his youth he had espoused the cause of Arnold of Brescia and brought upon himself thereby the rancour of St Bernard. It was no doubt the Senate that urged him to make Henry’s coronation conditional upon the surrender of Tusculum. Henry complied, for not otherwise could he acquire the imperial title which he regarded as indispensable; but by his compliance he suffered something in prestige. So at least thought the chroniclers of the next generation. “He had”, they said, “brought not a little dishonour upon the Empire”. But were it not for the high reputation Celestine enjoyed for honourable conduct—“to see or hear him was to learn the meaning of honor”, wrote a contemporary—one would impute rather to him the responsibility for the black deed; for he it was who delivered the hapless town, as the price of his own security in his capital, to the mercy of the Romans. But the Romans showed no mercy; not a stone was left standing, scarcely a man left alive or unmutilated.


Failure of Henry VI’s first campaign in South Italy


The significance of this event lies in the fact that the Pope was now once more reconciled with the Romans. Safe in Rome he could steer his course independently of the Emperor; he could and did defy the Emperor, and spent the closing years of a long life in championing the cause of the Church against his encroachments. He failed, but his failure was due not to his own lack of effort but to his opponent’s strength. His work was not wholly unrequited, for by his policy he prepared the way for the triumph of his successor Innocent III.

On 15 April Henry was crowned; a fortnight later, in spite of the Pope’s remonstrances, he, with the Empress Constance and the German army, crossed the Norman frontier at Ceprano. The bulk of the feudal aristocracy of southern Italy stood, it appears, on the side of the Emperor; Tancred therefore looked chiefly to the towns for support, and won their interest by lavish grants of privileges. He organized his defenses round two strong points: first round a group of towns in the heel of the peninsula, Brindisi, Taranto, Lecce, and secondly round Naples. Henry delivered his attack against the latter point, which was defended by Tancred’s brother-in-law, Richard, Count of Acerra. The campaign opened propitiously: Arce after a short siege, Monte Cassino, San Germano, Capua, Aversa, and many other towns, opened their gates; and an ever-increasing number of the Norman feudatories deserted Tancred to swell the ranks of the imperial army; the walls of Naples were reached with scarcely any serious resistance. But the fortifications of Naples were strong and withstood Henry’s repeated attacks; only by cutting off supplies from the sea could the place be captured. But the Pisan fleet deputed for this task was defeated by Tancred's admiral Margaritus, and the Genoese, whose aid was bought by the grant of a charter on 30 May, arrived too late. The siege dragged on; the summer came, and with it disease and death. Many perished, not a few deserted; to crown all, the Emperor himself was attacked by the prevailing sickness; and the Welf hostage, the younger Henry, escaped from the camp at Naples to spread wild rumours in Germany of the Emperor's death and of the crushing disasters which had befallen his army. In the face of these overwhelming troubles he could do nothing else than raise the siege and make his way back to Germany (August). But before he quitted the Norman dominions he received yet another blow; the people of Salerno had revolted and had captured the Empress Constance who had taken up her residence there during the siege of Naples. By the end of the year 1191 most of the German garrisons left in the captured towns, in spite of the efforts of Diepold of Vohburg, had been expelled by Tancred's generals. In the course of the following year the Pope took a more decided line with regard to Sicilian affairs; he excommunicated the monks of Monte Cassino and placed the abbey under interdict for favoring the cause of Henry; he attempted mediation and failed; and finally he took the decisive step—he invested Tancred with the kingdom of Sicily. But although Tancred now had official recognition of his status, the concordat sealed at Gravina in June 1192 robbed him of many of the valued privileges which his predecessors had wrung from former Popes. Celestine continued to intrigue in the hope of getting Henry to renounce his claims; with this end in view, he induced Tancred to liberate the Empress Constance, intending himself to use her as a pawn in the negotiations; but Constance eluded him on her road to Germany.

In the meanwhile, the Emperor had hastened homeward, stopping only at Pavia and Milan to settle disputes which had arisen during his absence among certain of the Lombard cities. Before Christmas 1191 he was once more in Germany. It was but a gloomy prospect that awaited him here: the north-east of Germany was in a state of the wildest confusion; nobles formed themselves into bands to rob and plunder their neighbours; families were divided amongst themselves; Albert of Wettiu, for example, had to return from Italy to defend his March of Meissen against the attacks of his brother Dietrich. In Saxony the war continued unabated. Adolf of Holstein, hearing at Tyre that his lands had been invaded by the Welfs, had hurried home; before Christmas 1190 he was in Germany, but barred from entry into his own territory by Henry the Lion, who was in possession of the strong places around the mouth of the Elbe. However, with the help of the brothers Bernard, Duke of Saxony, and Otto, Margrave of Brandenburg, he succeeded at last in forcing his way through, and at once set to work to recover Holstein. Lübeck, the first object of his attack, resisted all attempts made against it, and even when the sea-approach was blocked by a boom thrown across the mouth of the Trave, it continued to hold out until relief came. But the tide of events now turned in Adolf s favor; he won a decisive victory at Boizenburg on the Elbe; he captured the town of Stade; and Lübeck itself at last capitulated. With the fall of Lübeck, Adolf was once more master of his country. Nevertheless, the position of the Welfs was far from hopeless; the political situation in the Empire gave them ample ground for encouragement. 

