Frederick II: King and Emperor

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  • 0:07 Henry vs Gregory
  • 1:06 After the Investiture…
  • 2:29 Frederick II
  • 3:21 Frederick Becomes a Leader
  • 4:09 The Crusades
  • 5:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Elam Miller

Jessica has taught college History and has a Master of Arts in History

Frederick II was responsible for gaining control of many lands in Germany and Italy under the Holy Roman Empire. This lesson explores the background of the story and Frederick's accomplishments.

Background: Henry Versus Gregory

In order to really understand our subject, Frederick II, we will need to explore some background information involving an Emperor named Henry IV and a pope named Gregory VII. Henry was the Holy Roman Emperor, and Gregory VII was the pope. Gregory was a reformist and wanted the church to regain the act of investiture. Investiture was a formal recognition of a person's rank. Although this was officially a job for the pope, the nobles began to take over the practice. In an attempt to declare power over each other, both the king and the pope declared each other powerless. The pope said the king was no longer king, and the king said the pope was no longer pope. Because of the conflict over whether the pope or the king had the power of investiture, this incident is known as the investiture controversy.

Both Gregory and Henry faced disapproval for their actions. The conflict lasted until the pope was forced to flee Rome.

Germany After the Investiture Controversy

After the investiture controversy, Germany saw the authority of King Henry IV and his successor Henry V decline. Two families were becoming more powerful in Germany at the time: the Welfs and the Hohenstaufens (Duke Rudolph's family). The Welfs supported Pope Gregory and his authority while the Hohenstaufens supported the authority of the German king.

When Henry V died without an heir, the two families began to fight for the throne. After a weak ruler named Lothaire (supported by the Welfs) died in 1138, nobles chose Conrad III (of the Hohenstaufens) as their leader. Conrad was the first of several rulers of the Hohenstaufen family. After his death in 1152, his nephew, Frederick I, became king.

Frederick was a strong leader and tried to increase the power of the German king both in Germany and Italy. To do this, he supported the growth of urban centers with their own administrative government. He also gained the loyalty of nobles and the pope. He reigned until he named his son Henry VI as his king and went abroad to fight in the Crusades. Frederick died in 1190. Henry tried to build allegiance for the succession of his son, Frederick II but died after a Sicilian revolt in 1197.

Who Was Frederick II?

Frederick II was a powerful ruler in the High Middle Ages, which spanned the 11th through the 13th centuries. He would be one of the most powerful rulers the empire would ever see. Frederick was born in Italy in 1194 and was the son of the emperor Henry VI. He was named the successor of the German kingship in 1196. He was also crowned king of Sicily in 1198 after the death of his father. Frederick's mother, Constance, acted on his behalf while he was a baby.

Frederick's brother, Philip of Swabia, also claimed he had rights to the kingship. He invaded some of Frederick's lands and gained the support of others in his quest. Philip gained control of Sicily and Frederick in 1201. Frederick remained under control of Philip's successor, William of Capparone, until he was old enough to rule.

Frederick Becomes a Leader

Frederick had promised Pope Innocent III that if he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor, he would break Sicily from the rest of the empire. He didn't follow through on this promise, however. Instead, he made arrangements to ensure his son Henry would be king of Germany, securing his imperial rights.

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