Roger II, King of Sicily

This cultured but energetic ruler left behind him ‘a governmental machine that was the wonder and envy of Europe’.

Detail of the mosaic with Roger II receiving the crown from Christ, Martorana, Palermo.

Few kingdoms have had more inauspicious beginnings than the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. By the year 1130 Count Roger II de Hauteville had already reigned in Palermo for a quarter of a century, since his childhood; and after his acquisition, two years before, of the duchies of Apulia and Calabria, he had become one of the richest and most powerful rulers of Europe.

But a royal crown still eluded him; and he knew that without one he would never be able to treat with his fellow-monarchs on equal terms or to weld his three dominions into a single state. Finally, on Christmas Day 1130, he achieved what he had so long desired; but the crown that was laid on his head on that day in Palermo Cathedral was to prove, for most of the next decade, more of a liability than an asset.

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