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Thread: Victorious through God’s grace: de Hautevilles’ chronicle

  1. #21
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    X. The Iberian Crusade (second phase, 1189-93)


    Eleanor, Regent Queen of Castile-Leon

    William II of Sicily is among the few Christian leaders to abstain from the Western Crusade, but the later commitment of the Northern Italian maritime cities (whose fleets join the fight from late 1189) brings new reports about the confused Iberian situation, where the Christian kingdoms have continued their harsh fighting against the Moors after the initial conquest of Badajoz and Cordoba. Orio Mastropiero, the valiant Doge of Venice, leads a combined Venetian-Pisan navy reaching Spain to support the siege of Valencia. Few months later, also Lombard and Tuscan crusaders join Emperor Heinrich departing for Iberia, giving finally a military character to the Italian contribution.

    At their arrival in Spain, the Italo-German soldiers would find a surprising and chaotic situation: Alfonso VIII of Castile has died in June 1190, leaving his childish heir William under the regency of Queen Eleanor and royal chancellor Etienne, whose ambitious plans against the neighbouring Kingdom of Leon are excited by the unexpected gain of power. Therefore, while the capture of Valencia (fallen on 4th July to Orio Mastropiero’s troops) should in theory have unified the victorious Christians in a common enjoyment, the immediately consequent Castilian attack against Leon will pave the way to a conflict among Iberian countries – and ultimately to the extinction of Leon, exhausted by the strenuous defence against the Muslim Emirates and then deceitfully harassed by Castile!

    So far, the enthusiasm seems to support the crusaders: after the fall of Valencia, the Venetians renew their downward march encountering little resistance at Denia and Murcia, while the Aragonese continue to overcome Muslim citadels in Andalusia. But soon personal ambitions and disputes among the various leaders would slow down the progresses despite the Pope’s incitation to move on Cadiz. Two events mark the turning point: the Battle of Leon ends in one of the cruellest carnages ever recorded, with 9.000 casualties among the troops of Castile and Leon and the defeat of the latter, which would open their capital to capitulation. Few weeks later, profiting of the disunion within the Christian field, Emir Hamza of Almeria calls for a jihad to get back Valencia (October 1191). Backed by his Almohad ally, Hamza marches his army along the coast crushing the Venetian strongholds. The Moorish siege of Valencia begins in March 1192 and lasts two months, when the last Christian defenders – mainly Venetians – leave the town before surrendering the keys.

    One month before, also the parabola of Alfonso IX of Leon has come to a conclusion, with the young king forced to acknowledge the Castilian triumph and retire to Oviedo. Regent Queen Eleanor has managed to take the combined title of Castile-Leon for her son William I.


    Abandoned by vassals and courtiers, Alfonso will continue to claim his title for a while, feebly supported by the King of Portugal only, and finally pledge allegiance to the victorious Castilians in 1197. Despite the disappearance of such glorious Kingdom – or at least its absorption by the Crown of Castile – thanks to the fresh troops sent by the Holy Roman Emperor (as he does not have to field significant numbers of men to control the now pacified Kingdom of Italy) and Venice, the Reconquista can resume towards a successful conclusion.

    Pere II d’Aragon (succeeding his epic father Alfons II in 1192) and William I of Castile-Leon will reap the best fruits. By the end of 1193, with the Aragonese conquest of Cadiz and the rout of the Emir of Almeria in Valencia – taken back by the German crusaders of Heinrich Welf of Brunswick – the fate of the Moors seems really doomed. We will come back in future…
    Last edited by Hastu Neon; 02-03-2010 at 22:10.
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  2. #22
    Lt. General Hastu Neon's Avatar
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    XI. An idle period

    With Roger’s worse than mediocre qualities, none may expect to live a glorious period under his rule. But at least his quiet attitude and a peaceful private life have limited the amount of damages that a ruler’s unconstrained ineptitude may cause to his own subjects. Unfortunately, Roger’s scarce merits do not help him gain support from William II, whereas the King’s favourite Emma assumes more and more influence at court, until she finally gets the title of Duchess of Calabria. Yet, despite all the efforts made to extend his grasp over the County of Taranto, Roger V will never manage to achieve his target. Shamefully, when Roger of Taranto becomes adult he even refuses to marry Medania (sister of Roger V of Apulia) and marries instead a local woman (while Medania will finally wed Marshal Humbert Mitylenaios in 1198).

    Anyway, time passes by quietly and the family young members grow up: when Roger’s sister Marie Albine achieves the age of majority, she is betrothed to Thomas, son of Duke Humbert of Savoie. In a sort of exchange for the arrival of Sophie to Lecce, now it is an Apulian girl that relocates in the cold lands of Northern Italy, as in January 1194 she marries Thomas, now Count of Piedmont. As Countess of Piedmont, Marie Albine will keep a continuous correspondence with her relatives in Apulia, sending detailed news about the life in such different context. Unfortunately, she will unexpectedly die in 1202.

    The ducal family has just ended rejoicing for the marriage ceremony that a terrible event occurs: Duchess Sophie, who has travelled (being 6 months pregnant of her second child) to Turin to attend the marriage ceremony between her brother Thomas and Marie Albine, dies in labour on 12th April 1194; also the child is lost. The inconvenience of that voyage in a cold winter is suspected as the major cause of this fatal event.

    Roger (widow at the age of 24) and his son Richard are blown to pieces by Sophie’s death, as also struck is the loyal populace of the Duchy, sincerely affectionate to that vigorous girl coming from Savoie. All through the second part of the year, a disconsolate Roger V neglects all his public duties: only after several months, for instance, he would appoint Busilla Manoulites as new steward in place of Sophie. Richard, as every good Hauteville, is given a martial education precisely in his first months of orphanage.

    But life goes on and soon arises the need of another wife for Duke Roger V. His mother Sibilla takes care of it, asking Queen Joan for assistance. Her intercession would prove extremely beneficial: Queen Joan, daughter of Henry II of England, has actually an established network of well-married sisters. Among them, Eleanor is maybe the most powerful, having managed to unite on her son William’s head the crowns of Castile and Leon. She has a 16-year old daughter, Berenguela, who is cheerfully engaged to Roger with a dowry of 12 gold units.


    The marriage is celebrated on 14th January 1196, almost two years after Sophie’s death, in the presence of Castilian dignitaries and prelates, who will exercise – particularly the latter – some influence on the court in the coming years. As a consequence of Roger’s long abstinence and Berenguela’s charm, they have two children very soon: in November of the same year, Isabella is born; after another year, a son – Robert – is born but unfortunately dies after few months due to poor health.
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  3. #23
    Second Lieutenant Cecil XIX's Avatar
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    Nice AAR. Well-written, good attention to history, and with enviable maps. I hope you get DV sometime though, it's a great improvement.

  4. #24
    Lt. General Hastu Neon's Avatar
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    Thanks Cecil XIX, and thanks to all other readers. I'm having some issues at work these days, I hope to resume my AAR by the end of this week.

    Moreover, I'm enjoying a lot the actual game!
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  5. #25
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    XII. The Iberian Crusade (third and final phase, 1194-99)

    Following the second occupation of Valencia by Heinrich Welf – and particularly after 1194 – the Moorish retreat from their citadels becomes a rout. One after another, Murcia, Almeria and Granada fall into the hands of German and Italian crusaders. Finally, with the successful siege of Malaga (surrendering to Venetian troops in the night of 16th August 1195) the Moorish presence in the Iberian peninsula is completely eradicated, in just eight years after almost five centuries of Muslim dominance.


    This incredible success does not hide from view all the frictions among the Christian rulers. Only Aragon and Castile-Leon – given their proximity to the newly acquired lands – manage to exercise a strong authority over Andalusia, while the centrifuge forces cause sometimes a much looser control by transpyrenaic countries.

