1902 Encyclopedia > Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor

Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor

HENRY VI. (1165-1197),Holy Roman emperor, the son of Frederick I., was born in 1165, and received the German crown in 1169. When his father started for Palestine at the head of the third crusade, Henry was made imperial vicar, and he succeeded to the throne after the news of his father's sudden death reached Germany in 1190. He shared the intellectual culture of his time, and was distinguished for the splendour of his political schemes; but he was of a stern disposition, and in order to attain his ends was some-times guilty of horrible cruelty. Henry the Lion, who had been banished to England by Frederick I., returned to Germany after the departure of the latter for the Holy Land. Henry resisted him, but on becoming the reigning sovereign he concluded peace, and hastened to Rome, where he was crowned emperor in 1191. Through his wife Constantia he had a right to the throne of Sicily; but the Sicilian nobles had made Count Tancred, an illegitimate son of Constantia's brother, king. After receiving the imperial crown Henry advanced against Tancred, and the whole of southern Italy except Naples was quickly in his possession. Before Naples his army was struck by pestilence, and he was forced to return to Germany. There he suppressed various private wars, and compelled Henry the Lion to acknowledge his supremacy. The great ransom which he received from Richard I. of England enabled him to fit out a fine army, and with this he descended upon Italy in 1194, and without much difficulty conquered the Sicilian kingdom. Tancred was dead, but he had left a number of relatives, who were so barbarously treated that the people were seized with terror, and not even a sentence of excom-munication which the pope pronounced against Henry could induce any one to express dissatisfaction with his rule. On his return to Germany it was easy for him, with the prestige he had now acquired, to enforce submission; and so great was his authority that, in 1196, he made attempts to secure that the crown should be declared here-ditary in his family. He might have succeeded had he lived some years longer; but in 1197 he died at Messina. Before his death he was engaged in checking disorder which had arisen during his absence in Sicily; and he even obliged the Byzantine emperor Alexius to pay him tribute.

See Toeche, Jahrbucher des Deutschen Reichs unter Heinrich VI. (Leipsic, 1867); Mucke, Kaiser Heinrich VI. (Erfurt, 1876).

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