Frederick II of Hohenstaufen ( 26 December 1194 – 13 December 1250) was Holy Roman Emperor ( King of the Romans ) from his papal coronation in 1220 until his death; he was also a pretender to the title of King of the Romans from 1212 and unopposed holder of that monarchy from 1215. As such, he was King of Germany , of Italy , and of Burgundy . He was also King of Sicily from his mother's inheritance. His original title was King of Sicily, which he held as Frederick I from 1198 to his death. His other royal titles, accrued for a brief period of his life, were King of Cyprus and Frederick I of Jerusalem by virtue of marriage and his connection with the Sixth Crusade .
He was raised and lived most of his life in Sicily, with his mother, Constance , being the daughter of Roger II of Sicily . His empire was frequently at war with the Papal States , and thus he was excommunicated twice and often vilified in pro-papal chronicles of the time. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him the Antichrist .
He was known in his own time as Stupor mundi ("wonder of the world") and was said to speak six languages: Latin, Sicilian, German, French, Greek and Arabic. By contemporary standards, Frederick was an enlightened ruler, being an avid patron of science and the arts .
He was patron of the Sicilian School of poetry . His Sicilian royal court in Palermo , from around 1220 to his death, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian . The poetry that emanated from the school predates the use of the Tuscan idiom as the preferred language of the Italian peninsula by at least a century. The school and its poetry were well known to Dante and his peers and had a significant influence on the literary form of what was eventually to become the modern Italian language .
Born in Jesi , near Ancona , Frederick was the son of the emperor Henry VI . He was known as the puer Apuliae (son of Apulia ). Some chronicles say that his mother, the forty-year-old Constance , gave birth to him in a public square in order to forestall any doubt about his origin. Frederick was baptised in Assisi .
In 1196 at Frankfurt am Main the child Frederick was elected King of the Germans . His rights in Germany were disputed by Henry's brother Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick . At the death of his father in 1197, the two-year-old Frederick was in Italy travelling towards Germany when the bad news reached his guardian, Conrad of Spoleto. Frederick was hastily brought back to Constance in Palermo, Sicily.
His mother, Constance of Sicily , had been in her own right queen of Sicily; she had Frederick crowned King of Sicily and established herself as regent . In Frederick's name she dissolved Sicily's ties to the Empire, sending home his German counsellors (notably Markward von Annweiler and Gualtiero da Pagliara ), and renouncing his claims to the German kingship and empire.
Upon Constance's death in 1198, Pope Innocent III succeeded as Frederick's guardian until he was of age. Frederick was crowned King of Sicily on 17 May 1198.
His contemporaries called Frederick stupor mundi, the "wonder" — or, more precisely, the "astonishment" — "of the world"; the majority of his contemporaries, subscribing to medieval religious orthodoxy, under which the doctrines promulgated by the Church were supposed to be uniform and universal, were, indeed astonished — and sometimes repelled — by the pronounced individuality of the Hohenstaufen emperor, his temperamental stubbornness, and his unorthodox, nearly unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Frederick II was a religious sceptic. He is said to have denounced Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad as all being frauds and deceivers of mankind. He delighted in uttering blasphemies and making mocking remarks directed toward Christian sacraments and beliefs. Frederick's religious scepticism was unusual for the era in which he lived, and to his contemporaries, highly shocking and scandalous.
In Palermo, where the three-year-old boy was brought after his mother's death, he was said to have grown up like a street youth. The only benefit from Innocent III's guardianship was that at fourteen years of age he married a twenty-five-year-old widow named Constance, the daughter of the king of Aragon. Both seem to have been happy with the arrangement, and Constance soon bore a son, Henry.
At his coronation, he may have worn the red silk mantle that had been crafted during the reign of Roger II. It bore an Arabic inscription indicating that the robe dated from the year 528 in the Muslim calendar, and incorporated a generic benediction, wishing its wearer "vast prosperity, great generosity and high splendor, fame and magnificent endowments, and the fulfillment of his wishes and hopes. May his days and nights go in pleasure without end or change". This coronation robe can be found today in the Schatzkammer of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Rather than exterminate the Saracens of Sicily, he allowed them to settle on the mainland and build mosques. Not least, he enlisted them in his — Christian — army and even into his personal bodyguards. As Muslim soldiers, they had the advantage of immunity from papal excommunication.
A further example of how much Frederick differed from his contemporaries was the conduct of his Crusade in the Holy Land. Outside Jerusalem, with the power to take it, he parlayed five months with the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt al-Kamil about the surrender of the city. The Sultan summoned him into Jerusalem and entertained him in the most lavish fashion. When the muezzin, out of consideration for Frederick, failed to make the morning call to prayer, the emperor declared: "I stayed overnight in Jerusalem, in order to overhear the prayer call of the Muslims and their worthy God". The Saracens had a good opinion of him, so it was no surprise that after five months Jerusalem was handed over to him, taking advantage of the war difficulties of al-Kamil. The fact that this was regarded in the Arab as in the Christian world as high treason did not matter to him. When certain members of the Knights Templar wrote al-Kamil a letter and offered to destroy Frederick if he lent them aid, al-Kamil handed the letter over to Frederick. As the Patriarch of Jerusalem refused to crown him king, he set the crown on his own head.