Frederick II (1194 - 1250), also known as "Stupor mundi" (wonder of the world). Holy Roman Emperor. King of Italy, Sicily, Germany and Jerusalem. Grandson of Frederick I.
He was the son of emperor Henry VI of the Hohenstaufen dynasty and of Constance, heiress to the Norman kings of Sicily.
His political and cultural ambitions were enormous as he ruled a vast area, beginning with Sicily and stretching through Italy all the way north to Germany. At the age of three, he was crowned King of Sicily as a co-ruler with his mother, Constance of Hauteville, the daughter of Roger II of Sicily. His other royal title was King of Jerusalem by virtue of marriage and his connection with the Sixth Crusade. Frequently at war with the papacy, which was hemmed in between Frederick's lands in northern Italy and his Kingdom of Sicily (the Regno) to the south, he was excommunicated four times and often vilified in pro-papal chronicles of the time and after. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him an Antichrist.
Speaking six languages (Latin, Sicilian, Middle High German, Langues d'oïl, Greek and Arabic), Frederick was an avid patron of science and the arts. He played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry. His Sicilian royal court in Palermo, beginning around 1220, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. The poetry that emanated from the school had a significant influence on literature and on what was to become the modern Italian language. He was also the first king to formally outlaw trial by ordeal, which had come to be viewed as superstitious.
After his death his line did not survive, and the House of Hohenstaufen came to an end. Furthermore, the Holy Roman Empire entered a long period of decline from which it did not completely recover until the reign of Charles V, 250 years later.
Historians have searched for superlatives to describe him, as in the case of Donald Detwiler, who wrote: “A man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability – called by a contemporary chronicler stupor mundi (the wonder of the world), by Nietzsche the first European, and by many historians the first modern ruler – Frederick established in Sicily and southern Italy something very much like a modern, centrally governed kingdom with an efficient bureaucracy.”
- "His hair, the red hair of the Hohenstaufem was receding slightly." https://books.google.it/
- "His talents earned the stocky, red-haired monarch the nickname stupor mundi, "the world's wonder." http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art57.htm
- "A well-built man of middling height, he had the red hair of his German forebears, green eyes and sensual lips" https://books.google.it/books
- "A Damascene chronicler, Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, left a physical description of Frederick based on the testimony of those who had seen the emperor in person in Jerusalem: "The Emperor was covered with red hair, was bald and myopic. Had he been a slave, he would not have fetched 200 dirhams at market." Frederick's eyes were described variously as blue, or "green like those of a serpent."