59. FREDERIC'S LAST CAMPAIGN AND DEATH. SUMMARY OF HIS CHARACTER
During all this busy and contentious time, it may well be gathered, that Frederic the emperor lay not still, but had his hands full; who notwithstanding (by God's help overcoming and suppressing these or the greater part of these rebellious popish tumults, and having done strict execution on those especially that had conspired against his person) calling a council, and setting in some stay the troublesome affairs of his kingdom, came to Cremona with Frederic, prince of Antioch, Richard, earl of Umbria, the governor of Flamminia, and Encius, king of Sardinia, with a great number besides of soldiers and men of war. And besides, he took with him (which he sent for out of every part) the wisest, most virtuous, and best learned men that there were, thinking with them to have gone himself to Lyons to the pope, and there to have with him communication, as well concerning the sentence definitive, as also about the conclusion of any peace, if by any means he might. And when all things were prepared and ready, he took the journey in hand, and came to Taurinum, having with him both a great army of soldiers, and also a great company of legates and ambassadors. From thence sending his carriages before, within three days' journey of Lyons he was certified that Parma was taken and kept by the outlaws of divers and sundry factions of the pope, his near neighbours and friends; as by the pope's legate, and other citizens, as of Brixia, Placentia, and such like. Which thing when he understood, and that the pope herein was the only and chief doer, he saw manifestly it should little prevail to attempt any further the thing he went about; and then at length, when he saw no other remedy, putting from him all hope of peace, determined himself to the wars with all his force and might. Thus, altering his purpose and journey, he took the straightest way into Lombardy, and with an army of sixty thousand men he besieged Parma. And to the intent he might more aptly and near the town plant his siege and battery without disturbance, first he entrenched his camp, and fortified the same about with bulwarks and other defensible munition. After that, he caused divers victualling houses and taverns in his camp to be slightly builded of timber; and without the camp be appointed the place where the market should be kept, and all victuallers resort that would. He appointed places for their churches and temples, and in seemly manner adorned the same; and for the most part their tents were builded with wood, so that it was like another Parma. All which things when he had finished, which was not long in doing, for this happy and prosperous success he called and named it Victoria, and had thought to have made the same to be in the stead of the city of Parma, the which he purposed to have made level with the ground. And in the beginning, both there and elsewhere, all things prospered well with Frederic, and had good success; for he sharply laid to their charges that defended and kept the city of Parma. And further, Robert Castilioneus, which was the emperor's lieutenant in Picenum, near unto Auximum, discomfited the pope's army, and slew of them more than four thousand, and took many such as were of the confederate cities prisoners. And when the factions or companies of the Ghibellines and Guelphs in Florentia were at controversy, when Frederic of Etruria came to the Ghibellines, to whom they had sent for aid, the Guelphs, therewith dismayed, fled from thence to Bononia, whose goods and substance came all to the emperor's coffers, and Florentia also itself to the emperor's obedience. But this good success and prosperous fortune lasted not long. For as at a time Frederic to recreate himself (which seldom had his health) rode about the fields with certain of his horsemen to hawk and hunt, many of the emperor's soldiers, thinking nothing less than of such a matter to be attempted of a many starvelings within the town of Parma, wandered and ranged unarmed out of their city Victoria about the fields. The soldiers in Parma, having this occasion offered, with all force and speed possible entered the emperor's camp or town Victoria; which being not strongly fenced, nor having gates to shut against them, was a thing easy enough to do. The sudden strangeness of the matter much abashed the soldiers, and they rang out their larum bell. The first assault was given upon Marcus Malaspina's charge; whom when the emperor, returning in all haste, found to be hard beset, he had thought to have rescued him. But when that was perceived of the enemy, they bent all their force altogether on that side, insomuch that the emperor was forced to take the trench, lest he should have been of the enemy environed; and from thence he retired into the city or camp, where he had thought to have gathered further aid. But the enemy, giving not so much time thereunto, with all force entered the city Victoria. The emperor now, when the enemies were entered, left the camp, and came to Dominum; who, when they had killed and slain a great number of the emperor's soldiers, and had burnt and destroyed the same camp Victoria, came again to Parma. The emperor then suspecting this thing to be wrought by treason, whereby the enemy had understanding as well of the emperor's absence, as also of the negligence of his soldiers, imprisoned certain of the chiefest about him, amongst whom also was Peter of Venice. Yet whilst he was at Dominum, gathering together his soldiers and residue of his bands, Encius getteth a great victory of the Mansuanos, who, coming to the rescue of Parma, lost fifty of their ships, and all that they had in them.