    Two episodes are very relevant in this sense: in 1195-96, the Castilian commander Fernando de la Vega launches an overseas expedition to wipe out the last forces of the Emir of Almeria from its Northern African bases. After the conquest of both Cebta and Tangiers, Fernando de la Vega declares himself independent from the vassalage to William I of Castile-Leon and founds an autonomous County on the African coasts. Similarly, by the end of 1196 Oddone Morosini, the valiant leader of the Venetian army responsible for the capture of Granada and Malaga, declares himself independent from Venice. Differently from Count Oddone, sheltered by the sea against the Muslim rage, Fernando de la Vega’s establishment in Africa will be short-lived: assaulted by the frightening Almohads in May 1197, his two citadels capitulate in October 1197, thus ending the brief Christian rule over Cebta and Tangiers.

    The last noteworthy Iberian episode is the incorporation of Navarra. Again, it is Castile-Leon initiating another intra-Christian war. Claiming the crown of Navarra in 1195 for her child William I, Queen Mother Eleanor finally moves against King Sancho in March 1198. Despite the Aragonese intervention in favour of Navarra, the victorious Castilian troops will soon manage to acquire another crown for their young King. Once obtained King Pere’s consent with the cession of Soria to Aragon, the Navarrese crown will become the third one on William’s head, after those of Castile and Leon (December 1199).

    The events occurring in the last decade of 12th century have radically simplified the Iberian map, with three kingdom left: Castile-Leon-Navarra under William I, Aragon under Pere II and the elective Kingdom of Portugal under King Henrique Pires (since 1196), who has temporarily gained the Crown once belonging to King Sancho de Borgonha upon his death. The following slideshow depicts the changes occurring in the final 12 years of the Reconquista:

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  6. #26
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    XIII. Evolution in the Levant

    The years towards the end of the century pass by quietly both in the Kingdom of Sicily and elsewhere. Apart from the Iberian happenings, only the Levant continues to record major events: let us give a closer look there, particularly at Jerusalem and Byzantium.

    The prestige achieved with the capture of El-Arish has not stopped the ambitions of Guy de Lusignan, King of Jerusalem, renewed in 1193 by the fall of Antioch into the hands of the Emir of Aleppo (Bohemond III, the last Duke of Antioch, takes refuge at the Sicilian court) and the threat posed by the Assassins to the Hospitaliers’ castle of Tortosa. The ensuing events are worth mentioning because after few years will lead to the Third Crusade (the Iberian “Reconquista”, even if officially endorsed by the Pope, is not officially counted as a crusade).


    Krak des Chevaliers, likely the most famous crusader castle

    Guy de Lusignan soon marches out to relieve Tortosa and capture the Assassins’ stronghold at Archa, along with Isaakios Komnenos, Prince of Cyprus. The defection of Raymond Saint-Gilles, Duke of Tripoli and Guy’s archenemy for dynastic reasons, delays the operations of the King of Jerusalem, who has to divert forces to oust the treacherous vassal and take direct custody of Raymond’s possessions of Tripoli and Tiberias before resuming the hostilities against the infidels. During the campaign that leads to the capture of Archa (the Assassins’ stronghold), Guy finds a honourable death and is succeeded by his son Hugues. A frail truce lasts until 1198, when a conflict between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and Nasraddin of Syria will establish the foundations of the Third Crusade.



    - - - -

    Another hot spot is Byzantium, where a foolish civil war ruins the brief reign of Emperor Alexios III Angelos. Shortly after his father Isaakios’ death in 1192, the revolt of Leon Rubenid – while the war against the Sultanate of Rum was still going on – had already undermined the positions of the adolescent Emperor. The recovery of the Seljuk Turks and the following landslide victory of the Azeris against the Kingdom of Georgia (ruled by Queen Thamar, a trustworthy ally to Byzantium and for a long time its Eastern bastion opposed to the Muslim world) would definitely doom Alexios III.

    In 1197, two revolts against the Emperor erupt in Crimea and Athens. Prince Theodoros of Cherson patently accuses the incompetence of the leaders involved in the fruitless campaign against the Seljuk Turks and sails towards Byzantium with his army, receiving moral – if not material – support from Ioan of Bulgaria and Leon Rubenid. In the meantime, Alexios III continues to lose allies (also Demetrios of Nikomedeia, the Emperor’s last lieutenant involved in the war against Rum, abandons his cause). When Theodoros arrives at Byzantium, the people of the city riot and proclaim him emperor, while Alexios III is imprisoned in the imperial palace. Under duress, Alexios is compelled to cede the imperial insignia to Theodoros on 16th February 1199. Thus the Angelid dynasty is removed from power, exactly like it deposed the Komnenos.

    Last edited by Hastu Neon; 17-10-2010 at 11:53.
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  7. #27
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    Atlas Update (1200)


    Today as a sort of bonus gift (I will do the same every 50 years of game playing), I just post a picture showing the situation at the beginning of the new century. The most striking differences on 1187 are:
    • The successful completion of the Reconquista in Iberia, where Castile, Aragon and Portugal have routed the Moors. The Holy Roman Empire has taken a role, as clearly shown by its new territories on the South-eastern coast. Also note the Castilian absorption of Leon and Navarra.

    • The reconsolidation of the Holy Roman Empire under Heinrich VI Hohenstaufen, who has reasserted his authority everywhere, particularly in Northern and Central Italy (including the maritime republics of Genoa and Pisa).

    • The defeat of the Seljuk Turks by the Byzantine Empire, which has managed to recover Anatolia.

    • The expansion of the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the expenses of surrounding Muslim potentates.
    I believe it's a lot of AI activity, considering we are just 13 years in the game now. It's time for us to do something!
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  8. #28
    Lt. General Hastu Neon's Avatar
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    XIV. Leaving home for Beirut


    Pope Innocenzo III, proclaimer of the Third Crusade

    The Third Crusade has the initial purpose of relieving Hugues, King of Jerusalem, from the pressure exercised by Nasraddin of Syria, which has erupted into open war since 1198. After some inconclusive battles and a short-lived truce signed in 1200, an army sent by Nasraddin attacks and conquers Beirut in July 1201, causing deep concern in Europe. Soon the new Pope Innocenzo III (more pugnacious than his peaceful predecessor Paolo II, dead in 1200) urges the leaders of Christianity to intervene in support of the Crusader state and against the several threats posed by the Muslim countries in the Mediterranean as a whole.

    The initial response to the Third Crusade is poor and the preparation does not progress as quickly as expected. Henry II of England, one of Pope Innocenzo’s most fervent supporters, is forced to defect because of the domestic troubles caused by the rebellion of some vassals; when the royal forces finally defeat the treacherous nobles, death would prevent King Henry to join the Crusade. Even more shockingly, both Philippe II of France and Emperor Heinrich VI desert the Crusade because of their border frictions, which would lead to a devastating conflict in 1202 (covered later). Also the Poles, already busy with a campaign against the Pagan tribe of the Yatviags, and the Castilians, involved in small frontier skirmishes with the Portuguese, disregard the Papal call.

    In the Kingdom of Sicily the idea of an expedition in the Holy Land has the immediate support of Roger of Apulia and – maybe even more influential in the final decision of William II – Bohemond de Poitou, titular Duke of Antioch (lost to the Emirate of Aleppo) and currently royal marshal, but obviously eager to reclaim some lands in the Levant. The fair confidence between William II and Innocenzo III improves the determination and speed in recruiting troops for the Third Crusade – particularly after some pilgrims have brought back to Sicily the bad news of King Hugues seriously wounded in battle against the Syrians.


