Frederick Barbarossa was never King of Germany as commonly misoconceived, for Germany as a nationalistic concept did not exist at this time. Rather, Fredrick Barbarossa was declared King of the Holy Roman Empire in 1152 A.D. The Holy Roman Empire was a very loose coalition of German princedoms and duchies (i.e. Belgium, Switzerland, Bavaria, Lorraine etc.). All the princedoms/duchies swore allegiance to the King/Emperor, but otherwise ruled over their provinces unchecked. This led to rife disloyalty.

Normally a Holy Roman ruler was coronated as an Emperor immediately, but Barbarossa was met with a challenge the moment he was declared King. Unrest amongst the princedoms and duchies was sparked off by a German Prince known as Henry the Lion, who would remain to be Barbarossa's main rival throughout his life. Thus, Barbarossa was required to put down the unrest before the coronation in Rome could take place. At the same time, a revolutionary commune began overthrowing the current Pope, thus delaying his coronation once again. He was finally coronated as the Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Eugene III in 1155 A.D.

Frederick Barbarossa was a man of burning ambition, and that ambition was to return the Holy Roman Empire to the glory that Charlemagne had originally established it as (Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire had included Gaul, the German fiefdoms, a number of slavic kingdoms near Russia, and Italy). This meant returning Rome to the fold, pacifying the Papacy and establishing a "puppet Pope". This latter ambition was a neccesity for two reason. The first being that the Papacy refused to acknowledge the Holy Roman Empire as a decendent of God, and secondly the fact that, according to the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor was the ultimate power. Thus it was not possible to allow the Papacy to remain in power with the power to excommunicate the Emperor.

The very same year as his coronation Barbarossa made his move. He quickly seized Milan and installed Imperial governors in all the Italian cities. Adrian IV incited a rebellion shortly after this, however, and Barbarossa was forced to take more severe action. He crushed the revolt, but before he could Alexander III seized control of the Papacy and excommunicated him. Barbarossa needed to quell the rebellious Italian peninsular, and so he brought in his army, seizing and sacking Milan as a warning to all who would stand in his path. He then marched his army towards Rome, seizing it in 1166, exiling Alexander III and establishing a "puppet Pope". Barbarossa was now poised to strike at the Sicilians, but his army was decimated by an epidemic.

All was not well back in the Empire, however, as Henry the Lion was now inciting a rebellion back in the German duchies. To sate Henry, Barbarossa gave him control of Bavaria, however without Barbarossa's presence, Henry was free to attempt to seize the throne for himself. Thus, Barbarossa was forced to return with his army to Germany. Yet the very next year, in 1167, the province of Lombard (an Italian province) forms the Lombard League with several other provinces, and rebels against Barbarossa.

Barbarossa ended the German rebellion in 1174, and immediately marched his wearied army back to Italy. He drove his forces at Milan, but was defeated and repelled by the Lombard League. Thus, Barbarossa was forced to admit defeat, and he reconciled himself with Alexander III, who was reinstated as Pope. Barbarossa had his excommunication lifted, and he returned to Germany once more only to find that Henry the Lion was inciting another rebellion in 1178. Barbarossa's anger and justice was swift, he crushed Henry's army and exiled him from the Holy Roman Empire. Barbarossa seized his duchies and partitioned them amongst the other German Princes. Through Barbarossa's swift justice and generosity he finally secured the loyalty of the German Princes, but it was too late to invade Italy again. Instead, Barbarossa pledged his support to Alexander III and promised to reclaim Jerusalem for all of christiandom in The Third Crusade.

Barbarossa's army was far too large to transport, however, and thus Barbarossa was forced to march through Hungary, upper Greece, Constantinople and the Middle East in order to reach Palestine. It is not clear just how he died, though it is certain it was not in battle. The tale told says that when Barbarossa and his weary army reached the province of Constantinople, they came across a river. The soldiers bellowed with delight and began stripping off their armour to leap in, but Barbarossa dispensed with these formalities and leaped in, platemail and all. The soldiers reported that he leapt into the water and began struggling; the soldiers were so shocked that they froze in horror, and there Barbarossa drowned. Many comitted suicide, believing that God had forsaken them, others ran screaming back towards Germany. Those who remained unswervingly loyal recovered his body and gave it a proper burial. The legend states that one day Barbarossa will rise again to lead Germany back to its glory as the Holy Roman Empire.

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