Angevin Naples — Part 1

By David Taylor


Charles of Anjou

Charles of Anjou arrived victorious in Naples in 1266 to begin the two centuries of Angevin rule of southern Italy, which established Naples as a European capital and continued the tradition of the southern monarchy whilst the rest of Italy was fragmenting into city communes and states. 

Having defeated and killed the Swabian ruler Manfred in battle, Charles quickly began to secure his position by imprisoning all supporters of the imperial designs of the Teutons. There remained, though, one obstacle to his safe establishment on the throne of Naples and Sicily: Corradino. This legal heir to Frederick II lived out of harm's way in Germany but within a year, Corradino, still only fourteen years old, was marching through Italy to claim his birthright. Their armies met in decisive battle at Tagliacozzo, on the border between Abruzzo and Lazio and a defeated Corradino, attempting to flee Italy, was taken prisoner in Terracina and brought to Naples.

Charles needed to establish his kingship and knew that whilst the young pretender lived, he would be a rallying point for the pro-imperial Ghibelline party. The young Corradino was, therefore, unceremoniously beheaded in Piazza del Mercato in Naples. It was an act which shook the mediaeval world but it was politically decisive and undertaken in the knowledge that no opposition would be forthcoming from the Church, which had, after all, invited Charles into Italy precisely to remove the Swabian presence. 

Now able to concentrate on his kingdom, Charles I transferred the capital from Palermo to Naples. This allowed him to be closer to the center of his interests, which included being a Roman Senator, lands in Provence and a desire to expand to the East. The decision conferred great prestige on Naples and placed it on equal footing with the other major European capitals in terms of trade and as a diplomatic centre. This prestige would be matched by the monuments which the Angevin Kings and Queens bestowed upon the city. On the negative side, the Neapolitans discovered that it was expensive to maintain a king and his court, especially as large sections of the population — principally the church and the wealthy — were exempt from taxation. The brunt of the cost had to be born by the less-wealthy sections. Added to this was the predilection, shared by the first three kings in the line, to amass wealth and debts.

Charles I's expansionist plans were rudely upset when, in 1282, the revolt known as the Sicilian Vespers took place. Much of the Charles' attention was taken up in trying to reconquer Sicily, which had elected Peter of the Spanish House of Aragon as its King. Not only did the Angevins long fail to retake Sicily but at times risked finding themselves on the receiving end. The skillful Admiral of the Sicilian fleet, Roger of Lauria, even managed to take Ischia and Capri and, despite the intervention of the Pope and Philip III of France on the side of the Angevins, managed to draw Charles ( heir to Charles I) into a naval battle just outside the Bay of Naples. Charles had disobeyed his father's orders to stay within the port and protect the city from attack. He had ample time to dwell upon the sense of obeying one's father for the Neapolitan fleet was utterly destroyed and Charles taken prisoner. 

Coming to the end of his life, Charles found that, other than having to negotiate for the release of his son, many of his southern territories were rallying around the Aragonese banner. Tired and disenchanted, he passed away in 1285 having declared his nephew, Charles Martello, heir in the absence of Charles. Peter of Aragon also died soon thereafter. 

Charles II was finally released in 1289 but another six years were to pass before he was finally able to obtain a truce with the Aragonese. As a result of this truce the Aragonese became recognizably allied to the Angevins and there followed a period of pacts, negotiations and inter-family marriages, all aimed at resolving the problem of Sicily. Robert, heir and third born son of Charles II (the first died and the second, Ludwig, took the cloth and was eventually canonized) and his sister were married to Sancia and Sancio, the children of King James of Sicily. With the two royal houses now linked by marriage, Charles II was able to consider that a long and complicated period of struggle had ended and felt free to pay a long-postponed visit to his territories in Provence. On his return to Naples in 1308, he died and was succeeded by Robert. 

Robert the Wise 

Crowned King of Sicily and Naples in August, 1310, Robert proved to be the most highly thought of amongst the Angevin rulers. A dignified and coherent king, he led the pro-church Guelph party, with a religious zeal that often verged upon bigotry (in private he was often less than saintly, occasionally needing calling to order for his womanizing), in a period when the Ghibellin party was pressurizing for a return of an emperor. Many of their Ghibellin hopes rested on Arrigio VII of Luxemburg, who was indeed crowned emperor and then quickly declared himself an ally of Federick of Sicily. Inclement weather, in the form of flooding and Clement V, in the form of an excommunication, prevented Arrigio from immediately attacking Naples. The threat was finally removed by Arrigio's death in August, 1313. 

