Roger de Flor and His Catalan Company: From Knight Templar to Pirate – Part I
Roger de Flor was a swashbuckling military adventurer and condottiere (mercenary) leader of the Catalan Company. He was born in the city of Brindisi, Italy, which at the time of his birth was a part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was the youngest son of Richard von Blum (Blum in German means flower), a German falconer who served Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and an Italian mother who was the daughter of an honorable and wealthy man (possibly a patrician) from Brindisi. Roger also had an older brother by the name of Jacob.
The Royal Coronation mantel 1133/34 (dyed silk, gold thread and pearls, precious stones) of the Kingdom of Sicily (Public Domain)
Not long after Roger’s birth, the Kingdom of Sicily was embroiled in a war between Charles of Anjou, the youngest son of King Louis VIII of France, and King Conradin (Conrad) of Sicily in late summer of 1268. It was during this war that Roger’s father, Richard, joined to aid in the defense of Sicily. According to the Ramon Muntaner Chronicle, Richard was “a man expert in arms and wished to fight in the battle.” On 23 August 1268, the supporters of Conradin and the army of Charles of Anjou meet at Scurcola Marsicana province of L'Aquila, present-day Italy, in what is known as the Battle of Tagliacozzo.
Conradin’s forces consisted of Italian, Spanish, Roman, Arab and German troops, while Charles forces were primarily consisted of French and Italian troops.
The Battle of Tagliacozzo (Public Domain)
Conradin’s forces initially had the upper hand during the battle. However, the overconfidence of his men got the best of them, for they soon became preoccupied with plunder. Charles took advantage of the situation and defeated the forces of Conradin to become the new king of Sicily.
Map of the Kingdom of Sicily, (CC BY-SA 3.0)
It was during this battle that Roger, who was not even a year old and Jacob, who was only four, would lose their father. With Sicily now under his control, Charles took it upon himself to enjoy the spoils of war:
And King Charles, when he had seized the Kingdom, took for himself everything belonging to all who had been in the battle, and what had belonged to the family of the Emperor or of King Manfred. There remained no more to those boys than what their mother had brought as her marriage portion, for, of the rest, they were disinherited.
Whatever Richard had accumulated for his children, was now in the hands of the king.
A Young Templar
To suggest that Roger grew up poor would be a stretch, since his grandfather was a patrician. Because of this, it is safe to assume that Roger and his older brother partook in their grandfather’s business and learned a great deal in finance, since they lived in a port city dealing in trade. Given the location and job occupation of his mother’s family, Roger would have been familiar with ships and may have gone on a few voyages himself with his grandfather. The reason for this, is that Roger was caught playing on a ship in port when he was eight. That moment would change Roger’s life forever...
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Top Image: Sicilian mercenary Roger de Flor in the city of Constantinople at the head of his Catalan mercenaries, who together were known as the Great Catalan Company (Public Domain), and Roger de Flor portrait inset (Public Domain), Deriv.
By Cam Rea