William VII, marquess of Montferrat

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William VII degli Aleramici, "the Great Marquess" of Montferrat

Italian: Guglielmo VII degli Aleramici, "il Gran Marchese" del monferrato
Also Known As: "called the Great (Italian: il Gran Marchese)"
Birthplace: Trino, Provincia di Vercelli, Piemonte, Italy
Death: February 06, 1292 (47-56)
Alexandria, Egypt
Immediate Family:

Son of Bonifacio II, marchese del Monferrato and Marguerite de Savoie
Husband of Elena del Bosco; Isabel de Clare and Beatriz de Castilla, marchesa del Monferrato
Father of Margherita del Monferrato, signora di Valencia; Son; Eirene of Montferrat; John I degli Aleramici, marquess of Montferrat and Alessina de Montferrat
Brother of Andelasia / Adelheid / Alessina di Monferrato

Occupation: Marquess of Montferrat
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William VII, marquess of Montferrat



2. GUGLIELMO (-in prison Alessandria 8 Feb 1292). Matthew of Paris recounts that, after the death of Emperor Friedrich I in 1250, there was an attempt to exchange "filius Marchisii Montis Ferrati" (unnamed) for Enzio, the son of Friedrich[228]. The testament of "Bonefacius Montisferrati marchio", dated 12 Jun 1253, bequeathes property to "Alaxinam filiam meam inpuberem", appoints "Guilelminum filium meum inpuberem" as his heir, substituting in turn "Alaxinam…filia mea" and "Tomam de Saluciis", if his son died childless[229]. He succeeded his father as GUGLIELMO VII Marchese di Monferrato. He was appointed Vicar-General in northern Italy by his father-in-law as candidate for the kingdom of Italy, and led the movement to oust Charles Comte d'Anjou from the kingdom of Sicily. He succeeded in depriving the latter of his possessions in Lombardy and captured and castrated his ambassadors. He became head of the Ghibelin League formed by the Marchese di Saluzzo and contingents from Castile in the towns of Pavia, Asti, Mantua, Verona, Genoa, Milan, Alessandria and Ivrea. He was named "Capitano di Guerra" and defeated the Guelf supporters of King Charles and the Pope in 1275[230]. Captain of Milan 1278. Captain of Pavia, Novara and Vercelli. Captain of Como 1282. He was imprisoned by supporters of the town of Asti, deposed in 1290 and kept in an iron cage, dying after two years of captivity[231]. The Chronica Jacobi de Aquis, dated to 1334, records that "Gulielmo" died "costui in Alessandria" in 1292[232].

m firstly ELENA del Bosco, daughter of ANSELMO Marchese del Bosco & his wife ---. The primary source which confirms her parentage and marriage has not yet been identified.

m secondly (Lyon Jun 1258) ISABEL de Clare, daughter of RICHARD de Clare Earl of Hertford and Gloucester & his second wife Maud de Lacy (1240-before 1271). The Chronica de Fundatoribus et Fundatione of Tewkesbury Abbey names “Isabella primogenita, Margareta et Roysea” as the three daughters of “Ricardus de Clare secundus filius et hæres…Gilberti et Isabellæ” and his wife “Matildem…filiam comitis Lincolniæ”[233]. The Annals of Tewkesbury record the marriage in Jun 1258 “apud Leouns” of “Isabel filia Ricardi de Clare primogenita” and “domino Marchio de Ponte Ferato”, recording that “Willelmus de Bekeford monachus Theokesberiæ” went with her[234]. The Chronica Jacobi de Aquis, dated to 1334, records that "Marchio Guliermus" married "filiam regis Angliæ" and that he killed her "et dicitur sine caussa ex sola et levi suspicione"[235].