    A suitable base for the preparations is found in the lands of Roger V of Apulia, because the presence of the port of Brindisi and a road network recently refurbished are beneficial to the gathering of soldiers and provisions. Levies, which have been slightly reduced in the previous years, come back to finance the venture, together with the savings of the court’s luxury expenses. Guillaume (Duke Roger’s 16-year old brother), just promoted as chancellor thanks to his promising qualities, profits from the situation to introduce himself to the Norman peers. The adolescent son of Roger, Richard, who is growing in such fervent and exciting setting, becomes a heathen-bashing fanatic, being another stimulus to his father’s participation in the expedition, which finally departs for Beirut in June 1202. Roger of Apulia leads a 1.300-strong contingent (including more than 500 knights and light cavalrymen), followed after some months by another group of 2.800 Crusaders commanded by royal marshal Bohemond.



    Rumours from distant lands – The French Crisis

    Starting from 1202, Philippe II’s France gets involved in a long series of conflicts against its neighbours: the so-called Burgundian War would just be the onset of a ruinous period for the beleaguered transalpine realm. It begins in January 1202 as a border dispute between Eudes III, Duke of Bourgogne, and Heinrich VI, Holy Roman Emperor, the latter interested in extending his authority over the wealthy towns of Lyon and Dijon. Being Duke Eudes a loyal vassal of Philippe Auguste, the King of France is compelled to support him but the German overwhelming superiority shapes the conflict. In few months, Emperor Heinrich’s troops capture most of Burgundy and force Eudes III to surrender Lyon and Dijon to the Germans. The loss of the Burgudian towns is a disaster for the French forces that must witness Heinrich proceeding West unopposed, until he besieges and captures Paris in December. Holding the capital becomes an important advantage for the Germans, who continue to pillage the surrounding provinces during 1203.


    Unable to get back Paris, Philippe II is forced to negotiate a humiliating treaty in September 1204, whereby also the King of France renounces his claims on Dijon and Lyon and surrenders Artois to the Holy Roman Emperor, incontestably the strongest European sovereign at this point. Another short campaign, conducted in the period from June 1206 to September 1208, would lead to a new capture of Paris by the German forces and the surrender of Vermandois to Emperor Heinrich VI.

    Trying to profit from the weaker position of its neighbour, also Richard I of England will engage in a conflict, started in 1207 and concluded in 1234 by his successor Simon I (the so-called Thirty Years War). The protracted state of war and its customary consequences (epidemics, famines and pillages) painfully exacerbate the crisis of the French nation.

    The evolution of the conflict is too elaborate to be told in few words, and it is actually a series of conflicts divided by some years of relative peace: but generally, it is Philippe II of France that has to defend his demesne against the English invasion. Paris and other relevant towns will be gained and lost several times by both factions, but finally the victory goes to the Angevin House, who manages to gain Paris, Orleans and other surrounding provinces. In addition to the territorial losses, Philippe II yields his claims over Normandy and Anjou, but at least he retains the title of King of France – indeed severely diminished by the defeat.


    A delicate truce lasts until June 1233, when the ageing Philippe II resumes the war against Simon I of England, trying to reverse the territorial losses imposed five years before. The superior English army repeatedly defeats the French, capturing town after town and pillaging the countryside. Before the enemy reaches Bourges (the town where Philippe II maintains the court after the loss of Paris), a humiliating truce is signed in July 1234, by which Angevin England obtains Tourraine and France renounces all its claims to Northern France and disburses more than 400 gold units. What Philippe II – dead in 1235 – leaves to his grandson Hugues III is a pathetic resemblance of a kingdom, crossed by angry bands of soldiers, financially exhausted and halved in size.
    Last edited by Hastu Neon; 16-03-2010 at 21:36.
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  9. #29
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    Yikes! France definately got cut up there. The 1187 is definately one of the most interesting scenario to play, in my opinion. Lots of interesting characters and the Outremer is cemented, albeit under the threat of Saladin. I'll be reading, good luck in leading the Hautevilles to glory. Hopefully you can avoid the Hohenstaufen inheritance of Sicily.
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  10. #30
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    XV. A land for Roger V

    The ravaging effects on Anatolia of the Byzantine-Seljuk war convince Duke Roger to keep the sea route towards Beirut. The choice – strategically correct indeed – represents however a titanic economic effort, because the ducal reserves are not enough to fund the hiring of a fleet and Roger V has to borrow gold from local burghers (who demand to appoint a delegate to the council in exchange for their support) and foreign bankers. While the navy is on the way to the Levant, Pope Innocenzo III issues a Bull preaching all the Christian kings to join the Crusade.


    Roger’s fleet arrives at Beirut on Christmas’ eve 1202 after a six-month voyage and having already lost one man out of seventeen. After a mutiny in January 1203 that costs more than 100 men, Roger V resolves to increase his soldiers’ compensation in order to conduct a quick siege of the city. After few weeks, marshal Bohemond arrives at Beirut arguing that the siege should be handed over himself in the name of King William II, a fabricated claim that Roger V is forced to assent for the sake of continuing the crusade in peace. On 25th March 1203, the Syrian garrison finally opens the gates of the city to the Sicilian army, with Bohemond asserting his claim to the County of Beirut.

    An outraged Roger V decides to continue his own Crusade moving along the coast of the Mediterranean into Palestine, encountering little resistance because of the patrolling squads of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The only Syrian target left to Duke Roger’s ambitions, and which is relatively easy to capture with his limited means, is the small town of Maan, located in the vicinity of the Negev Desert, east of the Jordan and west of Petra. The town is also the homeland of Sheik Hashmaddin, the commander who took Beirut in the name of Nasraddin of Syria just two years before. On the road to Maan, the Sicilian forces face not only the skirmishes with Muslim groups of combatants (during which Roger V distinguishes himself for bravery and competence), but also the severe conditions of the Negev Desert. With a halved army (compared with the beginning of the campaign), Roger V reaches and captures Maan and its small castle in the middle of the summer, precisely on 3rd August 1203.



    - - - -

    After the capture of Maan, the administration of such distant and diverse fiefdom becomes the main question for Roger V. Eager to disband the expensive crusading army and go back home to focus on the tricky situation originated by the fragile wealth of King William II, the Duke of Apulia realises that without a local presence the town would be quickly lost to the Muslim forces. At the same time, he knows that taking away from Lecce his younger and promising brother Guillaume would strengthen his grasp over the Duchy without any intrusion.


    Hence, the appointment of Guillaume as Count of Maan takes place without delays in September 1203. Back at home in Lecce, Roger sees his prestige increased by the victorious campaign and takes advantage of it to reshuffle the council. Richard Iagaris, whose executive skills Roger has appreciated during the Third Crusade, becomes the new steward, while the trustworthy Clemenza Balsamon is reinstated as chancellor in substitution of Guillaume. As first sign of changed economic policy and despite the massive level of indebtedness, the ducal council resolves to lower a bit the census tax to give some relief to overburdened peasants.
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  11. #31
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    XVI. The Third Crusade goes on

    In the Levant, the Third Crusade does not end with the establishment of Guillaume as Count of Maan, which can be considered after all a minor accomplishment amongst the deeds of the cross-bearer warriors. Following Nasraddin’s death in 1202, the Syrian forces have been able to oppose a puny resistance to the crusaders, and their towns have been falling one after the other in the hands of Odon, Hugues’ son and successor as King of Jerusalem. After the capture of Maan, the Sicilian crusaders march on the Red Sea to Al’Aqabah, which is seized in November 1203, while Bohemond de Poitou’s sons distinguish themselves in the successful siege of Madaba. The obscure Norman nobleman raised to the dignity of Count of Al’Aqabah would declare in July 1204 his independence from the Sicilian Kingdom and repeatedly refuse any oath of allegiance to Roger V, while Raymond and Manuel de Poitou would be confirmed in the possession of Beirut and Madaba after their father’s death.

