Frederick I “Barbarossa” of the Holy Roman Empire

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Frederick "Barbarossa"

      Frederick I, who was called Barbarossa, was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from June 18, 1155 until his death on June 10, 1190. His reign lasted 34 years.

     Frederick was born in 1122. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He was the eldest son of Frederick II, Duke of Swabia and Judith of Bavaria. His father was a member of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, and his mother was the daughter of the head of the Welf dynasty, making Frederick a member of two of Germany’s most prominent families. In 1147, Frederick’s father died. This made Frederick the Duke of Swabia. n 1155, Frederick’s uncle, Conrad, who was the Holy Roman Emperor, died. Frederick was then elected by the princes of the Holy Roman Empire to become the Holy Roman Emperor. On June 18, 1155, Frederick was coronated in Rome.

     The Holy Roman Empire was a huge country. It stretched from western France to Poland, and then south to Lombardy, a region in northern Italy. In 1158, the citizens of Milan, the largest city in Lombardy, rebelled against Frederick. Frederick responded by leading an army of 100,000 men across the Alps and putting down the rebellion. But, Milan rebelled again, and Frederick responded by again defeating the rebels. But, the Italians were determined to be free from Frederick’s hegemony. All of the cities of Lombardy united in a league and declared independence. Frederick attempted to invade Lombardy, but his invasion failed and he was forced to relinquish his control of northern Italy.

     Frederick knew that Germany was unified in name only. Nobles constantly complained to him about another noble. There were so many disputes that Frederick feared that should England or France decide to invade the Holy Roman Empire, his nation would be conquered. So, he enacted strict laws that punished any noble who caused trouble and broke the Emperor’s peace. This helped to unify the Holy Roman Empire and create a sense of national identity.

     In 1187, the Muslims recaptured the holy city of Jerusalem from the Christians. This enraged the Pope, who called for another crusade.  Frederick responded to this by starting the Third Crusade. He raised an army of 150,000 men and travelled to Palestine. Then, in Western Turkey, on June 10, 1190, Frederick drowned crossing a river. The Third Crusade was brought to an abrupt end upon Frederick’s sudden and unexpected demise.

Interesting Fact #1: Frederick was called Barbarossa because of his red beard. Barbarossa means “red beard” in Italian. This nickname was a sign of the Italian’s respect for Frederick.

Interesting Fact #2: Frederick was one of Germany’s most popular rulers. It was said that Germany and Frederick Barbarossa were one in the hearts of the Germans.

Interesting Fact #3: Legend says that Frederick is not really dead. Instead, he is asleep in a cave in the Alps, guarded by his men. His beard is so long it touches the floor an his face is lined with wrinkles. Once the ravens stop circling the mountain, he will awake from his slumber and restore Germany to its former greatness.

Credits: http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/frederick-barbarossa.htm, http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/army/p/barbarossa.htm Picture: http://ron.heavengames.com/gameinfo/nations/german/german.shtml

King Carlos II of Spain

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King Carlos II

     Carlos reigned as King of Spain from September 17, 1665 until his death on November 1, 1700. He ruled for 35 years.

     Carlos was born on November 6, 1661. He was the only surviving son of Phillip IV of Spain and Mariana of Austria. He was born with severe deformations. As you can see in the picture on the right, he had an extremely large head and a large Habsburg jaw. His underbite was so bad that his teeth did not line up, and as a result, he could not chew. His legs were also too thin and weak to support his weight, so he could not walk without support. He was also mentally retarted to the point that he was thought to have the mind of a small child when he was in his twenties. Some historians even venture to say that his life had two intellectual cycles, the first being that of a child, and the second being the senility of an old man.
     Phillip IV died in 1665 at the age of 60. Carlos was his only heir, and was made King of Spain at the age of 4. His mother, Mariana of Austria, served as his regent for most of his reign, as even as an adult he was incapable of ruling a kingdom. In 1675, Carlos was asked to approve a decree of an extended regency, which would give his mother much more power. He refused and wrote letters to many Spanish officials and noblemen. Eventually, he was forced to meet with his mother about the decree. A few hours into the meeting, Carlos emerged from the room crying. He agreed to the decree and never challenged his mother or any other authority again.
     In 1679, Carlos was married to Marie Louise, the niece of Louis XIV. She hated Carlos, who was madly in love with her, and spent a lot of time weeping before their wedding. She hated the Spanish court, which had tight etiquette and traditions. She became depressed, and died in 1689. Carlos married Maria Anna, a German noblewoman. She spent much of her time staring out the window of her bedroom, and despised Spain and the Spanish court, like Marie Louise did.
     In 1698, Carlos became gravely ill. His health was already in a deplorable state (he had become completely bald at 35, his teeth had all fallen out, and he was nearly blind) and was now rappidly worsening. His illness eventually made him deaf. On November 1, 1700, Carlos died after two years of pain and suffering and a lifetime of sadness.
Interesting Fact #1: Carlos was thought to be impotent, and both of his marriages produced no children. His death without an heir sparked the War of Spanish Succession, which raged from 1702 until 1713. In the end it was decided that Phillip, Duke of Anjou, would become the King of Spain.
Interesting Fact #2: Carlos was the last of the Habsburg Kings of Spain. His successor, Phillip V, was the first of the Bourbon Kings of Spain. King Juan Carlos I, the current King of Spain, is a member of the Bourbon dynasty.
Interesting Fact #3: Some historians believe that Carlos suffered from a bone disease, acromegaly. If this was the case, it would explain his inability to walk (acromegaly greatly weakens the bones).

