Henry VI. (HRR)

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Henry VI. from the Staufer dynasty (* November 1165 in Nijmegen ; † September 28, 1197 in Messina ) was Roman-German King from 1169 and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 1191 . From 1194 until his death he was de iure uxoris (from the right of the wife) at the same time King of Sicily .

Heinrich was the second son of a total of eleven children from Friedrich Barbarossa's connection with Beatrix of Burgundy . In 1186 he married Konstanze , who, as the daughter of the Norman king Roger II of Sicily, was the aunt and heiress of the Norman king Wilhelm II . In the last years of his father's life, Heinrich became increasingly independent. After the death of his father he was involved in conflicts with the Guelph Heinrich the Lion . A final settlement with the Guelphs was not achieved until 1194. In Sicily, after the death of Wilhelm II, Tankred became of Lecce in disregard of Constance's claim to the throneraised to king. The attempt to conquer Sicily on a train to Italy in 1191 failed before Naples .

A prince conspiracy, the cause of which was the dispute over the occupation of the Liège bishopric, Heinrich was able to successfully counter with the capture of the English king Richard the Lionheart . Based on an immense ransom payment and Richard's feudal oath, Heinrich succeeded in conquering Sicily in 1194. In the years 1195 and 1196 Heinrich tried to convert the empire into a hereditary monarchy. However, he failed because of the resistance of the imperial princes. Even the final unification of Sicily with the empire could not be enforced by Heinrich because of the negative attitude of the curia. Heinrich died while preparing for a crusade , the goal of which, in connection with the conquest of Jerusalem, was possibly also the conquest of the Byzantine Empire .

While older research still emphasized Heinrich's political successes and presented his rule as the climax of the Hohenstaufen rule, there have recently been doubts as to whether this view was justified. In addition to the excessive demands of the power-political possibilities of a travel kingdom dependent on the personal presence of the ruler, which could no longer fully control the German area with the gain of southern Italy and the safeguarding of imperial rights in northern Italy, the withdrawal of the imperial princes from the direct vicinity of the ruler and their replacement by the Reich Ministry.


The Emperor's Son (1165–1185)

The enthroned Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa with a bow-shaped crown , imperial orb and scepter between his sons Heinrich VI., Who is already wearing the royal crown (left), and Friedrich von Schwaben with a ducal hat; Miniature from the Historia Welforum . Fulda, Hessian State Library, Cod. D. 11, fol. 14r.

Heinrich was born in the autumn (probably October or November) of the year 1165 in the Palatinate Nijmegen as the second son of Emperor Friedrich I and Beatrix of Burgundy . At Pentecost 1169, Frederick I, bypassing his first-born son Frederick, had the second-born Heinrich elected as the Roman king at the court assembly in Bamberg . Friedrich's reason for running the election was probably to secure the successor, although the first-born son was probably passed over because of his poor health. In addition, no conditions for the election appear to have been made by the princely. At most, the negotiations with the Curia aroused hopes that the schism that had existed since the two popes were elected in 1160 would end . Friedrich recognized Pope Alexander III. not to, while Heinrich did this later in order to be able to reign as heir to the throne in peace with the Pope. In addition, Friedrich seems to have wanted Heinrich to be promoted to co-emperor by bishops loyal to the Pope. However, this project failed due to the emperor's far-reaching demands. Some time after the election, Heinrich was crowned king in Aachen on August 15, 1169 .

As Heinrich's first political act, his name appears as a witness in a document in 1173. In the following four years he accompanied his father on his Italian train. At this time Heinrich was probably receiving lessons from the court chaplain Gottfried von Viterbo . Chroniclers report that Heinrich was able to read and write and is said to have also mastered the Latin language. Gottfried reports on Heinrich's library in the Palatinate Hagenau and his interest in philosophical studies.

The king is also identified with the minstrel Emperor Heinrich , under whose name the Manessische Liederhandschrift and the Weingartner Liederhandschrift each have eight minstrels. A definitive assignment of these stanzas is not possible. In the vicinity of Heinrich there were also poets such as Friedrich von Hausen , Bligger von Steinach and Bernger von Horheim .

In 1178 Heinrich returned to Germany with his father via Burgundy . From this time on, he increasingly bore his own political responsibility. While his father threw down Heinrich the Lion , Duke of Bavaria and Saxony , Heinrich was mainly active in the west of the empire. In 1182 he acted as a mediator in a conflict between the French king and the Count of Flanders.

On May 21, 1184, Heinrich and his brother received the sword at the court in Mainz . On July 26th of the same year, Heinrich narrowly escaped an inglorious end when he was not sitting on the wooden floor of the assembly hall when he fell in the Erfurt latrine , but in a stone window niche and thus did not fall into the cesspool. Heinrich was then on a campaign to Poland to help Grand Duke Mieszko against his brother Casimir II . The campaign, during which there were no major military conflicts, ended shortly afterwards with the homage of Kasimir.

In 1184 at the latest, Emperor Friedrich began to negotiate with Wilhelm II of Sicily , a former partisan of the Pope, about a marriage between Heinrich and Wilhelm's aunt Konstanze (1154–1198). Wilhelm was childless until then and possibly no more heirs to expect. The right of inheritance of Constance in Sicily was therefore emphasized in the marriage contract. The Sicilian nobles undertook to recognize Konstanzes and Heinrich's claims to the throne. In October of the same year Friedrich tried again unsuccessfully to achieve the imperial coronation of his son.

Heinrich during the last years of Barbarossa (1185–1190)

In 1185, Henry prepared a campaign against France in the west of the empire to support his ally England. However, the Counts of Hainaut and Flanders did not take part in the campaign for various reasons, so that peace was made with France.

Soon afterwards Heinrich went to Italy, where he was married to Konstanze on January 27, 1186 in Milan . They were subsequently crowned King and Queen of Italy. In addition, Heinrich bore the title of Caesar from this point in time , possibly based on ancient rule and the Staufer imperial idea, which was also fed from Roman law. The award of the title to Heinrich is also to be seen as a reaction to the rejected imperial coronation.

