Henry VII  Hohenstaufen

*1211 - †1242






Essay: The arms of Henry VII

Arms and Images

King of Sicily

Duke of Swabia

Roman King


Bamberger Reiter

Margarethe von österreich

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*1211- †12.II.1242

(Co- ?) King of Sicily II.1212

Duke of Swabia 1216/'17

Rector of Burgundy 4.I.1220

King of Rome 1220 - 1235

  Elected Frankfurt 23.IV.1220

 Crowned Aachen 8.V.1222

¥ Margaret of Austria 1225

 Deposed 2/4.VII.1235





Henry VII (*1211- †12.II.1242) was the son of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen and Constance of Aragon. He was crowned a king of Sicily when he was still a baby and became a duke of Swabia when he was five. His dazzling career as a child ended in 1220 when he was crowned a Roman king on 23 April. At the instance of pope Honorius III, who feared the geopolitical consequences of this coronation, he had to abandon his kingship of Sicily. Frederick II, crowned Emperor at the same time succeeded him and would govern the kingdom. In fact nothing was achieved with this construction because Frederick II did not only rule in Sicily but in fact also in Germany, Italy and Burgundy. To make things worse the attempt of the Holy See to get rid of  Frederick II failed because he could end the crusade he undertook at the instance of pope Gregory IX in the years 1229-’30, with a diplomatic victory.

Henry VII was crowned when he was eleven on 18 May 1222 in Aachen. During his minority Germany and Swabia  were governed by regents until Henry took over the government in 1228. His support of the middle classes against their bishops irritated the princes who extorted in 1231 a large number of measures from him, protecting them against the growing power of the cities and extending their power over their own territories. Such a kind of privilege, be it not so fargoing, was granted by Frederick II to the prelates at the occasion of the election of Henry in 1220. In May 1232 he confirmed the Statutem in favorem principum of Henry which de facto legitimized the independence of the German princes. Not long after, Henry tried to hamper imperial power and in September 1234 he rebelled against the emperor. He was joined by the Lombard League which resisted the restoration after 1231 of imperial power in Lombardy by Frederick II. The revolt collapsed when Frederick II came to Germany in the spring of 1235. In July Henry was deposed and taken prisoner by Frederick II. At the same time he decided to declare an Imperial war against the Lombards and defeated the Lombard army on 27 November 1237 near Cortenuova.

Henry was never rehabilitated. After seven years of imprisonment he died when he was transported from his prison in Nicastro to an other one in the vicinity of Cosenza (Calabria). He was 31 then. [2]

Probably because he had been fallen in disgrace there are but a few objects preserved referring to him. The erasing of the memory of this rebel is felt until the present day. The so-called Rider of Bamberg for example, of which can be demonstrated by portraits on seals to be Henry VII, is supposed to be any prince but he. Instead king Stephen of Hungary, emperor Henry II (1012-’25 (!)) and emperor Frederick II are proposed. [3]

When research on the heraldry of Henry VII is involved, we have not only to consult German sources but also those in other countries and in particular the famous English chronicler Matthew Paris.

Some portraits of Henry VII are preserved on which we may notice a coat of arms. Other documents about his arms are known because of the diplomatic relations between his father and Henry III of England.


In the first place there is an equestrian seal depicting him as a duke of Swabia. On the seal he bears a shield with three lions passant guardant. This blason is repeated on the banner he keeps in his right hand. The legend X HENRICVS DEI GRACIA DVX SWEVIE refers to his ducal rank and the anatomy of the knight indicates that he has been portrayed as a child. The seal probably has been cut and used  between 1217 and 1220, in the time he was allowed to call himself  Rex Sicilie et dux Suevie [4].

The arms are the emblem of a very high military rank, comparable with the (contemporary) arms of the duke of Aquitaine and Normandy, count of Anjou, alias the king of England and of the king of Denmark. A connection of these arms with Sicily is not likely but a connection with Swabia is almost certain. Indeed, on coins of earlier Swabian dukes there is only one lion. [5] Later the three lions occur frequently in relation with Swabia, sometimes gold on a black field but most of the time black on a golden field like on the shield of the bailiffs (Truchsessen) of Waldburg who governed the duchy for a long time. [6]

The arms are remarkable because they do not represent a vassalage but just a high military rank, equal to the rank of a king and an imperial vassal, of which the symbol was an eagle, but not within the imperial feudal system. This has probably to do with the fact that the Hohenstaufen could consider the duchy as their inalienable property. The arms also make a difference between the king of Germany and the duke of Swabia , offices united in personal union by king Philipp (1198-1208). [7]


