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XIV Century

Henry II, born in 1266 and son Albert II, was perhaps the most fascinating character of the family. The Count grew up with a good Italian education, so much to feed the legend of Dante's stay at the court of Henry II. In 1297 he married Beatrice, daughter of Gherardo da Camino (the "good Gherardo" as Dante called him), and later, in the first twenty years of the fourteenth century, he succeeded in dominating the Friulian politics of the time. The Count distinguished himself for the affirmation of his patriarchal authority: suffice it to say that, in 1313, Patriarch Ottobono recognised his superiority and conferred him the office of Captain-General for life.

Having settled in a moment of great power in the County of Gorizia, Henry II caressed the dream of expanding his possessions in Italian territory. Italy, with its refined culture and strong economy, was always the centre of attention of German princes and emperors. But between Gorizia and the Po Valley - Veneto there was always the obstacle of the Patriarchate. Henry II implemented a strategy that aimed to defeat it definitively. Occupying part of Carnia, relying on the possessions in Tyrol and Carinthia, conquering the Trevigiano and Padua, Henry II managed to surround the Patriarchate. This plan of his, if completed, would have made him indisputably master of Friuli and part of Veneto. To achieve this, the Count first allied himself with Verona, coming to an agreement with Cangrande della Scala and, trusting in the neutrality of Venice and with the approval of Emperor Frederick II the Beautiful, he marched towards Treviso and Padua, subjugating these cities in 1319. The domains ranged from the Brenta to Croatia, from Val Pusteria to the Gulf of Kvarner and Henry II decided to face the La Scala of Verona.

In Padua, however, after the first enthusiasms, the bad moods caused by the violent conduct of the German armigers in the service of Henry II began to weave. The peace negotiations favoured the Scaliger Cangrande, who, through secret agreements, resumed Bassano, returning to Henry II the castles of Asolo and Montebelluna. The dominion of Henry II began to crumble. But the Count would never have seen the collapse of his work: in 1323, at the age of 57, his death caught him suddenly during the banquet organized for the wedding of his daughter Elisabetta. There was also talk of poisoning by Cangrande della Scala's assassins: it is more likely that Enrico died of congestion. Henry II was a protagonist, equal in cunning, intelligence and ambition to the great Italian lords of the time. He found himself operating in a context in which Venice and its Habsburg neighbours were at the beginning of their power: it is not by chance, therefore, that the Count always observed a friendly and prudent attitude towards the Venetian Signoria, deliberately avoiding any open conflict. So much so that, in 1313, Henry II received Venetian citizenship, and in 1321, when he went to Venice with his wife, the Council of Ten, the supreme body of Venetian political life, granted him an armed retinue, thus testifying "love and honour towards the Count". Two years earlier, Henry's wife Beatrice had passed away, and the Count, worried about his descendants, had joined the princess Beatrice of Bavaria in marriage, who would give him her son John Henry.

Since the death of Henry II, the mainardine dynasty - both in the Gorizia and Tyrolese branches - began a phase of stalemate, a prelude to a long decline. Henry II was to be succeeded, in direct line, by his son John Henry, who at the death of his father was just two months old. The regency was then assumed by his mother Beatrice of Bavaria, assisted by his brother-in-law Albert III and his son, Albert IV, but also by a cousin of the late Count, the homonymous Henry, Duke of Carinthia and King of Bohemia and Poland. Cangrande della Scala and the Habsburg dynasty, determined to implement a more aggressive transalpine policy, benefited from this confused situation. On the Tyrolean front, in 1335 Henry of Carinthia - Tyrol also died without the succession having been assigned to the young John Henry, but was instead taken over by his daughter Margaret (Maultasch), wife of John, second son of the King of Bohemia. Shortly afterwards, in 1338, the young Count Henry John, just fifteen years old, also died. The county passed to the cousins, that is to say to the sons of Albert II, Albert IV (who died in 1374), Mainard VII and Henry III. Precisely because of the fragmentation of the County and an unambitious policy, the dynasty limited itself to managing the alpine and transalpine interests, leaving the field free in different territories, to the benefit of the Habsburgs.

In the meantime, a last blaze of pride lit the Patriarchate of Aquileia: Bertrando di San Genesio snatched Venzone from the Gorizians, who, after the defeat of Osoppo in 1340, suffered the shame of a siege, without success for their city. But the activism of Patriarch Bertrando attracted the hostility of the Friulian nobles, who decided to make a common front with the Counts of Gorizia. It was precisely in this climate that the assassin of Patriarch Bertrando matured in 1350, a salient episode in Friulian history and the result of an unusual alliance between Goriziani and Cividalesi. After Bertrando's death, Count Henry III of Gorizia proposed himself as Captain-General of the Patriarchate, but the position was attributed to Albert II of Austria: with this important gesture, also in Friuli, the historical alternative of the Hapsburgs to the Gorizia family was manifested. In those years, through a policy of loans granted to the now indebted Counts of Gorizia, the Habsburgs laid the foundations for the direct administrative control of the County of Gorizia.

Among the successors of Henry II, Mainard VII emerges, whose political action is aimed at ensuring the survival of the dynasty, despite the transfer of the Tyrol to Austria in1363. The threat now came from Hungary, through the Luxembourg House of Cilli, against which Mainard VII and Duke Leopold of Habsburg allied themselves through a four-year pact of mutual aid. This did not prevent Mainardo himself from entering into a new pact with the Cilli in 1373, in open contrast to the Habsburgs: since then, for over half a century, the Cilli dynasty had easy access in Gorizia. It was the time when the great families of the Habsburgs, the Wittelsbachs and the Luxemburgers were forming around the imperial Roman-Germanic crown. The prestige of the Counts of Gorizia, however, remained intact so much so that the Emperor Charles of Luxembourg elevated them to the rank of Princes of the Empire.