The Byzantine Empire
Andronicus I Comnenus (1183-1185)
Andronicus was Manuel's cousin and was a wild character. He had been the governor of Cilicia in 1166 when he visited Antioch. There he was enchanted by Prince Bohemond's daughter, Philippa. His romancing was so spectacular, and Philippa was so entranced, that Bohemond wrote an angry letter to Manuel and the Emperor, embarassed, quickly recalled his cousin. Rather than return to court to be reprimanded, Andronicus instead abandoned his lover and, taking with him much of the revenue of Cilicia, went south to Jerusalem. Poor Philippa, still in love with Andronicus, was married to the elderly Constable Humphrey of Toron.
King Amalric liked Andronicus, who was a charmer, and gave to him the fief of Beirut. From there, Andronicus visited Acre, which was under the control of Queen Theodora. The two fell in love. This was unfortunate, for they were cousins and too closely related to marry. This did not, however, prevent them from carrying on an affair. Again Manuel learned of it, and again he angrily demanded that Andronicus return to Constantinople. King Amalric thought it wise not to annoy the Emperor in this matter, and likewise ordered Andronicus to go.
Andronicus made his preparations. Theodora came to Acre to bid him goodbye. In the night, the two of them fled alone on horseback across the frontier, to Damascus. Nur ed-Din received them with favor, and the two lovers spent the next few years wandering Muslim territories. Andronicus was excommunicated by the Patriarch, but he was beyond the reach of the Church. In time, an emir gave Andonricus a castle and he and Theodora settled down.
There they remained until 1181, when they heard of the troubles in Constantinople. He arrived in the city at the end of 1181 and was likely behind the riots in January. He achieved public rank in May, and was crowned co-emperor with Alexius II in September 1183. He soon moved against the imperial family, executing first the emperor's mother, Maria, and then young Alexius himself in November. Andronicus then married the young imperial widow, the French girl Agnes, called Anna by the Greeks. He was sixty-two, she was twelve.
Andronicus was a natural autocrat. He introduced a number of reforms, not so much in the name of better government as it was to increase his own power. The reforms nevertheless outlived Andronicus, so the impetuous maverick actually left behind some benefits. His actions against entrenched privilege naturally created many centers of opposition. Plots were hatched, which he put down with brutality. He made the always-fatal mistake of alienating the army.
Without the support of the army, Andronicus soon suffered loss of territory. King Stephen of Hungary recovered Dalmatia. The Sicilian Normans re-captured Corfu. Another family member, Isaac Comnenus, declared himself the independent ruler of Cyprus. Against all these enemies, Andronicus desperately sought to find allies, but could find them only by buying them. He made extravagant grants to Venice. He made a treaty of peace with Saladin, giving the sultan a free hand against the Franks. He built a Latin church in Constantinople, hoping to win the favor of the papacy.
Much of this activity was directed against Frederick Barbarossa. With the marriage in 1184 of Henry Hohenstaufen to the Norman princess Constance of Sicily, he knew that the whole weight of the Holy Roman Empire was now joined to the old Norman program of the conquest of Byzantium. And indeed, so it happened. A Sicilian army under William II of Sicily landed in 1185 on Epirus, then moved to the mainland and marched on Thessalonica. Andronicus was in a panic, seeing plots everywhere and ordering wholesale arrests. Thessalonica fell; riots broke out in Constantinople.