German Hohenstaufen Dynasty: Conradin/Conrad the Younger (1252-68)

Figure 1.--Conradin or Conrad the Younger was the son of German Emperor Conrad IV. He is seen here at age 16. He was executed soon after with the support of the pope in 1268. He was the last of the Hohenstaufen male line. This image was painted around 1305-40. I am not sure swho is with him, perhaps a page or Frederick of Baden. A German reader writes, "I think Konradin (1252-1268) is pictured even younger than age 16, meaning before 1267 because at that time he already went to fight in Italy. He could be 13-14 years old here. He’s shown here together with his friend Friedrich who was executed with him, hunting with falcons. I’m only guessing that the second boy is Friedrich of Austria but I think they were very close together. He had no time hunting with falcons once he went to war in Italy." Source: University of Heildelberg.

When Frederick II died (1250) an era of near anarchy ruled in Germany as the German princes vied for control of the Empire in what is known as the The Great Interregnum (1256-73). The uncrowned Conradin was the last of the Hohenstaufens. He was the grandson of Frederick II, and as a teenager sought out to claim his inheritance. After some military victories, he was defeated by a French rival. He was executed at age 16 under the authority of the pope. This extinguished the Hohenstaufen male line. Many romantic German tales developed after the death of the young prince.

Frederick II (1194-1250)

Frederick II was the last Hohenstaufen emperor of Germany. Frederick was the son of Emperor Henry VI and chosen Holy Roman Emperor (1211). Although a German emperor, he was raised in Palermo. Frederick was frequently at war with the German princes and the pope. The pope excommuicated him twice. Once for failing to honor his pledge to lead the Sixth Crudsade. Pope Gregory IX called him the anti-Christ. When Frederick II died (1250) an era of near anarchy ruled in Germany as the German princes vied for control of the Empire in what is known as the The Great Interregnum (1256-73).

Conrad IV (1228-54)

Conrad was the son of Emperor Frederick II. He was born in Apulia in 1228. While his father was still alive and with his backing, Conrad was chosen King of the Germans while he was only 7 years old (about 1235). Because of his father's duspute with the papacy and german princes, Conrad's succession was opposed by the papal faction in Germany. Pope Innocent deposed Frederick (1246) and Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia, was chosen anti-king. After Landgrave Henry died (1247), Count William of Holland emerged as the leader of the opposition to Frederick and was elected King of the Germans. When Emperor Frederick died (1250), Count William contested the succession with Frederick's son Conrad. Conrad achieved some military victories, conquering his native Apulia as well as Capual and Naples and posed a thrreat to the pope. He died very young in 1254 of a feaver after havig been excommunicated by the pope. This left his 2-year old Conradin son and Germany in a very dangerous position. For the next 19 years, Germany had no recognized leader that was able to establish his authority.

Conradin (1252-68)

Conradin is the diminuative of Conrad meaning Conrad the Younger. He was born at Wolfstein in Bavaria in 1252. His titles included duke of Swabia, titular king of Jerusalem and Sicily. He was the last male in the Hohenstaufen (Swabian dynasty) line. He tragically in Italy persuing his dynastic rights againdst thecpopes and the French. His tragic demose has been the subjectc of many romantic accounts in Germany.


Conradin was the son of the German king Conrad IV, and of Elizabeth, daughter of Otto II duke of Bavaria. His grandfather Emperor Friedrich II (Barbarossa) had died 15 months before at Fiorentino (Appulia). Conradin's father was involved in a war with the pope and German princes to establish his claim to the crown. When his father died soon after at Lavello near Mefi of malaria without establishing his claim, Conradin was not crowned (1254).


Conradin was born at Wolfstein Castle near Landshut (now Bavaria) in 1252. Conradin was raised in the court of his uncle and guardian, Louis II, duke of Bavaria. Conradin's mother Elisabeth married Meinhard of Tyrol. Conradin was raised by his unckle Herzog Ludwig der Strenge of Bavaria. Little is known of his childhood. One contemporay source reports that he was "beautiful as Absalom, and spoke good Latin."


