Frederick II

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

Frederick II,

1272–1337, king of Sicily (1296–1337), 3d son of Peter III of Aragón. When his brother, who was king of Sicily, became (1291) king of Aragón as James IIJames II,
c.1260–1327, king of Aragón and count of Barcelona (1291–1327), king of Sicily (1285–95). He succeeded his father, Peter III, in Sicily and his brother, Alfonso III, in Aragón.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick was his regent in Sicily. In 1295 James renounced Sicily in favor of the Angevin king of Naples, Charles IICharles II
(Charles the Lame), 1248–1309, king of Naples (1285–1309), count of Anjou and Provence, son and successor of Charles I. In the war of the Sicilian Vespers between Charles I and Peter III of Aragón for possession of Sicily, Charles was captured
..... Click the link for more information.
, but the Sicilians rebelled and crowned Frederick. A war ensued in which Frederick fought his own brother, now Charles's ally. In the Peace of Caltabellotta (1302) Charles and Pope Boniface VIII recognized Frederick as king of Trinacria (an ancient name for Sicily) for his lifetime. At his death the kingdom was to revert to the Angevin dynasty of Naples. Although Frederick married a daughter of Charles, war with Naples resumed in 1312. Frederick, allied successively with Holy Roman Emperors Henry VIIHenry VII,
c.1275–1313, Holy Roman emperor (1312–13) and German king (1308–13). A minor count of the house of Luxembourg, Henry was elected German king on the death of King Albert I after the electors had set aside the two main contenders, Albert's eldest son,
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Louis IV, retook the title king of Sicily and, with his son Peter, was crowned in 1322. The war continued after Frederick's death.

Frederick II


Frederick the Great,

1712–86, king of Prussia (1740–86), son and successor of Frederick William IFrederick William I,
1688–1740, king of Prussia (1713–40), son and successor of Frederick I. He continued the administrative reforms and the process of centralization begun by Frederick William, the Great Elector, creating a strong, absolutist state.
..... Click the link for more information.

Early Life

Frederick's coarse and tyrannical father despised the prince, who showed a taste for French art and literature and no interest in government and war. At the age of 18 Frederick, who had been repeatedly humiliated and ill-treated, planned to escape to England. He was arrested, imprisoned, and forced to witness the beheading of his friend and accomplice, Lieutenant Katte. Frederick submitted to his father and was released. In 1733, at his father's request, he married Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, but he separated from her shortly afterward and for the rest of his life showed no interest in women.

Prince Frederick spent the next few years at Rheinsberg, where he wrote his Anti-Machiavel, an idealistic refutation of Machiavelli, and began his long correspondence with VoltaireVoltaire, François Marie Arouet de
, 1694–1778, French philosopher and author, whose original name was Arouet. One of the towering geniuses in literary and intellectual history, Voltaire personifies the Enlightenment.
..... Click the link for more information.
. His period of relative inactivity ended with his accession to the throne in 1740, after which Frederick immediately showed the qualities of leadership and decision that were to characterize his reign.

Foreign Affairs

In the War of the Austrian SuccessionAustrian Succession, War of the,
1740–48, general European war. Causes of the War

The war broke out when, on the strength of the pragmatic sanction of 1713, the Austrian archduchess Maria Theresa succeeded her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, as ruler
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1740–48) against Maria TheresaMaria Theresa
, 1717–80, Austrian archduchess, queen of Bohemia and Hungary (1740–80), consort of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and dowager empress after the accession (1765) of her son, Joseph II.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick invaded Silesia without warning, simultaneously offering his aid to Maria Theresa if she ceded a portion of Silesia to him. A brilliant campaigner, Frederick acted with utter disregard of his allies, notably France, and twice concluded separate peace treaties with Maria Theresa (1742, 1745), both times securing Upper and Lower Silesia for Prussia.

In the Seven Years WarSeven Years War,
1756–63, worldwide war fought in Europe, North America, and India between France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and (after 1762) Spain on the one side and Prussia, Great Britain, and Hanover on the other.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1756–63), possession of Silesia was again in dispute; Maria Theresa wished to recover it, and Frederick faced a strong coalition including Austria, Russia, and France. England was his only strong ally. Victorious at Rossbach and Leuthen (1757), he was routed (1759) at Kunersdorf by the Austro-Russian forces, who in 1760 occupied Berlin. In that dark period, it is said, Frederick was on the verge of suicide. However, the accession (1762) of his admirer, Peter IIIPeter III,
1728–62, czar of Russia (1762), son of Charles Frederick, dispossessed duke of Holstein-Gottorp, and of Anna Petrovna, daughter of Peter the Great. He succeeded to the throne on the death of his aunt, Czarina Elizabeth.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of Russia, took Russia out of the war and opened Frederick's way to victory.

