The Crusades >>
The Fourth Crusade >> Empires
Not long after Alexius made himself emperor, Philip of Swabia
married Irene Angelus. Philip was the brother of Emperor Henry VI. Irene was the
daughter of the deposed emperor Isaac II. Henry, as King of Sicily, was heir to
all the old Norman claims to Greek territories they had once conquered. So now
the Hohenstaufen had a direct interest through Irene in the claims of Isaac II
against his brother.
Henry VI was in fact on the verge of calling a new crusade, to be directed
against Constantinople, after which he would command the combined strengths of
the empires against Jerusalem. This scheme never got off the ground because
Henry died in 1197. But the idea of somehow taking over the Greek Empire and
using its resources in support of the liberation of Jerusalem was an attractive
one to Westerners. They would pick it up again.
In 1197, however, the Holy Roman Empire was in no position to do much of
anything. Henry VI had been Holy Roman Emperor, King of Sicily, King of
Burgundy, King of the Romans, and King of Italy. His son, however, was only an
infant and was in no position to rule. In Germany there promptly rose two
rivals: Philip of Swabia and Otto of Brunswick. Both, of course, had been
elected by a faction of German princes. Neither were able to make their presence
felt even in Italy, much less in Sicily, and even less could either of them
contemplate going on Crusade. They might lend support but not much more.
Otto was supported by the third factor in our equation: Pope Innocent III.