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Area/Ruler: Sicily: William II
Reigned: 1166-1189 A.D.
Denomination: AE15 Arabic/Latin
Mint: Messina
Obverse: "REX W/ SCYS" in 2 lines. "+OPERATO IN VRBE MESSANE" around.
Reverse: In arabic "AL-MALIK / GHULYALIM / AL-THANI" (King William II). Further inscription around.
Reference: Spahr 119
Weight: 1.1 gms
Diameter: 14.2 mm

William II (1166- 1189), King of Sicily

William II was born in 1153 and succeeded to the throne in 1166. He was just 13 at the death of his father William I, and was placed under the regency of his mother, Marguerite of Navarre. Until he came of age in 1171, the government was controlled first by the chancellor Stephen of Perche, cousin of Marguerite until 1168, and then by Walter Ophamil, archbishop of Palermo, and Matthew d'Ajello, the vice-chancellor.

William preferred a life of pleasure in his palace at Palero but also liked to dabble in foreign policy. He championed the papacy and was secretly in league with the Lombards to defy the common enemy, the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick I, Barbarossa. In 1174 and 1175 he signed treaties with Genoa and Venice and in February 1177 married Joan, daughter of Henry II of England.

To secure peace with the emperor he sanctioned the marriage of his aunt Constance, daughter of his grandfather, Roger II, with Frederick's son Henry, afterwards the emperor Henry VI, causing a general oath to be taken to her as his successor in case of his death without heirs. This oath was ultimately fatal to the Norman kingdom.

Unable to regain lands in North Africa, lost by his father to the Almohads, William attacked Egypt, from which Saladin threatened the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem. In July 1174, 50,000 men were landed at Alexandria, but Saladin's arrival forced the Sicilians to re-embark. William then tried his luck against the Byzantines following the death of Manuel Comnenus in 1180. He captured Durazzo, June 11th, 1185 and in August Thessalonica surrendered.

William's army then marched upon the Constantinople, but the forces of the emperor Isaac Angelus defeated them on the banks of the Strymon (September 7, 1185). Thessalonica was abandoned and in 1189 William made peace with Isaac. He now planned to allow the crusading armies of the West to pass through his territories to start a Third Crusade. His admiral Margarito with 600 vessels kept the eastern Mediterranean open for the Franks, and forced Saladin to retire from before Tripoli in the spring of 1188.

In November 1189 William died, leaving no children. His title of "the Good" is due mainly to the cessation of internal troubles in his reign. The "Voyage" of Ibn-Giobair, a traveller in Sicily in 1183-1185, shows William surrounded by Muslim women and eunuchs, speaking and reading Arabic and living like "a Moslem king."

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