The Peace of Hubertusburg (1763) left Frederick his previous conquests and made Prussia the foremost military power in Europe. He was brilliantly assisted by his principal generals, SeydlitzSeydlitz, Friedrich Wilhelm, Freiherr von
, 1721–73, Prussian general under Frederick II. He helped restore the effectiveness of the Prussian cavalry and fought in the most important battles of the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, notably at
..... Click the link for more information.
, James KeithKeith, James Francis Edward,
1696–1758, Scottish field marshal of Prussia; brother of George Keith, 10th earl marischal [marshal] of Scotland. He participated in the Jacobite uprising of 1715 and in the abortive invasion of 1719 with his brother.
..... Click the link for more information.
, FerdinandFerdinand,
1721–92, Prussian field marshal, a prince of the house of Brunswick, known as Ferdinand, duke of Brunswick. He served King Frederick II of Prussia brilliantly in the Seven Years War, notably by his victories at Krefeld (1758) and Minden (1759).
..... Click the link for more information.
 of Brunswick, Hans Joachim von Zieten, and others. Frederick is widely recognized as the 18th century's greatest general and military strategist. His tactics were studied and admired by Napoleon Bonaparte and exerted great influence on the art of warfare.

After the peace of 1763 Frederick promoted an alliance with Russia, which had nearly defeated him in the Seven Years War. The establishment of a Russo-Prussian alliance prepared the way for the eventual dismemberment of Poland. By the first partition of Poland (see Poland, partitions ofPoland, partitions of.
The basic causes leading to the three successive partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) that eliminated Poland from the map were the decay and the internal disunity of Poland and the emergence of its neighbors, Russia and Prussia, as leading European powers.
..... Click the link for more information.
) in 1772, Frederick vastly expanded the limits of Prussia. His rivalry with Austria persisted. He opposed any attempts by Austria to extend its power within the Holy Roman Empire and instigated the War of the Bavarian SuccessionBavarian Succession, War of the,
between Austria and Prussia, 1778–79. With the extinction of the Bavarian line of the house of Wittelsbach on the death of Elector Maximilian Joseph in 1777, the duchy of Bavaria passed to the elector palatine, Charles Theodore, of the
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1778–79) to prevent Austrian annexation of Bavaria. He also created (1785) the Fürstenbund [league of princes] to check Austrian schemes.

Internal Affairs

Frederick continued his father's fundamental domestic policies. His first care was the strength and discipline of his army. An "enlightened despot," he instituted important legal and penal reforms, set up trade monopolies to create new industries, forwarded education, and accomplished internal improvements such as drainage projects, roads, and canals. Though he improved the lot of his own serfs, the nobility had more control over their peasants after his reign than before.


Frederick was tolerant in religious matters, personally professing atheism to his intimates. Cold and curt, he relaxed only during his famous midnight suppers at Sans SouciSans Souci
[Fr.,=without care], palace built (1745–47) at Potsdam, Germany, by Frederick II, who lived there for 40 years. Over 300 ft (91 m) long, it is believed to have been conceived by Frederick himself and executed by Knobelsdorff.
..... Click the link for more information.
, his residence at Potsdam. There he was surrounded by a group of educated men, mostly French, that included at times Voltaire (who broke with him in 1753 but who later resumed his friendship from a safe distance), d'Alembert, La Mettrie, and Maupertuis.

Frederick's wit was corrosive and icy. He wrote inconsequential poetry and remarkable prose on politics, history, military science, philosophy, law, and literature. Nearly all his writings were in French. He failed to appreciate such men as LessingLessing, Gotthold Ephraim
, 1729–81, German philosopher, dramatist, and critic, one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment. He was connected with the theater in Berlin, where he produced some of his most famous works, and with the national theater in Hamburg.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and GoetheGoethe, Johann Wolfgang von
, 1749–1832, German poet, dramatist, novelist, and scientist, b. Frankfurt. One of the great masters of world literature, his genius embraced most fields of human endeavor; his art and thought are epitomized in his great dramatic poem Faust.
..... Click the link for more information.
, who were among his most ardent admirers. A pupil of QuantzQuantz, Johann Joachim
, 1697–1773, German flutist and composer for the flute. In 1741 he became chamber musician and teacher of the flute to Frederick the Great, for whom Quantz wrote more than 500 pieces, including flute sonatas and concertos.
..... Click the link for more information.
, he played the flute creditably, and he composed marches, concertos for the flute, and other pieces. Frederick's personal appearance in his later years—small, sharp-featured, untidy, and snuff-stained—has become part of the legend of "Old Fritz." He was succeeded by his nephew, Frederick William IIFrederick William II,
1744–97, king of Prussia (1786–97), nephew and successor of Frederick II (Frederick the Great). He had the power but lacked the ability of his distinguished predecessors.
..... Click the link for more information.