King Robert's role as protector reaped him great prestige and riches in the form of subsidies from Florence and other Guelph communes. Robert and, consequently, Naples had opportunity to develop in status and wealth. In the course of his reign he also became indebted to some of the most illustrious Florentine bankers, repaying them in kind with import permits, and mortgage rights on income from taxes and import duties. 

 Funds were made available for an invasion of Sicily but the landing carried out in 1314 failed so abysmally that several years were to pass before anyone seriously thought of another attempt, especially as Robert had to concern himself with further troubles from the north, this time in the form of Ludwig of Bavaria, a new manifestation of the Ghibellin party's determination to have a new Holy Roman Emperor. 

 By the time of his death at the beginning of 1343, Robert had established himself a superb reputation. "The wise King Robert", "the new Solomon", "the peace-maker of Italy" may have failed to live up to the hopes of those who thought he might achieve the unification of Italy, but he had built largely on those advantages established by the first two Angevin Kings. Naples was now beginning to look like a mediaeval capital due to the splendid buildings and monuments bestowed by these monarchs, who freely availed themselves of craftsmen and artists from the great artistic centres of mediaeval Italy. Many traders and craftsmen from other Italian states and overseas had also set up operations in and around the capital city, adding to its vitality. 

 Within the reigns of these three kings, building had begun or was nearing completion on some of Naples most important monuments, including Maschio Angioino (greatly modified in mid-15th century), the Church of Saint Eligio, The Duomo, San Lorenzo, Santa Chiara (location of Robert's magnificent funeral monument) and San Martino. Indeed, much of the splendour of medieval (and modern) Naples stems from the first part of the Angevin rule, and although kings and queens of the line were to rule until the end of the century, it was of these kings, and Robert in particular, that writers and historians would continue to write longingly about for the next century — harking back to the days of Robert the Wise, when Petrach was presenting himself before the King, and Boccaccio was wandering around the Court, spurning his native Florence, "devoured by innumerable cares" for the inspiration of "happy, peaceful, generous and magnificent Naples".


Angevin (an' je-vin) adj. 1. Of or pertaining to the province of Anjou, France. 2. Of or pertaining to the House of Anjou, esp. as represented by the Plantagenet kings of England (1154-1204) descended from Geoffrey, Count of Anjou.

anjvin [Fr.,=of Anjou], name of two medieval dynasties originating in France. The first ruled over parts of France and over Jerusalem and England; the second ruled over parts of France and over Naples, Hungary, and Poland, with a claim to Jerusalem. 

First House of Anjou

The older house issued from one Fulk, who became count of in the 10th cent. Fulk V (see ) of Anjou, one of his descendants, became (1131) king of Jerusalem. A younger son inherited the kingship of Jerusalem as Baldwin III and was succeeded by Almaric I, Baldwin IV, and Baldwin V, with whom the branch ended (1186).

Fulk V's elder son, Geoffrey IV (Geoffrey Plantagenet), inherited Anjou. He married Matilda of England, daughter of English King Henry I, and conquered Normandy. Their son became (1154) the first Angevin (or Plantagenet) king of England as Henry II. His successors were Richard I, John, Henry III, Edward I, Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II, after whom the English branch split into the houses of Lancaster and of York.

A nephew of Richard I and John became (1196) duke of Brittany as Arthur I. From his sister and her husband, Peter of Dreux, a Capetian noble who became Duke Peter I of Brittany, the subsequent rulers of Brittany issued. The Breton line of the Angevins came to an end with the marriages of Anne of Brittany and her daughter to the kings of France.

Second House of Anjou 

The second house of Anjou was a cadet branch of the Capetians and originated with Charles, a younger brother of King Louis IX of France. Charles was made count of Anjou by Louis, acquired Provence by marriage, and in 1266 was invested by the pope with the kingdom of Naples and Sicily as Charles I. Charles lost Sicily but retained Naples. His successors were Charles II, Robert, and Joanna I of Naples and Provence.

On the death (1382) of Joanna I the succession to Naples was contested by two cadet branches, both descended from Charles II of Naples. The first was represented by Charles of Durazzo (Charles III of Naples), a great-grandson through the male line, and by his children, Lancelot and Joanna II. They retained, for the most part, actual possession of the kingdom despite the efforts of the rival line, issued from Margaret, a daughter of Charles II. Margaret married Charles of Valois; their son and grandson were kings Philip VI and John II, respectively, of France. John made his younger son, Louis, duke of Anjou; Joanna I of Naples adopted Louis as heir; Louis thus became Louis I of Naples and Provence. His successors were Louis II, Louis III, and René.

