Frederick III of Sicily
Peter died in 1285, leaving Aragon to his eldest son Alfonso III of Aragon, and Sicily to his second son James. When Alfonso died in 1291 James became king James II of Aragon, and left his brother Frederick as regent of Sicily. The war between the Angevins and the Aragonese for the possession of Sicily was still in progress, and although the Aragonese were successful in Italy James’s position in Spain became very insecure to internal troubles and French attacks. Peace negotiations were begun with Charles of Anjou, but were interrupted by the successive deaths of two popes; at last under the auspices of Pope Boniface VIII, James concluded a shameful treaty, by which, in exchange for being left undisturbed in Aragon and promised possession of Sardinia and Corsica, he gave up Sicily to the Church, for whom it was to be held by the Angevins (1295). The Sicilians refused to be made over once more to the hated French whom they had expelled in 1282 (Sicilian Vespers), and found a national leader in the regent Frederick. In vain the pope tried to bribe him with promises and dignities; he was determined to stand by his subjects, and was crowned king by the nobles at Palermo in 1296. Young, brave and handsome, he won the love and devotion of his people, and guided them through the long years of storm and stress with wisdom and ability. Although the second Frederick of Sicily, he called himself third, being the third son of King Peter. He reformed the administration and extended the powers of the Sicilian parliament, which was composed of the barons, the prelates and the representatives of the towns.
His refusal to comply with the pope's injunctions led to a renewal of the war. Frederick landed in Calabria, where he seized several towns, encouraged revolt in Naples, negotiated with the Ghibellines of Tuscany and Lombardy, and assisted the house of Colonna against Pope Boniface. In the meanwhile James, who received many favours from the Church, married his sister Yolanda to Robert, the third son of Charles II. Unfortunately for Frederick, a part of the Aragonese nobles of Sicily favoured King James, and both John of Procida and Ruggiero di Lauria , the heroes of the war of the Vespers, went over to the Angevins, and the latter completely defeated the Sicilian fleet off Cape Orlando . Charles’s sons Robert and Philip landed in Sicily, but after capturing Catania were defeated by Frederick, Philip being taken prisoner (1299), while several Calabrian towns were captured by the Sicilians. For two years more the fighting continued with varying success, until Charles of Valois, who had been sent by Boniface to invade Sicily, was forced to sue for peace, his army being decimated by the plague, and in August 1302 the treaty of Caltabellotta was signed, by which Frederick was recognized king of Trinacria (the name Sicily was not to be used) for his lifetime, and was to marry Eleonora , the daughter of Charles II; at his death the kingdom was to revert to the Angevins (this clause was inserted chiefly to save Charles’s face), and his children would receive compensation elsewhere. Boniface tried to induce King Charles to break the treaty, but the latter was only too anxious for peace, and finally in May 1303 the pope ratified it, Frederick agreeing to pay him a tribute.
For a few years Sicily enjoyed peace, and the kingdom was reorganized. But on the descent of the emperor Henry VII, Frederick entered into an alliance with him, and in violation of the pact of Caltabellotta made war on the Angevins again (1313) and captured Reggio. He set sail for Tuscany to cooperate with the emperor, but on the latter’s death he returned to Sicily. Robert, who had succeeded Charles II in 1309, made several raids into the island, which suffered much material injury. A truce was concluded in 1317, but as the Sicilians helped the north Italian Ghibellines in the attack on Genoa, and Frederick seized some Church revenues for military purposes, Pope John XXII excommunicated him and placed the island under an interdict (1321) which lasted until 1335. An Angevin fleet and army, under Robert's son Charles, was defeated at Palermo by Giovanni da Chiaramonte in 1325, and in 1326 and 1327 there were further Angevin raids on the island, until the descent into Italy of the emperor Louis the Bavarian distracted their attention. The election of Pope Benedict XII (1334), who was friendly to Frederick, promised a respite; but after fruitless negotiations the war broke out once more, and Chiaramonte went over to Robert, owing to a private feud. In 1337 Frederick died at Paternione , and in spite of the peace of Caltabellotta his son Peter II of Sicily succeeded. Frederick’s great merit was that during his reign the Aragonese dynasty became thoroughly national and helped to weld the Sicilians into a united people.
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