The imperial attack on Cremona led to a confrontation with Pope Urban III. Henry moved to Tuscany , where his by Mark Ward of Annweiler befehligtes army to the peace agreement in August 1186 the Papal States devastated. Heinrich was involved in imperial affairs in Italy until the end of 1187 before returning to Germany.

In March 1188 he attended the court day of Jesus Christ in Mainz, at which the emperor expressed his will to carry out a crusade. When Friedrich I set out on the Third Crusade in 1189 , he transferred the government of the empire to Heinrich. Towards the end of the year, the king enfeoffed Count Baldwin of Hainaut with the newly created margraviate of Namur . Continuing his father's policy, Heinrich tried with Baldwin on the Lower Rhine to create a counterweight to the Archbishops of Cologne and the Great Flanders. Heinrich brokered a compromise between Baldwin and Heinrich von Brabant . The king also entered into negotiations with the curia about his coronation as emperor. He assured the Pope that all ecclesiastical possessions occupied by the Staufers would be returned. In June of the following year, Emperor Friedrich died during the crusade in the Saleph River .

As early as 1189, contrary to an earlier agreement with the Emperor, Heinrich the Lion returned from exile to Germany. Supported by Archbishop Hartwig von Bremen , he fought his Saxon opponents. In November 1189 King Heinrich moved to Saxony against Heinrich the Lion. However, the late season forced the campaign to be broken off. Heinrich also learned that Wilhelm II had died in Sicily. Due to unrest and the intercession of the Sicilian Vice Chancellor Matheus of Salerno , Tankred of Lecce was made king by a majority of the barons. As a result, Heinrich's and Constance's inheritance law was disregarded. After his coronation, Tankred contacted the Curia. Tankred's coronation is said to have taken place with the benevolence of the Pope. In the ensuing hostilities between the supporters of Tankred and the Staufer-friendly forces in Apulia under the leadership of Count Roger von Andria , Heinrich sent his Marshal Heinrich Testa to support Rogers in Italy.

In the following year, Henry the Lion suffered military setbacks when his followers were defeated by Adolf I von Dassel . A peace treaty was reached in Fulda in mid-July: The lion received half of the imperial income in Lübeck , for which he had to grind the fortifications of Lüneburg and Braunschweig and let his son Heinrich of Braunschweig move to Italy with the king's army.

Imperial coronation and campaign against the Kingdom of Sicily (1190–1191)

Heinrich enthroned between seven virtues and in triumph over Tankred, who lies under Fortuna's carriage. Petrus von Eboli, Liber ad honorem Augusti, Burgerbibliothek Bern , Codex 120. II, fol. 146r.

Heinrich had his Italian campaign prepared in Augsburg. It was there that he learned of his father's death on the crusade. While the king's army was marching on Italy, Heinrich traveled to Thuringia. Landgrave Ludwig III. died in October on the crusade and his brother Hermann demanded that the landgraviate be enfeoffed. Heinrich initially thought of keeping Thuringia, but gave up his plan after Hermann made concessions. In return for the enfeoffment with the Landgraviate of Thuringia, the king received two unknown cities and a provincia , probably a rule. At the beginning of the following year he followed his army to Italy. There Heinrich's goal was to achieve not only the coronation as emperor but also the conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily.

In January 1191, Henry VI negotiated. in Lodi with Eleanor of Aquitaine , widow of Henry II of England . Eleonore tried to break the engagement between her son Richard the Lionheart and a half-sister of Philip Augustus of France , which had existed since 1169 . Henry VI. was also interested in the end of the engagement because Richard was in Messina as a supporter of Tankred. He reckoned that the relationship between England and France would worsen after the betrothal and Richard would be forced to withdraw from Messina. That would have isolated Tankred. In return, he assured Eleanor that he would not intervene in the disputes between the French king, who was allied with him, and England. Shortly afterwards she traveled on to Rome and there reached the dissolution of the marriage of Henry VI. Brother Konrad von Rothenburg with Berenguela von Kastilien . With Eleanor's move, the Hohenstaufen had lost their connection to the Iberian Peninsula and were so isolated that they were left with France as the only ally, whose attempts at reconciliation with England Eleanor had also thwarted.

In Lombardy , Heinrich tried to find allies among the cities of northern Italy, trying to avoid preferring Milan. Heinrich also negotiated with Pisa and Genoa about naval aid against Sicily. In April negotiations began with Pope Celestine III. about the imperial coronation. Heinrich had to hand over the allied city of Tusculum to the Romans, who completely tore down the rival. The handover of the allied Tusculum was viewed by contemporaries as dishonorable behavior. On Easter Monday, April 15, Henry was of Celestine III. crowned emperor. The emperor is said to have asked the Pope to invest with the empire. The later Pope Innocent III. Possibly present at the coronation, reported Henry had demanded of Celestine after the coronation, through the orb with the Empire (de imperio by Pallam auream) to be invested (petiit investiri) . Innocent concluded from this that the pope had privileges over the emperor.

The imperial coronation of Henry VI. by Celestine III. in an illustration from the Liber ad honorem Augusti by Petrus de Ebulo , 1196, Bern, Burgerbibliothek

After the coronation of the emperor, Heinrich's army moved to Apulia, where the year before the loyal Count of Andria had been defeated. The siege of Naples began in May . In midsummer a plague broke out among the besiegers, from which a large part of the army and many high-ranking personalities died. The emperor also fell ill. Since the Sicilian admiral Margaritus also drove out the Pisan and soon also the Genoese fleet, the siege was broken off at the end of August. Heinrich experienced another stroke of fate when Konstanze, who had been in Salerno during the fighting outside Naples , was imprisoned and brought to Palermo. In northern Italy the emperor took care of imperial affairs until the end of the year and concluded an alliance with Philip II of France against Richard the Lionheart. Tankred used Heinrich's retreat to assert himself in the mainland areas of the Norman Empire.

