|Conrad, Count of Hainault and King of Anglia|
|Count of Hainault|
|Reign||September, 1227 - 12th August, 1275|
|King of Anglia|
|Reign||1st July, 1241 - 12th August, 1275|
|Spouse|| Alix de Coucy|
Jutta of Cleves
|Issue|| Baldwin Conradsson|
|Mother||Laurette of Hainault|
|Born|| May, 1216 |
|Died|| 12th August, 1275 |
Conrad is usually remembered as the absent king as he spent the entirety of his reign in Anglia's continental possessions. This led, not only to Anglia's ever greater involvement in the affairs of the Holy Roman Empire, but also to the development of government by lesser nobles within Anglia itself.
Count of Hainault
Conrad was only a young child during the 'Anarchy' which tore Anglia apart. While his mother, uncle and elder brothers fought against his father Conrad remained uninvolved. When the throne of Hainault became vacant following his uncle Baldwin IV's death at the Battle of Holbeach Emperor Frederick II would mediate and give the county to the young Conrad. While Anglia would continue to be ruled by Charles II, and then John I, Conrad aimed to keep Hainault separate, momentarily sure in the knowledge that he would not inherit Anglia. And while he settled into the role of an Imperial Count he was ambitious and he desired to build Hainault into more than just an insignificant county. As soon as he was old enough, Conrad ploughed into fray of Imperial politicking and like his father and brother maintained a friendly relationship with Frederick II.
At first his mainly manifested itself as an on-off struggle with Namur and Liege. However as Frederick II increasingly came under pressure Conrad was often called upon to campaign elsewhere in the Empire. Hainault's border with France also caused friction and in general in this field he closely followed Anglia's policy of containment. Indeed he was present at the Battle of Vignacourt in July 1241 against France where his elder brother was cut down and killed.
King of Anglia
John's only child Elizabeth was quickly skipped over in favour of Conrad. Conrad would be crowned at Ghent following the end of the campaign which saw an eventual Anglian victory and maintenance of the status quo. A coronation in Lincoln was 'pencilled in' for the winter however Conrad would never make the journey across the Channel, throwing himself into continual plotting and scheming.The death of his first wife, Alix de Coucy in early 1242, led to a great deal of activity from the neighbouring lords as they competed for Conrad and Anglia's favour. He spurned the eligible and apparently very beautiful Ysabeau of Brabant preferring the younger Jutta of Cleves, earning himself a deep enmity with Brabant.
When Frederick II died in 1250 the Empire entered a period of instability known as the 'Great Interregnum' as his successors could not adequately exercise power thanks to papal intransience. The candidates for the throne; Conrad IV (via regents) and William of Holland, could not comfortably secure their elections and so Germany descended into a long civil war. Staying loyal to the Hohenstaufen dynasty Conrad supported his name-sake and opposed the rise of William of Holland (who was also connected to Brabant) as he slowly amassed power, first as Anti-King of Germany, and then un-crowned Emperor. Conrad moreover used the Interregnum as a cover to pursue feuds with Namur, Liege and Luxembourg, in effect annexing Namur by 1260 and securing the southern half of Zeeland by 1267.
Eventually however William had eradicated his rivals. Conrad died in 1254 and his successor Frederick III had died in 1263, dividing the Hohenstaufen lands, effectively ceding the family's ability to claim the Imperial throne. In 1269 William finally turned his attentions to Anglia and with the support of France comprehensively routed Conrad at the Battle of Ostehofgen. This effectively ended the Interregnum until the rise of Rudolph of Hapsburg again threatened the German peace.
France took great pleasure in wresting Artesië away from Anglia whilst Conrad had to reluctantly pay homage to William. He was 'rewarded' in return with confirmation that he could keep his remaining lands. In his final years Conrad supported the anti-king Rudolph of Hapsburg returning the battlefields of the Rhineland and contributing to William's faltering authority. In 1275 only weeks before his death Conrad was organising a campaign to help alleviate William's attacks on Danish Pomerania.
While Conrad spent his years on the continent, lavishing attention on Flanders, Hainault and his favoured city of Mons, Anglia was almost left to its own devices. The old Saxon Witenage had continued through Danish and Anglian kings to form the bedrock of governance over the Anglian Kingdom. By Conrad's reign it represented the feudal status quo; the earls, much of the upper nobility, bishops and certain lay figures promoted by the kings. As Conrad was absent he usually sent 'Marshalls' to exercise authority on his behalf. These included the Bishop of Norwich, several Flemish lords and finally his own sons Baldwin and Charles.
While this worked in normal circumstances Conrad's wars placed a strain on Anglia's finances. His distance too made the lords, especially the bishops who might not have joined him on military ventures, resistant to taxation, or even simply being bossed around by Flemish lords who were not subject themselves to the Witenage. Famine in the 1260s led to unrest which nearly spilled out into civil war, which was only averted by the death of the authoritarian Prince Baldwin and generally meant a drying up of taxes (which would affect Conrad's ability to wage war and his eventual defeat).
It also allowed the nobles to pursue the Long Scottish War without Conrad's interference. The Earl of Northumberland, Jon Magnusson, was quite adept at diverting taxes to his own feud with the Scottish kings. This brought more land under the Witenage's remit and many feel that in general the Scottish lands were better governed under the Witenage than they were say under Charles III's direct rule. Meanwhile Conrad was happy to entrust government in his nobles, reasoning that if they had direct control over the mechanisms of the state then they would be less prone to wreck them with rash actions. His Marshalls actively encouraged the shires to refer their complaints to Lincoln for mediation giving the sense that this was a regime which cared for all Anglians, not just the elites.
The development of the Witenage's autonomy should not be overstated however. It is was in no way 'democratic', all of its members being nobles and unelected and often with little interest outside of maintaining their own power. It would take several more centuries to become a recognizable 'parliament'.
Upon his death his eldest surviving son Charles III inherited both Anglia and Hainault, unifying them. He would not only attempt to reverse the military disappointments but also re-establish direct control over Anglian politics, with decidedly mixed results.