The Principality of Achaia (1205-1432)
After the departure of Boniface, William de Champlitte and Geoffrey I de Villehardouin continued the campaign in the Peloponnese. They captured Patras, Andravida, Pondikos (in Elis), Skorta (in western Arcadia), Navarino, Kalamata and by mid-1205 the nucleus of the principality of Achaia had been created.
In 1209 William de Champlitte died upon his return to France in order to claim heritage and the principality came under Geoffrey I de Villehardouin. As described in the Chronicle of the Morea, the latter proceeded to the administrative organization of the conquered regions. As results from two important treaties concluded in 1209 (those of Ravennika Ravennika and of Sapienza) Geoffrey is referred to as princeps of the Peloponnese by virtue of the right resulting from the conquest. In 1210 Nauplion and Corinth were conquered (the latter was defended by Leo Sgouros, who committed suicide in 1208), whereas Argos was conquered in 1212 and in 1248 the conquest of the Peloponnese was completed by the seizure of Monemvasia.
After the conquest, a period of unprecedented flourishing dawned for the Peloponnese. The Franks abiding by the feudal traditions tried to organize the region as a western type principality. It seems that they did not encounter great difficulty, since the division into large properties existed already and the inhabitants, discontented with the Byzantine rule, accepted the new rulers unresistingly. Between 1205 and 1278, under the rule of the Villehardouin dynasty, the principality reached its heyday. More precisely, Geoffrey I (1209-1228) was succeeded by his son Geoffrey II (1228-1246) and then by his brother William II (1246-1278).
In 1278 the rule devolved upon the Naples House of Anjou, but practically the descendants of the Villehardouins reigned until 1318. The Angevin rule continued until 1432, when the remainders of the principality were assimilated by the Byzantines of the despotate of the Morea. In 1259 Michael VIII Palaiologos prevailed at the battle of Pelagonia over the Frankish coalition - which fought on the side of the despote of Epirus - and concluded an alliance with the Genoeses in 1261 (treaty of Nymphaeum), with a view to recovering Constantinople. In order to free prince William II Villehardouin (who had been captured at the battle of Pelagonia), the wives of the barons of the principality (Parlement des Dames at Nikli) decided to surrender to Michael VIII Palaiologos the fortresses of Mistra, Maina, Monemvasia (according to the Chronicle of the Morea, ver. 432 and the Chronicle of Marino Sanudo), as well as the castles of Geraki and Kinsterna (according to Pachymeres).
The nucleus of the despotate of the Morea was founded in 1262. Between 1262 and 1349 the despotate was governed by appointed administrators (kephalai), whereas between 1349 and 1460 it was governed by the members of the imperial family (despots). So long as William lived, the Franks confronted successfully the attacks of the Byzantines. The battles of Prinitza (Olympia), of Sergiana (Serbia) and of Mesiskli (Elis), in 1262-1263, and of Makryplagi in Messenia, in 1264, ended with the defeat of the Byzantines, but in reality the decline of the Frankish rule in the Peloponnese had already started.
In 1267 the treaty of Viterbo was concluded between the Latin emperor Baldwin II, prince William II Villehardouin and the king of Naples, Charles I of Anjou. This treaty marked the beginning of the rule of the Anjou dynasty in Greece. The first part of the treaty, signed on 24 May 1267, determined the fate of the principality installing Charles as suzerain lord. After the death of William the principality would be transferred to Philip (Charles’ son and William’s son-in-law) or to Charles himself. The second part of the treaty, signed on 27 May 1267, was a campaign plan against Michael VIII Palaiologos for recovering Constantinople and ceded Corfu and cities of Epirus to Charles. In 1258 the despot of Epirus married his daughter Helen to King Manfred of Sicily and bestowed upon him this region as a dowry.
Charles I (1266-1285), son of Louis VIII and brother of Louis IX, was the count of Anjou, Maine and Provence after his marriage to Beatrice. In January 1266, Pope Clement IV bestowed on him the Kingdom of Sicily, which his predecessor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1220-1250) had organized administratively and economically. Charles had been registered in the conscience of Italian cities as the leader of the Guelfs (supporters of the pope and defenders of the democratic civil freedoms and the national Italian idea) against the Ghibellines (supporters of the imperial idea of the German emperor). On 26 February, at the battle of Benevento he defeated Manfred, the illegitimate son of Frederick, who had usurped the Sicilian throne, whereas at the battle of Tagliacozzo in August 1268 he prevailed against Conradin, grandson of Frederick, and his Ghibelline allies. Then Charles turned eastwards. The treaty of Viterbo contributed to the materialization of his expansionist plans bringing the principality of Achaia under his rule.
