Robert of Anjou (Italian: Roberto d'Angiò), known as Robert the Wise (Italian: Roberto il Saggio; 1275 – 20 January 1343), was King of Naples, titular King of Jerusalem and Count of Provence and Forcalquier from 1309 to 1343, the central figure of Italian politics of his time.[1] He was the third son of King Charles II of Naples and Maria of Hungary, and during his father's lifetime he was styled Duke of Calabria (1296–1309).


Robert was born around 1275, the third son of the future Charles II of Naples (then heir apparent) and his wife Mary. His father was the son of the King of Naples, Charles of Anjou, who had established an Italian realm nine years earlier in 1266. During the Sicilian Vespers in 1282 against his grandfather Charles, the little child Robert, aged only seven, was the hostage of Peter III of Aragon, his grandfather's enemy. Three years later, his grandfather would die at the age of 59 at Foggia in Italy, when Robert was still a little child at ten years old, leading to his father (then a hostage) becoming King of Naples as Charles II, with little Robert's adolescent brother, Charles Martel of Anjou as heir apparent. Charles Martel would have a son three years later, the future Charles I of Hungary, when Robert was 13 years old.

After the death of his elder brother, Charles Martel of Anjou in 1295, Robert, by now an adult, became heir to the crown of Naples (though his little nephew could just as rightfully be King Charles II's heir);[2] to obtain the crown of neighbouring Sicily, he married King James of Sicily's sister Yolanda, in exchange for James's renounciation of Sicily. However, the Sicilian barons refused him and elected James' brother, Frederick II. The war continued, and with the Peace of Caltabellotta (1302) Robert and the Angevin dynasty lost Sicily forever, their rule limited to the south of peninsular Italy.

Robert inherited the position of papal champion in Italy; his reign being blessed from the papal enclave within Robert's Provence, by the French Pope Clement V, who made him papal vicar in Romagna and Tuscany, where Robert intervened in the war of factions in Florence, accepted the offered signiory of that city, but had to abandon it due to Clement's opposition.[3]

The leader of the Guelph party in Italy, Robert opposed the sojourn of Emperor Henry VII in Italy (1311–13) and his occupation of Rome in 1312. After Henry's death, the Guelph reaction against the Ghibelline leaders in northern Italy, Matteo Visconti and Cangrande della Scala, made it seem for a time that Robert would become the arbiter of Italy.[4] Already ruler of wide possessions in Piedmont, Robert's prestige increased further when in 1317 the pope named him Senator of Rome, and when he became Lord of Genoa (1318–34) and Brescia (1319) and from 1317 onwards held the resounding papal title of vicar general of all Italy, during the absence in Italy of the Holy Roman Emperor, vacante imperio.[5]

In 1328 he fought another emperor who had ventured into Italy, Louis IV of Bavaria, and in 1330 forced John of Bohemia to quit northern Italy. Robert's hegemony in Italy was diminished only by the constant menace of Aragonese Sicily.

Silver gigliato of Robert I of Anjou King of Naples, 1309-1343.

When the succession to the margraviate of Saluzzo was disputed between Manfred V and his nephew Thomas II in 1336, Robert intervened on behalf of Manfred, for Thomas had married into the Ghibelline Visconti family. Robert advanced on Saluzzo and besieged it. He succeeded in taking it and sacking it, setting the city on fire and imprisoning Thomas, who had to pay a ransom. The whole dramatic incident is recorded by Silvio Pellico. However, when his viceroy Reforza d'Angoult was defeated in the Battle of Gamenario (22 April 1345), Angevin power in Piedmont began to crumble. With his second wife Sancha of Majorca, Robert established the court of Naples as a center of early Renaissance culture and of religious dissent, supporting the Joachimite prophesies of the Spiritual Franciscans. [6]

