Emperor Henry III is dead. The realm is now in the hands of his widow, Agnes of Poitou who rules on behalf of the six-year-old king Henry IV. Agnes is no Theophanu and no Adelheid. Not that she is incompetent, she just isn’t absolutely brilliant, and absolutely brilliant is the baseline necessary to manage this fragile situation.
Hohentwiel, one of the oldest castles in Germany was in the 10th century the seat of Hadwig, duchess of Swabia by marriage. Hadwig played an important role in the rebellions of her brother, Henry the Quarrelsom. She held the impregnable fortress against imperial forces and remained in control of parts of Swabia long after the rebellions had been crushed. Hadwig is also famous for her relationship with the monk Eckehard recounted by Victor von Scheffel in his 1855 bestseller “Eckehard”.
#Onthisday, September 6th, 1879, Karl Joseph Wirth, the youngest German Chancellor to date, was born in Freiburg i.B. He was on the left wing of the Zentrum (=Catholic) party When he became chancellor in May 1921, he pursued a policy of compliance with the demands for the allied reparations after World War I.
On this day, September 5th, 1304 Rüdiger Manesse, Elderman of Zurich and collector of German medieval Minnelieder died at home. He is most famous for collecting the texts of medieval German Minnelieder (literally “songs of courtly love”), the romances sung in high German at the courts of the high Middle Ages. These formed the basis of the famous Codex MAnesse, the most beautiful German medieval book
On this day September 4th, 1024 a mere 6 weeks after the death of Emperor Henry II, the German magnates elect Konrad “the Elder” from the noble family of the Salian Franks to be king. His election was more than a surprise given his relative modest personal wealth and at best tangential relationship to the previous imperial family. However, Konrad II turned out to be a very effective ruler who managed to rapidly consolidate his reign. If you like to hear more about Konrad II and the time of the Salians, check out Season 2 of the History of the Germans Podcast, available on Spotify, Apple podcasts and wherever you get your Podcasts from.
On this day, September 3, 1736 Matthias “Hiasl” Klostermayr, a Bavarian poacher and highwayman was born in Kissing/Bavaria. He had to leave his hometown after an affair with a yeoman’s daughter and began a life as a poacher. His skill as a shot made him famous across the region. Though poaching was forbidden, the local farmers much appreciated the culling of the deer which caused damage to agriculture.Being an outlaw already, he diversified into robbing travellers on the roads between Augsburg, Munich and Ulm and raiding tax offices. He was known to (occasionally) share his gains with the poor, making him extremely popular. At the height of his fame his band of brothers comprised nearly 30 men.
This week we have a special treat – Episode 1 of Thugs and Miracles a podcast by Benjamin Bernier. We handed our feed over to Benjamin, a gifted storyteller who brings you the History of France from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Fall of the Guillotine. He is doing it properly and […]
Eadgith (910-946), daughter of King Edward the Elder of England and first wife of Emperor Otto the Great (912-973). According to the chronicler Widukind they had a very close relationship and Otto was devastated when she died in 946. Eadgith had been a major political operator within the future Holy Roman Empire, and like many royal consorts in this period was “sharing in the burden of rule”.
On this day, August 31st, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic signed the Einigungsvertrag that unified East and West Germany into a sovereign state. Instead of creating a new joint constitution, the Laender of the GDR simply joined the FRG.
Gravensteen castle in Ghent was the seat of the Counts of Flanders who became serious players on the European stage from the 10th century. The first count was Baldwin who was appointed in 862, allegedly after eloping with emperor Charles the Bald’s daughter. The counts were an ambitious lot and grew their territory step by step. A key breakthrough came in the middle of the 11th century.
#onthisday, August 29th, 1523, Ulrich von Hutten, poet, humanist, reformer and rebellious knight died on Ufenau island in lake Zurich. His fight against tyranny and corruption, his humanist thinking and support for intellectual freedom made him an icon on both the left and the right. Caspar David Friedrich painted “Hutten’s Grave” in 1823 as a protest against censorship and repression (see picture). The motto of Stanford university “Die Luft der Freiheit weht” comes from Ulrich von Hutten’s writings.
On this day, August 28, 1969 the German Association of Mineral Water Sources (Deutsche Brunnen) introduced the Normbrunnenflasche, 5.5bn of which will ultimately be produced as part of a nationwide recycling system. It was a design breakthrough as it introduced the screw top, which allowed bottles to be refilled up to 50x
The Neckarprivileg of 1333 made Heilbronn a wealthy trading city. The citizens were allowed to build a weir that interrupted river traffic past the town. Merchants were forced to unload their wares and use local hauliers. Since the wares were already unloaded, the merchants were given the “opportunity” to sell them at the city’s market, making Heibronn’s merchants prosperous
How did it come about that by 1056 the chronicler writes that “both the foremost men and the lesser men of the kingdom began more and more to murmur against the emperor. They complained he had long since departed from his original conduct of justice, peace, piety, fear of god and manifold virtues in which
he ought to have made progress”
In the year 1048 the duchy of Normandy is the most tightly run state in western Europe outside the empire. Like in the empire central power is able to maintain order, prevent the construction of castles and stop the nobles from feuding. That is great for peasants but not great for the second, third, fourth […]
In October 1268 the head of 16-year old Konradin rolls into the gutter on the main square of Naples. WIth that the popes finally achieve what they have worked for for decades, getting rid of the Hohenstaufen family who ruled both the kingdom of Sicily to the south and the empire to the north. .
Onthisday, the 22nd of August 1818 Grand Duke Karl Ludwig of Baden signed the new Constitution of Baden into law, one of the most advanced constitutions of its day. The citizens of Baden were granted habeas corpus, freedom of property, religion, equality before the law and the removal of feudal structures. The constitution established a […]
The potentially most profitable marriage in European history was concluded #onthisday, 19th of August 1477, between the 18-year old Maximilian, heir to the dukes of Austria and Maria, daughter and heir of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. The marriage made Maximilian’s heirs the dukes of Burgundy, the richest lands in Europe at the time. […]
In 1046 Henry III finally has time to go to Rome and claim the imperial crown. All he wants is get in, get crowned and get out before the Malaria season. He encounters a problem when he finds out that the current pope Gregory VI has bought the papacy for cold hard cash, a sin […]
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I am a history geek with no academic qualification in the field but a love for books and stories. I do this for fun and my personal self-aggrandisement.
I have been born, raised and educated in Germany but live in the UK for now over 20 years with my wife and two children. My professional background is in law, management consulting and banking. History has always been a hobby as are sailing, travelling, art, skiing and exercise (go BMF!).
My view of history is best summarised by Gregory of Tours (539-594): “A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad”. History has no beginning and no end and more importantly, it has no logic, no pattern and no purpose . But that does not mean there isn’t progress and sometimes we humans realise that doing the same thing again and again hoping for a different outcome is indeed madness. The great moments in history are those where we realise that we cannot go on as we were and things need to change. German history – as you will hopefully see – is full of these turning points, some good, some bad!
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