m thirdly (Murcia Aug 1271) Infanta doña BEATRIZ de Castilla, daughter of don ALFONSO X "el Sabio" King of Castile & his wife Infanta doña Violante de Aragón ([5 Nov/6 Dec] 1254-[1286]). The Chronica Jacobi de Aquis, dated to 1334, records that "Marchio Guliermus" married secondly "Beatricem filiam regis Anfoxi de Hispania"[236]. Her origin is indicated by Pachymeres who records the second marriage of Emperor Andronikos II and "Irenen, e dynastis…quos marcesios sive marchioness appellant…neptem regis Hispaniæ"[237]. Her parentage is also indicated by Georgius Phrantzes who records that "Irene, e Lombardia oriunda atque filia sororis regis Hispaniæ et nepti marchionis Montisferratensis…qui Thessalonicam…et Thessalorum rex fuit" was the second wife of "imperator Andronicus"[238]. The Chronicon Astense records that in 1286 "Guilielmus Marchio Montisferrati" went "in Hispania cum uxore sua Beatrice" who died there[239]. Marchese Guglielmo VII & his second wife had one child:

William VII, Marquess of Montferrat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William VII (circa 1240 Trino – 6 February 1292), called the Great (Italian: il Gran Marchese), was the twelfth Margrave of Montferrat from 1253 to his death. He was also the titular King of Thessalonica.


William was the eldest son of Boniface II and Margaret of Savoy. He was named his father's heir in a testament of 1253, the year of his father's passing and his succession. He remained under his mother's regency until 1257. Upon attaining his majority, he married Isabella, daughter Richard de Clare, in 1258. William's mother was a first cousin of Eleanor of Provence, queen consort of England, and it was through the latter's influence that the marriage was arranged.[1]

“ ...Quel che più basso tra costor s'atterra,

guardando in suso, è Guiglielmo marchese,

per cui e Alessandria e la sua guerra

fa pianger Monferrato e Canavese...

— Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio; canto VII.

[edit]Piedmontese politics

In his first years, William looked to exert his power in the southern Piedmont, as many of his predecessors had tried. The lords of Montferrat had always been combatting the independence of the communes of Alessandria and Asti. In order to subdue them and bring them under his control, William sought alliance and support from the Kingdom of France and the Roman Catholic Church. However, his relationship and proximity to the Holy Roman Emperor left him at odds with the Ghibellines. His anti-imperial, pro-French, Guelph policy left him not insignificant problems concerning the imperial authority and his imperialist neighbours.

His taking part with Guelph politics and cohorting with Charles I of Sicily in a Lombard invasion, brought upon him the wrath of Oberto Pelavicino, the chief Ghibelline commander in the region, in 1264. William resisted him with determination and effectiveness. William even occupied the fortresses of Acqui Terme, Tortona, and Novi Ligure, stabilising his hold on Nizza Monferrato. In 1265, French reinforcements arrived. Less than eight years from his accession, William had extended his power to Lanzo and the vicinity of Alessandria.

[edit]Support for Alfonso X

Though aided immensely by the Angevins, the lords of Montferrat had never been known for loyalty to a cause or party and William was no different, abandoning Charles soon after his success, probably fearful of Charles' rising power in Italy and of being encircled by an Angevin state.

William found an ally in Alfonso X of Castile, who had declared himself the heir of Manfred of Sicily and therefore of the Emperor Frederick II. He joined Alfonso at the head of an anti-Angevin coalition. In order to cement an alliance with the Spanish king, the margrave (widow since 1270) married Beatrice, Alfonso's daughter, at Murcia in 1271. A future marriage between William's only daughter by his first marriage with Isabella de Clare, Margaret, and the infante John of Valencia was also planned.

From Alfonso, William received the promise of military aid in the case of an Angevin attack. Alfonso named his son-in-law as vicar-general of Lombardy, in opposition to Charles' vicar. This last attacked William's lands and despite the promises, he received no aid from Alfonso.


Left alone and seeing his domains under attack by his enemies and Tortona and Acqui lost, William scrambled to form an alliance with the Ghibelline cities of Pavia, Asti, and Genoa. He continued to wait for aid from Alfonso, but the king had given up on Germany and Italy. Nevertheless, a small troupe of Spanish soldiers found their way to Montferrat. With these and his allies, despite the excommunication of Pope Gregory X, William prepared to defend his territories. On 10 November 1274, at the Battle of Roccavione, William and the Ghibellines definitively defeated Charles I and routed his forces. He advanced far, taking Trino Vercellese and Turin, which offended the House of Savoy, which considered itself the rightful possessor of the city on the Po.

