Frederick I Barbarossa
During the middle of the 12th century, anarchy ruled most of European countries. There was anarchy in England led by Stephen and France was not in a much better case under the governance of Louis VI and Louis VII. Germany was no different. During this time, the Kingdom of Germany was fused with the Kingdoms of Italy and Burgundy but for almost two centuries since the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I in 936 AD, there have been heathen Slavs and Danes who opposed the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and the problem was even compounded by the uncooperative and disunited German nobles.
Since the time of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and extending two centuries until the reign of German Emperor Conrad III and his son Heinrich VI, Germany had been a country plunged into war and chaos. And if there was one man who restored Germany to its peaceful state, recognition should be given to the nephew of Conrad III in the name of Frederick I Barbarossa, although he failed to unite the Holy Roman Empire. This paper seeks to explore the life and governance of one of the greatest Emperors of Germany, as well as his achievements and failures. Personal Background
Frederick Barbarossa reigned as “the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany from 1152-1190” and “was one of the most famous of German Emperors” (“Frederick Barbarossa”). He was also known by the nickname “Barbarossa, or Red-Beard. ” (“Frederick Barbarossa”) Described as “a handsome, impressive figure, with golden hair and much personal magnetism” (Brown & Carson 243), Frederick was not only prominent in appearance but also in his personal background and later in his governance. He is said to have received “excellent education, was well read in history, and knew his classical authors” (Brown & Carson 243).
He was “intelligent, understood Latin, and enjoyed German poetry,…history and law [plus the fact that] he was energetic and determined [and always fostered] justice. ” (Fines 86) Governance Frederick was said to have been “elected German king without hesitation” (Brown & Carson 243), which somehow exemplifies the strong, courageous spirit of the Hohenstaufen lineage of Holy Roman Emperors. In 1152, Frederick was elected Emperor at the age of 30. During this time, “the Germany he was called to rule was…torn…by dispute between the Welf Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, and his own family” (Fines 86).
However, Frederick was able to solve this problem from 1152 to 1154 (see Fostering Peace among the Nobles). Just like his uncle Conrad III and the previous emperors since Otto I, Frederick “watched with complacency the extension of the German territory by…his vassals” (Brown & Carson 243). His vassals dealt forcefully with against the heathen Slavs and suppressed the rebellion of the Danes in Holstein. Frederick’s loyal vassals “colonized [Elbe and Holstein] with peasants brought from Germany” (Brown & Carson 244). Thus, during the reign of Frederick I Barbarossa, German power extended to the Baltic and Scandinavian regions.
Frederick established his power “on the basis of Roman law and Roman tradition” (Brown & Carson 244), just like his contemporary, Henry II of England. He is said to have “employed Roman lawyers, declared his empire the Holy Roman Empire, and revived the title of Caesar for his son” (Brown & Carson 244). This Roman-based rule meant the appointment and administration of “a body of electoral princes, composed of the chief magnates of Germany” (Brown & Carson 244). And when it comes to religion, Frederick’s policy was to institute a bishop in every vacant benefice.
Since Frederick “saw in papal power a threat to imperial power” (Brown & Carson 244), he endowed his appointed bishops “with greater authority (Brown & Carson 244) in order to make them “support the emperor rather than the pope” (Brown & Carson 244). This was indeed a very effective strategy of Frederick in order to ward off any possible threat to the stability of the Holy Roman Empire. The empire was actually occupied with wars at that time and had the least bit of a need for an internal conflict especially from the papacy that heavily supported Italy.
Achievements Weakening the Power of the Feudal Lords. When it came to the strengthening of his royal power and authority, it is said that “Frederick I was less successful than Henry II but more successful than Louis VII, his French contemporary” (Brown & Carson 245). Frederick’s greatest success was mostly in terms of his national government. He was able to break up “the great fiefs [of Germany to a large extent in order to create] a Germany of small principalities, archbishoprics and free cities” (Brown & Carson 245).
This was Frederick’s own way of adhering to the political principle of “divide and rule. ” He did this in order to “weaken the authority of the great feudal lords” (Brown & Carson 245) especially in his own native country Germany. Frederick “established law in the land, and made sure it was kept, punishing infringements harshly, and inhibiting private warfare” (Fines 86). Fostering Peace among the Nobles. He did most of the previously mentioned achievements during the first two years of his reign from 1152 to 1154.
It was also during this time that he settled the conflicts among the German nobles. It is said that “he dealt justly with the Welfs, giving them territories to rule within his overlordship” (Fines 86). Partial Control of Northern Italy. The problem was that in Italy, one of the biggest parts of the Holy Roman Empire, specifically in the Po valley, the equivalent of the feudal lord was the “chief magistrate called a consul” (Brown & Carson 245) to whose rule the governments of many towns had been entrusted.
The consuls also had “the rights [called regalia] which bishops and nobles had formerly exercised…[and]claimed to have received…from the Emperor Constantine” (Brown & Carson 245). This clearly meant that the rights of the consuls were almost irrevocable and in a sense, God-given. In order to deal with this, Frederick had to resort to “betrothing his son to the Sicilian heiress” (Brown & Carson 245), just like what Otto I had done hundred years ago. This betrothal led to Frederick’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor and thereby “he set forth his claims to the regalia” (Brown & Carson 246).
And this naturally met opposition from the Italian towns that refused to recognize his claims. Thus, Frederick resorted to force. It is said that “he tied prisoners of war to his siege engines to be shot at by their own side, razed cities to the ground that opposed him, and installed German governors to extract maximum obedience and profit” (Fines 87). However, the fifth of the expeditions that the emperor sent to northern Italy resulted in a victory of the Italian Lombard League of foot soldiers over the imperial troops composed mainly of feudal horsemen.
The end result was that Frederick “was finally obliged to yield the towns their regalia, but the consuls were to becomes his vassals and the citizens to swear fealty” (Brown & Carson 246). The Papacy and Practical Equality. During the course of the Italian campaigns of Frederick, he also had to struggle with the papacy and he “[maintained] a series of anti-popes” (Brown & Carson 246). Fortunately, this was resolved later on through terms made on the basis of “practical equality” (Brown & Carson 246). Failures
The Defeat of the Fifth Expedition. The fifth German expedition of Frederick in Italy in 1167 was “decimated by a terrible pestilence” (Fines 87). And the remainder of the imperial army was defeated by the powerful Lombard League. The Defeat of the Last Expedition. The last invasion of Italy was also a failure because after the failure of the fifth expedition, Frederick “was now at odds with the leading Welf, Henry the Lion, who had been quietly building up his power in the North…using his alliance with the Danes” (Fines 87).
It was 1174 when Frederick invaded Italy for the last time and it was when “he even lost his shield and personal standard, and was forced to retreat to Pavia” (Fines 87). He lost his cause for Italy and afterwards resorted to a “six-year truce with the Lombard League [and] prostrated himself [in front of Pope Alexander to recognize his authority]” (Fines 87). Death during the Third Crusade. Since the latter part of the 11th century and even up to the time of Frederick, the papacy had instituted the crusades to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims.
When the third crusade was proclaimed in 1188, “Frederick thought to outshine the pope by heading it” (Brown & Carson 246). This crusade was “led by Richard the Lionheart of England, Philip II of France, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I” (“Crusades Timeline”). Frederick “led a German force through Byzantium…[but were] harassed at every step by Greek fraud and treachery” but was “able to defeat the sultan at Iconium” (“Crusades 3”). Unfortunately, this attempt to outshine the pope eventually led to the tragic death of the emperor for he “took the overland route and was drowned while fording a stream” (Brown & Carson 246).
The account of Frederick’s death is as follows: “At a moment when the bridge was crowded with troops Frederick rode up rapidly. He was impatient to join his son, who was leading the advance guard; and when he found that he could not cross immediately by the bridge, he plunged into the river to swim his horse across. Both horse and rider were swept away by the current. Barbarossa’s heavy armor made him helpless and he was drowned. ” (“Frederick Barbarossa”) Conclusion Frederick I Barbarossa indeed deserves one of the greatest of the Holy Roman Emperors.
He may have been just any other monarch with his own foibles, but he did whatever he could in his power to maintain the Holy Roman Empire and most of all to expand it at all costs. He may have also been harsh in how he dealt with violators of the law in his own country and when he dealt with the Italians, but a good ruler and commander deserves respect only if he has a strong resolve. Frederick was such a ruler. He may not have succeeded greatly because of Italy but his institution of German laws and his resolute governance surely served as a good example to his successors. Works Cited Brown, Louis Fargo & Carson, George Jr.
Anne. Men and Centuries of European Civilization. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. , 1948. Print. “Crusades 3 of Frederick Barbarossa. ” n. d. The Latter Rain Page. 10 May 2010. <http://latter-rain. com/crusade/cruthr. htm> “Crusades Timeline. ” n. d. The Middle Ages Website. 10 May 2010. <http://www. middle-ages. org. uk/crusades-timeline. htm> Fines, John. Who’s Who in the Middle Ages: From the Collapse of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. , 1970. Print. “Frederick Barbarossa. ” n. d. The Middle Ages Website. 10 May 2010. <http://www. middle-ages. org. uk/frederick-barbarossa. htm>Sample Essay of RushEssay.com