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Charles I
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Charles I
King of Naples
Reign 6th July, 1268 - 13th September, 1293
Predecessor Conradin
Successor John I
King of Albania
Reign 30th October, 1280 - 13th September, 1293
Predecessor new creation
Successor Louis of Albania
Born 1st May, 1233
Esztergom, Hungary
Died 13th September, 1293
Naples, Naples
Spouse Isabella of Venosa

Mary of Hungary

Issue John I of Naples

Beatrice
Joan
Louis of Albania
Charles I of Hungary
Isabella
Andrew
Elizabeth
Robert

Full name
Charles Bezier
House Bezier
Father Raymond II, Count of Bezier
Mother Azalais of Aix

Charles Bezier King of Naples, Sicily and Albania, perfectly exemplifies the brutality of medieval life; to get ahead a lord must have been willing be absolutely ruthless.

'Of all the undoubtedly psychopathic medieval kings Charles Bezier is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of bloodless ambition'.
- David Vieusseux, Historian

Born to Raymond II of Bezier and Azalais of Aix in 1233, the young Charles was betrothed to Isabella of Venosa, Conradin (Conrad II)'s daughter. It was something of coup for the Bezier family but the lordship had been growing in prestige for many years. It was wealthy too as allegiance to Aragon during the Albigensian Crusade had been richly rewarded. Conradin, never a particularly ambitious or dynamic person, needed funds and friends as the Hohenstaufen lands skirted closer to civil war and the marriage of his daughter to the young Charles secured him all the finances he needed. Following the death of Frederick III in 1263 his three sons split the Hohenstaufen lands, peacefully in the end, Conradin taking Naples and Sicily whilst his brothers took Arles and Burgundy respectively. Conradin would not live long, however, and Isabella would prove to be his only heir.

On Conradin's death in 1268 his brother Frederick IV of Arles understandably claimed the throne of Naples. However, the papacy was swinging back to anti-Hohenstaufen feeling and Frederick IV was a much more dynamic presence than Conradin. Unwilling to let a competent Hohenstaufen king seize Naples and potentially dominate Roman and papal politics again, Pope Urban IV conspired with Charles Bezier. While Charles was made a senator of Rome, Conradin's will suddenly appeared which, of course, made Charles his successor. The will is widely regarded as a forgery but no matter, for Urban IV it was good enough. Charles' coronation was quickly arranged and Urban himself crowned Charles in Rome. In Naples Charles was relatively popular; he had been resident there for several years and a retinue of Neapolitan nobles appeared in Rome for the coronation to lead the new king back to Naples. In Sicily, however, the announcement of his rule led to a revolt. Meanwhile, Frederick IV's fury was instant; seemingly unconcerned that it would lead to a probable excommunication, he declared war on Charles.

Calling on Aragon to seize the County of Bezier (technically an Aragonese vassal anyway) Frederick made plans to invade Sicily. James I of Aragon gladly obliged, he had a claim to Naples anyway through his Hohenstaufen grandmother and the fact Charles now refused to pay him homage was enough to ally Aragon to Frederick's cause. Charles had room to breathe however. Although Naples' fleet was in a terrible condition he had made an alliance with Genoa whose own fleet was more than enough to keep Arles and Aragon at bay for now. With a carefully supplied mainland army Charles waited until the revolting parties on Sicily had exhausted themselves before invading the island and utterly crushing any hint of rebellion. The papacy gave its full blessing to the atrocities which followed and soon Bezier agents controlled the island, if perhaps via terror rather than respect.

Unable to land an invading force on Sicily the Arelat and Aragonese armies plowed through Italia defeating Genoa at Ovada in May 1270. Again Charles held back, letting the militias of Northern Italia and disease whittle down the invaders. By the time James I's army reached Naples' northern border it was at half strength and Charles made quick work of it. He then followed the retreating army northward relieving Rome as Autumn came then relieving Genoa in the following spring.