    In the same period, Pope Innocenzo III authorises the expansion of the Third Crusade against both the Egyptian Ayyubid dynasty and the Emir of Mallorca: the former responsible for supporting the Syrians and the latter capable to put to sea a pirate fleet which extends its activity from the Balearic Islands throughout the Mediterranean Sea, as shown by the raids against the Hospitalier stronghold of Tortosa. Innocenzo III hires a fleet and lands an expeditionary force that captures both Minorca and Mallorca in 1204, before setting free Tortosa one year later, while the Sicilian fleet supports the capture of Trapezous, the Anatolian port infested with Muslim privateers.


    Sicilian additions at Geoffroy I’s ascension

    After the fall of the Emirates of Syria and Mallorca, the biggest Christian effort targets Tunisia and Egypt, where Salah a-Din’s death has deprived the Muslim faction of a great leader. While the Tunisian bastions strongly hold up against the landing attempts of the Papal forces, the feeble Salah a-Din’s successor Al-Aziz Uthman cannot stand a concentric land and sea attack conducted in 1206 by Odon of Jerusalem and Pere II d’Aragon, respectively. While the former enters Egypt from the Sinai peninsula, the latter turns his attention to the wealthy city of Alexandria, which falls in Crusaders’ hands in September 1207 after a dramatic slaughter (just few days after the death of the man who has initiated this remarkable campaign, Pope Innocenzo III; he would be succeeded by Hartwig, a German pontiff whose election is lobbied among the cardinals assembling in the conclave by the powerful Heinrich VI).

    Also the new Byzantine Emperor Andreas I, a brilliant strategist and zealous man, leads his own crusade – independently from the Western Christianity – taking the Islamic holy cities of Medina and Mecca contemporaneously with the fall of Alexandria to Pere II d’Aragon. By 1208 the Third Crusade and the supplementary Byzantine campaign have seemingly achieved most of their aims:
    • Odon of Jerusalem has consolidated his position inside the Kingdom, quashed any Syrian resistance and taken the northeast of Egypt;

    • the Papal State has extended its authority over the Balearic archipelago and “taken in custody” the castle of Tortosa;

    • Aragon and Sicily (indisputably the strongest Mediterranean powers of the time) have gained key holdings in Egypt, Holy Land and Anatolia.
    After the disappearance of Al-Andalus and the Emirate of Syria and the collapse of the Ayyubid Sultanate of Egypt (Al-Aziz Uthman dies in 1209, leaving an even weaker successor), there is enough concern in the Dar al-Islam, to induce the decision of Tariq, the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, to launch a jihad in support of his Muslim brothers…
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    XVII. Death of William II and ascension of Geoffroy I


    In the middle of the Third Crusade (1204), King William II of Sicily dies at the age of 50, succeeded by his firstborn son Geoffroy, now 16 years old.

    The legacy of William II is undoubtedly a rich one: less bellicose than his ancestors Roger II and William I, the former sovereign was able to strengthen the status of the Sicilian Kingdom through good government, order and diplomacy, assisted by many brilliant counsellors as Matteo d’Ajello. Under his long reign (38 years), the country has continued to prosper, protected by one of the biggest fleets in the Mediterranean and by the friendship of the Papacy, which has not prevented William to try and achieve also an appeasement with the Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VI in his last years. Apart from the unfortunate 1185 campaign against the Byzantine Empire, William’s few military efforts have been successful, as a result also of the valiant commanders whom he has appointed over the course of time: Margaritone, Tancred, Richard of Acerra, Bohemond de Poitou …

    William’s sponsorship of Innocenzo III has brought about the Sicilian participation in the Third Crusade, the only relevant Sicilian military commitment during the early ruling period of Roger V. With the Third Crusade comes the conquest of Beirut, and – secondarily – Maan and Madaba, significant acquisitions helping the projection of the Sicilian power in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Unfortunately, the death of William II would bring to an end the Sicilian involvement in the Third Crusade: Geoffroy, kind and honest as his father and similarly peace-loving, decides not to make further contributions to the bloody Egyptian campaign and focuses on the consolidation of both domestic authority and newly acquired territories. At least, the birth in 1206 of Osbert - first male son for King Geoffroy and Queen Umfreda – takes away the succession risk from the royal agenda …

    - - - -

    Coming to Sicily’s internal affairs, Geoffroy’s ascension could potentially give Roger V another opportunity to consolidate his network of relationships within the royal court, but his burden of debt and lack of “political” skills limit the achievements despite the prestige and piety surrounding the deeds performed by the Duke in the Third Crusade.

    The Counts of Taranto and Benevento, who share with Roger V the status of belonging to cadet branches of the royal dynasty, refuse to pledge fealty to the Duke of Apulia to create a common front and increase their weight at court. Only Bonaventura, Count of Agrigento, invites Duke Roger to join an alliance to defend each other against the possible dangers that often occur in any royal succession.

    Nevertheless, the family history progresses despite some concerns: particularly worrisome for Roger V are the stress symptoms suffered by his firstborn Richard, who after receiving a superior martial education under the tutorage of his uncle-in-law, Marshal Humbert Mytilenaios, is now mature and married to Flandina d’Altaville, the competent sister of Count Alexander of Benevento.


    Unfortunately, no responsibility comes for Richard while his wife Flandina is appointed as new steward on account of her economic expertise, even if the stark fiscal approach provokes popular discontent in Lecce. Only with Duke Roger’s reassurance that the measures would be withdrawn dissatisfaction eases a bit in 1208. With Count Guillaume confined at Maan, Duchess Berenguela, Clemenza Balsamon and Richard Iagaris complete the list of key individuals close to Duke Roger in the first ruling years of Geoffroy I: a period only apparently quiet, which regrettably is breeding an imminent storm …
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    XVIII. Brother against brother


    Hauteville and Hohenstaufen family trees in late 12th / early 13th centuries;
    kings of Sicily shown in yellow, dukes of Apulia in red

    Private and public misadventures strike the Duchy of Apulia in 1209, certainly Roger’s annus horribilis. In February his strained son Richard unexpectedly commits suicide at age 20, reopening the argument between Roger and Guillaume over their respective government duties. Roger’s younger brother subtly advises him to open up the laws of succession after the heir’s tragic death, a move clearly aimed at increasing Count Guillaume’s power within the family. Despite his limited capabilities, Duke Roger recognises the risks and reacts with violence against his brother, accusing him of sedition. The consequences of Roger’s proud warning to Guillaume are much worse than expected: in April the Count of Maan rises up against his elder brother!

    Unable to hire a fleet to ship the Apulian army to Levant, Roger must rely on King Geoffroy I to have his rights over Maan restored in full. Under the command of Bonaventura of Agrigento, a fleet sets sail from Sicily but is partially recalled to defend the Kingdom against Pope Hartwig’s offensive. In any case, a small contingent lands in Palestine in early 1210, defeats Guillaume in a skirmish and forces him into Maan’s walls. It would take several months for Bonaventura to take over the town, besieged by the Sicilian forces and stricken with typhoid: only in August 1211 Guillaume surrenders the town to Roger V, renouncing also his claims to the title of Duke of Apulia.