The Prince's Opposition to Heinrich (1192)

In Germany, Heinrich the Lion had made no effort to implement the agreements made in the Peace of Fulda. Rather, armed conflicts began again between him and his Saxon opponents, the Ascanians and the Schauenburgers . Heinrich's son Heinrich von Braunschweig had left the emperor's army before Naples. While the other sources (e.g. the Steterburger Annalen ) estimate Heinrich von Braunschweig's escape from the emperor's entourage for the time of the siege of Naples, Arnold von Lübeck states that Heinrich von Braunschweig had the emperor at the beginning of the campaign against Sicily left in southern Italy. Heinrich von Braunschweig then traveled to Rome, where he and his father received the privilege of the Pope only to be excommunicated by him or one of his legates. As a result, Emperor Heinrich outlawed him on Pentecost 1192 at the court in Worms. However, the emperor seems to have been more interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict, as he did not support the anti-welfare forces in Saxony. Since Archbishop Wichmann von Magdeburg , the leading supporter of the Hohenstaufen in northern Germany, also died, they concluded an armistice with Heinrich the Lion, which was extended at the emperor's request.

With the death of Welf VI, Emperor Heinrich inherited . his possessions in Swabia, with which he was able to strengthen the Hohenstaufen power in this area. In September 1192 Heinrich went to Liège to secure the position of Lothar von Hochstaden, who he had appointed there as bishop . The Emperor had Lothar prevailed in the spring at the court in Worms against the candidate Henry I of Brabant , his brother Albert von Löwen . Albert then received his episcopal ordination in Reims with papal confirmation and prepared to win the Liège bishopric with the support of his brother. The emperor took military action against Lothar's opponents and was able to force Heinrich von Brabant to conclude a peace agreement quickly.

In October, Heinrich devoted himself to the removal of Bremen's Bishop Hartwig , a partisan of Henry the Lion. In the east of the empire he brokered a peace between the Landgrave Hermann von Thuringia and the Margrave Albrecht von Meißen . At that time Albert von Löwen was slain by German knights. Heinrich von Brabant blamed the murder of his brother on the emperor. These incidents created a new potential for conflict with the nobility in western Germany. With the succession he advocated, Heinrich VI. tries to bring the imperial skeptical nobility in this region under his control. It was precisely this attempt that led to renewed resistance under the leadership of the Archbishop of Cologne, Bruno . The Dukes of Brabant and Limburg joined the opposition. Even the elevation of the Brabant to the rival king should have been considered. There were also contacts to the Archbishop of Mainz Konrad , the Thuringian Landgrave, the Meissen Margrave, the Duke of Bohemia, the royal houses of Denmark and England and the Guelph Heinrich the Lion. The curia was annoyed about the occupation of the Liège bishop's chair with Lothar von Hochstaden and the Zähringer represented a threat to the Hohenstaufen domain on the Upper Rhine.

Capture of Richard the Lionheart (1192–1194)

Richard the Lionheart kisses Henry VI's feet. (from Liber ad honorem Augusti by Petrus de Ebulo , 1196)

At the time when Heinrich's rule was threatened by the opposition to the princes, Richard I “Lionheart” was captured on his return journey from the crusade. Richard was shipwrecked in Aquileja and went ashore in the county of Gorizia. In December 1192, Leopold V of Austria from Babenberg had him captured and initially held at Dürnstein Castle . Heinrich had previously arranged the capture in Milan with the French King Philip August and was his reaction to the military alliance that Richard had concluded with Tankred of Lecce in the autumn of 1190. Those returning from the crusade were given special protection by the church. That is why she proceeded with the excommunication against Leopold. The prisoner was first handed over to Heinrich himself in March 1193 in Speyer , who also had him imprisoned at Trifels Castle in the Palatinate, among other places .

In the spring of 1193 the emperor made a ransom demand on Richard. This should pay 100,000 marks , half of which should go to Leopold. The money was officially declared as a dowry for Richard's niece, who was to marry one of Leopold's sons. Furthermore Richard should take part with an army provided by him in a campaign against his former ally Tankred. Richard was held hostage for his release.

The imprisonment of their ally Richard meant a heavy defeat for the prince opposition. Since Heinrich even threatened to hand Richard over to the French king, the latter had to suggest to the prince in June 1193 to start negotiations with the emperor. Henry VI. distanced himself from the murder of Albert von Löwen and had the murderers banished. The dukes of Brabant and Limburg should henceforth be allowed to support their candidates in the bishopric elections in Liège. The Archbishop of Cologne, Bruno III. was given a guarantee of his sovereign rights. The Duke of Bohemia, who also belonged to the prince opposition, was eliminated by an attack by the Bishop of Prague.

Although both Philip August and Richard's brother Johann Ohneland , who ruled in England, offered to pay a ransom if the king remained in captivity for another year, Heinrich reached an agreement with Richard in June 1193. Richard, whose mother Eleanor supported the release of her son, undertook to take England as a fiefdom from the Emperor and to pay an annual interest of 5,000 pounds over the agreed sum of 100,000 marks. Richard thus recognized the suzerainty of the emperor for the Kingdom of England. Heinrich then demanded from Philipp and Johann, threatening military force, the return of all possessions that had been confiscated from Richard during his imprisonment. This solution had the advantage for Heinrich that he had won Richard as a vassal , so he was no longer dependent on France alone. At the same time Richard continued to fight against France as an independent English king, which meant that Philip II August was dependent on Henry as an ally. The emperor cleverly maneuvered himself into a mediator position between England and France. In the Holy Week of 1194, the ritual reconciliation between the emperor and the English king finally took place. At a court day in Speyer, Heinrich accused Richard of having carried out his murder and charged him with other crimes. Richard now declared that he was ready to rebut all the charges against which he was charged, but then bowed his knees before the emperor. He descended from the throne to answer and gave him the kiss of peace. As a result, both sides signed a contract on the terms of Richard's release.

In February 1194, the conflict with the Guelphs was finally resolved by the marriage of Heinrich the Lion's son of the same name to Agnes von Staufen , the heir of the Rhineland Count Palatine Konrad von Staufen . This event meant a great success for the Guelphs in West Germany, as they established the territorial gain by converting the dignity of the Palatine count from an imperial office into a territorial rule. In March, Henry VI. then officially peace with Henry the Lion.

The conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily (1194–1195)

While Heinrich had to fight the opposition to the princes in Germany, the clashes continued in Italy. After Heinrich's defeat at Naples, Tankred's brother-in-law, Count Richard von Acerra , recaptured most of Apulia. In spring 1192 negotiations with the Pope led to the release of Constanze. However, Heinrich still refused to recognize Tankred's kingship. Tankred succeeded, however, on the condition that he recognized the suzerainty of the Pope over Sicily, from Celestine III. to receive confirmation of his kingship. In the summer of 1192 Heinrich made an alliance with important northern Italian cities and the Margrave of Montferrat in order to maintain the peace in Lombardy for the planned campaign against Sicily. In Tuscia , Konrad von Lützelhardt was given the administration of the empire.

King Tankred died in February 1194. His underage son Wilhelm III. was used as a successor. The reign was led by his mother Sibylle . The emperor began a new campaign against Sicily in May 1194, financed with the ransom for Richard the Lionheart. In Lombardy, he celebrated Whitsun in Milan and secured the help of the Genoas and Pisas navy over the next few months. In August, Naples opened the gates to the emperor without a fight. Salerno , which the Empress had handed over to Tankred in 1191, was completely burned down in September. On November 20, Heinrich moved into Palermo and was crowned King of Sicily in the cathedral there on December 25 . A day later, Konstanze brought Henry VI's only child in Jesi near Ancona . to the world, the later Emperor Friedrich II.

A short time later the emperor had leading Norman nobles imprisoned on the pretext of a conspiracy against him. The Norman royal treasure was brought to Germany, as was the royal family, which was accused of being an accomplice to the conspiracy.

At a diet in Bari in March 1195, Henry VI tried. to implement the successes of the previous year politically: his wife Konstanze was to become regent of Sicily, but next to the imperial governor Konrad von Urslingen , a noble free . Walter von Pagliara became Chancellor of Sicily . Ministerials were also installed in other Norman administrative offices . Markward von Annweiler was made Duke of Ravenna, Count of Romagna and Margrave of Ancona for his services. Heinrich's brother Philip was given the Duchy of Tuscany and the Mathildic estates . This procedure was supposed to connect Sicily with Northern Italy and to include the Norman Empire inextricably in the imperial alliance. In addition, it seems to have been Heinrich's intention to build up the rich and modern administrative structures of Sicily as a center of the empire and the Hohenstaufen domestic power.

The Crusade Plan (1195)

Large Heidelberg song manuscript (Heidelberg, University Library, Cod. Pal. Germ. 848, fol. 6r: Illustration of Emperor Heinrich VI. In Codex Manesse , around 1300)

On the court day in Bari, Henry the Curia vowed to carry out a crusade. In doing so, he pursued several goals. So should the crusade Pope Celestine III. move to agree to the unification of Sicily with the empire (unio regni ad imperium) and to give up the suzerainty he claimed over Sicily. Heinrich promised the curia to send 1,500 knights and the same number of foot soldiers to the crusade enterprise for one year. However, further discussions with cardinals in Ascoli did not bring any progress for the imperial side.

The central role in the history of ideas has probably played eschatological ideas. According to this view, Heinrich saw himself or at least one expected successor from his house as the peace emperor, the last emperor before the Last Judgment . According to the ideas of his time, this final emperor should unite the east and west, convert the Jews to Christianity and defeat the pagans in the Holy Land. With the conquest of Jerusalem and the laying down of the crown and scepter on the hill of Golgotha , the final emperor would then initiate the Last Judgment. Accordingly, Henry's goal is not to acquire as many territories as possible, but rather to increase the dignity of the Hohenstaufen dynasty associated with taking possession of Jerusalem. The Christian emperors of the Middle Ages, succeeding the ancient Roman emperors, saw themselves as the legitimate overlords of the whole of Christianity, without, of course, having a real basis of power for this. However, the imperial crown provided the ideal background necessary to exercise formal feudal sovereignty over another empire, if necessary.

In research it is controversial whether Heinrich's expansion plans were also directed against the Byzantine Empire . In 1194 envoys of the Byzantine vassal Leo II of Lesser Armenia had obtained the royal crown for Leo and the enfeoffment with part of Syria from the emperor. In 1196, Amalrich of Cyprus also received his empire as a fief from the emperor.

In the spring of 1195, the emperor's envoys in Byzantium demanded a strip from Durazzo to Thessaloniki that had previously belonged to Wilhelm II. This is by Claudia Naumann considered a resumption of Norman policy towards Byzantium. Soon afterwards, the Byzantine ruler Isaac became through his brother Alexios III. overturned. At the end of 1195, a second delegation from Henry demanded that the new Byzantine emperor support the crusade through naval aid and the annual payment of 5,000 pounds of gold. If this was not done, Heinrich threatened to attack Byzantium. In further negotiations the amount was negotiated down to 1,600 pounds. This is confirmed by the report of the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates . Naumann thus sees the emperor's threat of attack as a means of obtaining Byzantine help to carry out the crusade.

In contrast, the overthrow of Isaac II by his brother Alexios III. counted as a possibility for Heinrich to lay claim to the whole of Byzantium. It is stated that Heinrich's brother Philipp married the widowed daughter-in-law Tankreds, a daughter of Isaac. As a result, Henry VI. be able to defend the rights of the fallen emperor. With the support of the kingdoms of Cyprus and Lesser Armenia, Henry could have brought the eastern Mediterranean under his rule, which might have culminated in a conquest of the Byzantine Empire.

The acquisition of the old Norman possessions in North Africa formed another support in the rule of the Mediterranean. The Caliph of Tripoli and Tunis agreed to pay tribute in view of Heinrich's demands and the Muslim threat posed by the Almohads .

