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The Norman Kings of Sicily and the Fatimid Caliphate

The Norman Kings of Sicily and the Fatimid Caliphate

By Jeremy Johns

Anglo-Norman Studies, Vol.15 (1993)

Introduction: The de Hauteville rulers of Sicily were parvenus. Tancred, lord of Hauteville-la-Guischard near Coutances, had owed only ten knights’ service to Duke Robert. It was Tancred’s inability to provide for his twelve sons that drove eleven of them south to seek their fortunes. None of these eleven vaunted his patrimony, and it was left to their sons to adopt the style de Altavilla. The de Hautevilles hastened to add nobler blood to the line. The first emigrant generation tended to marry into the families of their leading allies in Italy. Only in the second generation did they begin to ally themselves with the royal houses of Europe.

Thus, when Roger II had himself crowned king of Sicily on Christmas Day 1130, he had inherited from his ancestors no trappings of monarchy in which to robe himself. Nor, in Sicily had he conquered an ancient kingdom which he could assume intact merely by ascending to the vacant throne. The Sicilian monarchy, its constitutions, laws, ceremonies, regalia, had to be built ex novo, and, once the foundations had been laid in 1130, King Roger and his ministers exercised an eclectic taste in furnishing the new royal structure. Monarchies past, including the tyrants of Magna Graecia, and present, including the Capetian kings of France and the emperors of Byzantium, all contributed elements to the new monarchy.

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