Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes, Byzantine Princess, Emperor Otto II, King of East Francia, King of Germany, King Rudolph II of Burgundy, Matilda of Ringelheim, Otto the Great, Phokas Family, Theophanu
May 26, 961 King Otto I elects his six-year-old son Otto II as heir apparent and co-ruler of the East Frankish Kingdom. He is crowned at Aachen, and placed under the tutelage of his grandmother Matilda of Ringelheim.
Otto II (955 – December 7, 983), called the Red, was Holy Roman Emperor from 973 until his death in 983. A member of the Ottonian dynasty, Otto II was the youngest and sole surviving son of Otto I the Great and Adelaide of Italy (Burgundy) daughter of King Rudolf II of Burgundy, a member of the Elder House of Welf, and Bertha of Swabia.
Otto II was made joint-ruler of the Kingdom of East Francia ion May 26, 961 at an early age, and his father named him co-Emperor in 967 to secure his succession to the throne. His father also arranged for Otto II to marry the Byzantine Princess Theophanu, who would be his wife until his death.
Otto II had only one known wife. On April 14, 972, Otto II married Theophanu, a Byzantine Princess of the Phokas family who was the cousin of reigning Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes.
According to the marriage certificate issued on April 14, 972 Theophanu is identified as the neptis (niece or granddaughter) of Emperor John I Tzimiskes (925–976, reigned 969–976) who was of Armenian and Byzantine Greek descent. She was of distinguished noble heritage: the Vita Mahthildis identifies her as augusti de palatio and the Annales Magdeburgenses describe her as Grecam illustrem imperatoriae stirpi proximam, ingenio facundam.
Recent research tends to concur that she was most probably the daughter of Tzimiskes’ brother-in-law (from his first marriage) Constantine Skleros (c. 920–989) and cousin Sophia Phokas, the daughter of Kouropalatēs Leo Phokas, brother of Emperor Nikephoros II (c. 912–969).
When Otto the Great died, the smooth succession to the imperial throne of Otto II had long been guaranteed. Otto II had been king of East Francia for twelve years and Emperor for five at the time of Otto the Great’s death. Unlike his father, Otto II did not have any brothers to contest his claims to the throne.
On May 8, the nobles of the Empire assembled before Otto II and, according to the Saxon Chronicler Widukind of Corvey, “elected” Otto II as his father’s successor. One of Otto II’s first acts was to confirm the rights and possessions of the Archbishop of Magdeburg. Although Otto II had succeeded peacefully to the throne, internal divisions of power still remained unaddressed. During his first seven years as Emperor, he was constantly occupied with maintaining Imperial power against internal rivals and external enemies.
Otto II spent his reign continuing his father’s policy of strengthening Imperial rule in East Francia and extending the borders of the Empire deeper into Southern Italy. Otto II also continued the work of Otto I in subordinating the Catholic Church to Imperial control.
Otto II was a member of the Ottonian dynasty, which ruled the Kingdom of East Francia (and later the Holy Roman Empire) from 919 to 1024. In relation to the other members of his dynasty, Otto II was the grandson of Heinrich I, son of Otto I, father of Otto III, and a first-cousin once removed to Heinrich II.