After this also, Richard in another conflict in Picenum discomfited the pope's soldiers, and slew their captain Hugolinus, besides two thousand others slain and taken prisoners. When now Frederic had gathered again, and new-mustered his bands at Dominum, he marched forth to Cremona; and notwithstanding that there he understood of the good success and victory that Encius had at Rhegium, yet for that he perceived the defection and backsliding of all or most part of Lombardy from him, he determined to take his journey into Apulia. And when he had there levied a strong and sufficient power, he purposed to make a speedy return again into Lombardy. Therefore, in his journey through Etruria into Apulia, he joined with his son Frederic, which besieged Capras, and took the same; and led with him divers of the chiefest captains prisoners, and after that, subduing unto the obedience of the empire Miniatum, he came into Apulia.
When news was brought him thither, that Encius his son (coming to aid the Mutinenses against the Bononians) was taken prisoner two miles from Mutina; and that in his absence the pope's captains, with their bands and garrisons, went throughout all Lombardy, Emilia, Flamminia, and Etruria, to stir and procure the cities to revolt from the obedience of the emperor; and working the same, partly by subtle policies, and partly by force and sinister means, to bring them to his purpose; he determined with himself, with all the force and power he might by any means procure and make, to have begun afresh, and prosecuted his war to the uttermost. Neither was it to be doubted (as Pandolphus Colonucius writeth) but that he would have wrought some marvellous exploit and great attempt, but that he was of this his purpose (whereunto he was both willing and bent) prevented by unlooked-for death. For when he fell into this ague, being at a certain castle of his in Apulia, called Florentinum, and saw by the extremity thereof his days to be short, he remembered that which was once showed him, how he should die at Florence; whereupon he made and ordained his testament. And when unto Conrad and other his children he had given and appointed the great and innumerable mass of money which he had collected and levied for the maintenance of his wars, and godly purpose, (as it is called,) and unto them also had given all other his kingdoms and dominions, (to every one according to their ages and years,) he departed this wretched and miserable world.
Pandolphus writeth, that Frederic was very willing to die, and, as they made certain report to him which were present at his death, that his mind was altogether set and bent on the heavenly joy and felicity. Which thing also William Putranus, Andrew Pandalus, and Manardus, the bishop, being Italian writers, do all affirm; of whom this last writeth, that he assuredly believeth Frederic to be one of the number of God's elect.
The writers, notwithstanding, are of sundry judgments and opinions touching this good emperor's death. Some write that he was traitorously poisoned by his cup-bearer, being hired thereunto. Some others, that he was strangled with a pillow of Manfred, the son of Pherus. But Pandolph, as good a writer as the best, maketh no mention of any poison that was given him, but only that he died of an ague. The last opinion of Manfred he manifestly refuteth, and showeth that there is no manner of likelihood of the same; and further, that the contrary is affirmed by divers other writers that were of that time. He died in the year of our Lord 1268, the thirteenth day of December, in the seven and fiftieth year of his age, and seven and thirtieth year of his reign, whose corpse was brought to Panormum, and there entombed.
