For well over a decade I have been interested in the history of Norman and later Staufer Sicily, and I have on some occasions visited a few of the pertinent historical sites in Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. The Hautevilles are therefore a natural choice for me in playing Crusader Kings, and also for writing a first AAR. Maybe I shall be able to convey my fascination with this vibrant age to others.
If this AAR is to progress for some time, as I hope it will, I will edit a table of contents into this first post, but for now, let the people of Italy and the entire Mediterranean take heed, fo unleashed upon them is the
Sicily and the southern part of Italy have in antiquity been Greek colonization areas, which later on were to come under Roman and subsequently Western Roman dominion. With the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the Ostrogoths became masters of these lands for a short time, until they were retaken for the Eastern Roman Empire by Justinian in around 550. In the following centuries Byzantine power in the west slackened and the German Lombards were able to establish themselves in the south of the Italian peninsula, while Arabs and Berber people from North Africa took Sicily and even crossed over into Italy proper, gaining footholds on the continent. Byzantine attempts to once again oust the Muslims were in the long run as unsuccessful as German ones.
That was the situation when in around 1020 the first Normans showed up in Italy, called in variously by the Pope and by local Lombard lords to fight as mercenaries, be it against Muslims, Byzantines, Germans or Lombard. The first tiny Norman lordship in Italy was set up around Aversa, from where the foreigners soon gained possession of fiefs in the County of Capua. This area was the first Norman domain in Italy, but not the most successful one: This was to be established by the family of the Hautevilles.
The Hautevilles were no less than twelve brothers, sons of a minor lord from Normandy, Tancrede de Hauteville. In 1038, the three eldest of these brothers, Guillaume, Drogo and Humphrey, arrived in Italy and won a place at the court of Count Gaimar of Salerno, a young Lombard and foremost among the Lombards in southern Italy. From here, the brothers went soon on to earn their living as mercenaries in Sicily, campaigning in the armies of the Byzantine Emperor Michael against the Muslims. The brothers Hauteville fought with great valour, but they were dissatisfied with what rewards they were granted, returning to Italy with a lifelong grudge against the Byzantines.
Back in Italy, the Hautevilles were noticed by Count Rainulf di Aversa, a fellow Norman and in league with Count Gaimar of Salerno. Both had designs upon Apulia, at this date still Byzantine. Rainulf and Gaimar graced the Hautevilles with the leadership of their host of mostly Norman mercenaries, and in 1041 and 1042 they were instrumental in defeating the Byzantines in three battles and driving them from Apulia and Bari. Guillaume, the eldest brother, became very popular with the Normans in the host, who in late 1042 elected him their Count. Gaimar and Rainulf recognized Guillaume’s claim to the County of Apulia, and the three lords continued their close alliance.
In 1046, Count Guillaume died, and was succeeded by his brother Drogo. This did not in the least detract from the close relations between the Hautevilles and Count Gaimar, who in 1047 even gave Drogo the hand of his daughter in marriage. In the same year, the German Emperor Heinrich campaigned in Campania. He was on friendly and honourable terms with Gaimar and Drogo, but he still forced them to cede him the County of Capua, which he entrusted to a Lombard vasal of his.
Prior to these events, in 1044, a younger halfbrother of the Hauteville Counts of Apulia had arrived in Italy: Robert, who would later come to be called Guiscard – “the Cunning”. Upon his arrival, his older brothers were not ready to recognize him as their equal, and so he was at first forced to lead a life not much different from a highwayman’s. Only in 1048 did Count Drogo finally grace his halfbrother with the primitive castle of San Marco, to make of this start whatever he might be capable of.
At this time, another impoverished young knight arrived from from Normandy, Richard, son of Asclittin. Richard, whose sister was married to Rodulf, in succession of his father Rainulf new lord of Aversa, fared much better than Robert. He soon became immensly popular among the Normans of Aversa, so popular in fact that his jealous cousin asked him in 1049 to relocate to the court of Humphrey de Hauteville. Richard and Humphrey became close friends, and they even intermarried; Humphrey married Richard’s sister Mathilda, and Richard married Fressende, a daughter of Tancrede de Hauteville. But as well as Richard got on with Humphrey, he still antagonized Count Drogo de Hauteville and was thrown into the dungeon. But soon, fortune smiled again upon Richard. In 1051, Humphrey de Hauteville became after his brother Drogo’s death new Count of Apulia, and as one of his first acts he set Richard free. At about this time, Rodulf di Aversa died childless, and the Normans of Aversa clamoured for Richard as their new lord. Thus Richard assumed the lordship of Aversa. He extended these holdings in two campaigns, and in 1058 took Capua, driving off the Lombard master placed over the town by Emperor Heinrich and assuming the title of Count of Capua.