Despite his desire to recover Bezier he would go no further. Ghibelline affiliated cities would have blocked his passage, his new kingdom needed a period of respite and Charles needed to shore up his funds. Returning to Naples he reaffirmed the kingdom's laws but in doing so made sure to leverage as much revenue and privilege he could out of his new lords. While he was certainly opposed in this he had the firm backing of the papacy and, having already shown how harsh terms could be with his actions in Sicily, most lords were willing to back down.

D Constança de Hohenstaufen, Rainha de Aragão - The Portuguese Genealogy (Genealogia dos Reis de Portugal)

Isabella of Venosa, Charles I's first wife

Following Isabella's death in 1272 numerous enemies began circulating the rumour that Isabella had been poisoned. It certainly came at an auspicious time as Mary of Hungary's hand was available for marriage and an alliance with Hungary was perfect for securing the Adriatic for Charles' next plans.

With Rome and Naples relatively secure (feuds between the Ghelph and Ghibelline cities consumed the North of Italia as per usual) Pope Urban IV pushed Charles to crusade, in part to make up for the unqualified support the papacy had given him. Charles agreed but eschewed the Holy Land (which was under severe duress from Mamluk Egypt) for a softer target; Tunis. Tunis had been a Sicilian vassal but had largely broken off ties by the time Conradin ascended the throne. Charles took the cross in 1276 and landed a mostly Neapolitan army that summer. Camping on the ruins of Carthage the army took a heavy toll from disease and poor drinking water, Charles himself was supposedly on his death-bed in September. Without capturing Tunis, the local Caliph capitulated and agreed to pay tribute to Naples once more, opening the city to Neapolitan trade as well as throwing the remaining Hohenstaufen and anti-Bezier parties out of the city and promising to protect Catholic monks and priests. Charles and his host would depart before an Egyptian army under Baibars was fully organised to oppose the crusaders. Charles regarded this as a success. Urban IV was less enthusiastic about the result as the Caliph's supposed receptiveness to conversion never materialised.

Although Italian politics rumbled on Charles was looking elsewhere for glory and in 1280 he invaded Albania. Technically this all fell under the rule of the resurgent Byzantium. However, Sicily had held dominion over several Adriatic towns in the recent past. Much of the Greek coastline was divided up between Italian lords as a holdover from the Fourth Crusade yet the Emperor was busy with the important job of shoring up the empire's eastern borders rather than deal with the Italians. Charles' intrusions were couched in terms of bringing these small Italian-Greek duchies into line. Although Charles himself did not attend, possibly to avoid any chance of having to pay the Emperor homage (which he had absolutely no intention of doing), a cohort of Neapolitan cavalry joined the Emperor's army at Nikopolis. Indeed while Constantinople naively continued to regard Charles' conquests as merely reclaiming Byzantine territory, Charles was in no doubt he was adding to his own patrimony. Sicily's old vassal towns quickly reaffirmed their allegiance to Charles whilst Epirus and Achaea were swiftly defeated and signed over their nominal independence by treaty. Expansion from the coast into the interior of Albania was celebrated by the creation of the new title of 'King of Albania'. Emperor John IV realised too late that Charles was seizing Western and Southern Greece for himself however, fully invested in his war against the Turks in Asia Minor, he was unable to redirect his attention.

In 1282 a huge revolt consumed Sicily. The 'Sicilian Complines' had been stirred up by Frederick IV's agents, not only taking advantage of severe taxation which Charles insisted on levying on the island but also his legacy of general oppression. A Neapolitan army under Charles' son-in-law Manfred was defeated and killed at Mategriffon and Charles was forced to once more land a huge army under his own command to quell the revolt, a process which took several years. Naples did not face any direct invasion though, the revolt was used more as a cover for Aragon's tentative attacks on Corsica and Sardinia.

Charles would die in September 1293. He would be directly succeeded by his eldest son John in Naples, by Louis in Albania. Meanwhile, his son Charles would go on to claim and seize his mother's birthright in Hungary. Collectively his grandsons would rule over a vast collection of territory from the Baltic to the southern tip of Sicily.

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