Childhood & Early Life
He was born on December 26, 1194 in Iesi, Italy, as the son of Emperor Henry VI and Constance of Hauteville and was baptised in Assisi.
During his infancy in 1196, he was elected King of the Germans by the princes at Frankfurt but Henry VI was not successful in garnering support of the princes to make his son’s succession hereditary.
His father died in September 1197 following which the otherwise strong Roman Empire went through turbulence.
On May 17, 1198, he was coroneted as King of Sicily at two years of age while Constance of Hauteville became the regent for her son. She disestablished the bond of Sicily with that of the empire and with Germany by sending back the German counsellors and giving up Frederick’s claim to the empire and the German throne. This was followed by election of two rival kings - Otto of Brunswick and Philip of Swabia.
Constance appointed Pope Innocent III as guardian of Frederick II and also as regent of the Empire of Sicily which was under the suzerainty of the papacy.
He came under the tutelage of Cencio, who later went on to become Pope Honorius III. The next few years Sicily witnessed anarchism with local barons, papal leaders, German captains and cities of Pisa and Genoa fighting vigorously to acquire control over the land.
The turbulence continued till November 1206 when the imperial chancellor took over Palermo and ruled the country in Fredrick II’s name.
In 1208, he was declared of age and with a troop of knights, which he received through his marriage, he regained control over Sicily and south Italy, which had earlier been seized by adventurers and local barons. He was able to recover some of the regal areas that had gone out of hand during his minority. During this period, relations between him and the Pope strained.
In 1209, Pope Innocent III crowned Otto of Brunswick as the Holy Roman Emperor. During 1210-11 Otto came up as a threat to Sicily and challenged Fredrick II’s efforts and invaded the royal domain. However, Otto of Brunswick backed off when the princes of Germany dismissed Otto and elected Fredrick II as King.
In March 1212, he coronated his year old son Henry VII as the King of Sicily and left for Germany. Soon, he conquered south Germany and was re-elected as King of Germany at Frankfurt by majority of the princes which followed his coronation in Mainz on December 9, 1212.
In July 1214, he defeated Otto in the Battle of Bouvines.
In 1215, elected by the German princes, he was crowned king on July 23 in Aachen.
To put an end to the War of Succession, he helped Eudes III, Duke of Burgundy and Philip II of France in 1218 and in this pursuit he invaded Lorraine, captured Theobald, the Duke of Lorraine and Nancy and burned Nancy.
In November 22, 1220, he was coronated as the Holy Roman Emperor in St. Peter’s Church, Rome by Honorius III, while Henry, his eldest son held the title of the King of Romans. He bestowed significant benefits and advantages on the Italian ecclesiastics and declared laws to counter heretics.
He made efforts to consolidate his regency in Sicily in contrary to his promise to Pope Innocent III to detach Sicily from the empire. He revoked some benefits of the barons. During 1222 to 1224 he overpowered the Saracen rebels who later became his faithful subjects protecting him against the influence of the papacy.
His rule saw construction of a series of castles, fortified borders, expansion of harbours, setting up of navy, arrangement of a number of merchant vessels and taking steps to bring trade under the control of the state.
He founded the first European state university in 1224 in Naples where candidates were trained for his newly created civil service.
His relation with the papacy slowly strained following his delay on his crusade as promised to Pope Honorius III which later escalated when he reasserted regal claim to Lombardy during the 1226 Diet of Cremona. He set out on a crusade in September 1227 upon persistent demand of Pope Gregory IX but was excommunicated by the Pope when he returned due to health issues.
He finally went on a crusade in 1228 and entered into a treaty in Jaffa by which Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth were handed over to the Christians while the Muslims retained the ‘Mosque of Omar’.
In 1229, he became the King of Jerusalem. The pope however condemned the treaty and directed a papal army to invade Fredrick’s regency.
In 1230, he resettled with the papacy by signing the ‘Treaty of San Germano’.
In 1231, he was successful in establishing a new body of laws in Sicily, ‘Liber Augustalis’.
The conflicts in Italy and Germany during 1230-1250 witnessed dispute between Fredrick II and his son Henry VII including Henry VII’s imprisonment in 1235. Issuance of a land piece that established a regal court, his excommunication by Pope Gregory IX and his seizure of most of the Papal States followed.
Frederick II was a great patron of arts and science and with the aid of the Sicilian School of poetry he played an important role in the development of literature. He issued the ‘Edict of Salerno’ in 1241 that legally demarcated the professions of physicians and apothecary. He authored a book ‘De Arte Venandi cum Avibus’ that dealt with falconry.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Constance of Aragon on August 15, 1209 in Messina, Sicily. Their son Henry VII was born in 1211.
On November 9, 1225, he married his second wife Yolande of Jerusalem in Brindisi, Apulia and the couple had two children, Margareta born on November 1226 and Conrad IV born on 25 April 1228.
On July 15, 1235, he married his third wife Isabella of England in Worms, Germany. They had four children - Jordon born in 1236, Anges born in 1237, Henry Otto born on February 18, 1238 and Margaret born on December 1, 1241 of whom the first two children did not survive infancy.
He had a long relationship with Bianca Lancia who bore him three children, Constance (Anna), Manfred and Violante.
He had several other mistresses with whom he had many illegitimate children.
On December 13, 1250 he died and was buried in a sarcophagus at the Palermo Cathedral.