The Pope, anxious above all things to frustrate the Emperors Sicilian policy, was secretly abetting the disturbances in Germany; in August 1191 he granted to Henry the Lion privilege protecting him his sons against ecclesiastical punishments. Moreover the Welfs were able to rely on the support of powerful secular princes, of Tancred and of Tancred's ally, Richard of England, with whom they were connected by ties of blood, and of Canute of Denmark. Henry VI’s high-handed methods had alienated not a few of his earlier supporters; the Landgrave of Thuringia and even the Duke of Saxony appear to have sympathized with the opposition which was rapidly forming against the Emperor. Unhappily also, the wisest and the most loyal of the royal supporters in that region of discontent, Wichmann, Archbishop of Magdeburg, who had, by his moderation and skillful management of affairs, many a time saved the Emperor and his father from critical situations, died in the summer of 1192. The death of old Duke Welf VI in December 1191 was more cheerful news for the Emperor in these months of gloom; for his rich property in Swabia and his numerous fiefs were a substantial accession of strength to the house of Hohenstaufen which he had made his heir.

As so often in the twelfth century, a disputed election to a bishopric played a prominent part in the great rebellion which now broke out against the Emperor. With regard to ecclesiastical appointments Henry adopted the policy established and maintained with such success by his father. He took care that candidates to his liking were chosen; occasionally he would himself be present at the electoral gathering; in 1190 he even went so far as to procure the see of Wurzburg for his brother Philip, a boy of some fourteen years of age. His influence was often resisted, sometimes with success: Bruno of Berg in 1191 was elected to the see of Cologne against the imperialist candidate Lothar of Hochstadt. In cases of dispute he himself exercised the right of nomination on his father’s principle of the devolutions right, and it was on this principle that he acted, with the express consent of the German bishops, in the case of Liege. The electors were divided; the majority gave their votes for Albert, brother of Henry, Duke of Brabant, the minority for Albert, uncle of Baldwin, Count of Hainault. Both appealed to the Emperor, and both were set aside in favour of a third, Lothar of Hochstadt (Worms, 13 January 1192). Albert of Brabant refused to submit to the decision; he appealed to the Pope, went himself to Rome, and there obtained confirmation of his election. The appeal to Rome was in itself an attack on the imperial position in regard to Church matters; still more so was the Pope's method of executing his judgment. He ordered the Archbishop of Cologne to consecrate Albert, but, in the event of his expected refusal, he directed that the ceremony should be performed by the Archbishop of Rheims; and by this prelate Albert was duly consecrated at Rheims in September 1192.

War between the two parties was the result; Albert, it seems, was regarded by the Emperor as guilty of high treason; the property of certain of his supporters at Liege, we are told, was confiscated; he himself, though vigorously backed by Celestine, who pronounced excommunication against those who denied his claims, and by the majority of the nobles in the district of the lower Rhine, was driven from his diocese, while his brother, Henry of Brabant, was forced to take the oath of fealty to his rival Lothar of Hochstadt. Prospects were brightening for Henry, when the untoward event occurred: Albert was murdered at Rheims by a party of German knights on 24 November 1192. The Emperor, it was said, had a hand in the deed; the charge, though in all probability groundless, was given countenance by the fact that Henry only inflicted slight punishments on the perpetrators, and it had the serious effect of uniting together the various elements of opposition.


Insurrection against the Emperor


Frederick in his last years had been at pains to promote rivalry and so to keep apart the two centres of danger to the Hohenstaufen power—Saxony and the lower Rhine—the combination of which it had been the aim of Philip of Cologne to achieve. This unlucky incident of the murder of Albert brought about the result which Philip had struggled for in vain: it united the Welfs with the princes of the Netherlands—a union which was responsible for such influence as in after years the Emperor Otto IV was able to exert. Then in December Richard of England, returning from the Crusade, fell into the hands of Duke Leopold of Austria, who agreed to surrender his prisoner to the Emperor (Wurzburg, 14 February 1193). The imprisonment of a crusader was regarded almost as an act of impiety, and the resentment against Henry was increased.