King Louis IX of France

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King Louis IX

      King Louis IX ruled France from November 8, 1226 until his death on August 25, 1270. He reigned for 43 years. He is commonly reffered to as Saint Louis.

     Louis was born on April 25, 1215 near Poissy, France. He was the eldest son of Louis VIII and Blanche of Castille. He recieved a good education, and, when his father died, he became King of Frrance in 1226 at the age of eleven. His mother acted as regent until he turned 19 in 1234. His mother was a great regent, and many rebels were defeated during her reign.

     Louis was extremely pious, taking all of Christendom’s duties upon himself, including fighting the Muslims in Palestine. He embarked upon his first crusade in 1248 to the Holy Land, but it failed and he returned to France in 1249. Louis then formed a treaty with Henry III of England, called the Treaty of Paris. In this treaty, both kings relinquished claims to various French and English lands. Louis thought that this would bring peace to France for many years to come.

     Louis developed court procedures for peasants so that they could recieve a fair and just ruling from a judge during court hearings. He also reformed the tax system, making it more efficient and effective. Louis also constructed the first French navy in the hopes that in the future, if war broke out with England, the French would be able to attack the British Isles. The Sainte-Chapelle, a cathedral in Paris often regarded as the high point of Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture, was sponsored by Louis.

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle

     In 1270, Louis embarked upon another crusade to the Holy Land. This one, too, failed, like his other crusade did. However, Louis did succeed in freeing thousands of Christian captives. Louis, though, never returned to France. He caught typhus and died on August 25, 1270, at the age of 56, near Tunis.

     In 1297, Louis was declared a saint by Pope Boniface VIII. Several Christian orders were named after him, including The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Louis. He is often regarded as one of France’s greatest kings, and is noted for his kindness and benevolence. Because of him, France grew into one of Europe’s greatest countries and a world superpower. Without his contributions to France and the French people, the world as we know it would be completely different.

Interesting Fact #1: Louis is the only French king to be a saint. He is venerated by the Catholic Church and The Church of England.

Interesting Fact #2: Many French kings from the House of Bourbon were named Louis in his honor. Louis’s younger son, Robert, Count of Clermont, was the founder of the House of Bourbon.

Interesting Fact #3: According to legend, every day, 120 peasants would come to Louis’s palace to have dinner. 13 peasants ate in the same room as him, and 3 ate at his table.

Credits: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09368a.htm, http://historymedren.about.com/od/lwho/p/who_louis9.htm, http://www.st-louis.org/louis.htm, Picture of Louis: http://catholicfire.blogspot.com/2009/08/st-louis-ix-confessor-king-of-france.html, Picture of Sainte-Chapelle: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sainte_Chapelle_-_Upper_level_1.jpg

King Henry II of England

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     King Henry II ruled England from October 25, 1154 to July 6, 1189. His reign lasted 34 years.

     Henry was born on March 5, 1133 in Le Mans, France. His mother was the Empress Maude, and his father was Geoffrey, Count of Anjou. His mother was Queen of Normandy, having inherited the title from her father. His mother was the only child of King Henry I. Henry wanted Maude to become Queen of England, but Stephen, her cousin, defeated her in a civil war. Eventually, though, Henry won his right back into the succesion, and after Stephen died, Henry became King of England.

     Henry married Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Duchess of Aquitaine. Therefore, Henry was the ruler of more lands in France than the French king was. At the time Henry came to the throne, England was in an anarchy and the barons of England were in rebellion. Henry quickly fixed this, and gained control of his kingdom. Henry also adopted many Norman laws into the English bureacracy, greatly improving the government.

     Henry also engaged in several succesful wars. He invaded Scotland, capturing and conquering Cumbria and Northumbria. Wales and Ireland also fell to Henry, although the Welsh nobles still rebelled against their English overlords.

     One thing in which Henry was unsuccesful in was curving the power of the church. Henry appointed his friend, Thomas Beckett, as Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Catholic Church in England. When Beckett refused to follow and abide by laws that reduced the power and influence of the church, Henry ordered him exiled. Beckett eventually came back to England, but still refused to yield any power. Henry had enough of Beckett, and in 1170, four of Henry’s knights murdered Beckett in his own cathedral. This caused an uproar throughout England, and for the rest of Henry’s reign the church and the English people resented him.

