Henry VI

Henry VI

The third and last king of England from the Lancastrian dynasty
Date of Birth: 06.12.1421
Country: Italy

  1. Biography of Henry VI
  2. Early Life and Reign
  3. Struggles and Conquests
  4. Controversial Actions and Later Years

Biography of Henry VI

Early Life and Reign

Henry VI, the third and final king of England from the House of Lancaster, was born in 1165 as the son of Emperor Frederick I. He assumed his father's responsibilities in Germany in 1184 and in Italy from 1186 after his marriage to Constance, the heiress to Sicily. When his father embarked on a crusade in 1189, Henry took over the rule completely.

Struggles and Conquests

Henry's first challenge was to confront Henry the Lion, who had returned from exile without permission. Learning that Sicilian barons had elected Tancred Lecce, an illegitimate son of Constance's brother, as the new king of Sicily, Henry reconciled with Henry the Lion and quickly headed to Italy. There, he gained the support of the Lombards, won over the Romans, and was crowned by Pope Celestine III. Subsequently, Henry invaded the Kingdom of Sicily. However, resistance from Naples and the outbreak of the plague in his army forced the emperor to retreat.

Returning to Germany, Henry inherited a vast fortune after the death of Duke Welf VI. He ceded Swabia to his brother Conrad and launched a new campaign in Italy to establish a close connection between the Sicilian and German crowns. Tancred died in 1194, and his underage son, William III, was proclaimed king, with Queen Sibylla acting as regent. This time, Naples did not resist, and Salerno was captured swiftly. Ultimately, Sicily submitted to Henry's rule, and in November 1194, he triumphantly entered Palermo, where he was crowned with the Sicilian crown. Sibylla and William relinquished their rights after being promised the counties of Lecce and Taranto.

Controversial Actions and Later Years

However, Henry soon used the pretext of an alleged conspiracy to seize and imprison Queen Sibylla and her daughter in a monastery. He also ordered William to be blinded and castrated. Even Tancred's corpse was subjected to ridicule, and all supporters of the Norman royal house were captured and executed.

Returning to Germany, Henry ended the internal conflicts that had arisen during his absence and appeared before the diets in Würzburg and Mainz in 1196, demanding recognition of the hereditary German crown in his family. Facing resistance from spiritual princes and the pope, he could only secure the proclamation of his two-year-old son Frederick as the German king.

Henry then embarked on a journey south and planned to extend his power to the East with the help of a special German crusade. Many princes were recruited for this expedition, and even the Moorish princes of northern Africa and the Greek Emperor Alexios III paid tribute to him. To fund these endeavors, a special tax called the "Alamanian tax" was imposed throughout the empire, and precious ornaments were removed from imperial tombs in Constantinople.

After brutally suppressing a rebellion in Sicily, Henry intended to join the crusaders' army. In late summer 1197, he arrived in Messina to witness the departure of the Crusade. A massive fleet was assembled, possibly with the intention of not only visiting holy sites but also conquering Constantinople. However, at this time, the young and vigorous Henry fell ill with a fever and died in September 1197. He was buried in the cathedral in Palermo.