A second coat of arms related to Henry VII is from an English source. It is documented by Matthew Paris who, in his ‘History of England’ gives a coat of arms parted per pale of a dimidiated black eagle on yellow field and a dimidiated white cross moline on a red field with the legend Scutum Henrici filii imperatoris. [8] This symbol can be considered as a parti of the imperial arms with the two-headed black eagle of Frederick II and the symbol of the territories under Hohenstaufen control within the Roman empire In that way it is in fact the arms of Henry VII as a son of his father, in the words of Matthew Paris, because it is a difference of the imperial arms. His younger half-brothers later bore, also after Matthew Paris, also differences of the arms with the two-headed eagle. These arms can only have been used for a short time, that is to say between the coronation of Frederick II on 22 November 1220 as an Emperor and the coronation of Henry VII as a Roman King on 8 May 1222 in Aachen. In this time Frederick II could bear the arms with the two-headed eagle but Henry could not yet bear the black eagle on gold of the Roman King. For the rest Matthew Paris is the only one who documents these arms. [9]


The third arms borne by Henry VII is a black eagle on a golden field. These could have been handed over by the arms of the different cities favoured by Henry VII, but because many of these favours were withdrawn even before the end of his reign, only a few of these municipal arms, like those of Goslar, may date from that time. A strong proof that Henry VII has borne these arms with the eagle is handed down by way of the English connection. This was established by the marriage of Frederidk II with Isabella of England († 1241), a daughter of John Lackland  and a sister of Henry III Plantagenet. The wedding took place by proxy on 22 February 1235 in Westminster and was  ratified on 15 July 1235 in Worms. In this way is became possible that there is a stained glass in York Minster showing both the arms of the Emperor and the King of the Romans.

The glass in any case dates from after 1234 which can be deducted from the arms of the king of Navarra with the carbuncle which dates from that year. [10] The imperial arms with the two-headed eagle disappeared for some time after the reign of Frederick II and this means that the glasses were made before 1245/’50. In this period (1234-’50), Henry VII was the only crowned Roman King because his halfbrother Conrad may have been elected a Roman king but did never have the honour to be crowned. It can not be expected that Henry Raspe of Thuringia or William II of Holland, counter-kings in the time of the reign of Frederick II, have sponsored the realisation of the glass. [11] Also, the papal arms are on the glass and it would be unlikely that these would be depicted together with the arms of Frederick II after he was excommunicated for the second time in 1239, this excommunication introductory for his deposition in 1245 [12]

In this way the arms with the eagle on the York Minster glass are very likely the arms of Henry VII and the warrior in the upper right corner, wearing a coat of arms with the same blazon should certainly be him. If this is true, it is also clear when the program of the window was established because Henry was deposend and taken prisoner on 4 July 1235, even before the wedding of Frederick and Isabella. Thus, the parts concerned should have been finished during the negotiations for the marriage in 1234-’35. [13]


A fourth blason is also documented by Matthew Paris. It is parted of yellow and green. These arms can be considered as the ultimate nadir of the heraldic career of Henry VII [14]. It does not characterize him as the ‘son of his father’ or as a Roman King, but as an unfree knight, a social position only one step higher than of those not permitted to be a vassal and who could not bear a coat of arms at all.

The colour green can be considered, from the Later Roman Empire until the 13th century, as the colour of the caesares or highest imperial operational commanders. The arms imply Henry VII to be a caesar but a caesar without a command because an insignia of rank is lacking. Michel Pastoureau observes about this green-yellow combination of colours:

le jaune et le vert associés constituent les couleurs de la folie. C’est en effet la combinaison de ces deux couleurs que l’on trouve le plus fréquemment, aux xive et xve siècle, sur les vêtements portés par les fous de cour. [....] Le jaune évoque la transgression de la norme; le vert, la perturberation de l’ordre établi. [15]

This “established order” was certainly threatened by the caesares who rebelled against imperial authority. In this context we may observe that Henry VII had an illustrious predecessor in Henry V who succeeded in deposing his father, Henry IV. In most cases however, the fathers leaded the way of their sons, which we can learn from the fates of the many sons of the Ottoman sultans in the Near East. According to Pastoureau, you could find at court no bigger fool than Henry VII, who dared to rebel against his father. Thus, the role of a Roman King at court could be taken over by the court-jester and the green-gold combination came to have a more general meaning.


From this review we may conclude that the bearing of arms at the beginning of the 13th century paralelled the career of the bearer. Besides it becomes clear that children, even of a young age, could be granted arms, depending on the legal position they had in government.