See J. D. E. Preuss, ed., Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand (33 vol., 1846–57). See also biographies by Carlyle and Macaulay, both classics, and the more scholarly studies by G. Ritter (1936, tr. 1968), P. Gaxotte (tr. 1941), G. P. Gooch (1947), L. Reiners (1952, tr. 1960), P. Paret, ed. (1972), W. Hubatsch (1976), and D. Fraser (2002).

Frederick II,

1194–1250, Holy Roman emperor (1220–50) and German king (1212–20), king of Sicily (1197–1250), and king of Jerusalem (1229–50), son of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VIHenry VI,
1165–97, Holy Roman emperor (1191–97) and German king (1190–97), son and successor of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (Frederick Barbarossa). He was crowned German king at Aachen in 1169 and king of Italy at Milan in 1186 after his marriage to
..... Click the link for more information.
 and of ConstanceConstance,
1154–98, Holy Roman empress, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI; daughter of King Roger II of Sicily. She was named heiress of Sicily by her nephew King William II.
..... Click the link for more information.
, heiress of Sicily.

Rivalry for the German Crown

In 1196, Henry VI secured the election as German king, or emperor-elect, for his infant son Frederick. When Henry died (1197), his brother, Philip of SwabiaPhilip of Swabia
, 1176?–1208, German king (1198–1208), son of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I. After the death (1197) of his brother, German King and Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, he unsuccessfully attempted to secure the succession in Germany of his infant nephew,
..... Click the link for more information.
, was unable to hold the German magnates to this election, but in Sicily Constance secured Frederick's investiture as king from Pope Innocent IIIInnocent III,
b. 1160 or 1161, d. 1216, pope (1198–1216), an Italian, b. Anagni, named Lotario di Segni; successor of Celestine III. Innocent III was succeeded by Honorius III.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Prior to her death (1198) Constance named the pope as Frederick's guardian; as a child, however, he passed from one Sicilian faction to another.

Meanwhile, in Germany, Otto of Brunswick (Otto IVOtto IV,
1175?–1218, Holy Roman emperor (1209–15) and German king, son of Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. He was brought up at the court of his uncle King Richard I of England, who secured his election (1198) as antiking to Philip of Swabia after the death of Holy
..... Click the link for more information.
) and Philip of Swabia were elected rival kings. Otto finally prevailed and was crowned emperor (1209) at Rome, but immediately alienated the pope by attempting to reassert imperial control in Italy. His invasion of Apulia (1210) led Innocent to promote Frederick's coronation (1212) at Mainz as German king, even though this meant putting a HohenstaufenHohenstaufen
, German princely family, whose name is derived from the castle of Staufen built in 1077 by a Swabian count, Frederick. In 1079, Frederick married Agnes, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, and was created duke of Swabia.
..... Click the link for more information.
 on the imperial throne. After Otto's defeat at Bouvines (1214) by Frederick's French ally King Philip IIPhilip II
or Philip Augustus,
1165–1223, king of France (1180–1223), son of Louis VII. During his reign the royal domains were more than doubled, and the royal power was consolidated at the expense of the feudal lords.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick was recrowned (1215) at Aachen and took the Cross (i.e., pledged to lead a Crusade).

Beginning of Reign in Sicily

Despite his promises to Pope Innocent III that when crowned Holy Roman emperor he would separate Sicily from the empire by establishing a regency there for his infant son Henry, he reversed these arrangements in 1220. Promising Pope Honorius IIIHonorius III,
d. 1227, pope (1216–27), a Roman named Cencio Savelli; successor of Innocent III. He was created cardinal in 1197 and was an able administrator of the papal treasury.
..... Click the link for more information.
 to start on his crusade, he secured Henry's election as German king, and thus his position as imperial successor, shortly before his own imperial coronation (1220) at Rome. This action seemed to insure the union of Sicily and the empire. Under Frederick, however, no such union was effected; Henry governed, first under a regency, in Germany, and Frederick governed Italy and Sicily, which became the seat of his empire.

After his coronation Frederick returned to Sicily. While in Germany, the success of Frederick's early rule (1212–20) was due largely to his lavishness with imperial lands and rights. In his Sicilian kingdom, which included S Italy, he pursued the reverse of his German policy; he suppressed the barons, transported the SaracensSaracens
, term commonly used by medieval Europeans to designate the Arabs and, by extension, the Muslims in general, whether they were Arabs, Moors, or Seljuk Turks.
..... Click the link for more information.
 to a colony on the mainland, recovered alienated lands, and began his legislative reforms. In 1224 he founded the university at Naples.

