Anna of Hohenstaufen

Sepulchre of Constance in the Church San Juan del Hospital (Valencia). The inscription translates as Here lies Lady Constance August, Empress of Greece

Anna of Hohenstaufen (1230 – April 1307), born Constance, was an Empress of Nicaea. She was a daughter of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and Bianca Lancia.


She married John III Doukas Vatatzes Emperor of Nicaea as part of an alliance between her father and husband. The marriage is recorded by the chronicles of both George Acropolites and George Pachymeres. "The Lascarids of Nicaea: the Story of an Empire in Exile" (1912–1913) by Alice Gardner considers the alliance a result of their common hostility to the papacy.

The marriage occurred in 1244. Constance took the name Anna following her marriage. At her arrival she was accompanied by a governess, Marchesa della Fricca. According to George Acropolites the governess became the mistress of John III and "rival in love" of Anna.

In time the Marchesa came to have considerable influence at court. Nicephorus Blemmydes called her "rival empress". However Blemmydes' negative criticism resulted in an attempt at his life by followers of her. Blemmydes survived and Marchesa lost the favor of John III who proceeded to dismiss her from court. Blemmydes' account was later included in his autobiography.


Constance remained empress until the death of her husband on 3 November 1254. Her stepson Theodore II Laskaris succeeded to the throne. By that time Frederick II had also died. Pachymeres records her staying in Nicaea through the reigns of both Theodore II (1254–1258) and her step-grandson John IV Laskaris (1259–1261). Alice Gardner suggested that she was still politically useful as a hostage against the remaining members of the House of Hohenstaufen, particularly her brother Manfred of Sicily.

John IV was underage through his brief reign. His regent and co-ruler was Michael VIII Palaiologos, who maneuvered John IV aside, and after Alexios Strategopoulos captured Constantinople, the capital of the Latin Empire as well as the fallen Byzantine Empire, Michael deposed John IV and later blinded him. According to Pachymeres, around this time Michael fell in love with Anna and attempted to marry her, but the widowed Empress rejected him. Deno Geanakoplos points out "what militates against Pachymeres' statement, however, is the question why Michael, merely for love of Anna, would be willing to risk almost certain excommunication by the Patriarch Arsenios without the gaining of an important political benefit." Michael's aim was to gain an alliance with Manfred, but after Anna's refusal to marry him, the anger of own his wife, and threat of ecclesiastical censure by Arsenios, Michael dropped the proposal. She was given magnificent presents and allowed to leave the new court for the Kingdom of Sicily in 1263. This gesture secured the release of Michael's general Alexios Strategopoulos, who had been captured by the Despot Michael II Komnenos Doukas.[1]

Again known as Constance, she joined the court of Manfred. When he was killed on 25 February 1266 at the Battle of Benevento and was succeeded by his victorious enemy Charles of Anjou, Constance fled the Sicilian court for that of James I of Aragon. There she joined her niece, Constance of Sicily, who was a daughter of Manfred of Sicily and queen consort of Peter III of Aragon.

She found refuge at the catalano-Aragonese court for some time but eventually retired to a monastery in Valencia, where she died as a nun.


  1. Geanakoplos, Emperor Michael Palaeologus and the West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959), pp. 144f

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Anna of Hohenstaufen
Born: 1230 Died: 1307
Royal titles
Preceded by
Irene Lascarina
Empress consort of Nicaea
c. 12441254
Succeeded by
Elena of Bulgaria
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