Roger II of Sicily

Roger II (1093-February 26, 1154), son and successor of Roger I, began his rule in 1112. It is Roger II's distinction to have united all the Norman conquests into one kingdom and to have granted them a scientific, personal and centralized government.


Rise to power in southern Italy

When William the duke of Apulia, son of Roger Borsa and grandson of Robert Guiscard, died childless in June of 1127, Roger claimed all Hauteville possessions and the overlordship of Capua. However the union of Sicily and Apulia was resisted by Honorius II and by the subjects of the duchy itself. At Capua (Dec. 1127), the pope preached a crusade against Roger, setting Robert II of Capua and Ranulf of Alife (brother-in-law of Roger) against him. However this coalition failed, and in August 1128 Honorius invested Roger at Benevento as duke of Apulia. The baronial resistance, which was backed by Naples, Bari, Salerno and other cities whose aim was civic freedom gave way. In September of 1129 Roger was generally recognized as duke by Naples, Capua, and the rest. He began at once to enforce order in the Hauteville possessions, where the ducal power had long been fading. For the binding together of all his states the royal name seemed essential, and the death of Honorius in February 1130, followed by a double election, appeared the decisive moment. While Innocent II fled to France, Roger supported Anacletus II. The price was a crown, and on the 27th of September 1130 a bull of Anacletus made Roger king of Sicily. He was crowned in Palermo on the 25th of December 1130.

This plunged Roger into a ten-year war. Bernard of Clairvaux, Innocent's champion, built up a coalition against Anacletus and his "half heathen king". He was joined by Louis VI of France, Henry I of England and the emperor Lothar. Meanwhile South Italy revolted. The rebels defeated the king at Nocera on the 24th of July 1132. Nevertheless, by July 1134 his troops forced Ranulf, Sergius, duke of Naples, and the rebels to submit, while Robert was expelled from Capua. Meanwhile Lothar's contemplated attack upon Roger had gained the backing of Pisa, Genoa and the Greek emperor, each of whom feared the growth of a powerful Norman kingdom. In February 1137 Lothar began to move south and was joined by Ranulf and the rebels. In June he besieged and took Ban. At San Sevenino, after a victorious campaign, he and the pope jointly invested Ranuif as duke of Apulia (August 1137), and the emperor then retired to Germany. Roger, freed from the utmost danger, recovered ground, sacked Capua and forced Sergius to acknowledge him as overlord of Naples. At Rignano Ranulf again defeated the king, but in April 1139 Ranulf died. Roger then subdued the last of the rebels.

After the death of Anacletus (January 1138) Roger decided to seek the confirmation of his title from Innocent. The pope, invading the kingdom with a large army, was skillfully ambushed at Galuccio (July 22, 1139). After the king's victory on the 25th July, the pope invested him as "Rex Siciliae ducatus Apuliae et principatus Capuae." The boundaries of the regno were finally fixed by a truce with the pope in October 1144. These lands were for the next seven centuries to constitute the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily.

Roger had now become one of the greatest kings in Europe. At Palermo Roger drew round him distinguished men of various races, such as the famous Arab geographer Idrisi and the historian Nilus Doxopatrius. The king welcomed the learned and he maintained a complete toleration for the several creeds, races and languages of his realm. He was served by men of nationality so dissimilar as the Englishman Thomas Brun, a kaid of the Curia, and, in the fleet, by the renegade Muslim Christodoulos, and the Antiochene George, whom he made in 1132 "amiratus amiratorum," in effect prime vizier.

Roger made Sicily the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean. A powerful fleet was built up under several admirals, or "emirs," of whom the greatest was George of Antioch, formerly in the service of the Muslim prince of El Mehdia. Mainly by him a series of conquests were made on the African coast (1135-53) which reached from Tripoli to Cape Bona.

The Second Crusade (1147-48) offered Roger an opportunity to revive Robert Guiscard's designs on the Greek Empire. George was sent to Corinth at the end of 1147 and despatched an army inland which plundered Thebes. In June 1149 the admiral appeared before Constantinople and defied the Byzantine emperor by firing arrows against the palace windows. Yet the attack on the empire had no enduring results. The king died at Palermo on the 26th of February 1154, and was succeeded by his fourth son William.

Roger II's elaborate coronation cloak, later used by the Holy Roman Emperors, is now in the Imperial Treasury (Schatzkammer) in Vienna. For a picture and description, see [1] (


Roger II's first marriage was to Elvira Alfonso of Castile, a daughter of King Alfonso VI of Castile. When she died in 1135, rumors flew that Roger had died as well, as his grief had made him a recluse. Their sons were:

  1. Roger, Count of Lecce (died 1148)
  2. Tancred (died 1143)
  3. Alphonse (died 1144)
  4. William I of Sicily

Roger II married secondly to Sibyl of Burgundy, daughter of Hugh II, Duke of Burgundy, but she died a year later in 1150. His third marriage was to Beatrix of Rethel, a grandniece of King Baldwin II of Jerusalem. Beatrix bore him a posthumous daughter, Constance of Sicily.

Jolly Roger

In his book "Pirates & The Lost Templar Fleet," David Hatcher Childress claims that the term Jolly Roger was coined after the King Roger, the first man to fly the flag. Childress claims that, many years later after the Templars were disbanded by the church, at least one Templar fleet split into four independent fleets that dedicated themselves to pirating ships of any country sympathetic to Rome. The flag was thus an inheritance, and its crossed bones are an obvious reference to the original Templar logo of a red cross with blunted ends.


  • Matthew, Donald. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily (Cambridge Medieval Textbooks), 1992

Template:Succession box two to one
Preceded by:
King of Sicily
Succeeded by:
William I

Template:End box de:Roger II. (Sizilien) fr:Roger II de Hauteville it:Ruggero II di Sicilia ja:ルッジェーロ2世 nl:Rogier II van Sicili scn:Ruggeru II di Sicilia


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