King of Jerusalem

Having married (1225) Yolande, daughter of John of BrienneJohn of Brienne
, c.1170–1237, French crusader. He was a count and in 1210 married Mary, titular queen of Jerusalem. Mary died in 1212, and their daughter, Yolande (1212–28), succeeded to the title under John's regency.
..... Click the link for more information.
, he claimed the crown of Jerusalem, but again postponed his departure on crusade. He further offended the pope by reasserting at the Diet of Cremona (1226) the imperial claim to Lombardy. The Lombard LeagueLombard League,
an alliance formed in 1167 among the communes of Lombardy to resist Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I when he attempted to assert his imperial authority in Lombardy. Previously the communes had been divided, some favoring the emperor and others favoring the pope.
..... Click the link for more information.
 was immediately revived, but open conflict did not break out until 1236. On the insistent demand of the new pope, Gregory IXGregory IX,
1143?–1241, pope (1227–41), an Italian named Ugolino di Segni, b. Anagni; successor of Honorius III. As cardinal under his uncle, Innocent III, he became, at St. Francis' request, the first cardinal protector of the Franciscans.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick embarked on a crusade (Sept., 1227), but fell ill, turned back, and was excommunicated.

In 1228 he finally embarked. His "crusade," actually a state visit, was a diplomatic victory. At Jaffa he made a treaty by which Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem were surrendered to the Christians, with the Mosque of Omar being left to the Muslims. In 1229 he crowned himself king at Jerusalem. The pope denounced the treaty by Frederick, who was still under excommunication, and sent a papal army to invade Frederick's kingdom. Frederick returned in 1229 and signed (1230) the Treaty of San Germano, by which he was temporarily reconciled with the pope.

Conflict in Germany and Italy

He then turned to strengthening his Sicilian domains in preparation for the inevitable conflict with the Lombard League. Among his achievements in Sicily were his Liber Augustalis (1231), a new body of laws that were the most constructive of the era. In Germany, Frederick attempted to insure support for his Italian policy by granting the princes practically absolute authority within their territories. This policy led to a conflict with his son Henry, who objected to Frederick's virtual renunciation of his imperial rights in Germany. In 1234 Henry rebelled with the aid of the German towns, but Frederick easily deposed and imprisoned (1235) his son. At the Diet of Mainz (1235), Frederick issued a land peace establishing an imperial court of justice to try all cases except those involving the great vassals. This land peace is one of the monuments of imperial legislation.

In 1236 Frederick began a successful campaign against the Lombard cities, but in Mar., 1239, Pope Gregory IX joined the Lombards and excommunicated the emperor. Frederick issued a circular against the pope and seized most of the Papal States; in May, 1241, he captured a number of prelates en route from Genoa to a general council in Rome, and he was threatening Rome when Gregory died. While emperor and pope were thus at swords' points, Europe was threatened (1241) by a Mongol invasion under Batu KhanBatu Khan
, d. 1255, Mongol leader; a grandson of Jenghiz Khan. In 1235 Batu became commander of the Mongol army assigned to the conquest of Europe; his chief general was Subutai. Batu crossed the Volga, sending part of his force to Bulgaria but most of it to Russia.
..... Click the link for more information.
. The Mongols withdrew in 1242.

After the election (1243) of Pope Innocent IVInnocent IV,
d. 1254, pope (1243–54), a Genoese named Sinibaldo Fieschi, a distinguished jurist who studied and later taught law at the Univ. of Bologna; successor of Celestine IV. He was of a noble family.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick offered sweeping concessions to the pope and his allies, but the pope fled (1244) to Lyons, deposed Frederick at the Council of Lyons (1245), and gave the emperor's foes the privileges of Crusaders. The election (1246) of an antiking to Conrad IVConrad IV,
1228–54, German king (1237–54), king of Sicily and of Jerusalem (1250–54), son of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. He was elected (1237) king of the Romans at his father's instigation after Frederick had deposed Conrad's older brother Henry in
..... Click the link for more information.
, Frederick's younger son, plunged Germany into civil war. The war in Italy turned in Frederick's favor in 1250, but in December he died of dysentery.

Character and Legacy

Frederick II was one of the most arresting figures of the Middle Ages. He called himself "lord of the world"; his contemporaries either praised him as stupor mundi [wonder of the world] or reviled him as anti-Christ. Norman and German in ancestry but essentially a Sicilian, Frederick always felt a stranger in Germany. He spent most of his time in Italy and Sicily, where his legal reforms set up an efficient administration. This system he tried, with some success, to transfer to Germany.