Amsterdam, september 2004. Hubert de Vries


Arms and Images


King of Sicily




Virgin Mary and Child

Mosaic in the Baptistery of St John, Florence, 13th century.




The Baptistery of St. John (Battistero di S. Giovanni) was the original Cathedral of Florence until a new cathedral was built. In the 13th century it was decorated with mosaic from which this one is an example. In the beginning of the 13th century Tuscany was still governed by Imperial vicars of which the future king Philipp and, in the last years of the rule of Frederick II, Enzio (1239-’48) belonged to the House of Hohenstaufen.

As a result it would be possible that the mosaic depicts one of the consorts of Frederick II with the heir to the throne on her lap. Most probable is Constance of Aragon (*1182-†1222), the first wife of Frederick II. The child would be Henry VII then and the mosaic could be made between 1211 and 1222. Most probable is after 1215 when his father had been crowned for the second time a Roman King and was expecting his coronation as a Roman Emperor in Rome. In that case the boy has been portrayed at the age of five or six.

An argument for identifying the mosaic as to be Constance and her son, is the peculiar rectangular form of the face of Henry VII which can also be seen on his later portraits.  Apparently he inherited his eyes from his mother.

Certainly not Frederick II himself and his mother Constance of Hauteville is depicted because he had an oval face. Henry VII remained, until 1228, the only legitimate child of Frederick II.


Duke of Swabia



Arms: Three lions passant.

Banner: Three lions passant


Equestrian Seal of Henry VII

Staatsarchiv Sigmaringen FAS DS 39 T 1-3 U 6


Seal: The duke on horseback. Arms and Banner: Three lions passant. L.: X HENRICVS DEI GRACIA DVX SWEVIE. D.: 1216-1220. [16].


On this seal the duke is of the age of five. The colours of the shield are uncertain, they may have been: Or, three lions passant Sable or:  Sable, three lions passant Or.


King of Rome and Germany 

1220 – 1235


During the minority of Henry VII Germany was governed by regents until Henry took over the administration in 1228. His support of the middle classes against their bishops irritated the princes who extorted in 1231 a large number of measures from him, protecting them against the growing cities and extending their power over their own territories. Such a kind of privilege, be it not so far going, was given by Frederick II to the prelates at the occasion of the election of Henry in 1220. In May 1232 he confirmed the Statutem in favorem principum of Henry which de facto legitimized the independence of the German princes. Not long after Henry tried to hamper imperial power and in September 1234 he rebelled against the emperor. He was joined by the Lombard League which resisted the restoration of imperial power in Lombardy by Frederick II after 1231. The revolt collapsed when Frederick II came to Germany in the spring of 1235. In July Henry was deposed and taken prisoner by Frederick II. At the same time Frederick II decided to declare an Imperial war against the Lombards and defeated the Lombard army on 27 November 1237 near Cortenuova.

In the first period of his kingship the coat of arms of Henry VII seems to have been: Parted per pale of Or, a dimidiated eagle Sable and Gules, a cross moline Argent. This coat of arms, consisting of the amrs of the Roman king and the arms of Germany (or the secular Holy Roman Empire), is documented by Matthew Paris:


1242 Mattheus Parisiensis HA14 f. 134v.: Death of Three Nobles: inverted shield of Henry, king of the Romans: Or, an eagle displayed sable, impaling gules a cross recercly argent. L.: Scutum Henrici filii imperatoris. [17]







Arms of Henry VII after Matthew Paris


Seal of Memmingen, 1230.


It is confirmed by the seal of the city of Memmingen dated 1230, showing a party of the cross and the eagle dimidiated. [18]


They may have been the arms of the Imperial regency for Henry VII (1220-’28)


Royal seal of Henry VII


Seal: The king on his throne with crown, sceptre and orb. L.: X : HENRICVS • D(E)I GR(ATI)A • ROMANORVM : REX & SEMP(ER) AVGVSTVS. Æ 8,5 cm. D.: Straßburg, 1220. [19].


As the kings seems to be full grown and has the features of Frederick II, the legend of the seal may have been recut to suit the name and titles of Henry VII, who was nine years old in 1220.


Seal of the City of Oppenheim


Seal: Bust of the king, crowned with a hooped crown. L.: X SIGILLVM • bvriensivm in oppenheim. Æ 7,7 cm. Date: 1225 / ’26  [20]

The king may be Henry VII. The crown consists of a diadem with one leaf and two groups of pearls and has a hoop with a cross and is identical to the crown on the royal seal of 1220



Golden Bull: The king on his throne with crown, sceptre and orb. L.: X heinric[us] d[e]i gr[ati]a romanor[um] rex et semp[er] avgvst[us]. Date: 1226. [21].