Frederic had three wives: the first was Constantia, the daughter of the king of Arragon; of whom he begat Henry, the duke of Suevia and king of the Romans: the other Jole, the daughter of Johannes Brennus, king of Jerusalem, by whom he had the inheritance of Jerusalem, Naples, and Sicily; of whom he begat Conrad, duke of Suevia, king of Jerusalem and Naples, being Cæsar: the third, Isabella, the daughter of King John of England; by whom he had a son named Henry, which is said to die in his childhood. This Frederic had not his peer in martial affairs and warlike policies to be compared unto him amongst all the princes of that age: a wise and skilful soldier he was, a greater endurer of painful labours and travels, most bold in greatest perils, prudent in foresight, industrious in all his doings, prompt and nimble about that he took in hand, and in adversity most stout and courageous. But as in this corruption of nature few there be that attain perfection, neither yet is there any prince almost of such government and godly institution both in life and doctrine as is required of them; so neither was this Frederic without his fault and human fragility; for the writers impute to him some fault of concupiscence, wherewith he was stained and spotted. And it appeareth that he was not all clear thereof, forasmuch as by sundry concubines he had sundry children; as Encius, the king of Sardinia, Manfred, the prince of Sarentinum, and Frederic, king of Antioch. And this is all that I find of the description of Frederic by Colonucius, which he affirmeth that he gathered out of good and probable authors. But as touching the heinous acts and flagitious deeds which the pope burdeneth him withal, and in his sentence against him maketh mention of, Frederic not only purgeth himself thereof, but also divers historians (as well German writers as Italians) affirm the same to be false, and of the pope's own brains invented to do him injury. Of which matter those things which Pandolph, touching the commendation or dispraise of Frederic, writeth I thought good out of Italian to translate; whose words be these.
"Albeit the emperor Frederic was endued with many goodly gifts and virtues, yet, notwithstanding, was he accounted an enemy of the church, and a persecutor of the same; of which both Innocent the Fourth in his sentence hath pronouncedhim guilty, and the same sentence have other popes registered in their six books of decretals, and stablished the same for a law, how that he ought to be taken for no less. Therefore peradventure it should not become me to falsify or call in question that which others have confirmed, or else to dispute and argue much of that matter. Yet, notwithstanding, as much as his acts and deeds in writing declare, and the books of the chiefest authors affirm, as also his own epistles do testify, I cannot precisely say, whether the bishops of Rome so call him and judge him therefore; or else for that he was somewhat too bold in speaking and telling them but the truth, and reproving the ecclesiastical order of their great abuses; or else, whether for that he would have had them gone somewhat more near the conditions and lives of the ancient fathers of the primitive church and disciples of Christ; or whether for that he defended and stood with them for the prerogative and dignities belonging to the empire or not; or else, whether they stood in fear and awe of the great power he was of in Italy, which thing indeed Gregory the Ninth in a certain epistle of his confesseth: but of these things let them judge and discern that shall read the monuments and histories of Frederic. Truly, saith he, when I consider with myself that Christ, whose vicar the Roman bishops boast themselves to be, said unto his disciples, that they should follow him, and also imitate his example, as of their Master and Teacher; and commanded them furthermore, how they should not draw the sword, but put up the same into the scabbard; and further, gave them in precept that they should not only forgive injuries seven times, but seventy times seven times to those that offended them; and when I now compare the lives of the bishops of Rome, how near they follow him whose vicar they say they be; and consider so many and great conspiracies, treasons, rebellions, disloyalties, lyings in wait, and treacherous devices, so many legates of the pope's, (being ecclesiastical persons,) which will needs be called the shepherds of Christ's flock, to be such warriors and captains of soldiers in all the parts of Italy, Campania, Apulia, Calabria, (being the emperor's dominions,) in Picenum, Emilia, Flamminia, and Lombardy, to be sent out against him; and also when with myself I meditate the destruction of so many great and famous cities, the subversion of such commonwealths, the slaughter of so many men, and the effusion of so much Christian blood; and lastly, when I behold so victorious, prosperous, and fortunate emperors to be, and so many miserable, unfortunate, and vanquished popes put to flight; I am persuaded with myself to think and believe, that the judgments of God are secret 4nd marvellous, and that to be true which Æneas Sylvius, in his history of Austria, writeth, that there is no great and marvellous slaughter, no notorious and special calamity, (that hath happened either to the public weal, or else to the church of God,) of the which the bishops of Rome have not been the authors. Nicholas Machiavel also saith, that all the ruinous calamities and miserable chances that the whole Christian commonwealth and also Italy hath suffered, have been brought in by the popes and bishops of Rome.