But before this came to pass, in 1050, the Normans nearly clashed with Pope and Emperor. In this year, the people of Benevento did drive off their despotic autocrat and placed themselves at the command of the Pope. Pope Leo asked Count Drogo de Hauteville to safeguard his Beneventine possession, but the Norman knights had still too much Viking blood in their veins; they raided and pillaged the County they had been asked to protect, antagonizing the Pope. In the course of a raid on a monastery, Drogo was unluckily slain and succeeded as Count by his brother Humphrey.
The Pope called for Emperor Heinrich to punish the Normans, and Count Humphrey and Richard di Aversa prepared for war. But Emperor Heinrich declared his armies to be engaged elsewhere, and Count Gaimar, to whom Pope Leo turned for help next, refused to make war upon his Norman friends. Thus, the danger for the Italian Normans evaporated.
In the summer of 1052, the Normans' reliable ally Gaimar of Salerno was brutally murdered by an usurper and his young son and heir Gisulf imprisoned. Lombards loyal to the murdered Count Gaimar asked for Norman aid, and Count Humphrey descended upon Salerno, defeated the usurper and butchered him treacherously in blatant disregard for a truce that had been agreed upon. Thus was young Gisulf freed and instituted as rightful Count of Salerno.
In the meantime, Pope Leo had found the most unlikely of ally in trying to oust the Normans from Benevento – the Byzantines. In the summer of 1053, a mixed Greek and Papal host met with the Normans and was defeated. Pope Leo was led into captivity by the victorious Humphrey. Contrary to all that was to be expected, the Pope was treated with deference and all due honours, and this diplomatic gesture of the Hautevilles enabled the Pope to recognize them in all their Italian possessions without loosing face. By late 1053, the Norman posititons in Italy had thus been legalized to a certain degree, even though the Pope’s right to dispose over Italian lands was questioned or outright denied by many.
In 1057, the fortunes of Robert d’Hauteville took a sharp turn for the better. In this year, Count Humphrey de Hauteville died. The dying Humphrey had named his son Abelard, born to him by Richard di Aversa’s sister Mathilda, as heir, but this last wish was blatantly disregarded by the Normans, who clamoured for Robert de Hauteville as their new Count. In 1058, Robert thus assumed the title and prerogatives of a Count, but this was not yet enough for him. Almost immediately, he had himself also declared Duke of Apulia and Calabria. These claims, and those of Richard di Aversa on Capua, were recognized by Pope Nicholas at a council at Melfi. Even though Calabria had yet to be conquered by Robert, this was still a great success, basing his rule on a legal foundation.
In the meantime, the next most important Norman lord, Richard di Aversa, came at cross purposes with the Pope and waged war against him. The Germans came to the rescue of Pope Nicholas, and Richard di Aversa had to direct his activities elsewhere. New target of his aspirations became thus Salerno, held by the last great Lombard lord, Count Gisulf. In this ambition, he became a rival of his brother-in-law Duke Robert de Hauteville. But the Guiscard soon got the upper hand. He had his first marriage to Alberada di Buonalbergo declared void on grounds of too close blood relations and in 1059 married Count Gisulf’s sister Sigelgaita, considerably strengthening his ties to Salerno.
His claims on Salerno for now secured, Robert concentrated on taking the deep south of Italy from the Byzantines. In this he was closely aided by yet another two of his brothers arriving in Italy in 1057, Guillaume, who had been driven from his holdings in Normandy, and most important Roger de Hauteville, who was soon made his brother’s Marshall. Over the next few years, the brothers Hauteville campaigned ceaselessly against the Byzantines in southern Italy, taking Lecce, Taranto, Cosenza and Reggio from them and driving them completely from the peninsula. As early as 1061, they exploited a civil war in Sicily to cross over onto the island and conquer Messina. In 1062, the counties of Messina and Reggio were formally given to Roger de Hauteville, whereas Guillaume received custody of Benevento. At the same instance, Duke Robert gave in to the campaigning of many Normans and created the actual heir of the lordship over the Normans, Humphrey’s son Abelard, at the very least Count of Taranto.
Southern Italy and surrounding lands on the ascent of Robert Guiscard in 1057 and by the end of 1066:
The most important Norman lords in Italy in 1066:
Duke Robert de Hauteville, called Guiscard, married to Sigelgaita, a Lombard noblewoman and sister to Count Gisulf of Salerno.
Among the Duke’s vassals is his brother Guillaume, of roughly the same age than himself, and instituted as Count of Benevento.
The Duke’s most important vassal, though, is his younger brother Roger de Hauteville, Count of Reggio and Messina, a staunch supporter of Robert.
A further vassal is Abelard de Hauteville, Count of Taranto. This man young man, son of Duke Robert’s deceased brother Humphrey, is actually the rightful heir of the Duchies of Apulia and Calabria, which on Humphrey’s death were unlawfully usurped by Robert de Hauteville.
Duke Robert’s one sister, Fressende de Hauteville, is married to Richard di Aversa, Count of Capua, an independent Norman lord.
The house of Hauteville:
Duke Robert Guiscard and his descendants: