Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 56. THE EMPEROR FREDERICK II.

56. THE EMPEROR FREDERICK II.

    Frederic the Second came out of the ancient house of the Beblins or Ghibellines, which Ghibellines came of the most famous stock of the French kings and emperors.

    He had Frederic BarBarossa to his grandfather, whose son, Henricus the Sixth, was emperor after him, who of Constantia, the daughter (or, as some write, the niece) of Roger the First, king of Sicily, begat this Frederic the Second.

    This Constantia was fifty years of age before she was conceived with him, whom the emperor, Henry the Sixth, to avoid all doubt and surmise that of her conception and childing might be thought, and to the peril of the empire ensue, caused his regal tent to be pitched abroad in place where every man might resort. And when the time of his queen's travail approached, Constantia, in presence of divers ladies and matrons, and other gentlewomen of the empire, a great number, was brought abed, and delivered of this Frederic, the seventh day before the kalends of January, in the year of Christ's incarnation 1193, who by inheritance was king of Naples, Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily.

    HenriCus his father, shortly after he was born, obtained of the prince's electors, that, by their oath unto him giVen, they would choose his son Frederic for their emperor after his decease, and so did, and immediately called him Cæsar, being yet but in his cradle.

    This Henry when he died (which was shortly after the birth of Frederic) committed the protection of him to Constantia his wife, to Philip his brother, chief governor of Etruria, and to the bishop of Rome, then Innocent the Third.

    Constantia, not long after the death of Henry her husband, being sickly and growing into age, and thereby not so well able to govern the troubles and unquiet state of the empire, resigned, and willed by her testament the safety, both of her son Frederic, and also of his dominions, to the protection and government of Innocent the Third, thinking thereby safely to have provided, &c.

    This Pope Innocent, as soon as he had the protection of the young emperor and his seigniories, became, instead of a patron and protector to him and his dominions, both an enemy and conspirator. The examples are many. One is, he persuaded Sibylla, the late wife of Tancred, (whom Henry put from the kingdom of Sicily,) to recover the same again, and that she should thereunto require Philip the French king's aid. Whereupon one Walter, being of the noble house of the earls of Brenno, which in the province of Barrenceeis had great living, and marrying with Ateria, the eldest daugh ter of Tancred, once king of Sicily, as is said, now, by the instigation, counsel, and aid of the French king with the pope, well hoping to recover the kingdom, entered and invaded with great power Campania and Apulia. At which time also the same worthy protector, Innocent the Third, sent his legates with letters of excommunication against all those that would not admit and take the said Walter for their king.

    Another was, that where the prince's electors and other nobles, as before is said, had promised by their oath to Henricus, that they would make Frederic his son emperor after his decease, (whom the pope saw to put their endeavour thereunto to bring it to pass,) absolved them all from the oath which they had taken and given for the election of Frederic the emperor, as one not content he should obtain the same. And further, he raised slanders and defamations against Philip, whom the electors had chosen to govern the empire, during the minority of Frederic his nephew. he wrote his epistle, which is yet extant, to the Duke Barthold of Zaringia to be emperor. Who for that he gave place to Philip, he went about to procure that Otho, the son of Henry Leo, should be made emperor, and that the princes and lords electors of Germany would crown him forth with after the manner of Aquitaine. He deprived all such bishops as he knew to favour Philip as emperor, in the defence of his nephew's right. But Philip, whose cause was better, his skill in martial affairs greater, and in power and strength mightier, after divers and great conflicts, the marvellous disturbance and vastation of the whole empire, by God's help, put the other to the worse. All which calamities and mischiefs Conrade Lichtenau, at that time living, in his annals most pitifully complaineth of, and accuseth the bishop of Rome and his adherents to be the chief authors and devisers of this great and lamentable mischief, as such that, for to make themselves rich by the spoil thereof, sought by all means and desired the same.

    Not long after, a peace was concluded between Philip and Otho, and Philip reconciled again to the pope; who within a while after, between Otho and him, was murdered in his chamber and slain. And then was Otho again brought tO the imperial seat, and newly elected for emperor, with the counsel and consent of this Innocent the Third, and so continued, until that a great variance and discord chanced to arise between the said Otho and the pope. Whereupon Innocent sought by all means how against him likewise he might work mischief, and bring him unto his end. The occasion of this sudden change and alteration my author maketh no mention of, but that Otho (now being of great power) invaded and destroyed the dominions of Frederic, as Flaminia, Picenum, Umbria, Etruria, but chiefly Campania and Apulia, for that those properly appertained to the inheritance of Frederic.

    Thus you see how, first by the counsel and consent of Pope Innocent, and by his instigation, besides his secret conspiracies, this good Frederic and his dominions were hurt and endamaged. Then again through his default what damage he sustained by Otho, who by him and his means was made so strong as he was; notwithstanding the great trust he was put in for the protection both of Frederic and his dominions.

    At this time Frederic was come unto the age of twenty years; who in his youth, by the provision of Constantia his mother, was so well instructed in letters, and with other arts and virtues so endued, that at these years there appeared and did shine in him excellent gifts, both of wisdom and knowledge.

    He was excellently well seen in the Latin and Greek tongues, although at that time learning begun to decay, and barbarousness to increase. He had also the German tongue, the Italian tongue, and the Saracen tongue. He daily exercised and put in practice those virtues which nature had planted in him, as piety, wisdom, justice, and fortitude insomuch that well he might be compared and accounted among the worthiest and most renowned emperors his predecessors.