    - - - -

    A much bigger danger the Siculo-Norman realm has to face in 1209-10: an invasion brought by the troops serving Pope Hartwig against Napoli and the surrounding region. The reasons of the sneaky attack are not clear, but Geoffroy’s cold support to the ongoing crusade (the Aragonese are still engaged in Egypt against the Ayyubid and Abbasid forces) and Emperor Heinrich’s grip over a German-speaking, reckless Pope like Hartwig may have played a primary role in the eruption of the conflict (October 1209). Moreover, a Papal claim over the town of Trapezous (seized by the Sicilians during the Third Crusade) may have contributed to exacerbate the clash.


    The surprise attack gives an initial advantage to the Papal troops descending towards Napoli and Salerno. A trivial Sicilian attempt at capturing Capua fails immediately, while the enemies meet little resistance until they reach Napoli. The papal army invests the city on all sides and captures it on 3rd December, before starting to march against its next target, Salerno. Massing outside the walls of one of the most important towns in the mainland territory, the enemy soldiers wait for its capitulation. Instead, a bloody battle ensues when a Sicilian army led by Geoffroy I comes to break the siege. The encounter between two armies strong of 8 to 10 thousands men ends with almost 6.000 casualties left on the battlefield on 3rd March. Three days after Salerno shares the same destiny of Napoli and falls in Papal hands.


    What seems Geoffroy’s darkest hour is actually the war’s turning point, because Pope Hartwig dies soon after the news of the fall of Salerno reach Rome. The conclave for the election of the next pontiff meet under severe conditions and disunion emerges within the group of cardinals: one group favouring the continuation of the conflict against the Sicilians and another with more conciliatory views. The cardinal of Anjou, an amenable compromise figure, is finally elected Pope Jean XX with the hope of a honourable peace with Geoffroy I. In fact, the conclave is already informed that a Sicilian army is marching against Roma under the command of Bonifacio di Monferrato, the valiant son of Guglielmo il Vecchio. Despite the loss of Napoli and Salerno, the inexorable progress of Bonifacio changes completely the destiny of the conflict. In April 1210 he lays siege to Roma, joined by Geoffroy I few weeks later with an army totalling 16.000 men.

    The siege of Roma and its final capture is a controversial page of the Norman history: after having knocked holes in the walls, the Sicilian troops enter the city on 23rd August 1210 annihilating the resistance of the few garrisons still unscathed. Despite the instructions of Geoffroy I, the Sicilian soldiers inflict a savage sacking on population and monuments enriching the Eternal City. Less than one month later, a humbled Jean XX receives Geoffroy I at the Lateran Palace to confirm him in all his rights and privileges, yielding his claims on Trapezous and paying a tribute of 100 gold units to get rid of the Sicilian army from the Holy See.
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  14. #34
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    XIX. Roger V the Maniac


    The suicide of the elder son, followed by the betrayal of a brother, would definitively undermine minds much more stronger than Duke Roger’s. In 1211 he starts showing awful signs of madness, exacerbated by the obsession of being constantly at risk of family plots and by the development of a deceitful and cruel personality, uncaring of the opinions and needs of relatives and friends.

    Roger V retains a certain degree of trust only in his sister Medania and brother-in-law Humbert, mixed with a sincere affection towards their five young daughters, playing mates of the Duke’s only surviving child, the thoughtful Isabella. Another son, Asclettin, born by Duchess Berenguela in 1208, falls seriously ill and dies from pneumonia the following year (September 1212), casting a disgraceful shadow over the Apulian branch of the Hautevilles.

    Despite the Duke’s prestige, the unfitness for rule forces him to send Medania and her husband Humbert to govern over Maan after Guillaume’s discharge. Luckily for the scheming Guillaume, Medania shows sympathy for her brother, forgiving his past disloyalty and recalling him at Maan as chancellor. Despite the relatively familiar atmosphere created by the contemporaneous presence of Medania and Guillaume, the Hautevilles would never feel at home in Maan, a remote and landlocked town surrounded by hostile Muslim tribes and the petulant Kings of Jerusalem.


    The familiarity with some zealous clergymen further aggravates the Duke’s madness, because he begins to be convinced he is the Messiah, therefore called to save mankind from the original sin, a quite heterodox trait now dangerously combined with the development of a passion for weapons (particularly some new models of composite bows). A gloomy atmosphere of religious conformity spreads through the province, which further alienates sympathies of the people for Roger V.


    Lost in his unreal world, Roger V is incapable even to appreciate the small improvements that happen without – and often against – his will. The fishing wharf, lost in a fire when Duke Tancred was still alive, is finally rebuilt in 1214. Four years later, also a glasswork activity is started benefiting from foreign expertise.

    Given the Duke’s deficiency, it is the ducal council that often undertakes the reins of government, with the power of its various members rising and falling in proportion to their capacity to manipulate Rogers’ will. Three women have shared a stout influence over Roger for a prolonged period: his mother Medania (up to her death in 1215), his wife Berenguela and his daughter-in-law Flandina (Richard’s widow). Yet, their authority begins to diminish when Isabella, Roger’s only daughter, becomes adult developing a selfish and energetic personality that makes initially a good impression in Lecce.

    Since 1214, Roger’s representatives set about the business of finding her a husband. Two attempts, made with King of Hungary Imre and Byzantine Emperor Andreas I, fail miserably. A vehement argument with steward Flandina soon points up her intractable temperament, which apparently none of her potential spouse is able to tolerate. After a number of years spent in searching a decent marriage for Isabella, she finally gets married to the 66 years old marshal Richard Iagaris, an influential aide of Roger V since the time of the Third Crusade. The marriage would have increased even more Richard Iagaris’ authority at court if only he could survive more than few months the wedding with such a bouncy girl!

    Rumours from distant lands – The fall of Beirut

    The Christian leaders in Outremer find time to quarrel even within the context of an unexpected Muslim resilience in Egypt, where the ailing Ayyubids have been held up by the troops sent by the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad, Tariq, and the tutors of his young successor Nasraddin.

    Disputes between the King of Jerusalem and the Count of Beirut date back since 1203, that is to say since the early stages of the Third Crusade. At those times, the capture of Beirut by Bohemond de Poitou in the name of William II of Sicily left Jerusalem without one of its major ports. In an escalation of tensions, neither Bohemond nor his successor Raymond have considered to return Beirut to Jerusalem, until King Odon finally reclaims his rights and moves against Count Raymond in early 1213.


    Geoffroy I of Sicily orders a mobilisation of the Norman army in defence of Beirut, including more than 1.200 men raised from Lecce. The troops fielded by the two rival kingdoms are impressive, particularly for this short-lived conflict. The siege of Beirut itself lasts few weeks and – after Count Raymond’s death – ends in May 1213. From the following August, the Normans try for a while to conduct some attacks against the coastal towns of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Beirut, Jaffa, Tyrus), but the results are not exciting. Convinced of the irreversible loss of Beirut, Geoffroy I signs a treaty with Odon, allowing the Kingdom of Jerusalem to retain Beirut and concentrate its efforts back against the surrounding Muslim states.
    Last edited by Hastu Neon; 15-10-2010 at 16:40.
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  15. #35
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    XX. Preparing a succession


    Roger de Hauteville’s last years are really painful and his relatives become increasingly concerned for his mad behaviour and the possible consequences for the Duchy of Apulia. His sister Medania, Countess of Maan, likely inspired by the cunning brother Guillaume, urges Roger V to adopt a feudal contract, but receives the same enraged response got few years before by Guillaume when he was Count of Maan. Shortly afterwards she dies under suspicious circumstances, followed few months later by her husband Humbert, leaving again room for his brother Guillaume.

    Gifted with a lot of patience and diplomacy the once-deposed rebellious brother of Duke Roger V finally manages to be restored in his title of Count of Maan. Despite the mutual hatred between Roger and Guillaume, the Duke of Apulia’s insanity and lack of a male descendant make even more important his younger brother’s reinstatement: Guillaume is now the only credible candidate for succession. Thus, the ducal council must even consent to send him a gift upon appointment and lower the scutage tax imposed over the faraway dependency in order to keep the rising star quiet and loyal to his elder brother.

