Bianca Lancia d'Agliano (also called Beatrice and Blanca; c. 1210 – c. 1246) was an Italian noblewoman. She was the mistress and later the last wife of the Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick II. The marriage was conducted while she was on her deathbed, therefore it was considered non-canonical.
Possibly born in Agliano in Piedmont, where her ancestors of the Ghibelline Lancia (or Lanza) noble family, so-called since Manfred I (fl. 1160–1214) had been lancifer pikeman of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, served as margraves. There is no source which definitively states who her parents were, historians have offered three theories that she was a granddaughter of Manfred I Lancia:
- as daughter of his daughter (maybe also named Bianca), by a son (name unknown) of Guglielmo di Moncucco and Belda di Agliano.
- as daughter of his son Bonifacio di Agliano by an unknown wife.
- as daughter of his son Manfred II, possible from a marriage to a lady called Bianca, of the Maletta family.
If she was a daughter of Manfred II, she had seven siblings: four brothers (Manfred III, Guglielmo, Galvano and Frederick) and three sisters (Beatrice, Agnes and Isabella).
Relationship with Frederick II
Bianca lived most of her life in Lancia Castle of Brolo, the ancestral residence of her family, the Castello Normanno in Paternò and the castle of Gioia del Colle. She met Frederick II, who was then married to Yolande of Jerusalem, in 1225 at Agliano near Asti. Thenceforth, it is said, the two maintained a romantic relationship.
According to some historians, Bianca was the only true love of Frederick's life; others consider this a romantic exaggeration. It was certainly beneficial to the interests of the Lancia family, who were favoured by the Emperor with political posts in Italy (Manfredo III was appointed Imperial Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire's northern Italian territories and Podesta of Alessandria, Milan and Chieri; Galvano became Imperial Vicar of Tuscany, Podesta of Padova, Prince of Salerno, Count of Fondi and Grand Marshal of Sicily; and Frederick was appointed Count of Squillace and Viceroy of Apulia). Nonetheless, the relationship of Bianca and Frederick was the longest to all the affairs of the Emperor.
After the death of Isabella of England, Frederick's third wife, in 1241, he endowed Bianca with the castle of Monte Sant'Angelo, located in the cities of Vieste and Siponto. By the terms of the will of William II of Sicily, the castle was the traditional dower of the Sicilian queens consort.
Bianca died either in the castle of Paternò or the castle of Gioia del Colle.
Marriage and children
The Chronicle of Salimbene di Adam, and also Matthew of Paris claimed that a "confirmatio matrimonii in articulo mortis" ("marriage ceremony in the moments of death") took place between Bianca and Frederick when she was dying. Bianca, apparently, desired the marriage for the salvation of her soul and the safety of their children's future. This marriage however was not deemed canonical by the Church, perhaps due to the fact that Frederick and Bianca's children were all born out of wedlock.
Frederick and Bianca had three children together:
- Constance (1230–1307), who married the Emperor of Nicea, John Vatatzes, and thereupon her name changed to Anna.
- Manfred (1232–1266), who succeeded his father as ruler of Sicily (initially as regent, before usurping the throne for himself).
- Violante (1233–1264), who married Richard Sanseverino, Count of Caserta.
It is not known exactly when she died. There are several conflicting reports. This date lingers in various reference works but appears based only on the assumption that she died after the birth of her last child, and before the marriage of her husband to his next wife.
There are credible reports that she married Frederick while she was on her deathbed, and that her son was 12 at this time. Bianca may have died a short while before the wedding of her daughter to John Vatatzes in 1244. One source states that she died 20 years after the start of her relationship with Frederick, however the same source states that she died 20 years before events that were occurring in 1256.
- Frederick II (Holy Roman Emperor), De Arte Venardi Cum Avibus, transl. & ed. Casey A Wood and F. Marjorie Fyfe, (Stanford University Press, 1961), 495.
- Matthew of Paris, Mon. Germ. Hist. Scriptores XXVIII pp. 360-361
- Cronica Fratris Salimbene di Adam, Ordinis Minorem, MGH SS XXXII p.349
- By this time, Frederick II's longtime enemy, the Duke Frederick of Austria became his most important ally, and, to reinforce this new alliance, were make plans to a marriage between the Emperor and the teenager niece of the Duke, Gertrude. She refused the marriage.
- Natale Ferro, "Chi fu Bianca Lancia di Agliano", in _Bianca Lancia d'Agliano, fra il Piemonte e il regno di Sicilia: Atti del convegno (Asti-Agliano, 28-29 aprile 1990)_, edited by Renato Bordone, Ricerche di storia locale 4 (Alessandria, 1992) pp 55–80. (in Italian) (Reference provided by Peter Stewart on soc.genealogy.medieval)
- "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", using Search Term : "Salimbene, Bianca" will display : "Cronica fratris Salimbene de Adam ordinis Minorum" i.e. "The Chronicle of brother Salimbene de Adam, order of Minors"
- Biography (in Italian)