At Robert's death in 1343, he was succeeded by his 16-year-old granddaughter, Joanna I of Naples, his son Charles having predeceased him in 1328. Joanna was already betrothed to her cousin, the 15-year-old Andrew of Hungary, son of the Angevin king of Hungary, Charles Robert. In his last will and testament Robert explicitly excluded the claims of Andrew of Hungary, clearly mandated that he become prince of Salerno and specified that Joanna alone assume the crown in her own right, to be succeeded by her legitimate offspring. If she were to die without heir, her younger sister Maria, newly named the duchess of Calabria, and her legitimate offspring would inherit the throne. There is no mention in the will that Andrew be crowned king; and this historiographical tradition is largely the result of later historians' accepting without examination the assertions of Hungarian royal propaganda following Andrew's murder at Aversa in 1345. This propaganda, the Hungarian assault on Joanna following the murder of Andrew, and the invasion of the Regno by Louis I of Hungary eventually led to the end of Angevin rule in Naples.[7]


King Robert was nicknamed "the peace-maker of Italy" due to the years of significant changes he made to Naples. The city and nation's economy lay in the hands of Tuscan merchants, who erected superb buildings, monuments and statues that drastically changed King Robert's capital from a dirty seaport to a city of elegance and medieval splendor. Robert commissioned Tino di Camaino to produce a tomb for his son, who should have been his heir, and Giotto painted several works for him. The University of Naples flourished under the patronage of the king dismissed by Dante as a re di sermone, "king of words", attracting students from all parts of Italy.[8] There was virtually no middle class in the South to balance the local interests and centripetal power of the entrenched aristocracy, who retained the feudal independence that had been their bargain with the Angevins' Norman predecessors.

He was remembered by Petrarch and Boccaccio as a cultured man and a generous patron of the arts, "unique among the kings of our day," Boccaccio claimed after Robert's death, "a friend of knowledge and virtue."[9] Petrarch asked to be examined by Robert before being crowned as poet in the Campidoglio in Rome (1341); his Latin epic Africa is dedicated to Robert, though it was not made available to readers until 1397, long after both Petrarch and Robert were dead.


By his first wife, Yolanda, daughter of King Peter III of Aragon, Robert had two sons:

  • Charles (1298–1328), Duke of Calabria (1309), Viceroy of Naples (1318), who was the father of Queen Joanna I
  • Louis (1301–10)

Robert's second marriage, to Sancia, daughter of King James II of Majorca, was childless. He had the following extramarital children:

  • Charles d'Artois, member of the regency council and grand chamberlain for Queen Joanna I, executed for murder of King Andrew
  • Maria d'Aquino (Boccaccio's Fiammetta)
  • Helene, who fell in love with and married Andrea Thopia, Lord of Matija, without father's consent. Helene was due to marry (possibly) Philip, son of Baldwin II, when this happened. Thopia's emblem contains three lilies separated by a dotted line, indicating an illegitimate child. Andrea and Helene had Charles (named after his famous grand grandparent), Georges and Helena together.

King Robert's last descendant through a legitimate line was Queen Joanna II of Naples.


Other sources


  1. ^ H. Hearder and D.P. Waley, eds., A Short History of Italy (Cambridge University Press) 1963, pp 60f.
  2. ^ While Robert's nephew Charles Robert of Anjou could have succeeded just as rightfully, being the son of Charles Martel, he was preoccupied with obtaining the Hungarian crown (which he accomplished in 1310) and did not press his claim to the throne of Naples. Robert was the heir in proximity of blood.
  3. ^ Later, the Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani, recalled Robert with respect.
  4. ^ Alessandro Barbero, Il mito angioino nella cultural italiana e provenziale fra duecento e trecento (Turin, 1983).
  5. ^ Gennaro Maria Monti, "La dottrina anti-imperiale dei angioini di Napoli: i loro vicariati imperiali e Bartolomeo di Capua", Studi in onore di A. Solmi vol. ii (Milan, 1940, noted in Kelly p. 11 note 24
  6. ^ Ronald G. Musto, "Franciscan Joachimism at the Court of Naples, 1309-1345: A New Appraisal," Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 90.3-4 (1997): 419-86
  7. ^ Ronald G. Musto, Medieval Naples: A Documentary History, 400-1400. A Documentary History of Naples. [1]. New York: Italica Press, 2013, "The Angevins: Robert of Anjou, Giovanna I," pp. 192-298
  8. ^ Short History p 60.
  9. ^ Kelly, Samantha, The New Solomon: Robert of Naples (1309-1343) and Fourteenth-Century Kingship, page 2 Google Books
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles II
King of Naples
Succeeded by
Joanna I
Count of Provence and Forcalquier