Charles II of Anjou (c. 1243 - 1309): Decameron, II.5

Charles II of Anjou, the son of Charles I, King of Naples and Sicily, lived his life against the backdrop of a complex struggle between the houses of Aragon and Anjou for control of Sicily, which had begun with the Sicilian Vespers in 1282 and would continue for the next twenty years.

As a young man, Charles, who had already held various positions in his father's government, wed Mary, the daughter of King Stephen V of Hungary, in 1270. Upon Charles I's death in 1285, Charles II should have inherited the throne; unfortunately, he had been captured the year before in a naval battle with the Aragonese forces and was still a prisoner. To achieve his own liberation, Charles II was forced to cede Sicily to Peter III and pay a substantial ransom.

In a daring move, Pope Nicholas IV crowned Charles II as King of Naples and Sicily in 1289. In the following years, Charles concerned himself largely with negotiating a peace for the "two Sicilies," as his territory was often called. Although a pact of 1295 was largely successful, it was overturned by Frederick III, the Aragonese heir to the throne of Sicily. Backed by popular support, Frederick refused to restore the island to Angevin control and took the throne. After an unsuccessful military campaign on the part of Charles' son, an inglorious peace was reached at Caltabellotta in 1302, wherein Frederick III was confirmed as King of Sicily (but not Naples) and agreed to marry Eleanor, daughter of Charles II.

Despite his failure to regain the territories that his father had ruled, Charles II strategically planned the marriages of his children, strengthening ties with Hungary, Aragon, Piedmont and France, thus assuring the strength of his dynasty for at least a generation to come.

In Decameron II.5, "nostro re Carlo" is mentioned by the mendacious madama Fiordaliso as she invents a tall tale to gain Andreuccio's trust. Fiordaliso says that her husband, a Guelph, was forced to flee Sicily when Angevin rule was overturned, and was thereupon welcomed and protected by Charles II in Naples.

(R.P./N.S.) Adapted from Nitschke, August. s.v. Carlo II d'Angiò. Vol. 20. Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1960. pp. 227-235.; Manselli, Raoul. s.v. Carlo II d'Angiò. Vol. I Enciclopedia dantesca, 5 vols. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1970-78. pp. 836-838.; Toynbee, P. Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante, Oxford: Clarendon, 1968.