|Constance of Sicily (1249-1301)
Died 1301 Barcelona
Married 13 June 1262 Montpellier
Pedro III "the Great", King of Aragon 1276-1285, King of
Sicily, son of Jaime I "the Conqueror", King of Aragon
1213-1276 and Violante of Hungary
Died 11 November 1285 Villafranca de Penadres
Buried Villafranca, Holy Cross
It was to the annoyance of the pope when in 1262 her father arranged
her engagement and marriage to Infant Pedro of Aragon, son and heir of
King Jaime "The Conqueror". However, this also upset King Louis IX of France
who then almost broke off his son's engagement to
Pedro's sister. It was only after Jaime "The Conqueror" promised never
to assist Manfredo, Constance's father, that the marriage proceeded.
However, due to papal interference, Manfredo lost his crown and life
in 1266. As long as Constance's father-in-law had been alive, nothing was
done about Sicily; and now, even though she was Sicily's heiress, it remained
in the hands of Charles of Anjou, a brother of King Louis IX of France.
Her husband---who loved her dearly, and even some years before he became
king---gave her in her own right the title of queen.
When her father-in-law died in 1276 he had left the Balearic Islands
and Roussillon to a younger son, Jaime, who, as well as calling himself
King of Majorca, for three years refused to acknowledge Constance's husband
as his suzerain. In 1279 the Moors of Andalusia tried to reconquer Murcia
and it took till the end of that year before the southern border was secure.
Further intrigues within the Iberian peninsula prevented King Pedro
III of Aragon from pursuing his wife's rights in Sicily. In 1275 the elder
son of King Alfonso X of Castile had died, leaving two young sons. Alfonso
X decided to make his second son, Sancho, his heir to prevent a long minority
for his grandson, the rightful heir. However, his widowed daughter-in-law,
Blanche, a daughter of Louis IX of France, fled with her two sons to Pedro
III of Aragon as she feared for her sons' lives.
Pedro III of Aragon welcomed Blanche and her sons but kept them as hostages.
Alfonso X of Castile soon regretted his decision as in 1281 the impatient
Sancho rebelled against his father.
However, in 1279 the plotting began in earnest with Emperor Michael
of Constantinople and the Republic of Genoa, as these greatly feared that
Charles of Anjou, the de-facto king of Sicily, might
become too powerful. On 30 August 1282, the Aragonese, with King Pedro
III at its head, disembarked at Trapani for Sicily, so that the local rebellion
became a European war. On 2 October Pedro III made a triumphant entry into
Nevertheless he acted most cautiously as one night a ragged old man,
Vitalis dei Guidici who was once a devoted friend of King Manfredo, warned
him of the inconstancy of the volatile Sicilian
nobles. Pedro III maintained that he had come to make friends with
the Sicilians and not to offend them with recriminations about the past.
However, the very next day he was reminded of the warning when Lady
Machalda, one of those mentioned by name by Vitalis dei Guidici, came and
made it clear that she wanted to become his mistress. He escaped only by
a lengthy discourse about his loyalty to his wife Constance, the rightful
queen of Sicily. Lady Machalda, not a graceful loser, then induced her
own husband to intrigue against Pedro III and Constance.
In the early spring of 1283 when her husband sent for her, Constance
left Aragon for Sicily and, with her children---Jaime, Fadrique and Yolanda---arrived
on 16 April 1283. On 19 April it was
announced that the Infant Jaime would be heir to Sicily as the elder
son, Alfonso, would remain heir of Aragon. In the case of Jaime's minority,
Constance would act as regent. Pedro III had to depart Sicily, leaving
Constance in charge.
Constance and her Italian-born ministers were careful to observe the
rights of the Sicilians, but, soon short of money, she found it difficult
to restrain the rapacious Aragonese soldiers. When Sicily was again attacked,
it was only the brilliance of Admiral Roger of Lauria which saved it from
an invasion. Soon the whole kingdom of Charles of Anjou was in turmoil
and, with his having lost Sicily to Pedro III and Constance, riots broke
out in Naples. Here, Frenchmen found in the streets were massacred.
In November 1285 Constance's husband died at Villafranca de Penadres
where he was buried. His being gracious had made a good impression in Sicily
but he had also been too cautious. Pope Honorious IV now decided it was
time to restore peace in Italy, but also wanted Sicily returned to the
House of Anjou as it had been a previous pope who had made Charles of Anjou
The Sicilians, however, were distrustful of the generous promises of
the pope and preferred their new king, Constance's son, Jaime, who would
become known as "The Just". Jaime was about nineteen years old, whereas
the new king of France, Philippe IV "The Fair", was only seventeen.
In February 1286 Jaime was crowned at Palermo. Discovering two Dominican
friars sent by the pope to start a revolt in Sicily, Jaime courteously
sent them back unharmed, as well offering the pope both homage and asking
for the confirmation of his title. The pope's response, however, was excommunication
for both Constance and Jaime---and, for good measure, all the people of
Sicily as well. Constance and Jaime had reached an honourable and just
agreement with the imprisoned heir of Charles of Anjou; but the pope, disallowing
this, ordered an offensive against Sicily in 1287, a disastrous affair
for Honorious IV.
When in 1291 her eldest son, Alfonso III "The Liberal", King of Aragon,
died childless, it was Jaime, King of Sicily, who became the next King
of Aragon. He remained king of both countries until 1296 when Fadrique,
Constance's third son, became King of Sicily and Jaime remained King of
Aragon alone. Constance, having returned to Spain, died in Barcelona in
Source: Leo van de Pas