Emperor Henry Vi

EMPEROR HENRY VI. (1165-1197), Roman emperor,'son of the emperor Frederick I. and Beatrix, daughter of Renaud III., count of upper Burgundy, was born at Nijmwegen, and educated under the care of Conrad of Querfurt, afterwards bishop of Hildesheim and Wiirzburg. Chosen German king, or king of the Romans, at Bamberg in June 1169, he was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 15th of August 1169, invested with lands in Germany in 1179, and at Whitsuntide 1184 his knighthood was celebrated in the most magnificent manner at Mainz. Frederick was anxious to associate his son with himself in the government of the empire, and when he left Germany in 1184 Henry remained behind as regent, while his father sought to procure his coronation from Pope Lucius III. The pope was hesitating when he heard that the emperor had arranged a marriage between Henry and Constance, daughter of the late king of Sicily, Roger I., and aunt and heiress of the reigning king, William II.; and this step, which threatened to unite Sicily with Germany, decided him to refuse the proposal. This marriage took place at Milan on the 27th of January 1186, and soon afterwards Henry was crowned king of Italy. The claim of Henry and his wife on Sicily was recognized by the barons of that kingdom; and having been recognized by the pope as Roman emperor elect, Henry returned to Germany, and was again appointed regent when Frederick set out on crusade in May 1 189. His attempts to bring peace to Germany were interrupted by the return of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony, in October 1189, and a campaign against him was followed by a peace made at Fulda in July 1190.

Henry's desire to make this peace was due to the death of William of Sicily, which was soon followed by that of the emperor Frederick. Germany and Italy alike seemed to need the king's presence, but for him, like all the Hohenstaufen, Italy had the greater charm, and having obtained a promise of his coronation from Pope Clement III. he crossed the Alps in the winter of 1 190. He purchased the support of the cities of northern Italy, but on reaching Rome he found Clement was dead and his successor, Celestine III., disinclined to carry out the engagement of his predecessor. The strength of the German army and a treaty made between the king and the Romans induced him, however, to crown Henry as emperor on the 14th of April 1191. The aid of the Romans had been purchased by the king's promise to place in their possession the city of Tusculum, which they had attacked in vain for three years. After the ceremony the emperor fulfilled this contract, when the city was destroyed and many of the inhabitants massacred. Meanwhile a party in Sicily had chosen Tancred, an illegitimate son of Roger, son of King Roger II., as their king, and he had already won considerable authority and was favoured by the pope. Leaving Rome Henry met with no resistance until he reached Naples, which he was unable to take, as the ravages of fever and threatening news from Germany, where his death was reported, compelled him to raise the siege. In December 1191 he returned to Germany. Disorder was general and a variety of reasons induced both the Welfs and their earlier opponents to join in a general league against the emperor. Vacancies in various bishoprics added to the confusion, and Henry's enemies gained in numbers and strength when it was suspected that he was implicated in the murder of Albert, bishop of Li6ge. Henry acted energetically in fighting this formidable combination, but his salvation came from the captivity of Richard I., king of England, and the skill with which he used this event to make peace with his foes; and, when Henry the Lion came to terms in March 1194, order was restored to Germany.

In the following May, Henry made his second expedition to Italy, where Pope Celestine had definitely espoused the cause of Tancred. The ransom received from Richard enabled him to equip a large army, and aided by a fleet fitted out by Genoa and Pisa he soon secured a complete mastery over the Italian main- land. When he reached Sicily he found Tancred dead, and, meeting with very little resistance, he entered Palermo, where he was crowned king on Christmas day 1194. A stay of a few months' duration enabled Henry_to settle the affairs of the kingdom; and leaving his wife, Constance, as regent, and appointing many Germans to positions of influence, he returned to Germany in June 1195.

Having established his position in Germany and Italy, Henry began to cherish ideas of universal empire. Richard of England had already owned his supremacy, and declaring he would compel the king of France to do the same Henry sought to stir up strife between France and England. Nor did the Spanish kingdoms escape his notice. Tunis and Tripoli were claimed, and when the eastern emperor, Isaac Angelus, asked his help, he demanded in return the cession of the Balkan peninsula. The kings of Cyprus and Armenia asked for investiture at his hands; and in general Henry, in the words of a Byzantine chronicler, put forward his demands as " the lord of all lords, the king of all kings." To complete this scheme two steps were necessary, a reconciliation with the pope and the recognition of his young son, Frederick, as his successor in the Empire. The first was easily accomplished; the second was more difficult. After attempting to suppress the renewed disorder in Germany, Henry met the princes at Worms in December 1195 and put his proposal before them. In spite of promises they disliked the suggestion as tending to draw them into Sicilian troubles, and avoided the emperor's displeasure by postponing their answer. By threats or negotiations, however, Henry won the consent of about fifty princes; but though the diet which met at Wiirzburg in April 1196 agreed to the scheme, the vigorous opposition of Adolph, archbishop of Cologne, and others rendered it inoperative. In June 1196 Henry went again to Italy, sought vainly to restore order in the north, and tried to persuade the pope to crown his son who had been chosen king of the Romans at Frankfort. Celestine, who had many causes of complaint against the emperor and his vassals, refused. The emperor then went to the south, where the oppression of his German officials had caused an insurrection, which was put down with terrible cruelty. At Messina on the 28th of September 1197 Henry died from a cold caught whilst hunting, and was buried at Palermo. He was a man of small frame and delicate constitution, but possessed considerable mental gifts and was skilled in knightly exercises. His ambition was immense, and to attain his ends he often resorted deliberately to cruelty and treachery. His chief recreation was hunting, and he also found pleasure in the society of the Minnesingers and in writing poems, which appear in F. H. von der Hagen's Minnesinger (Leipzig, 1838). He left an only son Frederick, afterwards the emperor Frederick II.

The chief authorities for the life and reign of Henry VI. are Otto of Freising, Chronicon, continued by Otto of St. Blasius; Godfrey of Viterbo, Gesta Friderici I. and Gesta Heinrici VI.; Giselbert of Mons, Chronicon Hanoniense, all of which appear in the Monumenta Germaniae historica. Scriptores, Bande xx., xxi., xxii. (Hanover and Berlin, 1826-1892), and the various annals of the time.

The best modern authorities are: W. von Giesebrecht, Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit, Band iv. (Brunswick, 1877); T. Toeche, Kaiser Heinrich VI. (Leipzig, 1867); H. Bloch, Forschungen zur Politik Kaiser Heinrichs VI. (Berlin, 1892), and K. A. Kneller, Des Richard Lowenherz deutsche Gefangenschaft (Freiburg, 1893).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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