Post-classical history

Leopold VI of Austria (d. 1230)

Duke of Styria (1194-1230) and Austria (1198-1230) and crusader in France, Spain, and the East.

Leopold VI was born in 1176 or 1177, the second son of Duke Leopold V of Austria (d. 1194) and Helena (d. 1199), daughter of King Géza II of Hungary. The division of the Babenberg territories made by his dying father in 1194 meant that Leopold VI initially received only the duchy of Styria. However, he inherited the duchy of Austria when his elder brother Frederick died without heirs in April 1198 while returning from the Crusade of 1197-1198, which had been launched by Emperor Henry VI.

In 1203 Leopold married Theodora, a granddaughter of the Byzantine emperor Isaac II Angelos, a connection, however, that lost importance after the overthrow of the Byzantine Empire by the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). Leopold originally took the cross in 1208 and subsequently took part in crusades on three different fronts. In 1212 he joined numerous German and Lombard nobles to fight the Cathar heretics of southern France in the course of the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229). He did not remain there long, but moved on to Spain to take part in fighting against the Moors, returning to Austria by the end of the year.

Leopold’s longest commitment to crusading was his participation in the Fifth Crusade (1217-1221). He set out in June 1217 with Count Liutold of Plain, Duke Otto VII of Meran, Henry of Zobing, Hadmar of Kuenring, and other nobles and knights, largely from the southeast of the empire. This German group sailed to Acre (mod. ‘Akko, Israel) with the forces of Leopold’s cousin King Andrew II of Hungary, and made up the first substantial contingent to arrive in the East. Leopold took part in operations against the Ayyûbids in northern Palestine during the remainder of 1217 and early 1218. While Andrew II returned home, Leopold remained for the second main phase of the crusade, and in May 1218 he sailed with other crusaders and local Frankish troops to Egypt, where he and his followers joined the siege of the port of Damietta. The duke and his men distinguished themselves in the forefront of the fighting over the next twelve months, but in May 1218, when they decided to return home with Damietta still uncaptured; their departure was a major blow to the prospects of the crusade.

Leopold did not take part in the Crusade of Emperor Frederick II (1227-1229), although he was a strong ally of the emperor. In 1225 he arranged a marriage between his daughter Margaret and the emperor’s eldest son Henry (VII), and put considerable effort into mediating in the continuing disputes between the emperor and Pope Gregory IX. Leopold died at San Germano in Italy on 28 July 1230, five days after the conclusion of a peace treaty there. He was succeeded in both Austria and Styria by his eldest surviving son, Duke Frederick II (d. 1246).

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