However, the armistice between Pisa, Henry's most important ally at sea, and Venice expired in November 1195. The Pisans invaded the Adriatic, seized Polas and thereby threatened Venice's position of power in the Adriatic, but in March 1196 they suffered a heavy defeat. In Venice, Heinrich was seen as a continuer of the Norman policy of gaining bases on both sides of the Adriatic, which the city always tried to prevent in the interests of its free trade with the eastern Mediterranean. On August 23, 1196, Heinrich privileged the important Venetian monastery of S. Ilario e Benedetto and was able to get the two naval powers to conclude a peaceful peace for Pisa on September 1, 1196. On June 6, 1197, the emperor confirmed to Venice all the privileges granted by his predecessors in the empire, especially those of his father.

The inheritance plan (1195–1196)

In the summer of 1195 Heinrich returned to Germany to receive support for the crusade and to arrange the succession according to his wishes in the event of his death on the crusade. But first he had to deal with the situation in the Margraviate of Meissen. The feud between the brothers Albrecht and Dietrich has been smoldering there since the time of his accession to the throne . Albrecht threatened the Pleißenland neighboring the Mark , which was owned by the Staufers. The death of Albrecht in June 1195 gave Heinrich the opportunity to weaken the position of the Wettins. He refused Dietrich the enfeoffment with the Margraviate of Meissen and withheld it.

In October 1195 an agreement was reached between Hartwig von Bremen, who had returned to his archbishopric, and the emperor at the Gelnhausen farm conference . In return for concessions in territorial and material terms, Hartwig received permission to resume the bishopric of Bremen. In Gelnhausen, numerous Saxon and Thuringian nobles joined the emperor to accompany him on the crusade. In December, the emperor's call to crusade met with a great response at the Hoftag in Worms. He set off on the crusade for next Christmas. At the same time Heinrich designated his son Friedrich as his successor as the German king. By promising to take the cross in public to the princes, he wanted to secure the election of Frederick; but this failed because of the resistance of the Archbishop of Cologne, Adolf .

The princes wanted the possibility of inheriting their fiefs to illegitimate children and in a female line. As a result, around the turn of the year 1195/96 in Heinrich's surroundings, possibly in the Palatinate of Hagenau, the so-called inheritance plan appears to have been developed. It is believed that the papal legate was present during the talks. In March 1196 Heinrich proposed to the princes in Mainz that the empire should be made an inheritance. Naturally, the princes had to be reserved about this plan, as this would have lost their right to elect a king. Following Heinrich's threats, the princes agreed to the inheritance plan. At the end of March, the negotiations were to be brought to an end at a farm conference in Würzburg. There Heinrich is said to have declared his wish to connect Sicily with the empire and to determine the rulers of the empire solely by way of inheritance. In return, the princes should be allowed to inherit their fiefs in a female line. The consent of the ecclesiastical princes should be secured by renouncing the right of regalia (the preservation of the income of a spiritual property during a sedis vacancy ). The princes seem to have given their approval to the emperor's proposal as well as to the election of his son to be king. With parts of the princes, especially those from the Saxon area, however, there was dissatisfaction with the emperor's plan. Archbishop Adolf of Cologne did not even appear at the court day.

In July 1196 Heinrich moved to Italy via Burgundy. There he negotiated with Celestine III. about the baptism and anointing of his son by the Pope, for which the emperor wanted to publicly take the cross. In order to achieve a permanent settlement with the Curia, he made the Pope what he saw as the highest offer. Since the sources are silent about the details of this offer, many speculations have been made about its content. The historian Johannes Haller linked the offer with the events during Heinrich's coronation as emperor. He concluded that the emperor had offered the pope feudal rule over the empire. The more recent research assumes that Heinrich wanted to assign the curia the most valuable benefice of every major episcopal church in the empire as a property. The Pope rejected Heinrich's proposals, however, since an anointing of Frederick by the Pope could also have been seen as acceptance of the rule of the Hohenstaufen over Sicily. This would have finally encircled the Papal State by the Hohenstaufen. In Germany, meanwhile, resistance to the inheritance plan was gathering in Thuringia and Saxony. The princes probably wanted to force the emperor to resume negotiations by delaying preparations for the crusade. After Heinrich had sent various reminders to the princes, some of them also withdrew their approval for Frederick's election. Since the Pope refused to hold further talks under these conditions, the Emperor released the princes from their promises. Thereupon the princes elected Friedrich around Christmas time 1196 in Frankfurt am Main as Roman king.

Early death and weakening of the Hohenstaufen power (1197)

Sarcophagi of Henry VI. (front) and his wife Konstanze in the Cathedral of Palermo

From central Italy, Heinrich went to Capua at the end of 1196 , where he cruelly executed Count Richard von Acerra, who had been captured by Ministerial Diepold von Schweinspeunt . In March 1197 he set foot on Sicilian soil. In Palermo he carried out a review of the privileges granted to the Sicilian nobility. In May he went to Messina in preparation for his crusade . There he learned of a large-scale conspiracy by Sicilian nobles who were planning his assassination and takeover of power in Sicily. The rebels gathered at Catania were thrown down by Markward von Annweiler and Heinrich von Kalden . Heinrich had a glowing crown nailed to the head of their leader, who was holed up in Castrogiovanni . Celestine III. and Heinrich's wife Konstanze were also suspected of participating in the riot. The latter is viewed rather critically by research.

At the end of August the emperor is said to have suffered severe chills while hunting near Fiumedinisi . His condition did not seem to improve until the end of September, but then he died on September 28 at the age of 31 in Messina. It is believed that the emperor died of the long-term effects of malaria that he may have contracted during the siege of Naples in 1191. However, there was also a rumor that his wife Konstanze had poisoned him.

Konstanze had Heinrich buried in Messina for the time being. Probably at the beginning of May 1198, Heinrich was buried in a porphyry sarcophagus under a canopy supported by six porphyry columns in the Cathedral of Palermo .

In his will, the content of which was admittedly only through Innocent III. was handed down, he decreed that the pope should be granted areas in central Italy so that he could crown Heinrich's son emperor. In the event that Friedrich and Konstanze should die without descendants, the Kingdom of Sicily should fall to the Pope.

