The end of the Norman Kingdom and the arrival of the Swabians

Tancred of Lecce, king of Sicily

Throughout their history, the Normans had been hostile to the German emperor, and the contrast in culture and mentality between the population of Mezzogiorno and the ‘Germans’ accentuated this. The pretensions of Constance de Hauteville, Roger II’s daughter and aunt of the late king William, as legitimate heir, were badly accepted because of her marriage, in 1184, to Frederick I of Hohenstaufen, known as ‘Barbarossa’.
Thus at the beginning of 1190, Tancred, count of Lecce, Constance’s nephew, the illegitimate grandson of Roger II, first cousin of William II, was placed on the throne. Tancred was a great military commander, courageous, intelligent, but characterized as being ugly and lacking presence. This claim came mainly from chroniclers close to the emperor, such as Peter of Eboli, who had a particular and illustrious view of Henry VI.
The beginning of Tancred’s reign saw a reopening of rebellions by vassals in Apulia and Muslim brigands hiding in the inaccessible mountainous regions in the centre of Sicily. When Henry VI arrived in Italy in 1191, the king had been abandoned by many of his allies and vassals, but not by the towns he had given favours to. Naples resisted a siege and Salerno succeeded in taking prisoner Empress Constance, she was taken to Palermo and then imprisoned in Naples. The emperor provisionally rebuffed, Tancred obtained the recognition of Pope Clement III, but Constance escaped.
In 1193, Tancred made an agreement with the Byzantine Empire by betrothing his eldest son, Roger, to the daughter of Isaac Angelus, from the basileus. In order to maintain the continuation of the dynasty, Tancred had Roger III crowned, but he died in 1193, before Tancred, who died on 20 February 1194 in his royal palace in Palermo, leaving William III, an heir too young to assume the throne.

previous page    next page