Neapolitan campaigns of Louis the Great
Kingdom of Naples and Hungary in around 1360
| Kingdom of Hungary
German, Italian and English mercenaries, Hungarian-party Neapolitans, Hungarian knights
| Kingdom of Naples
German, Sicilian, Italian, English, Provençal and French mercenaries, French knights
|Commanders and leaders|
|Louis I of Hungary
|Louis of Taranto|
The Neapolitan campaigns of Louis the Great, also called the Neapolitan Adventure (Nápolyi kaland in Hungarian), was a war between the Kingdom of Hungary, led by Louis the Great, and the Kingdom of Naples. It was fought from 1347 until 1352.
In 1343 Robert I, the Sage, King of Naples, died. His only son, Charles of Calabria, had died in 1328, leaving two daughters, one of which, Joan, had been married to Andrew, son of king Charles I of Hungary. During his time in Naples, Andrew gained the fierce hostility of his more refined wife. After her father's death, she received by the Avignonese Pope Clement VI the official investment of the Kingdom, which was then nominally a vassal of the Papal States. Andrew, who aimed also to the crown, received only the title of Duke of Calabria.
On June 14, 1345 Clement, after a payment of 44,000 marks, accepted to yield Andrew the title of king, but only as heir in case of Joan's death. Joan, who had an affair with Louis of Taranto, was at the time under the strong influence of the latter's mother, Catherine of Valois. On September 19, before the Papal bull could reach the Kingdom, a conjure led by Catherine's relatives and courtesans had Andrew assassinated during a hunt at Aversa. Bertramo del Balzo, great justicier of the realm, discovered and punished the assassins, but voices of a queen's involvement in the assassination had already become widespread.
In May 1346 Andrew's brother, King Louis of Hungary, sent envoys to Clement to ask her deposition. Unsatisfied by the Pope's reply, he mustered an army, planning to embark his troops in Zara. However, at the time the maritime city had rebelled against the Venetians, whose ships were blockading its port. After a failed attempt to free it, the King had to postpone his expedition, while Zara returned under Venice's aegis.
In November 1347 Louis set out for Naples with some 1,000 soldiers (Hungarians and Germans), mostly mercenaries. When he reached the border of Joanna’s kingdom, he had 2000 Hungarian knights, 2000 mercenary heavy cavalry, 2000 Cuman horse archers and 6000 mercenary heavy infantry. He successfully avoided conflict in Northern Italy, and his army was well-paid and disciplined. King Louis forbade plundering, and all supplies were bought from locals and paid for with gold. The Hungarian king marched on the land, announcing he was not going to fight any Italian city and states, and thus was welcomed by most of them. Joanna in the meantime had married her cousin Louis of Taranto and had signed a peace with Naples' traditional enemy, the Kingdom of Sicily. The army of Naples, 2700 knights and 5000 infantrymen, was led by Louis of Taranto. At Foligno a papal legate asked Louis to renounce his enterprise, as the assassins had been already punished and also considering Naples's status of Papal fief. He did not relent however, and, before the end of the year, he crossed the Neapolitan border without meeting any resistance.
On January 11, 1348 in the Battle of Capua he defeated the army of Louis of Taranto. Four days later the queen repaired to Provence, while her husband followed soon afterwards. All the kingdom's barons swore loyalty to the new ruler as he marched to Naples from Benevento. While visiting Aversa, where his brother had been murdered, Louis had Charles of Durazzo assassinated in revenge by his condottiero Malatesta Ungaro and others. Once in Naples, Louis released most of his mercenaries and their commander, Werner von Urslingen.
Here, Louis and his men were struck by the arrival of the Black Death. He therefore decided to leave the Kingdom of Naples. The Neapolitans, who had quickly grown unsatisfied of the severe Hungarian rule, called back Joan, who paid for her return expedition (including the services of Urslingen's mercenaries) by selling her rights on Avignon to the Popes. She landed near Naples and easily captured it, but the Hungarian commander Ulrich von Wolfart command a strong resistance in Apulia.
When Urslingen deserted back to the Hungarians, she asked the Pope for help. The latter sent a legate who, after offering a great sum to Urslingen and the Wolfart brothers, brokered a truce. Joanna and Louis would leave the Kingdom to await a new trial on Andrew's assassination, to be held in Avignon. The verdict was Joanna's acquittal from any charge in January 1352, and a peace was signed with Hungary on March 23, 1352.
In 1380 a civil war broke out in the Kingdom, with Joan siding with the Avignonese Pope Clement VII, after which Pope Urban VI offered the throne to Charles III. Louis of Hungary sent money and Hungarian armies in aid of Charles, who was able to enter Naples in 1381. On May 22, 1382, at San Fele, four Hungarian mercenaries strangled the queen.