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The Sicilian Vespers: 1282

On Easter Monday in 1282, in the church of Santo Spirito outside Palermo, the evening service (vespers) is taking place. Some French soldiers, part of the hated Angevin regime which has recently been imposed on the island, are in the church. They show disrespect to a Sicilian woman. In the ensuing row they are killed by members of the congregation.

This unplanned moment of violence, sparked by the islanders' resentment against the French, triggers a wider uprising which is already in preparation. Peter III, the king of Aragon with a claim to Sicily through his wife Constance, has been organizing a faction to rise against the Angevins.

The spark and the waiting fuse combine to cause a violent explosion. During the night of Easter Monday the citizens of Palermo massacre some 2000 French men, women and children. Over the next month other towns across the island follow suit.

The ensuing war lasts in fits and starts for twenty years. In spite of several invasions of the island, the Angevins never again regain control of Sicily.

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