Frederick I Barbarossa (1122 – 10 June 1190) was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy at Pavia in 1154, and finally crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV on 18 June 1155. He was crowned King of Burgundy at Arles on 30 June 1178.
Before his royal election, he was by inheritance Duke of Swabia (1147–1152, as Frederick III). He was the son of Duke Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. His mother was Judith, daughter of Henry IX, Duke of Bavaria, from the rival House of Welf, and Frederick therefore descended from Germany's two leading families, making him an acceptable choice for the Empire's prince-electors.
Anxious to restore the Empire to the position it had occupied under Charlemagne and Otto I the Great, the new king saw clearly that the restoration of order in Germany was a necessary preliminary to the enforcement of the imperial rights in Italy. Issuing a general order for peace, he made lavish concessions to the nobles. Abroad, Frederick intervened in the Danish civil war between Svend III and Valdemar I of Denmark and began negotiations with the East Roman emperor, Manuel I Comnenus. It was probably about this time that the king obtained papal assent for the annulment of his childless marriage with Adelheid of Vohburg, on the grounds of consanguinity (his great-great-grandfather was a brother of Adela's great-great-great-grandmother). He then made a vain effort to obtain a bride from the court of Constantinople. On his accession Frederick had communicated the news of his election to Pope Eugene III, but had neglected to ask for the papal confirmation. In March 1153, Frederick concluded the treaty of Constance with the Pope whereby, in return for his coronation, he promised to defend the papacy, to make no peace with king Roger II of Sicily or other enemies of the Church without the consent of Eugene and to help Eugene regain control of the city of Rome.
Frederick undertook six expeditions into Italy. In the first he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome by Pope Adrian IV, following the suppression by Imperial forces of the republican city commune led by Arnold of Brescia. He left Italy in the autumn of 1155 to prepare for a new and more formidable campaign.
Disorder was again rampant in Germany, especially in Bavaria, but general peace was restored by Frederick's vigorous, but conciliatory, measures. The duchy of Bavaria was transferred from Henry II Jasomirgott, margrave of Austria, to Frederick's formidable younger cousin Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, of the House of Guelph, whose father had previously held both duchies. Henry was named duke of Austria in compensation for his loss of Bavaria. As part of his general policy of concessions of formal power to the German princes and ending the civil wars within the kingdom, Frederick further appeased Henry by issuing him with the Privilegium Minus, granting him unprecented entitlements as Duke of Austria. On June 9 1156 at Würzburg, Frederick married Beatrice of Burgundy, daughter and heiress of Renaud III, thus adding to his possessions the sizeable realm of the County of Burgundy.
His uncle, Otto of Freising, wrote an account of Frederick's reign entitled Gesta Friderici I imperatoris (Deeds of the Emperor Frederick). Otto died after finishing the first two books, leaving the last two to Rahewin, his provost. The text is in places heavily dependent on classical precedent. For example, Rahewin's physical description of Frederick:
reproduces word for word (except for details of hair and beard) a description of another monarch written nearly eight hundred years earlier by Sidonius Apollinaris.
In June 1158, Frederick set out upon his second Italian expedition, accompanied by Henry the Lion and his fearsome Saxons. This expedition resulted in the establishment of imperial officers in the cities of northern Italy, the revolt and capture of Milan, and the beginning of the long struggle with Pope Alexander III. In response to his excommunication by the pope in 1160, Frederick declared his support for Antipope Victor IV. Returning to Germany towards the close of 1162, Frederick prevented the escalation of conflicts between Henry the Lion of Saxony and a number of neighbouring princes who were growing weary of Henry's power, influence and territorial gains. He also severely punished the citizens of Mainz for their rebellion against Archbishop Arnold. The next visit to Italy in 1163 saw his plans for the conquest of Sicily ruined by the formation of a powerful league against him, brought together mainly by opposition to imperial taxes.
In 1164 Frederick took what are believed to be the relics of the "Biblical Magi" (the Wise Men or Three Kings) from Milan and gave them as a gift (or as loot) to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel. The relics had great religious significance and could be counted upon to draw pilgrims from all over Christendom. Today they are kept in the Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cologne cathedral.