    The rest of the Apulian court is simply either culpably accomplice or inexorably victim of Roger V and his vagaries: first of all Duchess Berenguela, liable for not having produced a healthy son and therefore mistreated and deprived of any power (her husband would even replace Berenguela with Felicia Mazin as spymaster). Their daughter Isabella gets married again in autumn 1217 to Ralph Dermokaites, a noble warrior who has recently reached Lecce. Ralph is appointed new marshal due to his martial abilities, getting some success in disbanding a thieves’ guild frightening the province since a long time ago. Unfortunately, in 1219 some religious divergences with the more and more heretical Roger V, would force Ralph to leave Lecce and take shelter in the commune of Padua, bringing with him Isabella. From this moment on, nobody can restrain Roger V from crazy deeds, not even the lenient Isabella who tries to help in any possible way her maniac father, lost among costly aspirations of splendour and dreams of reckless military endeavours. Shortly, they will bring him to death…

    Rumours from distant lands – A struggling Holy Roman Empire


    Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich VI

    After decades of forced appeasement with the Hohenstaufen Emperors Frederick I and Heinrich VI, the Communes of Northern Italy enter a new phase of self-government requests in the early 13th century. In combination with the political stance, the diffusion of heretical sects like the Waldensians contributes to inflame this thorny region.

    The breakaway from the imperial lordship begins with the short-lived autonomy of Tuscany declared in 1212. Just an experiment, which would be emulated few years later by the Duchy of Savoie, by the free communes of Pisa and Padua and by the self-governing Archbishopric of Romagna, defections that frustrate – also from a strategic and logistic standpoint – the German Emperors’ ability to exert control over the region.

    On the other side, this period sees increasing dynastic troubles for the Hohenstaufens, spurred by the death of Emperor Heinrich VI in June 1216. In adherence to the Germanic tradition of gavelkind, Heinrich divides his inheritance into two parts: Burchard (Constance de Hauteville’s son, therefore William II’s cousin) receives both the Reichskrone of Germany and the Iron Crown of Italy, while his half-brother Johann is granted some scattered territories plus the crown of Burgundy. The problem with this partition is that actually weakens the imperial authority when it would require more cohesion to face the centrifuge forces resurfacing in Northern Italy.

    Tension between the two half-brothers erupts into open war in late 1219, when the stronger Burchard attacks Johann’s territories. Unfortunately, in 1220 Emperor Burchard passes away during the military campaign against Burgundy, leaving the Holy Roman Empire in extreme difficulties, as he grants his 9-year son Werner the German crown and his 8-year son Augustin the Italian one. In just four years, the glorious construction of Frederick I Barbarossa and Heinrich VI falls to pieces, fractured into three separate and quarrelling monarchies. In any case, Werner is the only one who has also inherited – besides a crown – a mighty army to deal with his half-uncle (while Augustin’s authority in Italy is so ineffectual at the moment that he cannot raise a decent army!).

    The troops loyal to German King defeat Johann of Burgundy in some minor skirmishes, forcing him to seek conciliation, also advisable given the minority of Werner and Augustin. A temporary truce is made among the family in 1223: based on the terms of the agreement, Johann renounces his claims to the imperial title and relinquishes the towns of Besançon and Innsbruck to the German Empire.
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  16. #36
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    XXI. The last endeavour of Roger V

    The Third Crusade has seriously hit Egypt and Syria, driving away many Arabs from important cities like Mecca, Medina, Alexandria and Damascus. As retaliation against the Christian conquests, a great Muslim naval counteroffensive begins in the following years, with raids on the coasts of Spain, Provence, Italy and the Levant. Despite the material damages suffered by their coastal garrisons, the Iberians manage to repel the attacks, while the short-lived Abbasid occupation of Provence ends when William I of Castile-Leon-Navarra sends an expedition to capture those lands previously under Aragonese rule.

    The most devastating effects occur in Central Italy and the Levant, where weaker sovereigns and smaller fleets cannot resist the Muslim raids. A fleet prepared by Emir Aram of Mosul arrives near Roma and takes the Eternal City, which has been sacked only few years before by the Siculo-Normans. The capture of Roma by Muslim privateers is a huge shock for Christianity: Pope Corradino decides to leave the city and transfer the Holy See to Mallorca, repeatedly asking for support which does not come. Actually, the sovereigns of Germany, France, England and Castile-Leon-Navarra are already in their own troubles, while the kings of Aragon and Jerusalem are engaged in the difficult defence of their Egyptian conquests. In late 1219 other Papal dependencies fall in Muslim hands, namely Tortosa (on the Syrian coast) and Capua – the latter too close to the Norman kingdom to keep calm both Geoffroy I and Roger V of Apulia.

    After Aram of Mosul’s death during the siege of Orbetello (the Emir’s young son Bargiran succeed, tutored by his uncles), an over-enthusiastic Roger V calls for the liberation of Roma on 26th October 1219, joined by the mindful Geoffroy I, who finally sees the chance to extend further northward the domains of his realm. The powerful Imre I of Hungary is the only Christian ruler who supports the Sicilian campaign to liberate the Holy See.


    While King Geoffroy’s troops get an important victory at Capua, the absence of a competent marshal creates some obstacles to gather Duke Roger’s army. Actually, Roger V leaves Lecce only in late November, when Yves de Poitou, another member of the powerful family once titular of the Duchy of Antioch – and now related to the Hautevilles through the marriage of Philippos with Princess Eudoxia (King Geoffroy’s sister) – has already started the siege of Capua.

    The legendary luck and subtlety of the Poitous would play an important role in this campaign as they did during the Third Crusade. Roger V arrives at Capua when the Muslim garrison is surrendering to Yves, who claims his rights over the town in spite of Roger’s ambitions. Upset with King Geoffroy’s preference conceded to Yves, a depressed Roger V of Apulia determines to march towards Roma, searching for the greatest deed.


    In the last days of 1219 he is in Roma to engage the Muslim troops under the city walls without waiting for the reinforcements sent by Geoffroy I; the skilled Kaytun of Mosul (uncle of the young Emir Bargiran) commands the enemy troops. The numbers are definitely with Kaytun, able to field almost 6.000 men against less then 1.300 Normans. After a cruel mêlée, ¾ of Roger’s contingent is wiped out, forcing him to retreat towards Napoli, where the bulk of King Geoffroy’s army is assembling to move against Kaytun. Discredited and hopeless, Roger V dies on 3rd March 1220 few weeks after the meeting with his liege.

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  17. #37
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    XXII. Guillaume succeeds his brother Roger


    The people give mixed reaction to the news of Roger’s death: sincerely sorrowful for the ill-starred Duke, but at the same time relieved of his crazy deeds. Having Roger died without issue, his younger brother Guillaume (already Count of Maan) inherits the title of Duke of Apulia and Count of Lecce, plus Roger’s claims over the kingship of Sicily and the county of Taranto.

    Aged 35 years and married with the prolific Ermesinde de Namur, Guillaume has a progeny that apparently will not cause the succession troubles suffered by Roger V: two sons, William (11 years old) and Humbert (4) and two daughters, Fredesende (15) and Constance (13). Just two months after Guillaume’s ascension, Ermesinde gives birth to another daughter, Yolanda. The elder son William is a promising guy: growing as a conniver, he is developing a fine and talented personality, while a local noble is tutoring the younger Humbert in the court education. After a failed attempt to betroth the gifted Fredesende to Richard, son of Roger of Taranto, she would finally leave her family house in October 1221 to get married to Duke Bertrand of Toulouse (a prestigious wedding that moreover ensures a rich dowry to the Apulian coffers).

