XLVII. The magnate revolts hit Henry I
In 1308 even the Sicilian crown, secure on the heads of the Hauteville sovereigns for almost 150 years, waves dangerously on King Henry I due to the attacks of the Norman barons. On the contrary, the year opens with a favourable omen for Prince Godfrey – who has hurried back from the Holy Land because of the complex situation of the realm. In April the death of Alberico d’Altaville (last childless descendant of that lineage) brings the inheritance of the Duchy of Sicily to Henry de Hauteville, Godfrey’s cousin.
The young member of the Apulian Hautevilles is only 12 years old when he finds himself in possession of a prestigious title and a vast domain, spanning from the ducal capital of Agrigento into the southeastern part of the island to Siracusa, and furthermore across the sea to Gabes and other faraway lands in the Levant. Given his minority status and the strong linkage that binds the descendants of Hugh of Apulia, Duke Henry of Sicily cannot avoid liaising frequently with his elder cousin Godfrey, whose influence on the matters of the island grows considerably (by the way, should the young boy die before having children, the Prince of Apulia is first in the line of succession!).
In the meantime, the insolence of Herman of Roma against King Henry grows stronger, amid the tacit or overt support of other magnates like the Counts of Palermo, Salerno and Monferrato. Godfrey, whose esteem in the king has been steadily lowering since the degrading truce with the Sheik of Darum, cautiously keeps double-dealing with both loyalists and rebels, as he does not trust in Herman’s means: on one side, he enters an alliance with Herman of Roma, on the other he gets closer to Henry I through the intercession of Guy Theodosiopolites, Duke of Calabria and chief lieutenant of King Henry on the peninsula, whose elder daughter Yolanda has married Godfrey’s elder son Athanasios in 1307.
There is no time to rejoice of the Altaville’s inheritance as in April 1308 Herman of Roma raises the standard of rebellion against Henry I of Sicily, followed by his accomplices: the stratigoti (royal legates) of Roma, Palermo and Monferrato pay with their lives the loyalty to the king. When asked to join the uprising, Godfrey of Apulia refuses to do so saying “the stars have told me to stay away from it”.
In truth, Godfrey determines to maintain complacent neutrality towards the King, hopeful to gain more by helping a troubled king than by sharing the prey with many ambitious vultures. Hence, while civil war ravages the realm, Apulia can even celebrate in June 1308 the birth of Alexios, son of Athanasios de Hauteville and Yolanda Theodosiopolites and only heir apparent of Duke Guy of Calabria (in addition to being a possible inheritor of the Principality of Apulia). As chief of the royalist party, Guy appreciates that death can take him at any time: at least he can leave serene in the knowledge that in such circumstance Calabria would pass over to an associated dynasty.
Guy of Calabria puts himself at the head of the royal army and advances towards Roma, winning a decisive battle against Herman and – despite having been wounded – undertaking the siege of the city. After a vain attempt of relief, Roma falls into the hands of the royalists; deprived by Henry I of all his properties, in October Herman escapes to England.
Despite the fall of Roma, the revolt continues to propagate in 1309, particularly in overseas provinces: better equipped and paid, the forces supporting Henry I can easily defeat the domestic rebels but cannot anything against the persistent hatred of the natives against the Sicilian rule in Libya and Syria. Degarrisoned to reinforce Southern Italy and Sicily, the whole Syrian dominion is invested by the Emir Koit of Kirkuk (and his local followers) and completely lost to Henry I of Sicily.
Rumours from distant lands – Norwegian and Scottish expansionisms in the North
Guided by two valiant kings, the peripheral realms of Norway and Scotland make their entrance into the mainstream picture by acquiring lands and prestige at the expense of their troubled neighbours.
Successor state of the great Viking Empire, Norway has lived in the outskirts of history since 11th century, without particular events to report apart from regular border conflicts with Sweden which have resulted in small acquisitions in the scarcely populated north. Norse authority over the islands of the North Sea has been mildly exercised, with their rulers retaining the title of “kings of the Isles” themselves. Then in early 14th century Finn I of Norway asserts a direct rule over the Isles and launches an expedition to conquer Iceland, an endeavour successfully accomplished by 1306. He manages also to gain control of Werle, on the southern Baltic coast.
With the absorption of Denmark into the Holy Roman Empire and the retrenchment of Sweden after the strenuous efforts against the Mongol invasion, Norway can establish itself as the leading power in Scandinavia. The Norwegian triumph comes later, when Finn’s successor, Torbjorn of Agder, leads the decisive offensive against the Swedish crown that culminates with the annexation of the weaker neighbour on 25th September 1322.
Norway after the annexation of Sweden
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Europe had already known the strength of the Scots during the last significant crusade, the Fifth, which ended with their capture of Tunis. But that one was an extemporaneous effort made by ragged band of crusaders, while there is much more commitment and organisation in the early 14th century expansion into Celtic territories.
Profiting from the Angevin troubles in subduing nationalism in Ireland and Cornwall while involved in the conflict against Charles IV of France, King Trian steadily increases his influence in those two regions, characterised by close cultural links with Scotland. Initially, such sway comes with aids and men sent from the northern kingdom. Then, in the wake of the Irish rebellion Trian leads an expedition aimed at strengthening a direct Scottish presence in the southeastern section of the island – which ends up with the capture of Osraige in 1310.
While the Angevin monarchy is unable to find a decent king to exit the crisis that has been striking England since the late 1200s, the Scots set sail from southern Ireland and land in Cornwall. Within a short time the Scots gain Dorset from England (1313) and extend their control over Exeter (1315), a town that has previously revolted against the Angevin rule. With the absorption of the Duchy of Cornwall in 1318, the Scottish presence in that region seems well consolidated.
Trian of Scotland's domains in early 14th century