Henry I of Constantinople (1204-1226-1261) reigned as Emperor of the Latin Empire from his father's death in 1226 to his own death in 1261. From 1216-1235, he was granted the Duchy of Krete (now known as Crete).
His long reign would be marked by troubles with controlling his vassals, appeasing the Papacy, and fighting the Nicaeans to the east. Despite this, Constantinople became a revived center of culture and the arts. Its economy was supplanted by the huge amounts of Jewish refugees (often bankers and merchants) that had been deported from their homes. His sympathy toward other religions made him popular among the common populace, but would decimate his relationship with the Papacy.
Henry was born in March of 1204 in the city of Thessaloniki. Reportedly his father rejoiced for several days due to the birth of an heir. Despite this, Henry would spend most of his childhood under the guide of the 'hand of the king'. He would learn how to speak Greek, French, English, Turkish, and Spanish. In 1207 he would be betrothed to Alix de Lusignan, sister to Hugh I of Cyprus. While she was quite a bit older than Henry, the marriage ensured a continued alliance with the kingdom of Cyprus.
Doux of Krete
After the 1st Treaty of Constantinople, the Serene Doge of Venice handed over the island of Krete to Baldwin. In turn, Baldwin made his son the Doux of Krete. Despite being underage, Henry ruled the duchy in his own right and was a direct vassal of his father.
Although they were to be married in 1219, Baldwin and Henry both agreed that by that point the age difference between Alix and Henry was too great. The betrothal was officially broken 10 July 1219. Although considered a very eligible bachelor, the political situation in the Balkans deterred most European powers from seeking a marriage alliance. After a two year long search, Baldwin came to an agreement with Philip Augustus of France; Henry was to be married to, Blanche, the granddaughter of Philip and eldest child of Crown Prince Louis. The two were officially married on 12 Sept 1220.
Emperor of Latium
After learning of his father's death (4 July 1226), Henry immediately marched to reach Constantinople in order to secure his position. Despite being cautious, Henry's position was already threatened by his bastard brother John. John was much more popular with the nobility, specifically the Doux of Thessalonika. This was worsened by the fact that Baldwin's will stipulated that all his surviving bastard children were to be considered lawful.
Before Henry even reached Constantinople, his brother John declared himself Emperor (1 August) and ordered the arrest of Henry once he reached the capital. Henry did eventually reach the capital (15 August), and when word of his arrival came, he was promptly arrested. However, a group of loyalists would free Henry the same day. Firefights would go on for the next nine days. On 9 August, Doux Jerome Thessalonika died. His son (Jerome II) pulled back Thessalonika's army, which meant John had lost most of his support. Afterward Henry marched to the palace with little resistance and was anointed by Cardinal Arthur de Thessaloniki the same day.
Restoring relations with Venice
In the 2nd Treaty of Constantinople (22 Nov 1235), he offered to give the island of Krete back to Venice. Serene Doge Jacopo agreed to this, and paid 50,000ლ in agreement. Venice and Latium would become good allies, and would combat the Nicaeans and the Genoese together.
The Empire of Nicaea issued an ultimatum to Henry in 1256; surrender Constantinople or face the wrath of his armies. Henry sent a rebuttal; he claimed that if he did invade, it would give him a reason to conquer Nicaea. The armies of the two successor armies would fight for nearly four staggering years. What made the war so hard to win was that Genoa had entered in 1259 on the side of Nicaea. In response to this, Venice joined the Latin fight. The combined forces of Nicaea and Genoa besieged Constantinople in March 1260. Due to the virility of the city, the siege failed. In Aug 1260, they signed a two year armistice.
Henry's health begin to fail him in the spring of 1261. According to his personal steward's notes, Henry's eyesight became worse and he could no longer produce an erection. He died of an unknown illness on 5 Sept 1261.
- By Blanche of France (1205-1239)
- Henry (1222-1223) - Died in infancy
- Francis (1224-1227) - Died in infancy
- Stillborn (1228)