These events were the signal for a general and widespread insurrection, in which many of the leading nobles from all parts of Germany were ready to play a part: the Archbishop of Mayence, the Landgrave of Thuringia, the Margrave of Meissen, the Dukes of Bohemia and Zäringen, were to be found on the side of the malcontents; deposition and a fresh election were freely discussed. The rebels could moreover rely on the sympathetic encouragement, if not the active support, of Pope Celestine, from whom Henry was now definitely estranged. For he had answered the Pope’s enfeoffment of Tancred by aggressive measures: he had prevented the German clergy from going to Rome; he had captured and imprisoned the papal legate, Octavian, Cardinal-bishop of Ostia; for two years negotiations with the papal Court entirely ceased. Celestine threatened the Emperor with excommunication, but he could do no more, for he was weak in Italy and Henry was strong; the infirmity of old age no doubt prevented him from promoting the rebellion in Germany by more energetic methods. He probably realized too that the political situation required careful handling. Henry’s position in the winter and spring of 1193 was certainly extremely critical. But Richard's capture had supplied him with a trump card, and with skillful play the game might yet be his. It was indeed the masterful manner in which Henry, armed with his valuable prisoner, dealt with the situation that saved him his kingdom.

What the Emperor’s enemies feared, what the Pope, the Welfs, the princes of the lower Rhine, the regents in England, dreaded above all, was that Richard should be handed over to Philip Augustus, an event which seemed only too probable considering the friendly understanding which already existed between him and the Emperor. Philip himself made overtures to Henry with this object; he and the treacherous Prince John offered large sums of money for Richard's person or, failing that, for the prolongation of his captivity. It was necessary for Richard’s allies to prevent this at whatever cost. Henry could therefore impose almost any terms he chose to dictate, holding the threat of the surrender of Richard to the French king over the heads of his opponents. The negotiations were opened on behalf of Richard by Savaric, Bishop of Bath, a kinsman and trusted friend of the Emperor. But the issues were complicated; many interests were involved; and it was not till 29 June at Worms that the terms of release were finally settled; and even then many months had to elapse before Richard gained his liberty on 3 February 1194 at Mainz. In addition to the payment of an enormous ransom—100,000 marks of silver—Richard had to yield up his kingdom and to receive it back as a fief of the Empire; he had further to undertake the submission of the Welfs and to throw over his former ally, Tancred. His honour, however forbade him to comply with the condition of assisting personally in the conquest of Sicily, and he procured his release from it by the payment of an additional 50,000 marks.


The conditions were certainly hard, but a great advantage had been gained: the alliance between the Hohenstaufen and the Capetian was, temporarily at least, broken. The suddenness of the event is striking; a meeting of the two sovereigns was arranged to be held between Toul and Vaucouleurs on 25 June. That meeting did not take place; instead on that very day the imperial court assembled at Worms, and after a discussion lasting four days agreed to the terms of Richard’s liberation. The proposed meeting near Vaucouleurs was certainly meant as a threat, and it had its effect inasmuch as Richard and his friends hastened to bring about the much desired reconciliation between the Emperor and the kinsmen of the murdered Bishop of Liege, and it also made them listen more readily to the exacting terms which were pronounced at the meeting at Worms. But welcome and important as these results were to Henry, they do not adequately account for the complete reversal of his policy towards the King of France; other considerations must have influenced his mind. It was in this same summer of 1193 that Philip Augustus sought a second wife, and he sought her in Denmark. The political motive clearly was to detach Canute VI from alliance with the Welfs and with England, but the alliance of France and Denmark could not but be regarded as threatening to the security of Germany as well. Henry's sudden abandonment of the Capetian alliance was no doubt also and mainly due to his policy of universal empire. Richard with his extensive dominions in France was now his vassal; through him he intended to bring the French King himself to subjection. Innocent III writing to Philip Augustus some years after Henry's death asserted that Henry had declared that he would force Philip to show fealty to him, and he was not using mere idle words. The Emperor's whole attitude to Richard points in the same direction; he was continually urging him to fresh activities against the King of France. This too was the object of the enfeoffment of Richard with the kingdom of Arles. German control over Burgundy, never very great, had sensibly decreased since the time of Frederick Barbarossa; the policy of strengthening it by setting up a strong vassal-power there had been attempted with some success by the Emperor Lothar in his grant to the Dukes of Zahringen; Henry had the same end in view when he proposed to transfer the Burgundian crown to Richard, who as Duke of Aquitaine had already a strong position in the south-east of France. But the scheme never matured; it died as soon as it was conceived.


Closing years and death of Henry the Lion


When the King of England was finally liberated in February 1194 the Welfs were still unreconciled with the Emperor. It was a slow and difficult business, but the marriage in 1193 between Henry, the eldest son of Henry the Lion, and the Emperor’s cousin Agnes, the daughter of Conrad, the Count-Palatine of the Rhine, made it easier, and at last it was accomplished in March 1194 at Tilleda near the Kyffhauser; the eldest son of the old duke agreed to prove his loyalty by accompanying the Emperor on his campaign to South Italy, the other two sons, Otto and William, were retained as hostages. Henry the Lion himself in the absence of his sons was sufficiently powerless to be left with his liberty; he was indeed old and worn out and well content to spend his closing days quietly at Brunswick. There he busied himself in intellectual and artistic pursuits; the magnificent church of St Blaise, which he had begun on his return from Palestine in 1172, he now had leisure to complete; under his direction his chaplain prepared a kind of encyclopaedia of knowledge to which Henry gave the title Lucidarim, a book which is not without interest as an early example of a prose work in the middle high German dialect; he also, we are told by the annalist of Stederburg, ordered “the ancient chronicles to be collected, transcribed, and recited in his presence, and engaged in this occupation he would often pass the whole night without sleep”. Poets and Minnesingers thronged his court, where they looked upon the old duke as their enlightened patron and made him the hero of their ballads and legends. Thus peaceably he ended his long and stormy career; he died on 6 August 1195 and was buried beside his second wife, the English Matilda, in his church of St Blaise at Brunswick.

