Through her two marriages, Constance of Aragon gained a variety of royal titles – Queen of Hungary, Queen of Sicily, Queen of the Romans and Holy Roman Empress. By birth and her two marriages, she got to spend her life in several different countries – Spain, Hungary, Germany, and Italy.
Constance was born around 1179 in Lisbon, Portugal, to Alfonso II, King of Aragon and Sancha of Castile. She was the second oldest of her parent’s eight children and the oldest daughter. She seems to have been close to her next oldest sibling, her brother Alfonso, who was just one year younger than her. Constance’s father died in 1196, and her oldest brother, Peter, became King of Aragon as Peter II.
Queen of Hungary
Soon after her father’s death, Peter arranged for Constance to marry the new King of Hungary, Emeric. This was the first time a royal marriage was arranged between Hungary and a Spanish kingdom. Emeric wanted a closer connection with the kingdoms to the west, so the Pope, Innocent III, helped arrange this match. The marriage was celebrated in 1198. As a dower, Constance received the income of two royal counties in Hungary. If she were widowed, she would receive thirty thousand gold ounces.
In late 1199 or 1200, Constance gave birth to a son named Ladislaus. Little else is said about Constance’s brief time as Queen of Hungary. During this time, Emeric would have had his own problems with his brother, Andrew. Andrew wanted the crown for himself, and Emeric tried to solve this problem by making him Duke of Croatia and Dalmatia. This kept Andrew away from the Hungarian court for some time, but eventually, that proved not enough for him, and Emeric had to place him under arrest. In 1204, Emeric came down with a serious illness. Seeing death was near; he crowned his four-year-old son as Junior King in August. Emeric reconciled with Andrew, named him as regent, and had him promise that he would protect his son. Emeric died on 30 November 1204.
Being regent was not enough for Andrew. He wanted to be king himself and tried to disinherit or even kill his four-year-old nephew. Constance fled to Vienna, taking Ladislaus with her. She also took her dower money, twelve thousand silver marks. Constance and her son were given protection by Duke Leopold IV of Austria, her husband’s cousin. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out well for Constance. Ladislaus died in May 1205, and Andrew became King of Hungary. With her son dead, Constance was left with no other option but to return to Aragon. There, she spent the next several years living with her mother at the convent of Sigena.
Queen of Sicily
Constance was still young and had an opportunity to remarry. In 1208, Peter once again negotiated with the Pope and had Constance betrothed to Frederick, the young King of Sicily. Constance was about fifteen years older than Frederick. In June 1209, Constance left Aragon with her brother, Alfonso and five hundred Aragonese knights. Constance and Frederick married on 15 August, Constance was about thirty, and Frederick was fourteen.
Wanting to make a claim on the imperial crown, Frederick planned an invasion of mainland Italy. Thanks to his new marriage, he could count on the knights who accompanied Constance. Unfortunately, before he could begin his campaign, an epidemic hit the company killing most of the knights and Alfonso. The remaining knights soon returned to Aragon.
Frederick seemed to rely on Constance. Early in their marriage, he replaced the chancellor due to Constance’s advice. Early in 1211, Constance gave birth to a son who was named Henry. Being from the Hohenstaufen dynasty and a son of a Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick had a strong claim to that title. In 1211, the German high nobility was growing tired of the behaviour of the current emperor, Otto. A faction of the nobility elected Frederick as their king with the Pope’s consent. In the spring of 1212, Frederick sailed to the mainland to begin his quest for the crown. Constance remained in Sicily, where she became regent. As the ruler of Sicily, she appeared on coinage. During this time, she issued a number of charters jointly in her and her son’s names.
Queen of the Romans
In December 1212, at the Cathedral of Mainz, Frederick was crowned as King of the Romans, the title that was the step to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. However, not all were ready to recognise him as their king. When Otto was officially deposed in 1215, Frederick was crowned as King of the Romans again. With his position consolidated, Frederick could now summon his wife and son to Germany. Constance and Henry departed from Messina in July 1216 and reached Nuremberg in December.
As King of the Romans, Frederick had to travel through his empire frequently to assert his authority. Constance accompanied him on his travels.
Holy Roman Empress
In 1220, Frederick finally got the approval from the Pope to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. In August of that year, Constance and Frederick headed to Rome. In November, they were crowned Emperor and Empress by Pope Honorius III. Constance’s former brother-in-law, Andrew, had tried to get the Pope to force Constance to cede her dower money to him. While in Rome, Constance told the Pope that she would refuse to do so. After the coronation, Constance, Frederick and Henry travelled through southern Italy before reaching Sicily.
In early 1222, Frederick left for mainland Italy. He took Henry with him so he could learn the art of statecraft. Constance stayed behind in Sicily. Due to a revolt in Sicily, Frederick returned in May, met with Constance, and left Henry with her. Unfortunately, this would be the last time they would see each other. Constance died in Catania, Sicily, on 23 June 1222, apparently from malaria. Two funerals were held for her; one in Catania and one in Palermo. Constance was buried in the Palermo Cathedral.
Constance was buried with many jewels benefiting her rank as Empress. She was interred in a sarcophagus from Roman times. Her body was wrapped in red cloth with pearls and gold foil. She was also buried with a breastplate, belt decorations, a jewelled collar and five rings. Most notably, her tomb contained a Byzantine-style crown.
Alio, Jacqueline; Queens of Sicily, 1061-1266
Mielke, Christopher; “No Country for old Women: Burial Practices and Patterns of Hungarian Queens of the Arpad Dynasty (975-1301)”
Mielke, Christopher; “From Her Head to Her Toes: Gender-Bending Regalia in the Tomb of Constance of Aragon, Queen of Hungary and Sicily”