The country cannot remain leaderless for long. How will Sicily’s chaos end?
Introduction The death of William II, the last king of the Otterville family.The cause of his death remains unknown.The news of the year said only that his death had been hurried and peaceful.The reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II was peaceful and prosperous, regarded by later generations as a golden age.He was mourned more than any other Sicilian monarch.Hundreds of years later Dante even included him in the Paradiso in his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, as the ideal king.However, he did not deserve such honor.William the Second was not so much a good king as a lucky one;His time coincided with a period of great stability in Sicily, so his reign seemed more ideal.His father suffered repeated rebellions, and after his death the country descended into civil war.If his reign was peaceful and prosperous, it was not because he governed well.On the contrary, he was a very irresponsible monarch.Not only did he pour Sicily’s resources into ill-conceived and costly foreign wars, he also handed the country’s future to its arch-enemy for the sake of temporary peace.His predecessors did everything they could to stop the German empire’s designs on Sicily, even the “wicked” Wilhelm, who willingly gave them up.Then, like all irresponsible leaders, he let his heirs suffer the consequences.The great failure of William II, contrary to the Otterville tradition, was that he had no children.His sudden death at the age of 36 plunged the country into a series of crises.Fortunately, the lack of a leader did not initially affect daily business, as the administrative system created by Roger II kept things running smoothly for the time being.No country can be leaderless for long, however, and although Sicily has no shortage of pretenders to the throne, there are only three who really intend to take it.The heir apparent was William II’s aunt Constance.Some objected because she was a woman, but in most people’s eyes she was unsuitable for the throne because she was married to Henry VI, crown prince of Sicily’s arch-rival, the German Empire.The opposition gathered around two great nobles, Tancred of Galilee and Roger of Andrea.On the surface, the two are evenly matched.Both men were called war heroes, with many titles and honors, and could serve Sicily for years.Roger was supported by the nobles, tancred by the nobles and the people.The real difference, however, is in lineage.Roger was the great-grandson of Drogo of Otterville, but a distant relative of the king;But Tancred is the illegitimate grandson of Roger II.The latter were closer by blood to the beloved Roger II – however fragile his legitimacy – and thus better placed to claim the throne.The Pope, desperate to prevent German domination of Sicily, supported Tancred.Tancred was crowned king of Sicily in January 1190.The new king was short, dark, and extremely ugly.One historian of the time called him “little Man” Tancred and mocked him for looking like a monkey.He recounted tancred’s coronation: “Look, a monkey has been crowned!”Yet despite his physical flaws, Tancred was energetic, intelligent and ambitious.He took part in the coup d ‘etat of 1161, storming the palace himself and sending the “wicked” William to prison.After that failed mutiny, he accepted exile in exchange for the king’s pardon.In contrast to William’s bad reputation, he emerged from the ordeal intact.He will soon need all his political skills.No sooner had the news of his coronation been announced than Sicily’s long-simmering religious conflict broke out completely.Since the first Norman conquest of Sicily, the Muslim population has continued to decline.During Roger II’s reign, Muslims were an influential and respected minority, but their rights were gradually lost as Italians poured in from the mainland.After The death of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the Muslims supported Constance, assuming that the Germans would welcome an ally, but Tancred succeeded and dealt them a fatal blow.Sicily’s Muslims rioted after a group of Christians foolishly attacked a mosque in Palermo.Tancred sent his army to stabilize the situation. The Arabs fled to the surrounding mountains and captured some castles.Although Tancred succeeded in confining the rebellion to the western part of Sicily, it took the better part of a year to quell it.One reason for the slow pace of the counterinsurgency was that Tancred was distracted by ominous news from Northern Europe.The German Emperor Frederick I was drowned in the Crusades, and his dashing son succeeded to the empire.Henry VI had been a formidable opponent when he was a son, and now he was emperor.While Sicily was beset by Muslim revolts, Henry VI crossed the Alps and invaded Italy.He has two big goals.The first goal was to wear the Lombardy Iron tiara, a golden crown that once belonged to the Roman emperor Constantine.It is called the “iron” crown because it contains a nail from the crucifixion.His second goal was to take the Sicilian throne with his wife Constance.Lombardy didn’t get in the way.In 1191, Henry VI marched into Rome and was crowned master of Northern Italy and emperor of the Western Empire by a frightened Pope.His second goal looked close at hand.Henry VI’s great army had its usual effect, plunging southern Italy into chaos.In addition to the familiar rebel aristocracy, more and more Normans within the kingdom supported Henry VI’s invasion.Most of them were fatalists who thought it wise to win the Kaiser’s favour. Others concluded that the German ruler was far above the emperor and would have less influence and disturbance on Sicilian life than the local king in Palermo.When Henry VI set foot in Norman territory in the spring of that year, he found that the whole of southern Italy was effectively in open rebellion.Tancred could not leave Sicily to restore the situation because he was plagued by a Muslim insurgency and was still trying to consolidate his power.However, he quickly took action.He shipped large amounts of gold to the generals of the peninsula, and used it to recruit soldiers and buy off the cities that remained loyal to him.Tancred’s decisiveness — and a stroke of good luck — saved him.The hot summer days were always the most important line of defence in Sicily, claiming many German lives.Tancred was able to crush the German advance and Henry VI decided to retreat.Without the support of the empire, the rebels were scattered.The rebel leader, Roger of Andrea, who had attempted to claim the throne, was captured and executed.Tancred’s courage saved the day, but he knew he had only slightly delayed Henry VI’s invasion.He didn’t have much time to enjoy his victory because Richard I, the “Lionheart” king of Norman England, was marching on Sicily.Although Richard I ascended the throne only a year before Tancred, his reputation as a heroic adventurer was already well known.From the age of 16, he commanded his troops in battle.By 1191, he had spent most of his life on the battlefield and was widely seen as the man who could drive out the Saracens and recover Jerusalem.In 1188, the fall of the holy City led to a new Crusade, and European monarchs promptly pledged their support.To the Pope’s delight, Richard I agreed to lead the crusade on the condition that Philip II of France accompanied him.It was not out of imperial affection that he made this offer, but because he did not trust Philip ii, and he had a good suspicion that Philip would, when he left his country, take back all that belonged to France.The “good man” William, seeing the windfall that the Crusades would bring, wrote to the two monarchs on his deathbed, explaining that Sicily would be an ideal place to start.Both agreed, and now Tancred was the reluctant host.Richard THE first had always been a difficult guest.Despite being hailed as a paragon of chivalry, he could easily tire of the status quo.He was more interested in adventure than in ruling.He spent only six months of his ten-year reign in England.As historian Stephen Runciman put it, “He was not a good son, nor a good husband, nor a good king, but he was a great soldier.”Richard I was always moody, and when he arrived in Sicily he was in a bad mood.Richard I was in a bad mood for a reason.He was prone to seasickness and crossing the channel from the Italian peninsula made him uncomfortable.When he arrived at Messina, he found that Philip had already arrived, and went on to the palace, where he could only receive the usual accommodations.These worries were enough to make him angry, but then a more serious diplomatic problem arose.To lure Richard TO Sicily, William “the Good Man” promised lavish gifts.Tancred, however, had spent so much money on the defence of Italy that he refused to give him a present.A more serious problem was tancred’s treatment of William’s widow, Joanna.Joanna, convinced that Constance was the rightful monarch of Sicily, foolishly supported the Germans in their fight against Tancred.Tancred retaliated by placing Joanna under house arrest and confiscating much of her estate.If Joanna were a minor aristocrat, that would be the end of the matter.Joanna, however, happened to be Richard I’s sister.