In the meanwhile, in Sicily and South Italy Tancred had been strengthening his position in every possible way. He had entered into alliance with the Eastern Emperor, Isaac Angelus, and had married his elder son Roger to the Emperor's daughter Irene. His armies had constantly harassed the imperial troops left by Henry to guard the frontier fortresses. But the German position had sensibly improved since the disastrous winter of 1191-2, and much ground had been recovered by the active imperial commanders, Diepold of Vohburg, Conrad of Lützelinhard, and Berthold of Künsberg. Tancred indeed found himself obliged to visit the mainland in person to restore his fortunes. His campaign was a rapid series of successes. Berthold, the ablest of the German commanders, died at Monte Rodone. Conrad was less capable and less popular, and there were desertions from the German ranks; one after another of the fortified places surrendered to Tancred. His triumphant progress was only cheeked by sickness. He was compelled to return to Palermo, where he died on 20 February 1194.

Freed from enemies at home, Henry could once more turn his attention to the conquest of the Sicilian kingdom. The project was supported by the princes of Germany; it was financed by English gold. No obstacle now lay in the path of success. In the campaign of 1191 Henry had been dogged by misfortune at every step, in the campaign of 1194 he was favoured by fortune in an astonishing degree. His enemies, through his diplomacy, were now isolated; they had been deprived of their former allies, the King of England and the Welfs; they could not expect the Lombards to put any check or hindrance in the way of Henry's advance, for Henry had secured their loyalty by the treaty of Vercelli in the previous January. And now with Tancred's death they were left leaderless; the elder son, Roger, had died a few weeks before his father, and the younger, William, was still a mere boy when he was called upon to represent the interests of the national party in Sicily. Nor was this all: the young William III was left without experienced advisers, for Matthew of Ajello, the Chancellor, to whose skillful statesmanship was due in large measure the transient success of Tancred, had himself died in the summer of the previous year. His son Richard, who succeeded to his office, was not possessed of his father’s ability; certainly neither he nor the Queen-mother were capable of handling the almost desperate situation in which they found themselves on Tancred's death.

Henry’s task was therefore an easy one. At the end of May he crossed the Splugen pass; by Whitsuntide he was at Milan. On his way southward he secured the very essential cooperation of the fleets of Genoa and Pisa. The delicate business of getting the two rival maritime powers to work in concert was achieved by the Steward of the Empire, Mark ward of Anweiler, who was entrusted with the command of the joint fleets. Naples, whose obstinate resistance had caused the failure of Henry’s first attempt to conquer the kingdom, surrendered at once; Salerno tried in vain to hold out, but it was taken by storm, sacked, and in part destroyed, in revenge for its perfidious action of delivering the Empress Constance over to the enemy. The fate of Salerno effectively crushed any inclination to resist which the towns of Apulia and Calabria may have entertained. It was a triumphant progress rather than a campaign; by the end of October the Emperor had crossed the Straits to Messina, was master of South Italy, and prepared for the conquest of the island. The only serious engagement that took place was a long and bloody battle between the Pisan and Genoese fleets. But before Henry had landed, the subjugation of Sicily was already well advanced; Mark ward, with the fleet of Genoa, had received the submission of Catania and Syracuse; when the feeble opposition raised by the Queen Sibylla had been suppressed the road to Palermo was open. Henry had but to enter the capital. He was met on his approach by a delegation of citizens offering their submission; the Queen and her family fled to Caltabellotta; the Admiral Margaritus surrendered the castle; and on 20 November Henry entered the town. On Christmas Day he was crowned King of Sicily in the cathedral of Palermo.

The whole campaign had been carried through with the greatest moderation. With the exception of the destruction of Salerno, for which there was ample justification, no scenes of violence, no acts of wanton cruelty, no plundering or devastation, defile the history of the conquest of the kingdom of Sicily. This fact must be borne in mind in judging the Emperor’s conduct towards the family of Tancred. They were at his mercy in the castle of Caltabellotta; he could have attacked the place, and it would have fallen instantly. Instead, he opened negotiations and offered generous terms: the young William was to receive his father’s county of Lecce together with the principality of Taranto. The terms were accepted and Sibylla, her son, three daughters, her daughter-in-law Irene, and a number of Sicilian barons, returned to Palermo to be present at Henry's coronation. We next hear, a few days later, of the whole party being seized and sent into exile in Germany on the pretext of conspiracy. It is possible, and not out of keeping with Henry's character, to conceive that the charge was trumped up as a means of clearing the field of persons who were likely to be the source of danger and rebellion in the future. On the other hand it would have been contrary to the policy which Henry had hitherto pursued on the Sicilian campaign; his object had been, not to terrorize, but to conciliate the Norman population. It seems more reasonable to believe, as indeed Innocent III himself believed, that a conspiracy actually had been formed against the Emperor, and that the latter was acting only with justifiable prudence when he banished the remnant of the royal house of Sicily and their adherents to Germany.

