11 September 2023

BOOK: Willem ZWALVE, Power and Authority. A Trial of Two Swords. A History of the Union of the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Sicily (1186-1250) (The Hague: Eleven Publishing, 2023), 631 p. ISBN 9789462363410, € 50


(image source: Eleven)


On 27 January 1186 the German king Henry VI, son and heir of the Roman Emperor Frederick I ‘Barbarossa’, married Constance of Hauteville, heir to the throne of Sicily, in the Basilica of St Ambrose in Milan. The royal wedding sealed the union of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Holy Roman Empire, creating an enormous empire stretching from the shores of the North Sea to the beaches of Africa. The union also incited a major geopolitical conflict dominating European politics in the thirteenth century since it seriously compromised the sovereignty which the Roman papacy professed to exercise over all Christendom as well as the territorial integrity of the Papal State. Consequently, succeeding popes ( Innocent III, Gregory IX and Innocent IV) endeavoured to undo that union at all costs. The ensuing struggle between the Roman papacy and the Hohenstaufen emperors culminated in the deposition of the Emperor Frederick II by Pope Innocent IV on the First Council of Lyon in 1245, resulting in the final dissolution of the union of the Empire and the Kingdom of Sicily and the extermination of the Hohenstaufen race. By inviting a foreign prince, Charles of Anjou, brother to King Louis IX of France, to fight the last of the Hohenstaufens, papal politics ultimately turned the Italian peninsula into a battlefield for the two major powers of early-modern Europe: Spain and France. The origins, the vicissitudes, and the consequences of the union of the Empire and the Kingdom of Sicily are the subject of the first part of this book. The second part deals with the trial of Frederick II at Lyon, the court and its competence, the law involved and, lastly, the execution and aftermath of the sentence of the court.

On the author:

Willem Jans Zwalve was born in Groningen in the Netherlands in 1949. He studied law in the University of Groningen, writing his doctoral thesis on a subject of Roman civil procedure. Since then, he has written extensively on Roman law, comparative legal history, and Anglo-American and Dutch private law. His most recent book, Publiciteit van Jurisprudentie (2013), co-authored with his friend and colleague Corjo Jansen, is a comprehensive history of European law reporting. Willem Zwalve was Professor of Jurisprudence in Groningen University since 1987; Professor of Legal History in Leiden University since 1993; Professor of Anglo-American Private Law in Groningen University since 1994 and in the Nij megen Radboud University since 2009, retiring in 2014. He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and lives in Leiden with his wife Titia, also a lawyer. They have two children and three grandchildren. 

(source: Eleven

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