    Fazellus (the historian of Sicily in this time) writeth, that Frederic was again after this had in great honour and estimation with Innocent; but yet notwithstanding he had no sure confidence in him, for that he had the suspected name of Frederic his grandfather often in remembrance, and for that occasion was much desirous to have him far from Italy.

    When Frederic had gathered his power, he purposed to set upon Otho his enemy; of which thing Otho hearing, (as he was painful in travel,) came out of Italy with his army into Germany, thinking to have met Frederic at the river of Rhine, and to have stopped his passage; but he was deceived of his expectation, and Frederic was crowned, as the manner of Aquitaine is, before he came. And after that Frederic in the winter time took his journey to Frankfort; and after many meetings held in Nuremburg, and after that Otho was dead, he set the empire in a stay, and the whole country of Germany he in a manner appeased. And then with all his nobles and princes he returned to Rome, and by Honorius the Third was with great solemnity consecrated and called Augustus. Which Honorius succeeded Innocent the Third in the papal see, and was a great help to Frederic (although he loved him not) in this behalf, to revenge himself upon Otho.

    After the consecration of Frederic the Second, he gave many great and liberal gifts, as well unto the bishop of Rome himself, as also unto the court of Rome besides. Also he gave and assured by his charter to the Church of Rome the dukedom of Fundanum. For by the insatiable covetousness of the Romish bishops this wicked use and custom grew, that unless the emperors elect and crowned would give unto them such like great and large gifts, they could not obtain of them their conse cration or confirmation, which for that intent they devised.

    Furthermore, Frederic the emperor, willing to show himself more bountiful and liberal unto the church, neither yet to restrain any privilege that might benefit the same, gave and admitted those constitutions which the pope himself would desire, and are yet extant in their civil law; by which his doings he delivered to their hands a sword, as it were, to cut his own throat; for the bishops of Rome now having even what they listed, and all in their own hands, might, by the pain of proscription, bring what emperor or king they listed under, and keep them by their own laws, as if they were bound in certain bands, out of which they might not start. For whatsoever he were which, for the diminution of the liberties of the church, were excommunicated, and so continued a year's space, then he should be within the danger of this proscript, and should not be released before he had made satisfaction, and were admitted by the pope to the church and congregation of good men again. Whereby it came to pass, that whatsoever emperor, in the government of his dominions, should in any point displease or do contrary to the lust of the bishop of Rome, he then as enemy to the church was excommunicate. And unless within a year he were reconciled to them again, by this their principal law, he was in the proscript. And often it chanced that princes, to avoid the pain of this proscript, were ready to do whatsoever the pope would have them, and commanded them to do.

    After the consecration of Frederic was with great solemnity finished, and that the pope and Church of Rome in all ample manner (as is partly described) were gratified, and yet larger constitutions to them confirmed, he departed from Rome, and went into Italy, there to set in order and stay the cities and great towns, for the better tranquillity of himself, and safety of his subjects, and from thence into his own provinces and dominions; where he heard of certain that began to raise and make new factions against him. Amongst whom were found Thomas and Richard, the brethren of Innocent the Third, earl of Anaquinos, that held certain castles in the kingdom of Neapolitans from him by force; which castles he besieged and beat down, and took from them all that he in them found. Richard he took and sent as a prisoner into Sicily; but Thomas escaped and came speedily to Rome, whither also repaired certain bishops and others that were conspirators against Frederic, as also such others as the fear of the emperor's laws and their own guilty consciences caused to fly, and were (that notwithstanding) of this bishop of, Rome, Honorius the Third, to gratify again the liberality of the emperor bestowed upon him, under his nose succoured, maintained, and defended. Which thing when Frederic understood, he began to expostulate with the bishop, considering the unseemliness of that his deed. Against whom the pope on the other side was so chafed and vexed, that immediately without further delay he thundereth out against him, like a tyrant, his curses and excommunications.

    Thomas Fazellus declareth the detestation or defiance to happen between them somewhat otherwise. There were (saith he) amongst those which were found traitors to the emperor certain bishops, who, flying to the pope, requested his aid; whereupon the pope sent his legates to the emperor, and requested him that he would admit and receive to favour those bishops which he had banished and put from their offices, and that he would not intermeddle with any ecclesiastical charge wherewith he had not to do; and said further, that the correction and punishment of such matters pertained to the bishop of Rome, and not to him. And, moreover, that the oversight of those churches in that kingdom, from the which he had expelled the bishops, pertained and belonged unto him.

    Whereunto Frederic thus replieth: That forasmuch as now four hundred years and more from the time of Charlemagne, all emperors and kings in their dominions might lawfully commit to apt and fit men for the same such ecclesiastical functions and charges as within their territories and kingdoms fell, that he looked to have the like privilege and authority also that other his predecessors before him had. And further said; that he had the same and like authority in the empire that his father Henry; and Frederic his grandfather, and other his predecessors, before them had; neither had he so deserved at the hands of the Church of Rome, either of Honorius himself, to be deprived of those privileges which his ancestors before him had and kept. And further, Frederic being chafed and moved with these demands of the pope, breaketh forth and saith, How long will the bishop of Rome abuse my patience? When will his covetous heart be satisfied? Whereunto will his ambitious desire grow? With such-like words more, repeating certain injuries and conspiracies, both against him and his dominions, as well by Honorius as Innocent the Third, his predecessor, as also other like injuries of popes to his ancestors practised. What man (saith he) is able to suffer and bear this so incredible boldness and intolerable insolency of so proud a bishop? Go, saith he, (unto the legates,) and tell Honorius, that I will hazard both the seigniory of my empire, and crown of my kingdom, rather than I will suffer him thus to diminish the authority of our majesty.

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