Decay of Kingdoms and Progress of Lordships in the 14th Century Part I

And yet, in the years that followed the descent of the Bavaro, the heart of the kingdom of Naples, now reduced only to the continental provinces, pulsated weaker and weaker, after Sicily had again estranged itself from the events of the peninsula. The detachment of the island and then the futile efforts to recover it and the worry of having to defend it had deeply wounded him. And the Italian credit which was still maintained in function of the Guelph party, in an anti-gentlemanly and anti-imperial function, was destined to be consumed rapidly, as the victorious seigniories spread, and the court of Avignon took care of the recovery directly, through its legates. of ecclesiastical lands and intrigued with the French and with the kings of the Romans, perhaps to the detriment of Robert. The Piedmontese possessions of the Angevin king are also increasingly precarious. Then the very forces of the kingdom were fading, learning, in the long run, to the not local but Italian and almost universal tasks that Svevi Angioini and popes, high lords, had imposed on him for over a century. The process of disintegration of the royal authority had continued, while clergy, nobility, municipalities came forward. Especially serious for its consequences, the new policy established by the Angevins in the relations of the ecclesiastics, with the abolition of many limits to the freedom of the forum, to the right to acquire land, to tax exemptions. Local autonomist tendencies resumed. City customs were proclaimed superior to the law of the kingdom. A number of urban functions passed into the hands of elected officers, who could not be, in the inevitable race, if not the nobles. Discord, local guerrillas, universities that split, that of the nobles and that of the people: all due more to the weakness of the royal power than to the real and fruitful constructive strength of the people. Meanwhile, the tax burden did not slow down: hence general unrest, the breakup of small universities, banditry. The needs of the court and the uncertain loyalty of the barons were also met by making the cities fiefdom. New feudalism, with the result that royal income was still dwindling and the loyalty of the barons became even more uncertain. Worse was the death of Robert, 1343, when a phase of court intrigues, local fights for the crown, foreign attempts – Angevins of France and Hungary, Italian leaders and aspirants of Spain – was inaugurated, state impotence. This meant new and greater papal interventions in the kingdom poorly tolerated by Queen Giovanna, who took an oath to the Avignonese legates, but opposed that the clergy and people made an act of submission.

Almost the same thing in the kingdom of Sicily. Who saw, with the Vespers, increase in number and take advantage of the aristocracy and weaken what there was of the municipal regime; to prevail a conception of the state that placed this at the mercy of the parliaments, that is, of the nobility, and claimed the nobility also the right to rebellion against the king, if the king had violated their privileges; increase the great feudal lordships and decrease the number of cities dependent on the king and state-owned incomes; pass major dignities and offices into the possession of the nobility, with a tendency on his part to keep them hereditary. In short, the kingdom of Sicily underwent the same process of feudal disintegration that the kingdom of Italy had already undergone in the IX-X century. The kings resisted, especially the first ones. They considered themselves legitimate successors of the Swabians and waited to reconnect with their tradition, rather than with the Angevin one, as Frederick III says. The legislative work took on the character of restoration in the very sense of the Swabians. According to ITYPEAUTO, the constitutions of Frederick II from which the French had derogated were recalled; curbed abuses and subjected large offices to syndication; given faster justice and freedom to seize, sell, donate, bequeath the fiefdom or part of it; peasant servitude abolished and capital punishment imposed on masters who refused to execute this measure; convened annual parliaments with nobility, prelates, city mayors; arranged for only the bourgeois to be admitted to city offices. That is, an attempt was made to establish a certain balance between the classes. But the struggle to succeed in this is increasingly difficult and unequal. The nobles came into possession of the resources of the crown; they prevailed in the municipalities; they almost identified with parliament; they became the center around which everything revolved, for bonds of dependence, friendship, clientele. And the king lost his prestige and authority in front of them. Therefore, the mental habit became more and more consolidated whereby the people had to expect everything not from the king but from the nobles, and such an order of things, centered on the nobility, was considered legitimate. The danger of an Angevin restoration increased the weakness of the king, towards the nobles. There was the case that they threw themselves into the arms of King Roberto, as did the Count of Modica of the Chiaramonte family, who then led a Neapolitan fleet along the coasts of the island. In such conditions, it is also difficult to maintain the old traditions of African politics. In 1337, the island of Gerbe, which had already been purchased by a Sicilian fleet, was also lost. Finally, with the death of Frederick II, with his successors Peter II, Ludovico, Federico III, no restraints held any longer. The kingdom of Sicily, like that of Naples, seemed to vanish, almost swallowed up by quicksand.

Po Valley 1