This time the crown is a leafed crown


Bamberger Reiter


1234 /’35 Bamberger Reiter

Choir of St. George in Bamberg Cathedral.  Sandstone, remains of paint.  h. 233 cm.


The accepted opinion is that the so-called Bamberger Reiter dates from before 1237, but it is a matter of discussion who actually is portrayed. Many propositions have been made of which Stephen of Hungary is the best known.



Very likely the rider is King Henry VII because:


a. The sculpture has been made during his rule.

b. The rider wears a crown with four large and four small leaves and consequently depicts a king.

c. The rider looks like Henry VII on his royal seal and on the seal of the city of Oppenheim.

d. The rider depicts a young man and in 1234 Henry VII was of the age of 23.

e. There has been an important relation between Henry VII and Bamberg because he granted its citizens the right to be summoned only by their own court. [22]

f.  His successors and kings of surrounding kingdoms had different features.




Stained glas in York Minster, 13th century

17th century drawing in the collection of  the College of Arms, Londen showing the original arrangement. The portrait of the Roman king is the one in the upper right corner between the arms of the king of England and of the king of  France. This portrait has been lost and has been replaced by St George with a coat of arms of a red cross on a white field.

Photo York Minster Library

Detail of the York glasses with the arms of the Roman King

On the glasses there are the arms with the keys of the pope, the two-headed eagle of the emperor of the Holy Roman empire, of the kings of England, France, Aragon and of the Roman King, of the king of Castile, of Jeruzalem and of the king of Navarra. It is one of the few places where the arms of the Emperor and the Roman King appear together.



During the reign of Henry VII the use of the royal arms became widespread amongst the cities privileged by Henry VII or his father. An example is the seal of the city of Schweinfurt, privileged by them to have markets and strike coins. This seal shows the royal arms of 13th century fashion and the arms of the city initially were: Or, and eagle Sable. [23] It would be a matter of interesting research how many cities actually adopted the royal arms in the time of Frederick II and his son.


Prisoner in Heidelberg, Alerheim im Ries,

San Fele near Melfi and Nicastro




Colour picture: website Museo Civico, Barletta

Bust of a Prince.

Southern Italy, 2nd quarter of the 13th century. Limestone, H. 116 cm. L.: DIVI  I………I CÆ 

(Barletta, Museo Civico). 


This portraitbust comes from a gate leading to Masseria Fasoli (between Barletta and Canosa di Puglia). The man looks like the man portrayed on the seal of Oppenheim and the Rider of Bamberg.. The crown of laurel was introduced by Frederick II for himself after his landing in Brindisi and his campaign in Southern Italy in 1229, and consequently this bust should be of a later date. The inscription, for which different propositions have been made, should read: DIVI HCI CÆ  (The Divine Caesar Henry) and Henry VII may have been a caesar after his deposition as a Roman King. This would explain why the bust is not wearing a royal crown but a crown of laurel only. Besides, the bust has been found only about 80 east from San Fele. Indeed, the features of the bust would fit a man of about 28 – 30 very well.  [24]


Arms: Per pale Or and Vert a two headed eagle Sable


These arms are also documented by Matthew Paris:


Mattheus Parisiensis, Chronica Majora 16 f. 155v.: Death of Henry in 1242: Reversed shield, parted per pale Or and Vert. L.: Henrici filii imperatoris. (Lewis)


Margarethe von Österreicch



Son 1: Henry

Son 2. Frederick

* 1204/1210- †1267

 ¥ 1 Heinrich VII  29.11.1225

¥ 2  Przemysl Ottokar 11.02.1252




Margarethe was crowned Roman Queen Aachen 28 March 1227, became a Dominikan nun in Trier (1242) and Würzbug (1224), gave her crown to the Predigerkloster in Eßlingen and the Frauenkloster in Weil and Sirnau near Eßlingen, raised after the death of her brother Friedrich (fallen in 1246 ) claim to the Duchies of Austria and Styria and withdrew into the world. [25]



A statuette of Margarethe and her son Henry (or Fredeick) has been preserved as the so-called Madonna of Aachen. (Lower Rhine, Maas Area  ca 1230).[26]


Another statuette of hers,

1230, Freiburg i. Breisgau



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© Hubert de Vries 2010-01-10. Updated 2014-02-25; 2020-09-10




[1]  This essay was published before in dutch language in: Heraldisch Tijdschrift 2005, Jrg. 11, nr. 1 pp. 5-10. The actual essay  is a translation and an update of it.

