frederick II - The Hammer and Anvil When the Emperor Henry...

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The Hammer and Anvil When the Emperor Henry VII Hohenstaufen died in 1197, he was survived by his widow and young son, Frederick. Frederick presented Innocent III with something of a problem. The papacy had long pursued policies aimed at preventing the same power from controlling both Germany and the South of Italy, the latter being called the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. The danger, as the papacy saw it, was that the pope would be between the Hammer (Germany) and the Anvil (Two Sicilies) and could be crushed at any time. Even if the secular power did not enter the Papal States, the threat alone would be sufficient to make it impossible for the Church to continue to pursue the role of being the independent moral arbiter of European affairs. The problem with Frederick was that he was heir to Two Sicilies and was a leading candidate of the powerful Hohenstaufen family to inherit his father's imperial dignity. The pope considered it essential to contain this danger. The first step was innocuous enough. Innocent III took the young Frederick as his ward and turned him over to be educated by some of the first-rate minds in the papal court. The situation in German was confused. Local nobles had seized upon the absence of any imperial authority as an opportunity to settled old scores and to advance their power and wealth as much as possible. In many ways, however, this was simply a matter of jockeying for a favorable position to assume the emperorship, which was still more or less an elective position. Two main candidates soon emerged, one of who was a Hohenstaufen. Innocent was not eager to promote the cause of a Hohenstaufen. Previous emperors of the family had attempted to establish a central power in Germany and to take control of the nominally imperial cities of the North of Italy. The wealth of these cities was substantial, and whoever had control of them could expected to be able to pay for massive armies whenever he chose. But the cities were close to the Papal States, and the popes were reluctant to allow the German emperors to establish a base of power so close to them. So it was that Innocent set the power of the Church against the Hohenstaufens and threw his support to Otto of Brunswick. He managed to promote an alliance between Otto and his cousin, King John of England. The civil war that ensued kept the Germans busy for some time. In 1209, however, Otto of Brunswick won out and was declared emperor. He soon set out for the North of Italy and, after subduing the major cities there, entered the Papal States. Innocent quickly had Frederick crowned and concluded an alliance with King Philip of France to aid the Church and Frederick against the "usurper" Otto. In the battle of Bouvines (in modern Belgium) in 1215, an allied army of French and Hohenstaufen supporters defeated the English and adherents of Otto of Brunswick. Otto died, and Frederick was not only king of Two Sicilies but undisputed ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. Innocent III had managed to
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This note was uploaded on 11/18/2011 for the course HISTORY 170 taught by Professor Romero during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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frederick II - The Hammer and Anvil When the Emperor Henry...

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