After Heinrich's death, the Staufer Empire experienced several crises. In Germany, the Hohenstaufen partisans elected Heinrich's youngest brother Philip of Swabia , the Welfs Otto IV of Braunschweig , the son of Henry the Lion, as king. In Rome in 1198 Innocent III. the papal throne, which wanted to replace the world domination of the Hohenstaufen with the world domination of the papacy. In the same year Konstanze died, who had taken over the government in Sicily for the only two-year-old Friedrich. In her will she appointed Innocent as guardian of the young Friedrich. The crusade achieved only limited successes without Heinrich's leadership.

Rule practice of Heinrichs

Travel royalty

Henry's rule was involved in constant travel activities ( travel royalty ). According to tradition, Heinrich chose the imperial bishoprics and royal estates as places of residence. The number and duration of stays on the royal estates outweighs those on the territory of the imperial church. Thus, a decline in the imperial church servitia (accommodation of the king and his entourage) is assumed already for Heinrich's reign. It is possible to identify typical conditions here as early as the 13th century, namely the decline in the importance of the imperial church as a pillar of royal rule and the relocation of the ruler's stays to his own possessions.

Heinrich stayed mainly in the core landscapes of the empire in the central and upper Rhine area and in the main area. In contrast to the reign of his father, he rarely moved to the Saxon, Bavarian and Lower Rhine regions. This always only happened for special reasons. The low number of stays in the Swabian region is explained by the fact that in this Staufer ancestral home no permanent presence of the king was necessary to secure rule.

In general, a weakening of the royal power in the outskirts of the empire is noted for Henry's reign. The areas in the north and north-west of the empire were hardly directly ruled by Heinrich. If one takes Heinrich's itinerary as a basis, a stronger restriction to the Hohenstaufen core areas and thus a decline in central power in the Saxon and Bavarian areas can be ascertained compared to the reign of his father.

The historian Theo Kölzer sees Heinrich's Italian policy in continuity with that of his father as an overburdening of the possibilities of exercising power of the travel kingdom of the Frankish-German rulers. But it would be an anachronism to apply modern considerations of utility in the sense of the Sybel-Ficker controversy to Italian politics. Kölzer regards the goal of attaining the imperial crown, which is linked to the domination of imperial Italy, as part of the religiously motivated "ruling self-image in the late antique Carolingian and Christian tradition".

Awarding of certificates

During Heinrich's travels, his law firm issued certificates. The documents were mostly only received by the rulers at the respective place of residence of the emperor. Only in the Rhine-Main area were the ruler's certificates issued on a larger scale nationwide.

A little more than 500 of the issued certificates have survived today. 40 percent of them are originals. Two thirds of the documents were issued to recipients of Italian origin, which is a significant increase compared to the rule of his father. The reason for this is seen primarily in the expanded group of recipients after the conquest of Sicily. A preference for the granting of privileges took place in the case of Staufer allies on the Lower Rhine and in Saxony, where the opposition to Heinrich's rule was particularly great. In the Hohenstaufen heartland there were hardly any important privileges granted, as the emperor here had to be careful not to weaken his rule as much as possible. In addition, Heinrich preferred the cities of the empire and the Cistercian order when issuing certificates.

Personnel supports

Heinrich's policy was largely administered in the area of ​​the imperial chancellery and chapel. The names of the members of the chapel and chancellery are only known in some cases, however, as the German notaries did not use a written note (the name of the author of a document) in their documents. So their number can only be determined by different typefaces.

The office of chancellor held under Heinrich VI. initially Diether von Katzenelnbogen . After his death during the siege of Naples in 1191, the Chancellery remained vacant for the time being. Presumably his function was fulfilled by the emperor's confidante, protonotary Heinrich von Utrecht , the bishop of Worms. The fact that Heinrich entrusted Lothar von Hochstaden with the chancellery in 1192 is seen more as a measure to further legitimize him for the Liège episcopal dignity. In 1194 the emperor occupied the office of Sicilian chancellor with the protonotary Sigelo , who died shortly afterwards. In the following year Heinrich elevated Konrad von Querfurt to the position of chancellor, who at the same time was elected bishop of Hildesheim at the instigation of the emperor.

In contrast to the time of his father, a decline in the importance of the Chancellery can be observed for Heinrich's government. Only through Konrad von Querfurt did the office regain political importance.

Heinrich's embassies were mostly headed by high-ranking clergymen. Spiritual imperial princes such as the archbishops Philip of Cologne or Konrad of Mainz tended to act in the direction of the emperor in their politics. Heinrich entrusted ministerials like Markward von Annweiler with military tasks .

In addition to the Babenbergs in Austria, Heinrich's reign under the imperial princes was primarily supported by his family members. In particular, his uncle Konrad and his brothers Otto , Konrad and Philipp (the latter two successively held the ducal dignity of Swabia) were important representatives of the imperial position of power when Heinrich was in Italy.

In Italy the emperor had comparatively few local followers.


Contemporary sources and judgments

The life of Henry VI. can be ascertained primarily from contemporary documents and chronicles. Heinrich had numerous documents issued by his law firm. From these documents the travel routes of the emperor and the people who stayed in his vicinity can be identified. In this way they shed light on the proceedings of the emperor's negotiations. The documents of the Curia, which show the events from the point of view of the other contracting party, are to be regarded as counterparts.

The sources from the area around the Hohenstaufen court are sometimes referred to as Hohenstaufen court historiography due to their political proximity to the ruling house. First of all, Gottfried von Viterbo should be mentioned here, who emphasized the close continuity between the Roman emperors of antiquity and the Hohenstaufen emperors. He wrote the Speculum regum , which deals with the handover of rule from the Flood to Heinrich. The poet and theologian Petrus von Eboli dedicated his illustrated chronicle Liber ad honorem Augusti sive de rebus Siculis to Heinrich . The work, possibly written around 1196, describes Heinrich's activities in southern Italy. The events are described from the perspective of the imperial claim to power over the Kingdom of Sicily. Peter was probably present himself at many of the events he reported. He may have found out others through his connection to the court, in particular to Chancellor Konrad von Querfurt. Several other works by Petrus von Eboli dealing with Heinrich have been lost.

