King Manfred of Sicily - Hollywood’s next hero?

On This Day: 26 February 1266 - King Manfred of Sicily died

When I first started reading about King Manfred of Sicily I immediately thought ‘film plot’. Here was the quintessential good guy of the people. The illegitimate son who nobly stepped aside from all the riches that could so easily have been his when the absentee legitimate brother came back on a whim to relish in the spoils of a new kingdom. Here was the little guy, beloved by the people, who stood up on their behalf to fight off the big bullies in the playground (namely the Pope). And who fought through all manner of troubles to eventually be crowned King. The only slight snag is that he didn’t get to ride off into the sunset with a beautiful girl all Kingdom of Heaven style but was instead brutally killed in battle shortly after coronation and his wife cruelly imprisoned for the rest of her short life, however I suppose that’s what artistic licence is for. 

Manfredo da Sicília Divina Comédia

King Manfred of Sicily
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Although initially illegitimate his father, King Frederick, married his mother on her death bed and left Manfred a series of bequests and instructions befitting a King’s son when he himself died. These Manfred appears to have carried out to the letter despite the popular favour riding with him and the easy possibility of ridding himself of this brother no-one knew or cared for. This was a time ruled by excessive greed of men wanting to take home as many marbles from the playground as they could fit into their overlarge pockets. It was a time of brutality, of stamping over the little people and of vast, impossible wealth. 

Manfred, who seems unusually moral for these strange times, had more than just a greedy big brother to contend with to protect his people. Successive Pope’s, wanting control over Sicily, caused him no end of bother and became increasingly aggrieved that he did not cower under their threats to excommunicate him (normally a pretty dominant weapon in those God fearing times). When religion failed they turned to force, sending army after army in to conquer this troublesome thorn in their side, yet time and time again he threw them back until, in 1266, hugely outnumbered by the vast army of the Count of Anjou (another papal playmate) he was finally, devastatingly beaten. Refusing to flee and determined to protect his people to the end, King Manfred charged. With a band of his most faithful friends he ran straight into the heart of the enemies forces and was dashed to pieces by the remorseless killers. A mad act perhaps but one could never fault him for style. 

© Isla Robertson 2017