Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor14th century miniature of Conrad II.
Conrad II (c. 990–June 4, 1039) was the son of a mid-level nobleman in Franconia, Count Henry of Speyer and Adelaide of Alsace, who inherited the titles of count of Speyer and of Worms as an infant when Henry died at age twenty. As he matured he came to be well known beyond his power base in Worms and Speyer, so when the Saxon line died off and the elected monarchy for the German realm stood vacant, he was elected King of Germany in 1024 at the respectably old age of thirty-four years and crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on March 26, 1027, becoming the first of four kings and emperors of the Salian Dynasty.
Early lifeSalian family tree
He was reputed to be prudent and firm out of consciousness of deprivation. In 1016, he married Gisela of Swabia, a widowed duchess. Both parties claimed descent from Charles the Great (Charlemagne) and were thus distantly related.
Strict canonists took exception to the marriage, and Emperor Henry II used this to force Conrad into temporary exile.
They became reconciled, and upon Henry's death in 1024, Conrad appeared as a candidate before the electoral assembly of princes at Kamba in the Rhineland. He was elected by the majority and was crowned king in Mainz on September 8, 1024, arguably in the prime of life. It was equally obvious that the Saxon line of Emperors was at an end, and all of Europe speculated and maneuvered to influence the Prince-electors in unseemly disrespect for the aging Henry II
The Italian bishops paid homage at Conrad's court at Konstanz in June 1025, but lay princes sought to elect William V of Aquitaine, as king instead. However early in 1026 Conrad went to Milan, where Ariberto, archbishop of Milan, crowned him king of Italy. After overcoming some opposition of the towns Conrad reached Rome, where Pope John XIX crowned him emperor on Easter, 1027.
He formally confirmed the popular legal traditions of Saxony and issued new constitutions for Lombardy. In 1028 at Aachen he had his son Henry elected and anointed king of Germany. Henry married Gunhilda of Denmark, daughter of King Canute the Great of England, Denmark and Norway by Emma of Normandy. This was an arrangement that Conrad had made many years prior, when he gave Canute the Great parts of northern Germany to administer. Henry, the later Emperor Henry III, became chief counselor of his father.
Conrad campaigned against Poland in 1028 and forced Mieszko II, son and heir of Boleslaus I, to make peace and return land that Boleslaw I had conquered from the Empire during his father's reign. At the death of Henry II the bold and rebellious Duke of Poland Mieszko II had tried to throw off vassalage, but then submitted and swore to be Emperor Conrad's faithful vassal. Mieszko II quit being self-anointed king and returned to being duke of Poland.
In 1029 some Bavarian border conflicts undermined the good relations with Stephen I of Hungary. One year later Conrad launched a campaign against Hungary. The Hungarians successfully used the scorched earth tactics and the emperor had to withdraw with his army. Finally the Hungarian army forced him to surrender at Vienna. After his defeat Conrad was obliged to cede some border territory to Hungary.
When Rudolph III, King of Burgundy died on February 2, 1032, he bequeathed his kingdom, which combined two earlier kingdoms of Burgundy, to Conrad. Despite some opposition, the Burgundian and Provencal nobles paid homage to Conrad in Zürich in 1034. This kingdom of Burgundy, which under Conrad's successors would become known as the Kingdom of Arles, corresponded to most of the southeastern quarter of modern France and included western Switzerland, the Franche-Comté and Dauphiné. It did not include the smaller Duchy of Burgundy to the north, ruled by a cadet branch of the Capetian King of France. (Piecemeal over the next centuries most of the former Kingdom of Arles was incorporated into France - but King of Arles remained one of the Holy Roman Emperor's subsidiary titles until the dissolution of the Empire in 1806.)
Conrad upheld the rights of the valvassores (knights and burghers of the cities) of Italy against Archbishop Aribert of Milan and the local nobles. The nobles as vassal lords and the bishop had conspired to rescind rights from the burghers. With skillful diplomacy and luck Conrad restored order.
Last yearsThe grave of Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor at the crypt of the cathedral of Speyer, Germany
In 1038, Prince Guaimar IV of Salerno requested his adjudication in a dispute over Capua with its Prince Pandulf, whom Conrad had released from imprisonment in 1024, immediately after his coronation. Hearing that Michael IV the Paphlagonian of the Byzantine Empire had received the same request, Conrad went to Southern Italy, to Salerno and Aversa.
He appointed Richer, from Germany, as abbot of Monte Cassino, the abbot Theobald being imprisoned by Pandulf. At Troia, he ordered Pandulf to restore stolen property to Monte Cassino. Pandulf sent his wife and son to ask for peace, giving 300 lb of gold and a son and daughter as hostages. The emperor accepted Pandulf's offer, but the hostage escaped and Pandulf holed up in his outlying castle of Sant'Agata dei Goti. Conrad besieged and took Capua and gave it to Guaimar with the title of Prince. He also recognised Aversa as a county of Salerno under Ranulf Drengot, the Norman adventurer. Pandulf, meanwhile, fled to Constantinople. Conrad thus left the Mezzogiorno firmly in Guaimar's hands and loyal, for once, to the Holy Roman Empire.
During the return trip to Germany an epidemic broke out among the troops. Conrad's daughter-in-law and stepson died. Conrad himself returned safely and held several important courts in Solothurn, Strasbourg and in Goslar. His son Henry was invested with the kingdom of Burgundy.
A year later in 1039 Conrad fell ill and died in Utrecht.
Depictions of Conrad II
The Basilica of Aquileia (northern Italy) contains an apse fresco (c. 1031) showing emperor Conrad II, his wife Gisela of Swabia and Patriarch Poppone of Aquileia.
- Kings of Germany family tree. He was related to every other king of Germany.
Henry IIKing of Germany
Henry IIIHoly Roman Emperor
1027–1039 King of Italy
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