Post-classical history

Frederick I of Austria (d. 1198)

Duke of Austria (1194-1198) and participant in the Crusade of Emperor Henry VI (1197-1198), in the course of which he died.

Frederick was the elder son of Leopold V, duke of Austria and Styria. He succeeded his father in the duchy of Austria; Styria passed to his brother Leopold VI. Frederick’s crusade journey was esentially penitential in character. His father had been excommunicated by Pope Celestine III for having arrested and imprisoned a fellow crusader, King Richard the Lionheart of England. The conditions imposed by the church for lifting the excommunication were the release of Richard’s hostages, the return of Leopold’s share of the ransom money he had obtained from Richard, and the promise to join a new crusade.

Leopold died, still excommunicate, as the result of a riding accident in December 1194. In order to permit his father’s burial and to avoid incurring a new sentence of excommunication, Frederick freed the hostages, although he was unwilling or unable to return the full amount of ransom money. His decision to join the emperor’s crusade should be seen as a penitential attempt to complete his reconciliation with the church: he is recorded as having taken the cross for the good of his father’s soul.

In the summer of 1197 Frederick traveled with Wolfger of Erla, bishop of Passau, to Sicily, where the crusade army was assembling. He is documented at Messina in July, and he sailed to the Holy Land with the main contingent of the crusade in September. Despite Frederick’s rank, he seems to have played a relatively peripheral part in the direction of the crusade, possibly a reflection of his relative youth. He was, however, present at the foundation of the Teutonic Order in Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) in March 1198. Frederick died on 16 April 1198 while preparing for his return to Europe. The duchy of Austria passed to his brother Leopold.

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