In the spring of 1195 a great diet was held at Bari to complete the arrangements for the administration of the newly-won country. The government was entrusted to the Empress Constance who, Norman by blood and sentiment, was well qualified to continue the tradition of the Norman kingdom. The German commanders who by their services during the campaign had earned the Emperor's gratitude were either now or shortly before rewarded with fiefs and administrative offices: thus Diepold of Vohburg became justiciar of the Terra di Lavoro, Conrad of Lutzelinhard became Count of Molise. The latter had previously held the March of Ancona and the Romagna, which now with the additional title of Duke of Ravenna was bestowed upon the man to whose enterprise was largely due the success of the campaign—Markward of Anweiler; besides these tokens of Henry’s favour he was granted his freedom—he had been hitherto an unfree ministerialis—and raised to the position of prince of the Empire. Conrad of Urslingen, who since 1183 had held the duchy of Spoleto, was made vicegerent (vicarius) of the kingdom of Sicily, and finally Philip of Hohenstaufen, who after the death of his brother Frederick (ob. 1191) had abandoned his ecclesiastical career, was granted the duchy of Tuscany. The whole of southern and central Italy therefore was dominated by a group of German officials, and Rome was isolated.

At the same time that a large concourse of nobles was assembling at Palermo to witness the coronation of Henry VI as King of Sicily, a numerous gathering of distinguished persons was collecting round a tent erected in the midst of the public square of the little town of Jesi in the March of Ancona. The object of this gathering, which is said to have included no less than fifteen cardinals and bishops, was to witness the birth of the last Hohenstaufen Emperor (26 December 1194). The number of credible witnesses seems a surprising but, as after events showed, a not unwise precaution; Constance was not young, and she had been married and childless for nine years; it was only natural that enemies of the house of Hohenstaufen should call in question the legitimacy of the all-important child. Even such careful precautions did not prevent a relatively honest man like Innocent III or a sinister figure like John of Brienne from uttering their disbelief in Frederick's legitimacy, or monastic chroniclers from weaving elaborate tales to explain Frederick's origin from other than royal parents.

Henry’s rule now stretched from the North Sea to the coast of Africa, for the Almohades of North Africa sent embassies and paid him tribute. England was his vassal kingdom and he had, as we have seen, the intention of reducing France to a similar state of dependence. He had designs also of extending his power beyond the Pyrenees; the overlordship of the kingdom of Aragon he had proposed to include in the grant of the Arelate to Richard of England; when this plan failed he tried another. The Genoese had been cheated of their promised rewards in the Sicilian kingdom; they had already been established by Henry on the Burgundian coast—at Monaco and elsewhere; they were now by way of compensation given authority to conquer the kingdom of Aragon. The maritime republic however did not avail itself of Henry's offer.


Relations with the Eastern Empire 


The acquisition of Sicily opened up new possibilities for the extension of the Empire. Henry adopted the traditional policy and aspirations of the Norman kings towards Africa and the Byzantine Empire—namely, the establishment of a hegemony in the Mediterranean. Already he had under his influence two outposts in the eastern Mediterranean, the kingdoms of Little Armenia and Cyprus, whose rulers, Leo and Amaury of Lusignan, had received their crowns from him (1194, 1195), thus recognizing their dependence no longer on the Eastern but on the Western Empire. In pursuance of his ambitious design of extending his influence over the Byzantine Empire, he sought to profit by the ever-recurrent revolutions at Constantinople. Isaac Angelus, who ten years before had deposed and tortured to death the last of the house of Comnenus, the Emperor Andronicus, was now in his turn attacked, mutilated, and deposed by his own brother, the Emperor Alexius III. In his attempt to ward off the approaching danger, Isaac had turned to Henry VI for help. Henry’s demands were of the most extravagant nature; he regarded himself, writes the Byzantine historian Nicetas, “as though he were lord of lords, emperor of emperors”. But Isaac was in no position to haggle over terms. His daughter Irene, the widow of Tancred's son Roger, had been found by Henry in the palace at Palermo and given in marriage to Philip of Hohenstaufen. This pair the hapless Emperor was prepared to recognize, if we may believe the evidence of Otto of St Blaise, as heirs to the Byzantine throne; the Eastern and Western Empires would then be united in the family of Hohenstaufen. However the success of the revolution which gave the crown to Alexius III prevented Henry from reaping the fruits of this project. Nevertheless, by a skillful use of the threat of war he was able to exact from the usurper large sums of money which helped to finance his Eastern policy. Moreover he had devised other means to obtain the same end. Already before the fate of deposition had overtaken the hapless Isaac, on Good Friday, 31 March 1195, in the presence of but three chaplains, the Emperor had received the cross from the hands of the Bishop of Sutri; on Easter Day the Crusade was publicly proclaimed at the diet of Bari. The Crusade was to serve a double purpose: besides promoting his Eastern policy, it was to be instrumental in bringing about a reconciliation with the Pope which Henry regarded as essential to the successful accomplishment of his schemes.

