Introducing Crouchback

1257
Edmund
Edmund

The rout of papal forces continued, as did Rustand’s exactions. The clergy was left isolated until the king made an appeal to the barons for aid. He was flatly refused, again with Richard in the lead, because he had entered into the Sicilian Business without consulting them. Henry misleadingly informed the pope that his nobles and prelates were only waiting for a papal victory (which would never come) before committing the funds. Alexander decided to send an archbishop to address the magnates, and Henry, indulging in his love for drama and ritual, dressed up his son Edmund, nicknamed Crouchback, in costume and presented him as the next King of Sicily. The archbishop then proceeded to reveal the full terms of the agreement, including the 185,000 marks the Vatican had spent fighting on behalf of little Crouchback. Taking pity on the king, the clergy agreed to provide a third of the money, which Henry took churlishly, and a mission was named to placate Alexander. The pope was willing to give him an extension, but either Henry executed the full terms of the agreement or face excommunication. The pope’s only concession was to recall Rustand, who left England one very rich churchman.

3 thoughts on “Introducing Crouchback

  1. The whole enterprise was actually a two-pronged approach. Henry would win Sicily in the south while Eleanor’s relatives used the flimsy papal alliance to control northern Italy. Then Thomas of Savoy, who had gotten Simon into trouble with the king 15 years earlier, got himself captured, forcing Henry and the Savoyards to waste time and money on his release.

  2. Nowhere has Henry’s reputation received a boost from modern historians than in the Sicilian Business, which had always been described as the Folly, Absurdity, etc. Now it has been recast as shrewd diplomacy, perhaps as compensation for all the ridicule his kingship endured over the centuries. Henry’s single-minded goal had always been to regain English possessions in France. Having failed twice before, he would use control over Sicily and northern Italy to put pressure on Louis to finally fork over. If only it didn’t cost so much…. The enterprise, of course, was hellishly complicated and the revisionists might want to consult what Richard told the pope when he was first approached. “Why not just ask me to take the moon?”

  3. The complications included the remoteness of Sicily, the dangers of traversing hostile countries to reach it, and the laughable presumption of an English boy addressing the Sicilians as their king. The horrendous results of the Sicilian Expedition undertaken by Athens in 415 B.C. were seemingly never considered.

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