Other important traditions come from the monasteries in southern Germany. The writings of Burchard von Ursberg are extremely friendly to the Hohenstaufen . The annalist of the Marbach monastery may have carried out assignments in the service of the ruling family himself. The imperial chronicle of Otto von St. Blasien is more distant .

Other sources do not focus so much on the whole of the empire, but report from a regional perspective, whereby the point of view reflects the point of view of the local princes. Northern Germany, as well as the conflict with the Guelphs, can be seen from the historiography of the Benedictine and Guelph supporter Arnold von Lübeck and the chronicler of the Steterburg monastery . The chronicle of the Reinhardsbrunn Monastery, the house monastery of the Landgraves of Thuringia, comes from Thuringia. The report by Giselbert von Mons , Chancellor of Baldwin of Hainaut, is important for the Hohenstaufen policy in Flanders .

Sources for Henry's rule in Italy are also the chronicles of the northern and central Italian cities as well as the works of Bishop Romuald of Salerno and the notary of Frederick II Richard of San Germano .

The positive reports from the German area contrast with rather negative statements from the English chroniclers. The writings of Roger of Howden and Gervasius of Tilbury come from the area of ​​the English court . Roger von Howden in particular took the point of view of the Angevin court and assessed Heinrich's actions rather negatively due to the conflict with Richard the Lionheart.

Also to be mentioned is Joachim von Fiore , who prophesied the rule of the world to Heinrich, and was given donations by him for this purpose.

Further reception

Dante mentions Heinrich in his Divine Comedy only indirectly in connection with his son Friedrich: "It is the light of the mighty Constanza, / The one from the second storm from Swabia [Heinrich VI.] / The third created and last ruling splendor." Another mention Heinrichs stays away, so it remains unclear whether Dante would have settled him in heaven or hell.

Henry VI. in research

The historical research of the 19th century made Heinrich VI. In many respects, the rule represented the high point of the Hohenstaufen rule and saw it as a high point not only in German medieval history. This point of view should be seen in the context of desires aimed at the development of a German nation-state. The actions of the medieval rulers were understood as increasing the "honor and sovereignty of the German nation". Although Henry VI. Always overshadowed by his father in view of his popularity in national historiography, earlier research saw his early death and the double election that followed him as the decisive trigger for the loss of power of the central authority in the empire and the shift of power to the princes. The subsequent territorial fragmentation made Heinrich's death all the more terrible for earlier research into the most terrible catastrophe in Germany's medieval history . Theodor Toeche already judged Heinrich's rule in his romanticizing work in 1867 as the completion of “what his great father had strived for in vain for decades. [...] With his early death, world history has lost one of the greatest events, the realization and testing of those medieval ideals, and our people have lost one of their most glorious memories. ” Herbert Grundmann's judgment is an example of this : he sees Heinrich's death as an“ epochal Incision not only for the history of Germany ”, a“ decisive turning point ”with which the late Middle Ages began“ in many respects ”.

The verdict of recent research is far more nuanced in this regard. Ingeborg Seltmann refers to the restriction of Heinrich's personal sphere of activity in the realm north of the Alps to the Hohenstaufen power centers and, in view of the decline in imperial power in the north and north-west of the realm, raises the question “whether the reign of Heinrich VI. in fact rightly again and again may represent the zenith of the Hohenstaufen rule. "

Current research in no way questions Heinrich's ability to rule. Odilo Engels sees him as a "politically superior personality who must have held the centrifugal forces (of the Hohenstaufen domain) together with iron willpower". However, Theo Kölzer accuses Heinrich of having strongly represented the royal power externally, but neglecting the strengthening of the Hohenstaufen domestic power internally. Kölzer emphasizes above all the structural aspect of the overstretching of the Roman-German royal rule, which in the long run became the doom of the Hohenstaufen.

Heinrich's "cruelty"

One focus of the Heinrich picture over time was the emphasis on his alleged cruelty, as it was seen above all in the context of the punishment of opponents in the Kingdom of Sicily. Pope Innocent III. compared Henry's rule in Sicily with the "raging north wind". Likewise, the Enlightenment Voltaire saw in Henry's actions a suppression of the Mediterranean civilization by "Nordic barbarism." Heinrich's alleged cruelty, as it was reflected in some of his acts in Sicily when fighting insurgents, originated from the "barbaric", northern Culture explained.

The judgment of the historians of the 19th and 20th centuries also tended to be to Heinrich's disadvantage. While Theodor Toeche softened his judgment by pointing out the political necessity of deterrent punishments to maintain the royal dignity in Sicily, Dietrich Schäfer stated in his German story : “From his father he hardly had anything other than, pathologically increased, the feeling for Makes. He lacked all the qualities that win hearts and bind loyalty. "

Karl Hampe later manifested this judgment by describing Heinrich as a cruel ruler who was only devoted to statecraft and who was "inaccessible to emotional values". More recent research, such as B. Theo Kölzer or Peter Csendes, partly also tended towards this judgment.

Peter Csendes sees Heinrich as a capable and pragmatic power politician. His sometimes reckless approach, as in the case of the abandonment of the ally Tusculum, has attached properties such as coldness and cruelty to him. For Csendes, these properties stand in stark contrast to the virtutes regales, which set the tone in the typological stylization of a medieval ruler.