     Towards the end of his reign, Henry’s son, Richard, led a revolt against him. Eventually, Richard, aided by Phillip II of France, defeated Henry and forced him to abdicate the throne on July 4, 1189. Two days later, Henry died of a jousting injury.

Interesting Fact #1: Henry was the first of the Plantagenent rulers of England. This royal dynasty originated in France and ruled England until the 15th century.

Interesting Fact #2: Henry was called Henry Fitzempress because of his mother, Empress Maude.

Interesting Fact #3: Henry had a terrible temper. It was probably this temper that led to the murder of Thomas Beckett. In a fit of rage, Henry shouted: “What miserable drones and traitors have I nurtured and promoted in my household who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric!” After he said this, Henry’s soldiers travelled to Canterbury and murdered Thomas Beckett.

Credits: http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-kings/king-henry-ii-biography.htm, http://www.britannia.com/history/monarchs/mon26.html, 5,000 Years of Royalty by Thomas J. Craughwell

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany

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      Wilhelm II was the Kaiser (German for Emperor) of Germany from June 15, 1888 to November 18, 1918. He reigned for 30 years.

     Wilhelm was born on January 27, 1859 in Berlin to Victoria of the United Kingdom, the daughter of Queen Victoria, and Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, who would later go on to become Kaiser Friedrich III of Germany. During her pregnancy, Vicky, as his mother was called, suffered a fall. This was thought to cause a traumatic birth, which resulted in Wilhelm being born with a withered arm. This deformation apalled Vicky, and she would always look down on her son as inferior because of it.

     Wilhelm grew up in a tumultuous family. His mother, who favored his other brothers over him, hated Wilhelm, and always turned her nose up at him. His father was jealous of Wilhelm. Wilhelm possesed superior military skills than his father did, and when he joined the German military, was promoted faster than his father had been. This caused a rift between Wilhelm and his parents. It also influenced Wilhelm’s political beliefs. His parent’s were liberals, and Wilhelm eventually became a conservative, wanting to seperate from his parents.

     In 1871, Wilhelm’s grandfather united Germany and formed the German Empire. Then, when his grandfather died in 1888, Wilhelm’s father succeeded to the throne. However, the now Kaiser Friedrich III was suffering from throat cancer, and died later that year. On June 15, 1888, to his mother’s horror, Wilhelm became Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

     Wilhelm had always fostered a love of the navy. His mother was British, so when he travelled to Britain, he always made a point of viewing the Royal Navy and its ships. Because of his fasicination with maritime warfare, Wilhelm endeavored to build the greatest navy in the world and make Germany the foremost naval power. He built a large navy, larger than any Germany had seen before, and aggresively pursued imperialism. He claimed land in Africa for Germany, and established German colonies in the Pacific.

     When his grandmother, Queen Victoria, died on January 22, 1901, Wilhelm travelled to her bedside and wept. He mourned for weeks after his death, as he had loved her more than he had ever loved his mother.

     In 1914, after Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which was the native country of the assassin. Wilhelm decided to support his Austro-Hungarian ally in their war against Serbia. However, Russia, seeing a fellow slavic country in peril, declared war on Austria-Hungary and Germany. Then, France, Russia’s ally, declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of Austria-Hungary and Germany, forming the Central Powers. When Germany invaded neutral Belgium, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Great Britain had an alliance with Belgium, as it was their connection to continental Europe. The German chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, regarded Britain’s alliance with Belgium as a “mere scrap of paper”. Great Britain, Belgium, Russia, France, and eventually the United States would form the Allies. This was the beginning of World War I.

     Eventually, 4 million Germans died in the war. In 1918, seeing that the war was hopeless, Wilhelm ordered his generals to surrender. The Versailles Treaty officially ended WWI, and Wilhelm abdicated the throne. He lived out his final days in exile at Huis Dorm, a manor house in the Netherlands. He died there on June 4, 1941.

Interesting Fact #1: Wilhelm had a daschund named Senta who died in 1927 at the age of 20, or 140 in dog years.

Interesting Fact #2: King George V of Great Britain, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were all first cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria.

Interesting Fact #3: Wilhelm was thought to be a repressed homosexual, suffered from depression, had a hot temper, and had a hand fetish. When meeting someone, he would always kiss their hand instead of shaking it.

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Works Cited:

“BBC – History – Historic Figures: Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941).” BBC – Homepage. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilhelm_kaiser_ii.shtml.,
MacDonogh, Giles. The Last Kaiser: the Life of Wilhelm II. New York: St. Martin’s, 2001. Print.,
Dowswell, Paul, Ruth Brocklehurst, and Henry Brook. The World Wars: [an Introduction to the First & Second World Wars]. London: Usborne, 2007. Print.,
World War I – Trenches on the Web. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. http://www.worldwar1.com/.,
Kaiser Wilhelm II. Digital image. Global Regional. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. <http://www.globalregional.de/1GR_Spezial/Tavistock/Tavistock_Pics.html&gt;.