Post-classical history

Conradin (1252-1268)

Duke of Swabia and titular king of Jerusalem (1254-1268), actually named Conrad, although the diminutive form Conradin (from It. Corradino) has become commonplace in modern scholarship.

The last legitimate male member of the imperial Staufen dynasty, Conradin was born on 25 March 1252, the only son of Conrad IV, king of Germany, Sicily, and Jerusalem, and Elisabeth, daughter ofOtto II, duke of Bavaria. Invested with the by then largely meaningless dignity of duke of Swabia, Conradin grew up at the court of his uncle Ludwig II of Bavaria, where he had been sent for safety after his father left Germany in order to claim his ancestral kingdom of Sicily. On Conrad IV’s death (1254), Conradin should have by rights succeeded in turn to Sicily, but the throne was seized by his uncle Manfred, an illegitimate son of Emperor Frederick II and the de facto ruler of the kingdom. Attempts to have Conradin elected as king of Germany in 1262 and 1266 failed when his candidature was prohibited by the papacy, long opposed to the political ambitions of the Staufen dynasty.

Only in the kingdom of Jerusalem, the inheritance of his grandmother Isabella of Brienne, was Conradin’s authority recognized, at least formally; actual government was vested in regents belonging to the Lusignan ruling family of Cyprus (Henry I and then Hugh II), who exercised their rule in Palestine through appointed lieutenants. It is conceivable that Conradin would have been recognized as the ruling king of Jerusalem by the High Court if he had come to the kingdom in person; this was the same condition that had been laid down in his father’s case. However, by the time he had attained his majority, his ambitions were set on the recovery of his Sicilian inheritance.

In 1266 Manfred’s rule in Sicily had been overthrown by Charles I of Anjou at the battle of Benevento (26 February). The following year Conradin travelled across the Alps with a small force and was welcomed throughout Italy by members of the traditionally pro-Staufen Ghibelline party and other opponents of the Angevins. He and his supporters mounted an invasion of the kingdom of Sicily, but were decisively defeated by Charles of Anjou at the battle of Taglia- cozzo on 23 August 1268. Conradin was apprehended in Rome and handed over to Charles, who had him executed at Naples on 29 October. As Conradin had no heirs, the kingdom of Jerusalem passed to Hugh III, king of Cyprus.

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