The first Norman rulers

William Iron Arm and the Normans in Melfi

The altered military situation and political changes modified the approach of the Norman leaders, who, from being in the pay of various princes, where now their own masters. Thus in September 1042 William of Hauteville, known as Iron-Arm and the other leaders turned to Guaimar of Salerno (now known as the duke of Apulia and Calabria), in order to obtain, by paying homage of vassalage to him, official recognition of their conquests. Concerned to thwart the expansionist attempts of another Norman, Rainolf of Aversa, Guaimar accepted, to the detriment of his own land, from 1043, an alliance with the Hautevilles. In Melfi a ‘republican’ model was introduced, it was divided into twelve condotteri, that is twelve baronies, each independent of the other, who collectively exercised their public duties by a pact of mutual assistance. William of Hauteville, who had become a count in 1042 and had married the Duke of Salerno’s niece, held a predominant position. The fiefs were divided according to merit and rank : Ascoli for William, Venosa for Dreux etc. Melfi, the common capital where they each had a palace and control of a sector, was not divided up.
With the death of William, his son Dreux was elected in his place and adopted a titular, which indicated the change of status of the Norman mercenaries and the ambitions of the Hautevilles: “duke and master of Italy, count of the Normans and the whole of Apulia and Calabria”. The Duke of Salerno gave him his daughter for a wife. Under the auspices of the Lombard project to liberate Apulia from under the yoke of the Byzantines, the Normans continued to expropriate considerable parts of the Eastern Empire’s lands.

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