[2]  Gino Fornacieri, paleopathologist  at the Unversity of Pisa, has noticed, when he did research on the skeleton of  Henry VII, that he suffered from a grave form of leprosy. This could have been, it is thought, the reason why he was kept in isolated confinement.

[3]  Kestel, Fritz: Ermittlungen zur künstlerische Konzeption und historischen Identität des »Bamberger Reiters«. In: Die Andechs Meranier in Franken. Mainz, 1998. pp. 227-232. Portretzegels van Hendrik VII in Die Zeit de Staufer, n°s 52, 53, 141.

[4]  Die Zeit der Staufer Kat. nr. 73. Seal from Sigmaringen, Fürstl. Hohenzollern’sches Haus- u. Domänenarchiv, Kloster Wald, U 6 : 1216, July 15 (BF 3845). The charter dated incorrectly..

[5]  Die Zeit der Staufer Kat. nrs. 199, 75, 76, 77.  Coins from Biberach and Überlingen with one lion passant.

[6]  Bach, Max: Zur Geschichte des schwäbischen Wappens. In: Der Deutsche Herold, 1903, pp. 180-183.

[7]  About the complicated position of  Swabia in the kingdom and the empire: Schreiner, Klaus: Die Staufer als Herzöge von Schwaben. In: Die Zeit der Staufer, III, pp. 7-19.

[8]  Matheus Parisiensis: Historia Anglorum. Brit. Lib. London, Ms. Roy. 14 .C.VII, fol. 134v. 1242. Death of three nobles: Reversed shield of Henry, king of the Romans.

[9]  It was thought that these arms are on the seal of the city of Memmingen but this shows a cross and a one-headed eagle dimidiated. Besides, the cross is red on a white field and not dimidiated and consequently dates from  some time later, for example from the time of William II or the time of caesaropapism.

[10]  That is from the beginning of  reign of the House of Champagne  in Navarra. The oldes seal with the carbuncle dates form 1247: Douët d’Arcq, n° 11372. The nave of York Minster dates from 1296 and consequently the stained glass or parts of it have to originate from an older church.  A picture of the glass in 1666 in Dugdale’s Yorkshire Arms fol. 96c. (Coll. College of Arms, Londen). Photographs from 1946 and from before the restoration were placed at disposal by the Dean and Chapter of York. 

[11]  Hendrik Raspe was crowned a German but not a Roman King. William II was only crowned a Roman King in 1252.

[12]   This means that the arms of  Gregrory IX (1227-’41) are depicted.

[13]  The dress and armoury of the persons depicted do not contradict the date of 1234.

[14]  Mattheus Parisiensis: Chronica Majora M 16 f. 155v.: Death of Henry in 1242: Reversed shield of yellow and green: Henrici filii imperatoris. The quotes of Matheus Parisiensis always from Lewis, Suzanne: The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1987.

[15]  Pastoureau, M.: Figures et Couleurs. Paris 1986 pp 23-34.

[16]  Staatsarchiv Sigmaringen FAS DS 39 T 1-3 U 6 Die Zeit der Staufer, n° 73

[17]  Lewis, Suzanne: The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. Univ. of California Press. Berkeley/Los Angeles, 1987.

[18]  Seyler, Gustav A.: Geschichte der Heraldik. [Wappenwesen, Wappenkunst, Wappenwissen­schaft]. J. Siebmacher's grosses Wappenbuch Band A. Nürnberg 1885-1889. P. 284.

[19]  Die Zeit der Staufer  n° 52

[20]  Ibid. n° 141

[21]  Ibid. n° 53

[22]  See: Die Zeit der Staufer. Kat. nr. 441. And:  Kessel, Fritz: Ermittlungen zur künstlerischen Konzeption und historischen Identität des »Bamberger Reiters«. In: Die Andechs-Meranier in Franken. 1998. Pp. 227-232.

[23]  Seyler op. cit 1885, p. 284. The seals preserved are from 1325, 1330 and 1364.

[24]  Fragment eines Kaiserbildnisses. In: Die Zeit der Staufer I, pp. 669 - 670. Kat. 848, Abb. 627. Most certainly the bust is not of Frederick II as announced by the Museo Civico. It would be nice if we could demonstrate that Massera Fasoli has been a royal or imperial country-seat.

[25] Die Zeit der Staufer, III, p. 368

[26] Die Zeit der Staufer, I, 475