1902 Encyclopedia > Charles I of Naples (Charles of Anjou)

Charles I of Naples
(also known as: Charles of Anjou)

CHARLES, count of Anjou and Provence, king of Naples and Sicily, born between the years 1220 and 1226, was the ninth son of Louis VIII. of France. He married Beatrice, heiress of Provence, after scattering his rivals by the aid of an army furnished by his brother, Louis IX. Soon after he accompanied the king on a crusade, during which he fought with bravery, but achieved no permanent success, and he was at last taken prisoner with his brother. During his absence most of the towns of Provence formed themselves into republics; but on his return they were quickly subdued, and, among others, Marseilles lost the independence she had before enjoyed. Charles's power was now very considerable; but his ambition was far from being satisfied. He therefore un-scrupulously lent his arms to Margaret of Flanders, who offered him the province of Hainault in return for his assistance in setting aside her husband's children by a former wife in favour of her own ; but this scheme was crushed by Louis, who caused him to give up Hainault for a sum of money. Charles had now, besides, conceived a loftier ambition. He had been requested to assume the crown of the two Sicilies by Pope Urban IV., who desired to overthrow the bastard Manfred, the Ghibelline king ; and in 1265 he was crowned at Rome. A crusade was preached against Manfred, who was defeated and slain. The legitimate heir, Couradin, was also routed (1268), and being betrayed, was meanly tried and executed ; a similar fate befell a large number of Italian nobles ; many fiefs were confiscated to reward the French followers of the new king; and the rule of the Provengáis was often arbitrary and brutal. Charles's ambition continued to widen. He now designed to make himself the head of the Eastern empire. With this end in view, he again accompanied his brother on a crusade ; but the accomplishment of his ultimate design was prevented by a terrible storm, and by the outbreak of the plague. He also incurred the enmity of the Pope, Nicholas III., by haughtily refusing to accept the hand of his niece for his own grandson. Nicholas joined the Ghibellines, and took from Charles, who offered no resistance, his titles of senator of Rome and vicar-general of Italy. But in 1280 Nicholas died, and Charles, by means of many intrigues, and after imprisoning two of the cardinals, effected the election of a Frenchman, Martin IV. In return, he was made senator of Borne, and his rival, the Emperor Michael Palseologus, was excommunicated. An-other expedition was already fitted out against the East, when news was brought of the rebellion known as the Sicilian Vespers. Aroused by the rough rule of the French, the people were also stirred by the burning exhortations of John of Procida, a Calabrian doctor, formerly friend of Frederick and of Manfred, who had been travelling in disguise through Italy, Greece, and Spain, seeking assistance against the usurpation of Charles. On Easter Monday, 1282, he collected a large assembly of the Sicilian nobles at Palermo. An opportune pretext for a rising soon occurred. The viceroy had forbidden the bearing of arms ; and, on the pretext that weapons were concealed under her dress, a Frenchman insulted a girl of noble family on her very passage to the church where she was about to be married. He was killed on the spot, and every Frenchman in the city soon shared his fate. Some of the other Sicilian towns followed this example ; others expelled the French more mildly. Charles at once directed his fleet against Messina. He refused all offers of capitulation, and Messina held out till aid was brought it by Don Pedro of Aragón, and Charles's fleet was burned by the famous sailor, Boger de Loria. Charles, despairing of other means of success, now challenged Pedro to single combat. Pedro accepted the challenge, but Charles alone entered the lists. It is said that the former was dissatisfied with the arrangements, though others regard his acceptance as a mere ruse. Soon after Charles's son was defeated and taken prisoner, and in 1285 Charles himself fell ill. and died at Foggia.

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