The Byzantine Empire
Isaac II Angelus (1185-1195)
Another member of the Comneni family, Isaac Angelus, had been languishing in prison. He was an elderly man, but he somehow escaped and went to the Hagia Sophia, where he appealed to the citizens for support. Andronicus fled the city, and Isaac Comnenus was proclaimed the new emperor. Andronicus was captured trying to escape to Asia. He was brought back to the city, paraded around, then executed. Theodora survived.
Isaac was able to drive the Normans out of Thessalonica and tried to move quickly to establish stability. He had the support of the Greeks, so internal plots died away, but he was threatened in the Balkans. In 1185, Isaac married Margaret, a Hungarian princess. He was unable, though, to prevent Bulgaria from breaking away. In 1186, he recognized Asen as Tsar of Bulgaria. In the same year, Stephen of Rascia made himself the ruler of Serbia and openly declared his defiance of Constantinople. It was through this very unsettled territory that the armies of the Third Crusade moved, and they did not hesitate to meddle.
Isaac was in no position to help with the Third Crusade. In fact, he hindered it in that he renewed in 1189 Andronicus' treaty of non-intereference with Saladin. Isaac managed to alienate Frederick Barbarossa completely. The German emperor occupied Philippopolis and Adrianople, and had ordered his son Henry to bring a fleet into the Bosporus. Most of the Greeks were convinced Frederick would march on Constantinople and loot it, even as the Normans had done a few years previously to Thessalonica. But Isaac gave in to Frederick on all counts, giving the Germans a free ride to Asia, and managed to save the city from attack. Nevertheless, the incident revealed clearly to the West how vulnerable Byzantium was. As soon as he became emperor, Henry VI demanded that Byzantium yield to him all the Greek lands that had been conquered by the Normans. Isaac ignored him, but this was the pretext on which Henry VI launched his crusade.
With the Third Crusade passed through, Isaac tried to recover his lands in the Balkans. He defeated the Serbs in the autumn of 1190, giving Stephen an imperial title even though the Serb was effectively still independent. In 1195, Isaac was on the verge of invading Hungary, but he fell victim to a palace plot. In April, his brother Alexius III had Isaac blinded and imprisoned, and ascended the throne himself.