Although Louis III and René were successively designated as heirs by Joanna II, Naples was seized by King Alfonso V of Aragón and eventually remained in Spanish hands. René became duke of Lorraine by marriage. His nephew and heir, Charles, count of Maine, died in 1481 without issue; and Anjou, Maine, Provence, and the Angevin claim to Naples all passed to the French crown. The theoretical claim to Jerusalem stemmed from Charles I of Naples, whom Pope John XXI invested (c.1276) with the title. René's claim to the title was transmitted to the house of Lorraine.

The Hungarian branch of Anjou began (1308) with Charles Robert (King Charles I of Hungary), a grandson of Charles II of Naples. Charles I's son became king of Hungary and Poland as Louis I. Hungary passed to Louis's daughter Mary and to her husband Sigismund (later Holy Roman emperor), and Poland passed to Ladislaus II of Poland, husband of Louis's daughter Jadwiga.



Meanwhile, Carlo d'Angio' was coming to Italy. He called this town "Sipontum Novellorum" (1266). He relocated (13th May 1266) the mint from Manfredonia to Brindisi. The name Manfredonia was first used in 1272, when Carlo gave his son the fields "Honoris Montis Sancti Angeli". Since then, this name took over the old one. Frequently King Carlo went there and in 1272 he had Pope Gregorio X as guest. Within the swabian castle there is the National Museum with its several "STELE DAUNE" (a sort of FUNERARIE STELE): together with its ancient buildings and its churches, the castle is a sign of the rich history of Manfredonia. Nowadays Manfredonia is very well know for its Carnival with its allegorical carts. Within the Grotta Scaloria there are traces of upper palaeolithic age: they have found remains of human culture and at least 20 animal species.

Magliano dei Marsi, beautiful turistic center situated in the province of L'Aquila, has very ancient origins who seem to come back to when the ancient Roman Emperor, into defeating Alba Fucens, decided to camp its own army just where today there is the built-up area. The Palentini Planes in front of this town have been theatre, in 1268, of the famous fighting between Carlo D'Angio' and Corradino di Svevia/

After being subject,in the XII century, to the baron Attone Todino, it was barony of Gualtieri di Bellante, who in 1279 put himself at the head of a feudal overlord alliance against Carlo D'angio' and , during a brief war, destroyed the castle of the near Ripattoni. For what cocerns the latter one, it results that in 1316 its property was divided between Cicco di Acquaviva and Matteo di Canzano.

HISTORICAL INFORMATION: Pleasantly situated, Rieti is an important historical centre in the Sabina.It is the geographical centre of Italy (Umbilicus Italiae) with a plaque in Piazza San Ruffo to prove it. It lies on the Velino river on the southern border of the "Conca Reatina" which is a valley of orchards, vegetable-gardens and corn-fields. In the days of the Romans this was a key-region and the "Via Salaria" or "Salt Road" crossings these parts formed an essential route for trading salt (extracted from the Tiber estuary) with the Sabines, who lived up on these hills. The heart of the town is still on the track of the ancient Roman one. Marco Terenzio Varrone, the famous Latin writer was born here. Here Gregorious IV, appointed San Domenico and Nicolò IV crowned Carlo D'Angio.  Bonifacio VIII spent a long period of his office in Rieti.There are a lot of monuments dating back to the middle ages when the history of the "Comune" met the Popes' history.


Carlo I, fratello di Luigi IX Re di Francia e conte d'Angiò, fece la conquista di Napoli contro il Re Manfredi, che vinse ed uccise alla battaglia di Benevento, nel 1266. La congiura di Giovanni da Procida gli fece perdere la Sicilia, dove, nei Vespri Siciliani, tutti i francesi furono trucidati. Nacque nel 1220; morì nel 1285.

Fermiamoci, invece, innanzi a questa bella statua d'un vecchio, di Tommaso Solari, uno de' pochi, che abbia compreso, come ho detto, la regalità. Il Solari conosce, per prova, per vecchia esperienza, la dignità e la maestà dell'arte: egli ha studiato questo suo Carlo D'Angiò e la testa è riuscita un miracolo di esattezza storica: l'animo perverso, feroce, maligno, truculento e sospettoso del Re vi si rivela tutto. La sua efferatezza, come la sua ferocia, il suo superbo disdegno per quanto lo circondava come la sua bacchettoneria, tutto a me par di scorgere, in quel volto, in quella testa, così fortemente riprodotta, nelle sue linee dure, angolose, accusanti astuzia e doppiezza, severità e crudeltà. L'occhio è torvo, il labbro inferiore quasi incollato al superiore: l'insieme tetro e pauroso, a meraviglia, vi danno Carlo D'Angiò.