William II of Sicily

William II (French language: Guillaume II, 1155 – November 11 1189 Palermo), called the Good, was king of Sicily from 1166 to 1189.

William was only eleven years old at the death of his father William I, when he was placed under the regency of his mother, Margaret of Navarre. Until the king was declared adult in 1171 the government was controlled first by the chancellor Stephen du Perche, cousin of Margaret (1166–1168), and then by Walter Ophamil, archbishop of Palermo, and Matthew of Ajello, the vice-chancellor.

William's character is very indistinct. Lacking in military enterprise, secluded and pleasure-loving, he seldom emerged from his palace life at Palermo. Yet his reign is marked by an ambitious foreign policy and a vigorous diplomacy. Champion of the papacy and in secret league with the Lombard cities he was able to defy the common enemy, Frederick I Barbarossa. In 1174 and 1175 he made treaties with Genoa and Venice and his marriage in February 1177 with Joan, daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, marks his high position in European politics.

In July 1177, he sent a delegation of Archbishop Romuald of Salerno and Count Roger of Andria to sign the Treaty of Venice with the emperor. To secure the peace, he sanctioned the marriage of his aunt Constance, daughter of Roger II, with Frederick's son Henry, afterwards the emperor Henry VI, causing a general oath to be taken to her as his successor in case of his death without heirs. This step, fatal to the Norman kingdom, was possibly taken that William might devote himself to foreign conquests.

Unable to revive the African dominion, William directed his attack on Egypt, from which Saladin threatened the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. In July 1174, 50,000 men were landed before Alexandria, but Saladin's arrival forced the Sicilians to re-embark in disorder. A better prospect opened in the confusion in Byzantine affairs which followed the death of Manuel Comnenus (1180), and William took up the old design and feud against Constantinople. Durazzo was captured (June 11, 1185). Afterwards while the army (80,000 men including 5,000 knights) marched upon Thessalonica, the fleet (200 ships) sailed towards the same target capturing on their way the Ionian islands of Corfu, Cephalonia, Ithaca and Zakynthos. In August Thessalonica fell to the joint attack of the Sicilian fleet and army and was subsequently sacked (7,000 Greeks died).

The troops then marched upon the capital, but the army of the emperor Isaac Angelus defeated the invaders on the banks of the Strymon (September 7, 1185). Thessalonica was at once abandoned and in 1189 William made peace with Isaac, abandoning all the conquests. He was now planning to induce the crusading armies of the West to pass through his territories, and seemed about to play a leading part in the Third Crusade. His admiral Margarito, a naval genius equal to George of Antioch, with 60 vessels kept the eastern Mediterranean open for the Franks, and forced the all-victorious Saladin to retire from before Tripoli in the spring of 1188.

In November 1189 William died, leaving no children. Though Orderic Vitalis records a (presumably short-lived) son in 1181: Bohemond, Duke of Apulia. His title of "the Good" is due perhaps less to his character than to the cessation of internal troubles in his reign.

In the "Divine Comedy", Dante places William II in Paradise:

cquote|"E quel che vedi ne l'arco declivo,

"Guglielmo fu, cui quella terra plora"

"che piagne Carlo e Federigo vivo:"

"ora conosce come s'innamora"

"lo ciel del giusto rege, e al sembiante"

"del suo fulgore il fa vedere ancora".

He whom you see—along the downward arc—

was William, and the land that mourns his death,

for living Charles and Frederick, now laments;

now he has learned how Heaven loves the just

ruler, and he would show this outwardly

as well, so radiantly visible.

("Paradiso", Canto XX, lines 61-66, Mandlebaum translation)


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1= 1. William II of Sicily
2= 2. William I of Sicily
3= 3. Margaret of Navarre
4= 4. Roger II of Sicily
5= 5. Elvira of Castile
6= 6. García Ramírez of Navarre
7= 7. Marguerite de l'Aigle
8= 8. Roger I of Sicily
9= 9. Adelaide del Vasto
10= 10. Alfonso VI of Castile
11= 11. Isabel
12= 12. Ramiro Sánchez, Lord of Monzón
13= 13. Cristina Rodríguez Díaz de Vivar
14= 14. Gilbert de l'Aigle, Seigneur de l'Aigle
15= 15. Juliana de Perche
16= 16. Tancred of Hauteville
17= 17. Fredisenda
18= 18. Boniface del Vasto
19= 19. Agnes of Vermandois
20= 20. Ferdinand I of León
21= 21. Sancha of León
24= 24. Sancho Garcés
25= 25. Constance
26= 26. Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar
27= 27. Jimena of Oviedo
28= 28. Richer de l'Aigle, Seigneur de l'Aigle
29= 29. Judith d'Avranches
30= 30. Geoffrey II de Perche, Count of Perche and Mortagne
31= 31. Beatrix de Montdidier


*Matthew, Donald. "The Norman Kingdom of Sicily". Cambridge University Press: 1992.

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