His father Contad IV had entrusted him to the guardianship of the church. The pope's hatred of his grandfather and fear of his father carried overv to the son. Pope Innocent IV pursued Conradin with what only can be called relentless. He also hatred and attempted to grant the family pratiomony on others. The Kingdom of Sicily was given to Charles of Anjou. Pope Innocent's successor, Pope Alexander IV, continued the same policy of opposituin to any Hohenstaufen. He offered the Hohenstaufen holdings in Germany to Alfonso X, king of Castile and forbade Conradin's election as German mperor (king of the Romans).

Swabia (1262)

Conradin assumed the title of king of Jerusalem (a Crusader kingdom) and King of Sicily. He took possession of the duchy of Swabia in Germany during 1262 and remained in the dukedom for some time.

Sicily and Manfred (1262-66)

Conrad's uncle Manfred (1232-66) ruled Sicily in Conradin's name as regent. Although known as the Kingdom of Sicily, it included boith Sicily and much of southern Italy. Manfred was probably an illegitimate son of Frederick II. The pope viewing Manfred as another Hohenstaufen tried to have him removed, especially after the death of Conrad IV (1254). Manfred having heard eroniously that Conradin had died, had himself declared king of Sicily (1258). It was at this time that he was asked him to take arms against Manfred. As Conradin was only 10 years old, his guardian Duke Louis of Bavaria refused this request for his nephew. Manfred by force of arms, and assistance of Saracen (Islamic) forces in southern Italy), was able to maintain his positiona against Pope Innocent IV and Alexander IV and Charles I of Anjou to whom the pope gave Sicily. Charles was the brother of King Louis IX of France. He was exccedingly ambitious and a seasoned crusader. (The French monarchy was the perpetual supporter of the papcy in its struggles with the German emoperors.) Manfred's death in the fighting at Benevento (1266) renewed Conradin's interest in reclaiming his Italian dynastic inheritance.

Figure 2.--This illustration was painted by Tischbein (1784). Conradin and Friedrich of Austria are palying chess in captivity when they are told that they are both to be executed. Reportedly they calmly finished their chess match.


Conradin married Sophia von Landberg (1258/59-1318) during September 1266.

Italian campaign (1266-68)

The Ghibelline cities of northern Florence, also fighting with the pope traveled to Bavaria to convince Conradin to launch an italian campaign. The [?true to the Staufer Ghibellinen (named after the town of Waiblingen near Stuttgart) asked Conradin for help. Conradin after Manfred's death (1266) decided to enter the fight to clain his Italian inheritance. Conradin who was only 14 years old, pledging his lands and crossed the Alps from Bavaria with his uncle Duke Louis. He issued a manifesto at Verona in which he stated his claim on Sicily.

Conradin encountered many difficulties. His uncle Duke Louis and other companions returned to Germany. Pope Clement IV threatened excomunication. Money was very limited to finance his army. Even so he proclaimed himself king of Sicily and his supporters in both northern and southern Italy took up arms in his name. The people in Rome received an envoy he dispatchesd with some enthusiam. Conradin in 1267 with a party of 3000 knights campaigned via Ravensburg, Verona, Pisa, Siena, and Rome in 1268. These were all towns of the Ghibellines. King Conradin was enthusiastically received in Pavia and Pisa. The pope excomunicated him, like his grandfather, father, and uncle (November 1267). Even so, Conradin's fleet achieved a victory over that of Duke Charles who after Manfred's deathb had taken control of Sicily with the pope's blessing. Conradin enter Rome with great popular support (July 1268). They departed Rome to move south (August 18) to move south anf join with saracen forces at Lucera. They believed that the fight was already won. They were preparing plans as to how the Sicily should be dividred. It was then they met Charles's forces at Tagliacozzo (August 23, 1268) and in part because of his army's concern with plunder lost the battle.