Since the conquest of Sicily the papal and imperial courts had become more than ever estranged. Henry might occupy the Papal States, but he had no foothold in Rome; there the Pope was secure and unassailable, and in no immediate need of the Emperor's help. To Henry on the other hand the Pope’s cooperation was all important; he was strong in Italy, but his position was to some extent unauthorized; his title to the lands of Matilda had never been admitted, and his right to the occupied territory in central Italy was more than questionable.

Sicily added a new complication: it was a hereditary monarchy, which hitherto had owed allegiance to the Holy See. Was Henry also to recognize this papal overlordship? Not only its relation to the Papacy but also its relation to the Empire presented difficulties; Sicily was hereditary, Germany and the Empire were elective. Henry wished Sicily to be an integral part of the Empire. This problem, with many others which exercised the mind of Henry, would be solved in that most chimerical of all his ideas, the plan to alter the imperial constitution with the object of making the Empire itself hereditary in the house of Hohenstaufen.

For all these reasons friendship with the Pope was an urgent necessity. Negotiations had been tried, but had failed to bring about the desired result; the offer to go on crusade was one which Celestine could hardly refuse to accept. As an earnest of his good faith, Henry had already issued orders for the recruiting of 1500 knights and as many squires for the enterprise. Never was a crusade pushed forward so impetuously by an Emperor or more tardily by a Pope. But little though he might desire it, Celestine could not resist the friendly overtures of a man who was prepared to render the highest service to Christendom, and at last, on 4 August, four months after Henry himself had taken the cross, Celestine wrote the formal letter to the German bishops bidding them to preach the crusade.

Towards the end of June 1195 Henry returned to Germany. Here he busied himself in actively promoting the crusade; recruits were enlisted, the date of departure was fixed for Christmas 1196; the enormous wealth of the Sicilian treasury which he had brought to Germany provided him with ample resources wherewith to finance the expedition. But the crusade was not the only nor yet the chief project which occupied the attention of the Emperor during his year's stay in Germany. He was anxious above all that the great position he had won should be retained for ever in his family. His first step was to try to secure the election of his two-year-old son as king, but when this failed, apparently owing to the opposition of Adolf of Altena, Archbishop of Cologne, he brought forward a “new and unheard-of decree” at the diet of Wurzburg in April 1196. The exact nature of this extraordinary proposal, the circumstances attending it, and the means employed by Henry to carry it through, have all been matter of keen controversy.


Plan for making the kingship hereditary 


The sources of our information are meagre, ambiguous, and often conflicting; the two principal narrative accounts were written by men belonging to opposing political parties, the one attached to the Emperor’s court, the other to the court of the Emperor's opponent, Herman, Landgrave of Thuringia; the one is short and tolerably reliable, the other is full, but confused and inaccurate. The “new and unheard-of decree” was no less than a fundamental alteration of the constitution with the object of making the kingship hereditary. After preliminary negotiations among the princes who composed the intimate court-circle, Henry laid the proposal before a full diet at Würzburg, and persuaded—or, the Reinhardsbrunn Chronicle would have us believe, bullied—the majority of princes, 52 in number, to give a reluctant consent in writing under seal. In return they were to receive certain concessions, slender, they seem, when weighed beside what they were asked to renounce—the most highly valued privilege of electing the king and Emperor designate: the secular princes were to have the unrestricted right of inheritance in their fiefs not only in the male but in the female and collateral lines, the ecclesiastical princes were to have the free testamentary disposal of their movable property.

The true value of these concessions is difficult to estimate. Strong Emperors no doubt could and did deny inheritance to other than a direct male heir; only the year before Henry had withheld the March from the brother of the Margrave of Meissen who died without a direct heir, absorbed it as a vacant fief, and contrary to custom did not regrant it after the lapse of a year and a day; moreover his action gave rise to no protest. On the other hand some princes, the Duke of Austria or the Margrave of Namur, for example, already had these rights of succession by special privilege, and no doubt many others hoped to acquire them without making so large a sacrifice in return. The Emperor’s exercise of the ius spolii, which he was prepared to renounce as a compensation to the ecclesiastical princes, had long been contested and regarded as an abuse—it had been one of the grounds of dispute in Frederick Barbarossa's quarrel with Urban III; the removal of an abuse was scarce adequate compensation for the surrender of an important and undoubted privilege. The minority, composed chiefly of princes of Saxony and of the Rhine country, though inconsiderable in number, could not be ignored; again it was headed by the Archbishop of Cologne who claimed the right, sanctioned by long custom, of crowning the king-elect at Aix-la-Chapelle. This ceremony, hitherto all-important, would lose much, if not all, its significance, would become in fact a mere form, if the person crowned was inevitably the eldest son of the late monarch.

