Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Fall Of The Ghibellines
by [?]

The death of Frederick II., in 1250, was followed by a series of misfortunes to his descendants, so tragical as to form a story full of pathetic interest. His son Enzio, a man of remarkable beauty and valor, celebrated as a Minnesinger, and of unusual intellectual qualities, had been taken prisoner, as we have already told, by the Bolognese, and condemned by them to perpetual imprisonment, despite the prayers of his father and the rich ransom offered. For twenty-two years he continued a tenant of a dungeon, and in this gloomy scene of death in life survived all the sons and grandsons of his father, every one of whom perished by poison, the sword, or the axe of the executioner. It is this dread story of the fate of the Hohenstauffen imperial house which we have now to tell.

No sooner had Frederick expired than the enemies of his house arose on every side. Conrad IV., his eldest son and successor, found Germany so filled with his foes that he was forced to take refuge in Italy, where his half-brother, Manfred, Prince of Taranto, ceded to him the sovereignty of the Italian realm, and lent him his aid to secure it. The royal brothers captured Capua and Naples, where Conrad signalized his success by placing a bridle in the mouth of an antique colossal horse’s head, the emblem of the city. This insult made the inhabitants his implacable foes. His success was but temporary. He died suddenly, as also did his younger brother Henry, poisoned by his half-brother Manfred, who succeeded to the kingship of the South. But with the Guelphs in power in Germany, and the pope his bitter foe in Italy, he was utterly unable to establish his claim, and was forced to cede all lower Italy, except Taranto, to the pontiff. But a new and less implacable pope being elected, the fortunes of Manfred suddenly changed, and he was unanimously proclaimed king at Palermo in 1258.

But the misfortunes of his house were to pursue him to the end. In northern Italy, the Guelphs were everywhere triumphant. Ezzelino, one of Frederick’s ablest generals, was defeated, wounded, and taken prisoner. He soon after died. His brother Alberich was cruelly murdered, being dragged to death at a horse’s tail. The other Ghibelline chiefs were similarly butchered, the horrible scenes of bloodshed so working on the feelings of the susceptible Italians that many of them did penance at the grave of Alberich, arrayed in sackcloth. From this circumstance arose the sect of the Flagellants, who ran through the streets, lamenting, praying, and wounding themselves with thongs, as an atonement for the sins of the world.

In southern Italy, Manfred for a while was successful. In 1259 he married Helena, the daughter of Michael of Cyprus and AEtolia, a maiden of seventeen years, and famed far and wide for her loveliness. So beautiful were the bridal pair, and such were the attractions of their court, which, as in Frederick’s time, was the favorite resort of distinguished poets and lovely women, that a bard of the times declared, “Paradise has once more appeared upon earth.”

Manfred, like his father and his brother Enzio, was a poet, being classed among the Minnesingers. His marriage gave him the alliance of Greece, and the marriage of Constance, his daughter by a former wife, to Peter of Aragon, gained him the friendship of Spain. Strengthened by these alliances, he was able to send aid to the Ghibellines in Lombardy, who again became victorious.

The Guelphs, alarmed at Manfred’s growing power, now raised a Frenchman to the papal throne, who induced Charles of Anjou, the brother of the French monarch, to strike for the crown of southern Italy. Charles, a gloomy, cold-blooded and cruel prince, gladly accepted the pope’s suggestions, and followed by a powerful body of French knights and soldiers of fortune, set sail for Naples in 1266. Manfred had unluckily lost the whole of his fleet in a storm, and was not able to oppose this threatening invasion, which landed in Italy in his despite.