    The new Duke has immediately to consolidate his power after the long and negligent rule of the elder brother. First of all, Guillaume IV brings to Lecce some of the aides who have been helping him at Maan: Henry Sharif as marshal and Adhemar Khoury as bishop. Nevertheless, he also retains three skilful and experienced women appointed by his predecessors: Clemenza Balsamon as chancellor, Felicia Mazin as spymaster and Flandina d’Altaville as steward.

    Among the most serious priorities there is the continuation of the war commenced by Roger V, with a little Apulian contingent – less than 300 men – still engaged in the siege of Orbetello. Differently from Roger, Guillaume has always kept a friendly relationship with the Poitou family, including an alliance pact achieved with Count Manuel of Madaba when Guillaume governed over Maan (while any attempt to have the proud Norman Count Roger of Al’Aqabah recognising the Hautevilles’ supremacy have continued – and would continue - to fail). Therefore, the new Duke finds a cooperative modus operandi with the Poitou commanders of the royal army. After a series of cruel battles that keep engaged the royal army until April, an 8.000 men strong contingent finally comes to rescue the small Apulian company at Orbetello, which falls to Charles de Poitou on 7th May 1220.

    Rumours from distant lands – The turbulent Balkans

    In this period a number of overlapping claims and dynastic ambitions set fire to the Balkans. The turmoil begins with a conflict between Serbia and Hungary over the possession of Belgrade (1214-15). After an initial Serbian success culminating with the capture of city, Imre I of Hungary launches a campaign to recover it, supported by his Croatian vassal. After a successful siege, a peace treaty sanctions the Hungarian ownership of Belgrade.

    Ten years later Serbia declares war on Bulgaria over a border dispute. When the latter seems to get the upper hand on the former, their stronger neighbour – Hungary – forces mediation in order to prevent any of two kingdoms from growing stronger at the expenses of the other. Therefore the three kings sign a truce sanctioning the status quo that would not pass the test of time, because in 1228 Bulgaria and Serbia are at war with each other again. But this time Hungary takes a stronger position, siding with Rastko of Serbia. The conflict lasts three awful years for King Ladislav of Bulgaria, who sees his lands invaded from north and east and conquered by the joint armies of Hungary and Serbia. By the terms of the treaty of Naissus (23rd May 1231), Rastko Nemanjic (from now on Rastko the Great) assumes the kingship of Bulgaria, bringing to an end the rule of the Asen dynasty.


    Serbian annexation of Bulgaria (1231)
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  18. #38
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    XXIII. The liberation of Roma


    The liberation of Roma from the Muslim yoke would take more than expected – to be exact until early 1223. Not only the Emir of Mosul and his followers are committing more and more forces to defend the newly acquired lands in Central Italy, but also the general context of the Muslim counteroffensive in the Levant and the Mediterranean basin does not favour a fast development of the Sicilian campaign.

    After the loss of the so-called Patrimonium Sancti Petri (the area surrounding Roma), the Papal garrisons have been dislodged by almost all their citadels in the Mediterranean Sea, savagely raided by the Muslim privateers: to the point that Pope Heinrich himself is forced to take shelter at Menorca under the protection of the Aragonese navy.

    In the Levant, the situation is getting worse for Christianity: the Abbasids and Azerbaijanis have retaken both Alexandria and Damascus from Aragon and Jerusalem, respectively; only the resilience of the Byzantine Emperor Ioannes III’s generals operating in Anatolia and Arabia has avoided the fall of the whole region, while their comrades have been able to expand well into Crimea at the expense of the indigenous peoples.

    The defection of the Imre of Hungary, who lifts the siege of Roma in April 1221 after having received a payment from the infidels, leaves Geoffroy I of Sicily to fight alone. At least initially, the occupation of the citadel of Orvieto gives some relief to the Sicilians; but when the valiant Behdin of Al Jazira departs from Roma with substantial forces, planning a new attack against Napoli and Salerno, the destiny of the war seems again under discussion. Both towns fall to Behdin in the upcoming summer, a course of action that forces Charles de Poitou, now incontestable leader of the Sicilian army, to divert for a while his attention from Roma.

    Fortunately, by the end of 1221 Charles reconquers both towns, becoming the strongest feudal lord of the Kingdom of Sicily. In the meantime, Guillaume IV of Apulia stays in Lecce, incapable of raising a new army to join the main campaigns. Actually, the campaigns have become two because King Geoffroy’s diversion in the Levant: in early 1222 he lands in Syria and marches up to Al Bichri, where 16-year old Emir Bargiran of Mosul resides. On 24th March the town falls to Geoffroy I after a brief siege, but the Sicilians do not manage to pacify the province until, due to both stiff local resistance and scarce supplies, they decide to retreat back towards the coast.

    At least, Geoffroy’s campaign in Syria has distracted enemy forces away from Roma, where Charles de Poitou can now easily overcome the feeble Muslim resistance and resume the siege of the city. Guillaume IV joins the siege in its final stage (December 1222) with more than 800 soldiers – a negligible contribution to a 15.000-men strong royal army! Thus, on 3rd January 1223 the Sicilian troops liberate Roma in the name of Geoffroy I. King Geoffroy’s second conquest of Roma is more enduring than his first one (the sack of 1210), as the city and the surrounding lands are directly annexed to the royal demesne: actually, the previous war against Pope Hartwig left a young Geoffroy so disillusioned to the point that the restitution of Roma to his successors seems now out of question.


    Kingdom of Sicily in light green, with recent additions circled in red.
    Three different Hohenstaufen leaders rule Germany (olive), Italy (green) and Burgundy (wine).


    - - - -

    The Sicilian war against the Emirs of Azerbaijan and Mosul does not end actually with the conquest of Roma, but drags out for some more years with negative outcomes for the Hautevilles’ ambitions in the Levant. A feeble truce signed after the liberation of Roma allows the Muslim forces to retreat in relative order and refocus all their efforts on easier targets: in few months the Sicilians surrender the citadels of Trapezous (on the Black Sea) and Madaba (east of Jerusalem) to the Emir of Azerbaijan, a close ally of Bargiran of Mosul.

    Also profiting on the Abbasid successes against Odon of Jerusalem (with even his capital being subjected to a temporary siege in late 1223), the Emirs of Azerbaijan and Mosul muster larger armies and dispatch them to Maan. The town, still belonging to Guillaume IV of Apulia despite the increasing difficulties in facing local felons, is actually the last Siculo-Norman stronghold in the Levant among those acquired during the Third Crusade. In January 1224 the Muslim hordes reach Maan, where a small Apulian garrison endures. After unsuccessful attempts to either break the siege or find an agreement to ransom the Christian inhabitants, with no possibility to reinforce the garrison with fresh troops it is just a matter of time before Maan falls… The capitulation comes on 7th March 1224, 21 years after the conquest by Roger V.

    The war goes on until 1228 without significant events: a Muslim attack against Bari is repulsed in 1226 by a massive force built up by the new King Osbert I (Geoffroy I has died few weeks before this raid), including a considerable contingent of Guillaume IV dispatched from Lecce. Finally, in April 1228 the Emir of Mosul and the King of Sicily sign a peace the puts an end to a conflict that has drained both factions. At least, the Sicilian acquisition of Roma and Central Italy more than compensates for the loss of the strongholds in the Levant, and gives the opportunity to refocus the Hautevilles’ ambitions on the peninsula from stronger foundations.
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  19. #39
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    XXIV. A transforming dynasty

    The Hauteville family undergoes dramatic changes in few years because of a series of unexpected events concerning both royal lineage and cadet branches.