Many epistles of Frederic there be which he wrote unto the bishops of Rome, to the cardinals, and to divers other Christian princes, all which I have read, and in them is to be seen nothing contrary unto Christian doctrine, nothing wicked and ungodly, nothing injurious to the church of God, nothing contumelious or arrogantly written of Frederic. But indeed I deny not the same to be fraught and full of pitiful complaints and lamentations, touching the avaricious ambition of the ecclesiastical persons, and pertinacy of the bishops of Rome, and that he would receive and take no satisfaction nor yet excuse in the defence of the right and privilege of the empire which he maintained; also of their manifold and infinite conspiracies which they practised both secretly and openly against him; and of the often admonitions which he gave to the whole multitude and order ecclesiastical to attend upon and discharge their functions and charges. And who that further is desirous to know and understand the truth, and coveteth to search out the renowned virtues of magnificent princes, let them read the epistle of Frederic, dated to all Christian princes, which thus beginneth, Collegerunt principes, pontifices et Pharisæi concilium; and another, wherein he persuadeth the college of cardinals to take up the dissension between the emperor and the pope, which beginneth, In exordio nascentis mundi; and also another which thus beginneth, veritatis testem; besides yet another, Ad reges et principes orbis Christiani; with divers others more, wherein may well be seen the princely virtues of this so worthy a peer: all which epistles, collected together in the Latin tongue, the learned sort I wished to read, whereout they may pick no little benefit and commodity to themselves. In his epistle last recited these are his words: Think ye not that we so earnestly desire or crave this peace at your hands, as though our Majesty were terrified with the pope's sentence of deprivation; when God, upon whom we trust and invocate, is our witness, and judge of our conscience, that when we went about to reform the ecclesiastical state, but especially the ringleaders of the same, and should restrain their power, and extirpate their great tyranny, and reduce the same to the state and condition of the primitive church, we looked for no less at their hands.' For these causes peradventure those which had the government of the ecclesiastical dignity decreed and pronounced Frederic to be an enemy to the church; which, as I have said, I leave to others to judge thereof." Hitherto Pandolphus Colonucius.
And doubtless examples to the contrary do appear, that Frederic was no enemy to the Church of Rome, for that he both gave large and great gifts thereunto, and also franchised the same with great privileges and immunities, which things by his own constitutions, statutes, and customs may be perceived and understood. But rather contrariwise, that the bishops of Rome most filthily recompensed the same his great liberality and princely benevolence again, which he gave and bestowed upon the same, as partly in the discourse of this history you have heard; who, notwithstanding they so molested and tired him with such and so many injuries as you have seen, he nevertheless, forgiving and pardoning all the same, for the great zeal he had to the common Christian wealth, (whereof he more forced than of any other thing,) sought by all means he might for to have peace, although it were to his own great hinderance. Therefore, seeing he was of necessity by the bishops of Rome provoked to that war, if he did them any scath in revenge of his imperial dignity, let them thank their own selves, which might otherwise have remedied the same. Notwithstanding, upon this occasion divers (both Italian and German writers, which at that time sought for fat benefices, and ever since, even unto these our days, have done the like, by flattery rather to obtain that which they hunted for, than to bear true and faithful testimony of things as they were indeed) took great occasion to write and slander this good emperor. But let us pass over these parasites, and return to those which, although they themselves were of that calling, I mean of the ecclesiastical order, yet, notwithstanding, for that they rather preferred the study of verity, and to reverence the truth before popish authority and flattering servitude, greatly extolled and commended this good emperor Frederic. So did Nicolaus Cusanus, a cardinal, in his writing affirm this emperor to be a Charlemagne, both for his wisdom and also diligent regard to the commonwealth. So also writeth Ægidius Biturigum, the bishop, in his books of the institution and bringing up of a prince, which he wrote to the French king, exhorting him and all others to take a pattern of this most worthy and excellent prince.
Wherefore, insomuch as it appeareth by the approved writers of whom I have made mention,who and what manner of prince Frederic this emperor was, and that because he diligently laboured as well in the preservation of the Christian commonwealth, as in the conservation of the imperial dignity, he procured to himself the great hatred and displeasure of the Roman bishops, (who have been to all the good emperors for the most part utter foes and enemies,) and with what wicked slanders and other injuries both by them and by their ministers they continually molested him; this lesson ought to be ours, that having the same in our memory, we imitate and follow his virtues, hating and detesting the wicked and flagitious doings of those holy fathers that will so be called, and bishops of Rome; desiring God that he will so guide the hearts of all kings and princes, that they may by his grace advance and set forth his glory, and reform the corrupt and vicious manner and order of the church to all sincerity and purity both of life and doctrine.