The results of conflict research see the executions towards the end of Henry's reign, however, only as Norman traditions of conflict management at work, which existed in the Norman empires and especially in the Kingdom of Sicily due to the low level of solid leadership. Heinrich has therefore taken over the local sanction mechanisms. In contrast to the method of forgiveness through renewal of friendship or submission, also practiced by Heinrich in the empire north of the Alps, these relied more on the deterrent effect that was to be achieved by the cruel execution of an opponent. Gerd Althoff stated: “Heinrich has as little as Friedrich Barbarossa or Otto III. defied all barriers. Rather, in both the north and the south, he was committed to the rituals that his time practiced for leading and resolving conflicts. [...] So if you find abnormal cruelty in him, then you should know that this accusation is directed against an entire epoch, not against a single person. "



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  1. Joachim Ehlers in Bernd Schneidmüller / Stefan Weinfurter: The German Rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I , p. 267.
  2. ^ Ingeborg Seltmann: Heinrich VI. Domination practice and environment , pp. 274, 275.
  3. Gerhard Baaken : The age sequence of the sons of Friedrich Barbarossa and the ascension of Henry VI. (passim).
  4. Gerhard Baaken p. 65.
  5. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 38.
  6. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Notes p. 222.
  7. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 204-205.
  8. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. P. 53.
  9. Joachim Ehlers in Bernd Schneidmüller / Stefan Weinfurter: The German Rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I , p. 256.
  10. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 45.
  11. Annales Casinenses , 314.
  12. Chronica Reinhardsbrunnensis, 551.
  13. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 87-88.
  14. Odilo Engels: Die Staufer , p. 130.
  15. ^ Otto von St. Blasien, Chronicon Uspergense , 71.
  16. Deliberatio super facto imperii de tribus electis Regestum Innocentii III papae super negotio Romani imperii , ed. Kempf, No. 29, 75 f.
  17. Karl Jordan: Heinrich the Lion. A biography, p. 226.
  18. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 107.
  19. a b Odilo Engels: Die Staufer , p. 132.
  20. ^ Gislebert: Chronicon Hanoniense , 282 (MGH Scriptores 21, 582).
  21. Regesta Imperii , V, 4,4,5, No. 1125 .
  22. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 128; Odilo Engels: Die Staufer , p. 133.
  23. Annales Casinenses , 314; Richard of San Germano, 6; Arnold von Lübeck, 151 f.
  24. Annales Marbacenses , 479 f.
  25. Odilo Engels: Die Staufer , pp. 138-140.
  26. On the practical effects of the imperial idea of ​​world domination see also: Othmar Hageneder : Weltherrschaft im Mittelalter , in: Mitteilungen des Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 93, 1985, pp. 257–278.
  27. ^ Claudia Naumann: The crusade of Emperor Heinrich VI. , P. 99.
  28. Niketas Choniates, 630 f.
  29. ^ Claudia Naumann: The crusade of Emperor Heinrich VI. , P. 104.
  30. Joachim Ehlers in Bernd Schneidmüller / Stefan Weinfurter: The German Rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I , p. 267.
  31. MGH Const. I , pp. 526-530, No. 378.
  32. Heinrich's brother Philipp von Schwaben gave Meissen again as a fief during his reign, as he was dependent on the support of the Wettins. see Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 169.
  33. It is reported that Archbishop Adolf was the only one of the princes who refused to promise to elect Frederick. Annales Marbacenses , 67.
  34. Chronica Reinhardsbrunnensis (MGH Scriptores 30, 556).
  35. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 175.
  36. ^ Thuringian Chronicle (MGH Scriptores 30, 557).
  37. The history of the Diocese of Liège reports on details of the events at the Würzburger Hoftag (MGH Scriptores 25, 132); Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 175-176.
  38. Joachim Ehlers in Bernd Schneidmüller / Stefan Weinfurter: The German rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I , p. 268; Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 185.
  39. Joachim Ehlers in Bernd Schneidmüller / Stefan Weinfurter: The German Rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I , p. 268.
  40. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 192.
  41. ^ Ingeborg Seltmann: Heinrich VI. Domination practice and environment , p. 52.
  42. ^ Ingeborg Seltmann: Heinrich VI. Domination practice and environment , p. 69.
  43. Theo Kölzer in Society for Staufer History (ed.): Kaiser Heinrich VI., 28.
  44. ^ Ingeborg Seltmann: Heinrich VI. Domination Practice and Environment , pp. 110–111.
  45. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , P. 207.
  46. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 206-207.
  47. For the sources for Heinrich's rule see: Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 18-23.
  48. Dante: Divine Comedy , Paradise 3.118-120, translated by Konrad Falke.
  49. So Wilhelm von Giesebrecht about Friedrich Barbarossa, quoted from Knut Görich : Die Staufer Herrscher und Reich , p. 13.
  50. Karl Hampe : German imperial history in the time of the Salier and Staufer , 12, ed., Darmstadt 1969, p. 233.
  51. ^ Theodor Toeche: Emperor Heinrich VI. , Pp. 508, 509.
  52. Herbert Grundmann: Gebhardt Handbook of German History Volume 1, p. 427.
  53. ^ Ingeborg Seltmann: Heinrich VI. Domination practice and environment , p. 274.
  54. Odilo Engels: Die Staufer , p. 140.
  55. ^ Walter Zöllner: Heinrich VI. In: Evamaria Engel, Eberhard Holtz (Ed.): German Kings and Emperors of the Middle Ages , p. 196.
  56. ^ Theo Kölzer in Society for Staufer History (ed.): Kaiser Heinrich VI. , P. 30.
  57. Innocentii III Romani pontificis regestorum sive epistolarum I , ed. by Jacques P. Migne ( Patology Latina 214 ), Paris 1890 , No. 413, p. 390.
  58. See: Arno Borst: Reden über die Staufer, Frankfurt a. M./Berlin 1978, p. 82.
  59. Dietrich Schäfer: German History, Vol. 1: Middle Ages , Jena 1913, p. 304.
  60. ^ Karl Hampe: German imperial history in the time of the Salier and Staufer, Leipzig 1929, p. 184
  61. Peter Csendes: Heinrich VI. , Pp. 215 and 222.
  62. Peter Csendes in Society for Staufer History (ed.): Kaiser Heinrich VI. , P. 44.
  63. See Gerd Althoff: Die Macht der Rituale , p. 157 ff.
  64. Gerd Althoff in: Staufer and Welfen Two rival dynasties in the High Middle Ages. Verlag Friedrich Pustet, Regensburg 2009, p. 155.
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich I. Barbarossa Roman-German king
from 1191, Kaiser
Philip of Swabia
Otto IV of Braunschweig
William III. King of Sicily
Frederick II
This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 14, 2011 in this version .