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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Murder of Philip of Hohenstaufen


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XVIII.

THE REIGN OF FREDERICK II. AND END OF THE HOHENSTAUFEN LINE.

(1215--1268.)

Rival Emperors in Germany. --Pope Innocent III. --Murder of Philip of Hohenstaufen. --Otto IV. becomes Emperor. --Frederick of Hohenstaufen goes to Germany. --His Character. --Decline of Otto's Power. --Frederick II. crowned Emperor. --Troubles with the Pope. --His Crusade to the Holy Land. --Frederick's Court at Palermo. --Henry, Count of Schwerin. --Gregory IX.'s Persecution of Heretics. --Meeting of Frederick II. and his son, King Henry. --The Emperor returns to Germany. --His Marriage with Isabella of England. --He leaves Germany for Italy. --War in Lombardy. --Conflict with Pope Gregory IX. --Capture of the Council. --Course of Pope Innocent III. --Wars in Germany and Italy. --Conspiracies against Frederick II. --His Misfortunes and Death. --The Character of his Reign. --His son, Konrad IV., succeeds. --William of Holland rival Emperor. --Death of Konrad IV. --End of William of Holland. --The Boy, Konradin. --Manfred, King of Naples. --Usurpation of Charles of Anjou. --Konradin goes to Italy. --His Defeat and Capture. --His Execution. --The Last of the Hohenstaufens.

[Sidenote: 1215. TWO EMPERORS ELECTED.]

A story was

current among the German people, that, shortly before Henry VI.'s death, the spirit of Theodoric the Great, in giant form on a black war-steed, rode along the Rhine presaging trouble to the Empire. This legend no doubt originated after the trouble came, and was simply a poetical image of what had already happened. The German princes were determined to have no child again, as their hereditary Emperor; but only one son of Frederick Barbarossa still lived,--Philip of Suabia. The bitter hostility between Welf and Waiblinger still existed, and although Philip was chosen by a Diet held in Thuringia, the opposite party, secretly assisted by the Pope and by Richard of the Lion-heart, of England (who had certainly no reason to be friendly to the Hohenstaufens!) met at Aix-la-Chapelle, and elected Otto, son of Henry the Lion.

Just at this crisis, Innocent III. became Pope. He was as haughty, inflexible and ambitious as Gregory VII., whom he took for his model: under him, and with his sanction, the Inquisition, which linked the Christian Church to barbarism, was established. So completely had the relation of the two powers been changed by the humiliation of Henry IV. and Barbarossa, that the Pope now claimed the right to decide between the rival monarchs. Of course he gave his voice for Otto, and excommunicated Philip. The effect of this policy, however, was to awaken the jealousy of the German Bishops as well as the Princes,--even the former found the Papal interference a little too arbitrary--and Philip, instead of being injured, actually derived advantage from it. In the war which followed, Otto lost so much ground that in 1207 he was obliged to fly to England, where he was assisted by king John; but he would probably have again failed, when an unexpected crime made him successful. Philip was murdered in 1208, by Otto of Wittelsbach, Duke of Bavaria, on account of some personal grievance.

[Sidenote: 1208.]

As he left no children, and Frederick, the son of Henry VI., was still a boy of fourteen, Otto found no difficulty in persuading the German princes to accept him as king. His first act was to proceed against Philip's murderer and his accomplice, the Bishop of Bamberg. Both fled, but Otto of Wittelsbach was overtaken near Ratisbon, and instantly slain. In 1209, king Otto collected a magnificent retinue at Augsburg, and set out for Italy, in order to be crowned Emperor at Rome. As the enemy of the Hohenstaufens, he felt sure of a welcome; but Innocent III., whom he met at Viterbo, required a great many special concessions to the Papal power before he would consent to bestow the crown. Even after the ceremony was over, he inhospitably hinted to the new Emperor, Otto IV., that he should leave Rome as soon as possible. The gates of the city were shut upon the latter, and his army was left without supplies.


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