Sicily, Kingdom of
Sicily, Kingdom of
a state that existed during the 12th and 13th centuries and that included southern Italy and the island of Sicily, territories that had been conquered by Norman feudal lords by the late 11 th century. The kingdom was established with the coronation of Roger II (ruled 1130–54).
Roger II, the founder of the Norman dynasty, and his successors William I (1154–66) and William II (1166–89), with the support of numerous petty knights and the church, limited the political rights of the barons, thus creating a powerful state. After the death of the childless William II, the crown of the kingdom passed after a struggle to Emperor Henry VI Hohen-staufen, who was married to Roger II’s daughter. Under Frederick II (ruled 1197–1250), who continued the policies of the Norman kings, the centralization of the state was completed.
The Consitutions of Melfi (1231) definitively deprived the great feudal lords and the cities of their liberties. The laws of the 12th and 13th centuries binding the peasants to the land hastened the process of feudalization, which was completed by the late 13th century. For Frederick II, who was also Holy Roman Emperor (after 1220), the Kingdom of Sicily served as a source of funds in his struggle to subjugate northern Italy. The sharp increase in the fiscal burden ruined the kingdom. Charles I of Anjou, at the behest of the pope, conquered the Kingdom of Sicily, defeating the last of the Hohenstaufens, Manfred in 1266 and Conradin in 1268. Charles I ruled the kingdom from 1268 to 1282. Feudal exploitation and further increases in taxes undermined the kingdom’s economy to an even greater extent. The popular uprising of 1282 (the Sicilian Vespers) led to the final disintegration of the Kingdom of Sicily, in 1302. The Aragon dynasty became consolidated in Sicily, and only southern Italy (the Kingdom of Naples) was retained by the Anjou dynasty.
M. L. ABRAMSON