Frederick then focused on restoring peace in the Rhineland, where he organized a magnificent celebration of the canonization of Charles the Great (Charlemagne) at Aachen. In October 1166, he went once more on journey to Italy to secure the claim of his Antipope Paschal III, and the coronation of his wife Beatrice as Holy Roman Empress. This time, Henry the Lion refused to join Frederick on his Italian trip, tending instead to his own disputes with neighbors and his continuing expansion into Slavic territories in northeastern Germany. Frederick's forces achieved a great victory over the Romans at the Battle of Monte Porzio, but his campaign was stopped by the sudden outbreak of an epidemic (malaria or the plague), which threatened to destroy the Imperial army and drove the emperor as a fugitive to Germany, where he remained for the ensuing six years. During this period, Frederick decided conflicting claims to various bishoprics, asserted imperial authority over Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary, initiated friendly relations with the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus, and tried to come to a better understanding with Henry II of England and Louis VII of France. Many Swabian counts, including his cousin the young Duke of Swabia, Frederick IV, died in 1167, so he was able to organize a new mighty territory in the Duchy of Swabia under his reign in this time. His little son Frederick V became the new Duke of Swabia.
In 1174, Frederick made his fifth expedition to Italy but was opposed by the pro-papal Lombard League, which had previously formed to stand against him. With the refusal of Henry the Lion to bring help to Italy, the campaign was a complete failure. Frederick suffered a heavy defeat at the Battle of Legnano near Milan, on May 29 1176, where he was wounded and for some time was believed to be dead. He had no choice other than to begin negotiations for peace with Alexander III and the Lombard League. In the Peace of Venice, 1177, Frederick and Alexander III reconciled. The Emperor acknowledged the Pope's sovereignty over the Papal States, and in return Alexander acknowledged the Emperor's overlordship of the Imperial Church. The Lombard cities, however, continued to fight until 1183, when, in the Peace of Constance, Frederick conceded their right to freely elect town magistrates.
Frederick did not forgive Henry the Lion for refusing to come to his aid in 1174. By 1180, Henry had successfully established a powerful and contiguous state comprising Saxony, Bavaria and substantial territories in the north and east of Germany. Taking advantage of the hostility of other German princes to Henry, Frederick had Henry tried in absentia by a court of bishops and princes in 1180, declared that Imperial law overruled traditional German law, and had Henry stripped of his lands and declared an outlaw. He then invaded Saxony with an Imperial army to bring his cousin to his knees. Henry's allies deserted him, and he finally had to submit in November 1181. He spent three years in exile at the court of his father-in-law Henry II of England in Normandy, before being allowed back into Germany. He finished his days in Germany, as much-diminished Duke of Brunswick. He lived a relatively quiet life, sponsoring arts and architecture.
After making his peace with the Pope, Frederick embarked on the Third Crusade (1189), a massive expedition in conjunction with the French, led by king Philip Augustus, and the English, under Richard the Lionheart. He organized a grand army of 100,000 men (including 20,000 knights) and set out on the overland route to the Holy Land. However, some historians believe that this is an exaggeration and that the true figure might be closer to 15,000 men, including 3,000 knights.
The Crusaders passed through Hungary and Serbia and then entered Byzantine territory, arriving at Constantinople in the autumn of 1189. From there they pushed on through Anatolia (where they were victorious in taking Aksehir and Konya) and Cilician Armenia. The approach of the immense German army greatly concerned Saladin and the other Muslim leaders, who began to rally troops of their own and prepare to confront Barbarossa's forces.
However, on 10 June 1190, Frederick died while crossing the Saleph River (now known as Göksu) in Cilicia, south-eastern Anatolia. The exact circumstances are unknown to Western scholars (Islamic scholars of the time related his death to the will of God). Western scholars suggest that he was jumping in when the shock of the cold water caused him to have a heart attack at the age of 67 or 68. Weighed down by his mail armour, he drowned in water that was barely hip-deep, according to the chronicler Ali ibn al-Athir. The armour of the day, designed to be as light as possible, was probably not heavy enough to cause a healthy man to drown in hip-deep waters; however, some reenactors and living historians argue that, in light of Frederick's advanced age, the weight of the armour plus the difficulty of struggling through water (not something many armoured men would be accustomed to), could have forced him under before reaching shore. It is also possible that the river current, perhaps combined with a slippery bottom, swept him off his feet.
Frederick's death plunged his army into chaos. Leaderless, panicked, and attacked on all sides by Turks, many Germans deserted, were killed, or even committed suicide. Only 5,000 soldiers, a small fraction of the original forces, arrived in Acre. Barbarossa's son, Frederick VI of Swabia carried on with the remnants of the army, with the aim of burying the Emperor in Jerusalem, but efforts to conserve his body in vinegar failed. Hence, his flesh was interred in the Church of St. Peter in Antiochia, his bones in the cathedral of Tyre, and his heart and inner organs in Tarsus. Frederick's early death left the Crusader army under the command of the rivals Philip II of France and Richard I of England ("Lionheart"), who had traveled to Palestine separately by sea, and ultimately led to its dissolution. Richard Lionheart continued to the East where he fought Saladin, but ended without accomplishing the Crusaders' main goal, the capture of Jerusalem and the Holy Land.