Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II and the hand of St James

Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II and the hand of St James

Leyser, Karl

The English Historical Review No. CCCLVI-July (1975)


On 28 September 1157, after a brief expedition against Boleslas of Poland, the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa opened a well-attended curia at Wiirzburg. He could at this moment feel that his campaign had been rather more successful than it later turned out to be but there were hostages to ensure that the Piast duke would fulfil his promises, appear at Magdeburg and pay tribute. He found awaiting him a splendid array of ambassadors from all quarters of Europe: there were envoys from Manuel Comnenus, from Henry II of England, from Denmark, Hungary, Burgundy and the cities of Lombardy which Milan threatened to incorporate into her districtus. Rahewin in Book 111 of the Gesta Frederici used the occasion to impress on his readers the large ambit and the even larger horizons of Hohenstaufen emperorship. The topos of many embassies crowding and elbowing one another to bear gifts to and receive favours from a supereminent ruler was a familiar one in early medieval historical writing.

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