Son of Charles II, King of Naples, Robert of Anjou spent a great part of his childhood as a hostage. Along with two of his brothers, Robert had been taken in custody by King Alfonso III of Aragon in 1288 in exchange for the freedom of his father, Charles II, who had been captured in a naval battle with Aragonese forces in 1284. Seven years passed before Charles II was able, through negotiations with Alfonso's successor, James II, to obtain the release of his three sons.
Upon his release, Robert was first made duke of Calabria in 1296, and rose to become viceroy of Sicily in in the same year. Robert's first priority was to regain the island of Sicily, which his grandfather Charles I had lost during the Sicilian Vespers. Unfortunately, the election of Emperor Henry VII in 1310 and his Italian sojourn greatly distracted Robert's attention. Robert was soon proclaimed the leader of the Guelph resistance to the Emperor. He lent no effective support to the Tuscan cities threatened by Imperial forces until the situation had reached its boiling point.
Following the death of Henry VII in 1314, the pope appointed Robert as viceroy of the Empire. Unable to demobilize the Ghibellines in Italy because of pressing concerns in Sicily, Robert was accused of avarice and cowardice. In effect, during his half century of influence in Italian affairs, Robert achieved little of consequence. His efforts to unite all of Italy under his rule (especially between 1319-1324) were unsuccessful, and his attempts to recover Sicily from the Aragonese were equally futile (1325-1341). Furthermore, the death of his only son, Charles, in 1328 raised a problem of succession which Robert addressed by arranging a marriage between Charles' daughter, Giovanna, and the son of Charles Robert, Andrea, thereby uniting the two branches of the Angevin family.
The third tale of the Sixth Day of the Decameron depicts Dego della Ratta, one of the official representatives of King Robert in Florence, in a wretched affair of philandering and bribery surely intended to reflect the baseness of his master.
(R.P./N.S.) Petrucci, Enzo. s.v. Roberto d'Angiò. Vol. 4. Enciclopedia dantesca, 5 vols. Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1970-78. pp. 1000-1004; Toynbee, P. Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968. p. 467.