Many historians believe that because Clement was not in the best health, suffering from a congenital heart murmur, and because he was inexperienced as a politician that these "weaknesses" were turned into "strengths." Because of his sincerity, he drew sympathies from all sides which enabled him to negotiate with all parties with only one objective: Peace. This aided him greatly with the ambitious Frederick Barbarossa, the German King and Emperor, long a thorn in the side of many pontiffs. But Gregory had softened him and it was left to Clement to bring Barbarossa back into the good graces of Holy Mother Church - but only for a time. Clement saw the immense edge of prestige and power of Christian Europe in persuading Frederick to lead a well-formed band of crusaders to the Holy Land to retake Jerusalem. Clement saw that the Holy See could be the unifying factor and clearing house to bring countries of differing cultures together for one cause: the Third Crusade. Turning his attention to England, he tried to negotiate a peace settlement between the English King Henry II and France’s monarch Philip, but ran into political intrigue and war broke out between the countries. Philip defeated Henry who died shortly thereafter. Emerging from this was the new English king - one who would become legendary and synonymous with the Crusades - Richard known as the "Lion-Heart." Both Richard and Philip, once enemies, now became allies in the cause of the crusades. Meanwhile, Clement, out of necessity, became a master at exacting alliances and monetary dues to offset the taxes assessed against the Holy See and land confiscated from past concordats. To make up the difference and fund the crusades, Clement imposed taxes not only on many countries, but also monasteries and dioceses throughout Christian Europe. Human nature and greed mandated that this would not go smoothly. One such example was in Scotland where Clement had transferred the Scottish Church from allegiance to York in England to direct dependence on Rome. This did not sit well with many within the English clergy who had relied on the financial support of Scotland, yet for the Scots it was indeed "independence day" for they had been freed from being dependent ecclesiastically to the Archbishop of England.
When the Norman William II, monarch in Sicily died on November 18, 1189, more problems erupted for there was no male heir. Henry VI, son of Frederick, pounced on the opportunity like a hungry hyena. He claimed his wife Constance was the legal heir to the throne and therefore due the spoils. This did not sit well with the people of southern Italy who saw as repugnant the idea that a foreigner would rule them. Thus they rallied behind Count Tancred of Lecce, the grandson of William’s father King Roger II. He was elected to the throne in January 1190. Clement, realizing the dangers of being sandwiched between the German powers, opted to recognize Tancred though he was diplomatic enough to not invest him formally which would have really riled Frederick who was up to his neck in alligators in trying to wrest Jerusalem from the hands of the infidels. His son Henry was left to fight the battle on his own, but he too was occupied with problems in Germany. It was not until January 1191 that Henry reached Italian soil. His goal was to have the Holy Father crown him imperial emperor of all the empire, including Sicily which would conveniently place him higher than Tancred and thus open the door to his original intent of reaping the riches and power. However on his march toward Sicily where he would meet the supreme pontiff, he learned that Clement’s heart, so great and giving in life, had given out in March 1191. Henry would not be elevated by Clement III. It would be left to Clement’s successor who we shall cover in the next installment next week.
To review all past installments of this on-going series, go to Archives beginning with the inaugural A CALL TO PEACE internet issue in January 1996. volume 7, no. 1.