The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Frederick I (emperor)

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FREDERICK I, surnamed Barbarossa or Red Beard, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, son of Frederick, Duke of Suabia: b. 1123; d. June 1190. He was chosen to succeed his uncle, Conrad III, in 1152. He was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle a few days after his election. His great ambition was to secure the independence of the empire and, above all, to be master of Italy. His first expedition to Italy was made in 1154, when, after subduing several towns in Lombardy, he went to Rome, and after some delays, had himself crowned emperor by Adrian IV (18 June 1155). He marched again into Italy in 1158, took Brescia and Milan, and at the celebrated Diet at Roncaglia assumed the sovereignty of the towns and received the homage of the lords. On his return to Germany he triumphed over Bohemia, and made Poland tributary to the empire. After the death of Pope Adrian, Frederick had three anti-popes in succession elected in opposition to Alexander III, who excommunicated him and his pope, Victor. The same year, 1160, he besieged and took Crema, after a most courageous defense. In 1162 he conquered Milan, and had many of the public buildings destroyed, as well as parts of the fortifications; after which the other towns of Lombardy submitted to him. In 1166, he traversed the Romagna, levied contributions on the towns, besieged Ancona and had himself crowned a second time at Rome by the anti-pope, Pascal, but pestilence broke out in his army and he was forced to return to Germany. In 1174 he besieged unsuccessfully the newly founded town of Alessandria, and in 1176 was totally defeated by the Milanese at Como. This reverse was not lost on him, for it changed his policy of repression. In 1183 he made peace with the Pope and the towns of Lombardy. In 1188 he assumed the cross, set out in the following year on the third crusade, was opposed on the march by the Greek emperor and the sultan, arrived in Asia, and was drowned while crossing a river.

Frederick was great, not only as a soldier, but as a ruler. His administration was marked by justice, his subordinate officers were chosen for their capacity and probity, he was himself an educated man and promoted education and literature. His politic measures held in check the power of the nobles of Germany by the granting of municipal privileges to the cities. His memory is still cherished among the peasants of Germany, who dream of the return of Fritz Redbeard, as the Welsh did of King Arthur. Consult Prutz, ‘Kaiser Friedrich I’ (1871-73); Fischer, ‘Kreuzzug Friedrich I’ (1870).