Himself an expert trader engaging in far-flung business affairs, Frederick encouraged commerce and soon expanded it to Spain, Morocco, and Egypt. Agriculture and industry were likewise fostered. Towns, though at first somewhat curbed, enjoyed a more generous treatment in the later years of his reign, and many developed into important trade centers.

Frederick was also a gifted artist and scientist. A poet himself, he was surrounded by Provençal troubadours and German minnesingers. He patronized science and philosophy and interested himself in medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and astrology. His De arte venandi cum avibus, on hawking as well as the anatomy and life of birds, was the first modern ornithology. Frederick's personality was a curious mixture of German-Christian and Byzantine-Muslim influences. Although Christian, he maintained a harem; though he was frequently at odds with the papacy, he ruthlessly persecuted heretics; though sensitive to art and poetry, he could be extremely cruel.

The intense struggle between Frederick and the papacy led to the ruin of the house of Hohenstaufen and severely damaged papal prestige. With his rule the great days of the German empire ended and the rise of states in Italy began. The interregnum (see Holy Roman EmpireHoly Roman Empire,
designation for the political entity that originated at the coronation as emperor (962) of the German king Otto I and endured until the renunciation (1806) of the imperial title by Francis II.
..... Click the link for more information.
) ended only with the election (1273) of Rudolf I of Hapsburg.


See biography by T. C. Van Cleve (1972); study by G. Masson (1957, repr. 1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Frederick II

1194--1250, Holy Roman Emperor (1220--50), king of Germany (1212--50), and king of Sicily (1198--1250)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Secondly, we explore the political and religious landscape, courtly interests, and diplomatic relationships that led the 'Sultan of Babylon' to give the cockatoo to Frederick II. Thirdly, we consider the emerging trade routes that brought this cockatoo to the Apennine Peninsula two and a half centuries before Mantegna portrayed a bird of the same species in his altarpiece.
Later he spent 3 years at the court of Frederick II, who was keen to establish Potsdam as an intellectual center.
Given the standing of Carl Heinrich Graun as Frederick II's Kapellmeister, with his music continuing to enjoy the king's favor even after the composer's death, it is not surprising that the Easter cantata Ich suchte den, den meine Seele liebet survives in several sources, including the autograph score, three scores in the hands of copyists, and a set of parts.
It is impossible to miss the intellectual cast of the courts of such notable military leaders as Frederick II, the divine right monarchs, or most of them, and Napoleon.
That young man was named Freders ick, later to become Frederick II, King of Prussia, and generous patron of the arts and sciences as well as fulfilling his father Frederick William the First's intentions that he should become a great military and political leader.
"it could have been different," Cliff argues, offering as a contrast to holy war the story of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who lived in Sicily and secured Christian access to Jerusalem in 1229 by simply leasing it from the reigning Muslim sultan.
"The Emperor and the Saint: Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, Francis of Assisi, and Journeys to Medieval Places" looks at the historical relationship between Frederick II and Saint Francis of Assisi, as the enlightened ruler sought to engage the religious figure to seek greater knowledge in his world.
The book is divided into two roughly equal parts: the first is a narrative history of the South from the coming of the Normans in the early eleventh century to the reassertion of Staufen hegemony under Frederick II; the second is a thematic analysis of chosen aspects of urban society during the same period, with an emphasis on the twelfth century.
In his "pre-concert conversation," WCMS pianist Ian Watson wittily recounted how Bach came to write his celebrated "Musical Offering" for Emperor Frederick II, meeting the monarch's demand for six parts on a theme he provided.
Mussato's Ecerinis depicts episodes in the career of Ezzelino III da Romano, a lieutenant of Emperor Frederick II who terrorized Padua, but the play was actually a thinly disguised portrait of a contemporary Veronese tyrant, Cangrande della Scala.
The King of Denmark Frederick II did not block Magnus' contacts with Muscovy; on the contrary, his country being exhausted from the war with Sweden, and in effect bankrupt, he secretly lent support to his brother.
Among the topics here are early translations from Arabic of texts concerning nature in MSS British Library, Additional 22719 and Cotton Galba E IV; Antioch as a link between Arabic and Latin culture in the 12th and 13th centuries; whether John of Seville and John of Spain were ever seen in the same room; the coherence of the Arabic-Latin translation program in Toledo during the 12th century; Michael Scot and the transmission of scientific culture from Toledo to Bologna via the court of Frederick II Hohenstaufen; and Frederick II's philosopher Master Theodore.