Charles ISource: Bob and Nella’s World

Having defeated Manfred, the last Hohenstaufen king of Sicily, in 1266, Charles of Anjou, the brother of King Louis IX of France, was crowned king of Sicily. In 1282, Charles lost the control of the island of Sicily itself but retained the kingdom’s territory on the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. This resulted in there being two kingdoms of Sicily, one on Sicily and the other on the peninsula. Both would be called the Kingdom of Sicily, but Charles’s remaining territory is more commonly known today as the Kingdom of Naples, after its major city. As Clara Erskine Clement describes in her 1894 book, Naples, the City of Parthenope and its Environs:

After the battle of Benevento, Charles, already crowned as King of the Sicilies, believed himself secure on his throne, when, in 1268, Conradin, the grandson of Frederick II.,— who had been reported dead, — appeared as leader of the Ghibellines, supported by Pisa, and joined battle with the troops of Charles at Tagliacozzo. The young Suabian seemed about to defeat the French king, when a fresh legion which Charles had held in reserve was brought to the field, and Conradin’s cause was lost. He was taken prisoner, and a year later, this last representative of the Hohenstaufen, not yet seventeen years old, was cruelly beheaded in the Piazza del Mercato at Naples, together with his cousin, Frederick of Baden. Thus, through the dastardly murder of a boy, was Charles I. of Anjou firmly established as King of Naples.

In the ancient church of S. Maria del Carmine, just off the Piazza del Mercato, is the tomb of Conradin. He was originally buried behind the high altar, but now rests beneath the impressive monument erected to his memory in 1847, almost four centuries after his death. It bears this inscription: “Maximilian, Crown Prince of Bavaria, erected this monument to a scion of his house, King Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen.”

ConradinSource: thierry.jamard

The monument in Santa Maria del Carmine has a marble statue by the Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Charles I. of Anjou — brother of Louis IX. of France, called Saint Louis — had married Beatrice of Provence, who had brought him vast riches, and made him ruler of her native country. She was ambitious; three of her sisters were reigning queens, and she desired to equal them in rank, and exerted her influence to incite Charles to the conquests he had made.

The first object to which he now devoted himself was the extinction of the Saracens and all others who had been faithful to Manfred and Conradin, an end which he achieved by means of great cruelties. He aimed to be the absolute master of his territory, and fondly hoped to wear the Imperial Crown. But Pope Gregory X. had other views; and by favoring the return of the Ghibelline exiles and making Rudolph of Hapsburg Emperor of Germany, he effectually lessened the power and ambition of Charles. His successor, Pope Nicholas III., still further humiliated the King of Naples by depriving him of his senatorship in Rome and his power in Tuscany.

Another obstacle to the attainment of his wishes was his absence during two years in a crusade against the Infidels; but on the death of Nicholas III. and the election of a French pope, Martin IV., Charles counted on regaining all that he had lost. This hope was soon crushed by a conspiracy led by Peter of Aragon, the husband of Manfred’s daughter Constance, — the sole heir of the Hohenstaufen, — who claimed the kingdom of Sicily in her right, and was supported by the Emperor Michael Paleologus.

Charles was aware of their plans, and was preparing to defend himself, when, in 1282, the sleeping hatred of the Sicilians for the French was roused to vengeance by an insult offered a Sicilian bride by a French soldier. The massacre known as the “Sicilian Vespers” followed, and eight thousand Frenchmen were slain, and the reign of Charles essentially ended. He besieged Messina, but was repulsed by Peter of Aragon, who was proclaimed king. The Pope thundered his anathemas in vain; Peter and his ally gave them no heed. The capture of the son of Charles in 1284, by the Admiral, Roger of Loria, completed the mortification and sorrow of the Angevine king, and he lived but two years longer.

Charles II. of Anjou ransomed himself from prison in 1286, and a desultory war was carried on in Sicily and Apulia for twenty years, until finally the Sicilians chose Frederick II., son of Peter of Aragon, for their king, and Naples was left under the rule of the House of Anjou.

In her book, Clement describes the many building projects of Charles I in the city of Naples:

Naples-Castel_NuovoCastel Nuovo, Source: Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Charles I. devoted himself to making this city a place of importance, with more energy than his predecessors had shown. He removed the seat of government from Palermo thither, thus making Naples the centre of the kingdom, and extended the city on the east as far as the Piazza del Mercato. He filled in the marshes between the ancient walls and the sea, and in 1283 founded the Castel Nuovo; this became a royal residence, and was adorned and strengthened from time to time during five centuries. In 1862 a portion of its fortifications were condemned to demolition because of the possibility of their being used for the destruction of the city, and the outer walls and bastions have been removed.

The castle/fortress was known as the Castel Nuovo, the “New Castle,” perhaps to distinguish it from an earlier royal residence, the Castel Capuano, built by William I, the son of Roger II of Sicily. The Angevin fortress is also known as the Maschio Angioino.

Charles I. repaired the old walls of Naples, and paved its streets; he destroyed the ancient Palace of the Republic; to commemorate his victory at Benevento, he built the church of S. Lorenzo; he founded the church of S. Agostino della Zecca and several monasteries; and also began to build the cathedral-or church of S. Gennaro — Januarius — in which his tomb is placed above the great door. It is a majestic monument, and was restored by the Count of Olivares, more than three centuries after the death of the first Angevine King of Naples. His queen, Beatrice, and his son Robert were buried in the monastery of Mater Domini at Nocera, in the midst of the former city of the Saracens, so cruelly exterminated by Charles.

casteldell'ovoCastel dell’Ovo, Source: Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Charles I. enlarged and beautified the Castel dell’ Ovo, and frequently resided there. This castle dates from 1154, and takes its name from its oval form; it was remodelled in the middle of the sixteenth century. It is on the island called Megaris by Pliny, which is connected with the Pizzofalcone — a spur of the hill of S. Elmo — by an embankment and bridge; the castle is now a prison.

The fortified palace of Foggia, in which Charles died, was erected by him; and at Gallipoli, beautifully situated on a rocky island in the Gulf of Taranto, he built a castle which was later restored by Ferdinand I. He also surrounded the castle which gave its name to Castellammare with walls and fortifications, and during the nineteen years of his reign conferred many benefits upon the Neapolitan capital.