Post-classical history

Manfred of Staufen (1232-1266)

King of Sicily (1258-1266).

Manfred was an illegitimate son of Frederick II of Staufen, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, by his relationship with Bianca Lancia. After the death of his father (13 December 1250), Manfred took on the office of baiulus (regent) in the kingdom of Sicily for his older brother Conrad IV and was invested with the principality of Taranto by the terms of Frederick’s testament.

The first years of Manfred’s government were overshadowed by conflict with Pope Innocent IV and rivalry with Conrad IV, who arrived in southern Italy in 1252. After Conrad’s death (21 May 1254), he succeeded in coming to a short-term reconciliation with Innocent IV and replacing Berthold of Hohenburg, who had been nominated as regent by Conrad IV.

As a result of a new rupture with Innocent’s successor, Alexander IV, at the beginning of 1255, Manfred embarked on an ambitious policy with the aim of strengthening the Ghibelline (imperialist) party throughout Italy and of isolating the pope; this strategy culminated on 4 September 1260, in the victory of Montaperti, won by the Sienese, supported by Manfred’s knights, over the Florentines. After the death of his first wife, Beatrix of Savoy (1256), Manfred married Helena Angelina Doukaina, daughter of Michael II, despot of Epiros (1257/1258). This match brought him as dowry the island of Corfu (mod. Kerkira, Greece) and a strip of the Albanian coast with the cities of Durazzo (mod. Dur- rës, Albania), Vlorë, Himarë, Sopot, and Butrint, and strengthened his plan to usurp the throne of Sicily, to the detriment of the legitimate rights of the young Conradin, son and heir to Conrad IV.

Manfred was crowned as king of Sicily in Palermo on 10 August 1258. His rule over extended possessions on the eastern shore of the Ionian Sea resulted in an alliance with his father-in-law and Prince William II of Achaia against the emperor of Nicaea, Michael VIII Palaiologos. The climax of Manfred’s intervention in Greece was a battle, fought in early summer 1259 (probably on the plain between Florina and Pétres, and not Pelagonia, as is generally assumed), where 400 knights sent by him took part. Although the outcome of this campaign was a complete defeat for the anti-Byzantine coalition, Manfred succeeded in preserving his territories on the eastern shores of the Adriatic and Ionian seas.

After the recapture of Constantinople by Michael VIII (25 July 1261), Manfred concluded an alliance for the restoration of the Latin Empire with the exiled Baldwin II at the beginning of 1262, but attempts at a reconciliation with Alexander IV and his successor Urban IV failed completely. The result of the breakdown of these negotiations was the infeudation of the kingdom of Sicily to Charles I of Anjou by Pope Clement IV. The French prince succeeded in defeating his rival for the crown of Sicily in the battle of Benevento (26 February 1266), in which Manfred lost his life. The Staufen claims to the kingdom of Sicily passed to Manfred’s nephew Conradin.

Although Manfred showed little direct interest in the affairs of Outremer, he exchanged a number of emissaries with the Mamlūk sultan Baybars in the years 1261-1265. Contrary to an often repeated assertion, there is no evidence for any contacts between him and the Assassins.

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