Until the death of William II, in 1278, the rule of Charles over the principality consisted in stationing garrisons in the area in order to deal with the Byzantine menace. In essence, the real domination began in 1278, when the Angevin ruler assigned the administration to representatives, the so-called baili.As to Corfu and the cities of Epirus (in Angevin documents they are referred to as Albania) the dominion practically began in 1272. However, the Angevin presence was active only during Charles’ lifetime. On 30 March 1282 the revolt of the "Sicilian Vespers" broke out and the joint campaign with the Venetians to recapture Constantinople was called off. The interest of the Angevins was shifted to the recovering of Sicily, whereas the eastern policy was practically abandoned. Albeit quite enfeebled, the Angevin domination was maintained until 1432 in the principality of Achaia, until 1386 in Corfu and only until 1284 in Durazzo and the largest part of "Albania".
Charles I never visited the principality, but exercised power through his representatives, the baili. The first bailo to be sent there was Galeran d’ Ivry (1278-1280), who received fealty from the baronies and the castles that constituted property of William II. The second bailo was Philip Lagonessa (1280-1282). The next baili were nobles of the region, such as Guy de Tremblay baron of Chalandritza (1282-1285), the duke of Athens Guy de la Roche (1285-1287), Nicholas II Saint Omer (1287-1289) and Guy de Charpigny (1289) baron of Vostitza.
In 1289 Charles II of Anjou (1285-1309) ceded the principality to Isabelle, daughter of William II de Villehardouin and to her husband Florent de Hainault until 1297. Between 1301 and 1305, Isabelle reigned together with her third husband, Philip of Savoy. In 1306 Matilda (Mahaut), daughter of Isabelle and Florent claimed the principality. In 1313 Philip I of Taranto, son of Charles II (despot of Romania from 1294) ceded Achaia to Matilda and her husband Louis of Burgundy, who was killed in 1316 at the battle of Manolada. Matilda was unable to cope all alone with the Byzantines of Mistra and the Catalans of the duchy of Athens. The Angevin king Robert (1309-1343) arranged a match between Matilda and his brother John of Gravina, but she refused and in 1318 she waived her rights to the principality in favour of John
The last period until the disruption of the principality in 1432 was particularly complicated with the presence of Turks, Venetians, Hospitallers, Navarrese. A dominant element was the increasing Turkish menace and the enthusiasm of the pope for a new crusade, as well as the reinforcement of the Venetian rule. On the other hand, the decline of the principality was absolute. The feudal society that had been formed after the conquest had undergone changes. Most Frankish families had disappeared and new Italian families (Venetian and Florentine) had made their way to the aristocracy of the region, by virtue of marriage or donations. At the same time, there were many conflicts among the candidate claimants, a fact that revealed that the principality maintained its prestige despite the losses.
In 1321 the barons had a plan to surrender Achaia to the Venetians, but it did not materialize. In 1331, the title of the despot of Romania was bequeathed to the son of Philip, Robert of Taranto (1309-1343), who in 1332 settled in Achaia, where ruled his mother Catherine and then himself until 1364.
A new person came to the fore, the Florentine Niccolo Acciaiuoli. From 1331 he was the adviser of Catherine and from 1341 he had obtained fiefs in the Peloponnese for his services. The widow of Robert, Marie de Bourbon, claimed the title of princess (1364-1370). Another claimant to the principality was Robert’s brother, Philip II of Taranto (1364-1373). He was succeeded by Jacques de Baux, but the queen of Naples Joanna (1343-1382), granddaughter of Robert, contested his rights on the principality, claiming governance for herself. In 1376, Joanna leased the principality to the Hospitallers of Rhodes for a period of five years. In 1381 the Navarrese took advantage of the situation by recognizing Jacques de Baux (1381-1383). Various candidates were to appear next, such as Amadeus of Savoy, Pierre de San Superan (1396-1402) and Centurione II Zaccaria (1404-1432). The Angevin rule was maintained rather enfeebled until the final disruption of the principality of Achaia, in 1432 by the despot of Mistra. Lastly, in 1460 the despots Thomas and Demetrios Palaiologos, brothers of the last emperor of Constantinople, surrendered to the Turks.