Without making any attempt to overcome the opposition in Germany, Henry began once more to negotiate with the Pope. The correspondence between the two courts was now of a more cordial nature, and Henry expresses his wish to assist the Pope in the suppression of heresy and even announces his intention of coming to Italy himself. His intention was no sooner announced than acted upon, and by the end of June 1196 the Emperor was on his way to Rome. Far from abandoning his scheme for a hereditary monarchy, he hoped now to reach it by a different path—by means of the Pope. Peace with Celestine, which, he repeatedly insists, is the principal object of the journey, was more essential than ever. The Emperor was accompanied by only a scanty following, which was the cause of derision among the Italians; but it was part of his policy. His object was not to excite alarm, not to use force, merely to seek peace. His eagerness is remarkable; the sacrifices he was prepared to make are, at first sight, astonishing. Indeed it required much zeal, much steadfastness of purpose, to persevere in the face of the cold reception his overtures received at Rome. For Celestine's letters, judging by Henry’s replies, had assumed once more an antagonistic tone; he raked up a number of old complaints mainly respecting Henry’s government in Sicily and his brother Philip’s encroachments on papal territory. He had no doubt heard of Henry’s new plan and disapproved of it. Nevertheless the Emperor did not lose heart; he pushed forward up to the very gates of Rome, and stayed in the neighborhood of the city for more than three weeks (20 October-17 November).

The object of the negotiations which passed between the two courts during these weeks was the baptism and the anointing of the young prince Frederick as king. The natural person to perform this function was the Archbishop of Cologne who was himself the leader of the opposition to the design of a hereditary monarchy; this antagonism led Henry to try the expedient of getting the Pope to do it instead, thereby dispensing not only with the German election but with the German coronation as well. This plan would also serve another purpose. The union of Sicily with the Empire was an important consideration; indeed, according to one authority, Henry had promised it to the princes in return for their surrender of their right of election. Two coronations would militate against a close union of the two kingdoms. The Archbishop of Palermo, to whom the right of crowning the King of Sicily by tradition belonged, would not lightly yield his claim to a German bishop, whereas to the Bishop of Rome he could scarcely refuse it. Henry’s plan of a coronation of Frederick as King of the Romans by the Pope was, in short, a simple method of evading a number of difficulties.

The Pope’s co-operation was therefore all-important to Henry’s schemes. But what had Henry to offer in order to induce Celestine to make such large sacrifices of power as these changes necessarily involved? The Emperor ‘s personal participation in the crusade was obviously not a sufficient inducement. Moreover Henry himself asserts that he has offered to the Roman Church more substantial concessions than any of his predecessors had done; what these substantial concessions were we are not so certainly informed. Giraldus Cambrensis, who visited Rome on three separate occasions between the years 1199-1202 and who may therefore be presumed to have good information on such matters, speaks enthusiastically of Henry’s good intentions towards the Church; he tells us further how Henry proposed a plan for the secularization of the states of the Church which were in foreign hands (those actually in the possession of the Church were to remain so). In place of this theoretically powerful but practically valueless domain, Henry was ready to grant to the Pope and to the cardinals very material financial benefits from the revenues of the churches throughout his Empire. In view of the policy which the Church had pursued for the last hundred years, this suggestion seems preposterous. On the other hand the territory over which the Papacy could exercise any real control was exceedingly small, and was indeed to be retained under Henry’s scheme; from the rest little or no revenues were forthcoming, with the result that the Curia was reduced to considerable financial straits. The Emperor’s proposal, though obliging it to abandon its ambitious claim to be an independent world-power by becoming a pensioner—and the prospect of independence for the moment was overshadowed—would at least establish its finances on a sound footing. The second offer is more startling; and it is the one on which, if Professor Haller interprets the matter aright, Celestine gave Henry to understand his plan must stand or fall. This was no less than to concede to the Pope what Innocent II and Hadrian IV had vainly tried to exact from Lothar and Frederick Barbarossa, the feudal lordship over the whole Empire. The evidence for this strange and daring proposal comes from a no less credible witness than Pope Innocent III himself, who, after expounding his theory of the translation of the Empire in the opening sentences of the deliberatio on the respective claims of the rival German kings, Philip and Otto, proceeds to declare that Henry had recognized this feudal superiority of the Pope over the Empire and had “sought to be invested of the Empire by the Pope through the symbol of a golden orb”.