Conradin fled north after Tagliacozzo. First to Rome and then to Astura, where he hoped he could sail to Sicily and continue the war. He was betrayed and arrested by Giovanni Frangipani, who sold him to Charles. He was brought to Naples, imprisoned in the Castel del Ovo. Charles had him tried as a traitor. He was condemned to death for treason to the Church and to the king. Twelve true followers, Italians and Germans alike, including Frederick of Baden, titular duke of Austria, were beheaded with him in the public market place of Naples (October 29, 1268). Another one of his followers that were executed was Markgraf Friedrich of Baden (nephew of Hermann V of Baden, founder of Stuttgart) who was 3 years older that Conradin. Conradin right befire his execution reportedly adressed his dying words to his mother. “Oh Mutter, welches Leiden bereite ich dir!“ ("Oh mother what sorrows I give to you!“) Conradin's death meant that the male line of the Hohenstaufen line was extinct. They were buried on the beach of Naples.

Figure 3.--Here is an heroic depiction of Conradin's execution. He is reported to have said “Oh Mutter, welches Leiden bereite ich dir!“ (Oh mother what sorrows I give to you!) I'n not sure who did this illustration, but it looks modern.


The story of Conradin has veen the subject of several romantic German accounts. This is in part because of his youth and compeling story and two minsteral songs he composed. Both are part of 14th century Manesse manuscript, a collection of medieval German lyrics, carefully preserved at the UNiversity of Heidelberg. Various authors have dranatized his life and tragic fate of Conradin to the extent that it is difficult to separation truth from fiction. There are many images from Conradin's life, but none or contempraty. Most are 18th and 19th century rather romantic often dramatic depictions of questionable accuracy, both historically and in termns of the costuming depicted. It is said that Pope, watching a victory of Konradin's forces told Thomas of Aquin, that the greatness of the boy will decline like smoke. And that he will be going to Apulia like to a slaughterhouse. It is said that Conradin and Frederich while playing chessb in captivity learned that they were to be executed, calmly finished the match. It is said furthermore that when Conradin was beheaded, an eagle flew to earth with a scream, dipping its right wing in Conradin's blood before ascended to the sky.


Charles decission to execute Conradin was related to his desire to be procalimed King of Sicily with no disputing dynastic claims. A similar fate awaited many Italian nobels who estates were seized to reward Charles's French followers. This left the French Bourbons as the ruling family. Peter III of Aragon also had a claim to Sicily having married Constance the daughter of Manfred. Charles positioned was weakened after participating with his brother King Louis IX in a failed crusade (1270). While oreapring for another crusade (1282), rebellion broke out in Sicily known as the Sucilian Vespers. Charles dispatched his fleet to Messina. The city held out and was relieved by Peter III, Charles' fleet was destroyed. As an aftermath of the War of Vdspers, the Kingdom of Sicily was split. Peter became King of Sicily and Charles of Anjou became King of Naples.

Resting place

Conradin's mother Elizabeth, daughter of Otto II duke of Bavaria, some years after the execution, built the church Santa Maria del Carmine for his final restingbplace and his remains were reintered there. Conradin's friend Frederick of Baden was alos burried there. Maximilian, crown prince of Bavaria, in 1847 built a marble statue sculpted Thorwaldsen as a memorial. The incription reads, “Chunradus. Dei Gratia Ierusalem Et Sicillie Rex . Dux Swevie” (Konrad king of Jerusalem and Scilly by gods mercy, Dutch of Swabia.)


Few details as to clothing appear in the image of Coinradin here. Conradin wears a long rather shapeless robe with collar detailing. His companion, perhaps a page, appears to be wearing a hooded cassock (figure 1). The modern recreations provide much more detail, but we are unsure about the historical accuracy of the clothing anf hairstyle depictions.


del Giudice. Il Giudizio e la condanna di Corradino (Naples, 1876).

Hampe, K. Geschichte Konradins von Hohenstaufen (Berlin, 1893).

Miller, E. Konradin von Hohenstaufen (Berlin, 1897).

Schirrmacher, F.W. Die letzten Hohenstaufen (Göttingen, 1871).


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Created: September 5, 2003
Last updated: September 16, 2003