Manfred (c. 1232 — February 26, 1266), king of Sicily from 1258, was an illegitimate son of the emperor Frederick II by Bianca Lancia , or Lanzia, who is reported on somewhat slender evidence to have been married to the emperor just before his death.
Frederick himself appears to have regarded Manfred as legitimate, and by his will named him as prince of Tarentum and appointed him as the representative in Italy of his half-brother, the German king, Conrad IV. Although only about eighteen years of age Manfred acted loyally and with vigour in the execution of his trust, and when Conrad appeared in southern Italy in 1252 his authority was quickly and generally acknowledged. When in May 1254 Conrad died, Manfred, after refusing to surrender Sicily to Pope Innocent IV, accepted the regency on behalf of Conradin, the infant son of Conrad. But the strength of the papal party in the Sicilian kingdom rendered the position of the regent so precarious that he decided to open negotiations with Innocent. By a treaty made in September 1254, Apulia passed under the authority of the pope, who was personally conducted by Manfred into his new possession. But Manfred’s suspicions being aroused by the demeanour of the papal retinue, he fled to the Saracens at Lucera . Aided by Saracen allies, he defeated the papal troops at Foggia on December 2, 1254, and soon established his authority over Sicily and the Sicilian possessions on the mainland.
Taking advantage in 1258 of a rumour that Conradin was dead, Manfred was crowned king of Sicily at Palermo on August 10 of that year. The falsehood of this report was soon manifest; but the new king, supported by the popular voice, declined to abdicate, and pointed out to Conradin’s envoys the necessity for a strong native ruler. But the pope, to whom the Saracen alliance was a serious offence, declared Manfred’s coronation void and pronounced sentence of excommunication. Undeterred by this sentence Manfred sought to obtain power in central and northern Italy, and in conjunction with the Ghibellines his forces defeated the Guelphs at Monte Aperto on the September 4, 1260. He was then recognized as protector of Tuscany by the citizens of Florence, who did homage to his representative, and he was chosen senator of the Romans by a faction in the city. Terrified by these proceedings, Pope Urban IV implored aid from France, and persuaded Charles the Count of Anjou, a brother of King Louis IX, to accept the investiture of the kingdom of Sicily at his hands. Hearing of the approach of Charles, Manfred issued a manifesto to the Romans, in which he not only defended his rule over Italy but even claimed the imperial crown. The rival armies met at the Battle of Benevento on February 26, 1266, and Manfred army was defeated. The king himself, refusing to fly, rushed into the midst of his enemies and was killed. Over his body, which was buried on the battlefield, a huge heap of stones was placed, but afterwards with the consent of the pope the remains were unearthed, cast out of the papal territory, and interred on the bank of the Garigliano River, outside of the boundaries of Naples and the Papal States.
Manfred was twice married. His first wife was Beatrice, daughter of Amadeus IV count of Savoy, by whom he had a daughter, Constance, who became the wife of Peter III king of Aragon; and his second wife, who died in prison in 1271, was Helena, daughter of Michael II of Epirus . Contemporaries praise the noble and magnanimous character of Manfred, who was renowned for his physical beauty and intellectual attainments.
In the Divine Comedy Dante meets Manfred outside the gates of Purgatory, where the spirit explains that, although he repented of his sins in articulo mortis, he must atone for his contumacy by waiting thirty years for each year he lived as an excommunicate, before being admitted to Purgatory proper.
Manfred forms the subject of dramas by E.B.S. Raupach , O. Marbach and F.W. Roggee . Three letters written by Manfred are published by J. B. Carusius in Bibliotheca hislorica regni Siciliae (Palermo, 1732). See Cesare, Storia di Manfredi (Naples, 1837); Munch, Konig Manfred (Stuttgart, 1840); Riccio, Alcuni sludfi storici intorno a Man fredi e Conradino (Naples, 1850); F. W. Schirrmacher, Die letzten Hohenstaufen (Göttingen, 1871); Capesso, Il storia diplomalica regni Siciliae (Naples, 1874); A. Karst, Geschichte Manfreds vom Tode Friedrichs II. bis zu seiner Kronung (Berlin, 1897); and K. Hampe, Urban IV und Manfred (Heidelberg, 1905).