To such lengths was Henry, it seems, prepared to go for the attainment of his end; on the other hand it must be borne in mind that, considered in connection with Henry’s whole policy, the consequences of such a concession need not perhaps have been very serious. If the imperial office were hereditary and included an effectual rule of all Italy, it might be of less consequence that it was held in vassalage of a Pope surrounded by the imperial power; it might seem but a form, a ceremony, lowering somewhat the prestige of the Empire but its power not at all. In fact it would clear away many problems—the position of Sicily for example—the solution of which meant additional strength rather than weakness to the Empire; it meant further a corresponding weakening of the papal position, an abandonment of the independent policy which the Curia had hitherto pursued. And seeing it in this light, the experienced and far-sighted statesman Celestine resisted it. Not at once, it is true; for he allowed the negotiations to drag on for some time till the favorable moment came. He may have heard that trouble was brewing in Sicily, that a formidable conspiracy against German domination was in process of formation; almost certainly he was kept informed of the march of events in Germany, and was even fomenting resistance there to Henry's plans. In the middle of October 1196 at the diet of Erfurt, the proposal for setting the German kingship on an hereditary basis was again before the princes, and this time it met with the determined opposition of a powerful group under the leadership of the Landgrave of Thuringia. It is not unlikely that Celestine was acting largely on the strength of this opposition when he signified to Henry on 17 November that he must postpone a decision till Epiphany. This virtually ended the negotiations.

The Emperor, realizing his defeat, left the neighborhood of Rome for the south. He also sent instructions to Germany that the letters of the princes promising their support to his scheme should be returned to them and that his son should be elected king in the customary manner; this the princes readily conceded, and Frederick was unanimously chosen king at Frankfurt (December 1196).

But that Henry did not despair of peace with the Curia is evident from the fact that as early as February 1197, smothering his not unnatural resentment, he addressed a letter to the Pope written in terms of due humility and moderation. But Celestine turned a deaf ear; the letter, it seems, remained unanswered. Nevertheless the Emperor was not at the end of his resources. Age was on his side: Celestine was very old, and he was in the prime of life. He was not without influence with the cardinals which he might exert to gain a more pliant successor to Celestine. There was also the crusade, which might serve his purpose well; it was his hope that, having recovered Jerusalem, he could approach the Pope once more and win, as reward for the services he had rendered to Christendom, the much-desired peace. In such circumstances the Pope could hardly deny him his request. Moreover everything promised well for the success of the enterprise: the usurper Alexius III was ready to pay an annual tribute to the Emperor of the West in return for recognition; Irene, the daughter of the deposed Isaac, was now in 1197 the wife of the Emperor's brother Philip of Swabia. There was no fear of interference from Constantinople. Even in Syria itself the outlook was favorable. Since the death of Saladin in 1193, civil war had raged among the sons of the great Sultan and their uncle Saphadin (Adil).

So Henry pressed forward his preparations with still greater energy. Then in the midst of his work he was interrupted by the news of the imminent outbreak of a widespread rebellion, affecting not only Sicily and South Italy but even Rome and Lombardy. It was the result of a growing feeling of resentment against Henry's harsh rule. The previous Christmas at Capua he had done to death in the foulest manner Richard of Acerra, one of the most prominent leaders of the national party. Such acts were not likely to win the confidence or affection of his Norman-Italian subjects. In February a plot was formed to put Henry to death and to raise up a new king in his stead. The Empress Constance herself and Pope Celestine cannot be acquitted of the charge of being privy to the conspiracy. Warned in time by an informer, Henry fled to Messina where he was among friends, Markward of Anweiler and Henry of Kalden, and with their help he suppressed the rising with savage and revolting cruelty: those who were not visited by instant death were reserved for more terrible ends, for crucifixion or torture. Even the Sicilian barons who since 1194 had been confined in German prisons were not spared, but were blinded by Henry’s orders.

The conspiracy suppressed, the Emperor once more turned his attention to the crusade. Early in September the main body of the German crusaders under the Chancellor Conrad, Archbishop of Mainz, embarked for the East; Henry himself was to follow shortly, when he fell ill while hunting on a cold night in the swampy woodlands of Linari. Never physically strong and always subject to attacks of fever in the unhealthy climate of his southern kingdom, he rallied only sufficiently to be removed to the neighboring Messina; he hoped to reach the Sicilian capital but on 28 September death from dysentery supervened. His body was carried to Palermo and buried in the cathedral.

Henry VI was perhaps in character the least attractive of the great Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages; cruel, relentless, and entirely lacking in human sympathy, he had many faults which it is difficult to excuse. Yet there is something in the magnitude of his outlook and in his astonishing success which commands admiration. His career exhibits what a ruler with immense energy and remarkable diplomatic ability could achieve in a short space of years. Under him the idea of a universal Empire, of world-domination, came nearest to realization during the Middle Ages. It is useless to speculate as to what he would have achieved had not his life been cut short before he had reached the age of thirty-three. Contemporaries, there is no doubt, expected much; Otto of St Blaise repeats with greater aptitude what Otto of Freising had written of the Emperor Lothar: “nisi morte preventus foret, cuius virtute et industria decus imperii in antique dignitatis statum refloruisset”.