Towards 1278, the commune of Vercelli recognised William as its lord and Alessandria named him captain and put itself under his dominion. Casale and Tortona also nominated him their captain and William exited the war in a superior position to that with which he had begun.

[edit]Captain of Milan

Having become the military leader of various Lombard cities, including Pavia, Vercelli, Alessandria, Tortona, Genoa, Turin, Asti, Alba, Novara, Brescia, Cremona, and Lodi, he was also elected head of the anti-Angevin coalition. At the height of his career, Ottone Visconti requested William to fight the Torriani. On 5 August 1278, he was named captain of Milan and given an annual salary of 10,000 lire. Soon defeated, however, he was forced to leave the city for Montferrat.

Milan, however, was left bereft of military leadership and Ottone Visconti soon requested William's aid again. He was invited back to the city and accepted, demanding the lordship of Milan for ten years.

William did not long enjoy his time in Milan, for his authority was soon challenged in Alessandria and Asti. He left Milan in the hands of a vicar and went to fight the rebellious cities. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy swift victory, but was instead captured by Thomas III of Savoy, whom he had made his enemy in taking Turin. In order to obtain his liberty, he ceded Turin, as well as Grugliasco and Collegno, and a huge sum of gold. He was freed on 21 June 1280. From that moment, power in the Piedmont would slowly devolve to the Savoyards.

Weakened by continuous warfare, William soon lost control of Milan. On 27 December 1281, he was chased from the city by the one who had brought him there, Ottone Visconti.

[edit]Final war

In compensation for the loss of Milan, William received Alba. His daughter by Beatrice of Castile, Violante (Yolanda), married the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, taking the name Irene (Eirene). Through this marriage, his political situation appeared stabilised. But William was soon campaigning again. He saw a continuous flow of alternating defeats and victories. Having reduced Alessandria to submission, the citizens of Asti paid the Alessandrians a large sum of money and induced them to revolt against the margrave again. Constrained to deal with Alessandria once and for all, William encamped with a large army in front of the city walls. Heeding the appeals of the citizens, he enterred the city to negotiate a peace, but was imprisoned in an iron cage and died a year later, probably of hunger, certainly still a captive.


William left a son, John, who inherited the margraviate. The margraviate he inherited was divided by years of constant war and few communes remained faithful. Sent to Saluzzo for his safety, John stayed there a year.

William's body was given back to his family and was buried in the Cistercian abbey of Santa Maria di Lucedio, alongside his father. His obituary remembers him as fundator huius monasterii: "founder of this monastery." In fact, he was just a member of the founding family and an endower. The real founder was Renier.


The margraviate of Montferrat was torn to pieces by the incessant expansionistic wars of William VII's reign. Chivasso, the centre of margravial power, the veritable capital and seat of the marca Aleramica, was but an unimportant provincial town at the time. Never again would the Aleramici succeed in establishing their authority over the Piedmont.

The war with Charles of Sicily, the other chief objective, after Piedmont, of William's rule, was essential to the defence of his domain. The victory at Roccavione did not, however, sustain his power in the Piedmont.

Despite these political and military failures, William's liberality was praised by his contemporaries. He ran a government without oppression or corruption attaching to his name. According to Dante Alighieri (Convivio; IV, XI 12):

“ E c[u]i non è ancora [ne]l cuore Alessandro per li suoi reali benefici? Cui non è ancora lo buono re di Castella, o il Saladino, o il buono Marchese di Monferrato, o il buono Conte di Tolosa, o Beltramo dal Bornio, o Galasso di Montefeltro? ”


^ Howell, p. 54


Caravale, Mario (ed). Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani: LX Grosso – Guglielmo da Forlì. Rome, 2003.

Howell, Margaret. Eleanor of Provence, 1998.

Morelli, Maurizio. La Grande Storia del Piemonte. Florence, 2006.

Marchesi di Monferrato: Guglielmo VII.

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William VII, marquess of Montferrat's Timeline

Trino, Provincia di Vercelli, Piemonte, Italy
Casale Monferrato, Italy
Saloniki, Makedhonia, Greece
February 6, 1292
Age 52
Alexandria, Egypt