    Guillaume IV manages to strengthen his prestige arranging some remarkable weddings for the growing progeny of his branch (only the poor Fredesende, married to the Duke of Tolouse, dies prematurely in 1224): in 1222 his niece Amburga marries Crown Prince Osbert and soon after gives birth to the future King Geoffroy II. Two years later, William (Guillaume’s elder son) marries Fressenda d’Altaville (daughter of Alexander, Count of Benevento). The loss of Maan, suffered in the same year, prevents the granting of a title to the maturing William. Instead, the young stays as ducal marshal in Lecce, where can be trained as Guillaume was under the rule of his father and brother.

    Generally, these are wealthy years for the Ducal coffers: left relatively untouched by the Muslim raids, the province of Lecce thrives despite the constant state of war. Increased levies and other duties allow Guillaume IV to sponsor even cultural development: Lecce is enriched with a school in 1225 to promote the spread of liberal arts.

    Two events of different nature cast a shadow on Duke Guillaume’s last years: a personal infidelity and a peasant revolt. In 1222 Duchess Ermesinde gives birth to her third son – Richard – who is discovered to be a bastard, a real discredit for the couple… Nevertheless, the court would be favourably impressed with Guillaume’s benevolence towards the bastard, who receives an education and is treated by the Duke like his other sons William and Humbert.

    In the spring 1223 a rebellion erupts against Duke Guillaume’s heavy-handed and tradition-bound rule, which has brought heavy taxation on the commoners (burghers and peasants) while granting privileges to the nobles. In the last days of April the rebellion begins with a series of attacks against noble houses in the countryside. The noble’s response is angry: Guillaume IV himself leads an 800-strong army against almost 500 insurgents. Despite some tactical mistakes that reveal Guillaume’s ineptitude on the battlefield, the superiority of the loyalists ensures his victory: the cavalry charges scatter the rebel ranks and the battle becomes a slaughter. At the end of the battle, the insurgents count 200-300 casualties.


    In the following weeks, while the residual outbursts of fury are subdued, the members of the ducal council advise Guillaume IV to carry out some initiatives to appease the commoners and somewhat reduce the aristocracy’s role: he adopts traditional customs as an alternative to feudal rules, suspends some tolls and grants some positions and government salaries to burgher leaders.


    The 1223 revolt marks a turning point in Duke Guillaume’s fortune: from this time forth, his authority fades out, replaced by the emergent personalities of his elder son William and his wife Fressenda. The effective succession would come only in 1226, when Guillaume IV commits suicide at age 41 after his wife Ermesinde’s death (sign that he was still loving her despite the infidelity). On that same day William V and Fressenda have their first daughter, Eirene, symbolically marking the start of a new age for the Duke of Apulia.




    In the same period, Geoffroy I delegates his three sons Osbert (Duke of Sicily and hereditary prince), Jordan (Count of Foggia) and Robert (Count of Siracusa) to govern the internal affairs of the realm, while the king himself focuses on the conflict against Mosul. Everything seems well prepared for the succession when Geoffroy I dies in February 1226, paving the way to the ascension of Osbert I, despite the fact that the new king has been severely wounded fighting valorously against the Muslims. Yet, the destiny seldom follows human plans: Osbert’s health worsens and he dies in 1228 after just two years of rule. His 5-year old son Geoffroy II is crowned king under a regency council comprising Queen Mother Amburga and uncles Jordan and Robert.

    The dissatisfaction with the long military campaigns and the rapid succession of rulers undermine the traditional Siculo-Norman centralism, imposed by Roger II and well preserved by William II and Geoffroy I. Profiting from the situation, Jordan, Robert and other feudal lords consolidate their holdings, while the royal demesne directly ruled by Geoffroy II shrinks to Messina, Palermo and Roma.
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  20. #40
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    XXV.The ill-fated Fourth Crusade


    The Third Crusade (1201-08) has relieved the Kingdom of Jerusalem of the threat coming from the Ayyubid Egypt, but its main sponsors – Aragon and Sicily supported by the Byzantine Emperor – have reaped the best rewards.

    After a period of relative peace that has helped King Odon’s consolidation, the joint pressure of the Abbasid Caliph Nasraddin and the Azeri Emir Araz Ildeguzid on Jerusalem induces various Christian preachers to ask for a new crusade. Differently from the Third Crusade, this time there is little enthusiasm for the new venture, without forgetting that the Pope is still exiled under Pere II d’Aragon’s protection and other nations have been drained by war (France, England, Sicily, Aragon) or internal strife (Castile-Leon-Navarra, where few big vassals have rebelled and declared independence from William I): therefore, only Werner of Germany “takes the cross” in 1228, while the infidel horde is already at the gates of Jerusalem. Holy Roman Emperor Werner can only rely on the mighty Genoese fleet and the valiant Leo of Athens for support.

    German preparations for the expeditions take a long time, preventing the salvation of Jerusalem: overwhelmed by the Abbasid and Azeri armies led by the Caliph of Baghdad Nasraddin, King Odon hands over the keys of the city and withdraws to Antioch (January 1229). In the following months, the troops of the Emir of Azerbaijan Araz take with little resistance a bunch of other Christian castles in Palestine, leaving the formerly glorious Kingdom of Jerusalem as tiny strip of land controlling few coastal strongholds like Antioch, Jaffa, Ascalon and the Sinai peninsula.


    In early 1229 bands of German crusaders pass through Apulia on their way to the Levant, without convincing anybody to join the new enterprise. William V provides them with a safe passage, but commits neither men nor gold. Egypt and Palestine are the main targets of the Fourth Crusade, with Leo of Athens focusing on the former and the Germans on the latter.

    If Alexandria is taken with little resistance from the Muslim inhabitants already in 1229 and the remnants of the Ayyubid Sultanate wiped out in a couple of years, much more complex would be the situation in Palestine. Once landed on its coasts, the imperial/Genoese troops find there armies more powerful and well organised than the wretched Egyptian one. The march to Jerusalem becomes a nightmare because of the Abbasid or Azeri raids. In the meantime, Odon’s strongholds surrender everywhere to Araz of Azerbaijan: the King of Jerusalem is taken captive by the Azeris at Antioch on 22nd March 1231 and ransomed for huge a large sum of gold bezants.

    Unfortunately for Odon and the other Christians, Werner’s commitment to the Fourth Crusade begins to drop because of the lack of any major victories during the first part of the campaign and the thorny situation at home, where during the Emperor’s absence his younger brother Augustin is attempting to expand his own influence over Germany.

    As the war between Werner and Augustin will be later covered in more detail, let’s continue here with the developments in the Levant, even if spanning over a lengthy timeframe. Both Muslim leaders would die shortly after the fall of Antioch (Abbasid Caliph Nasraddin in 1231 and Araz Ildeguzid 1232), causing a temporary standstill in their armies’ progression and even the reconquest of Jerusalem by the German crusaders. Yet, the Christian recovery is short-lived, because as soon as the Abbasids and the Azeris are able to reorganise their forces the Kingdom of Jerusalem is deluged again – this time without any chance of resistance. One after the other, King Odon’s defences tumble, to the point that his only domain in the Holy Land is the fortress of Jaffa. In fact, the Fourth Crusade comes to an end with the truce signed there in April 1235.

    Odon would continue to claim to be king, but without any realistic prospect to recover his lost realm. Despite persistent and vain Papal calls to raise expeditions to liberate the Holy Land (the most important being issued during the Council of Barcelona in 1241), no effective crusade takes place for a long while.
    Last edited by Hastu Neon; 17-10-2010 at 11:58.
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