Herny V’s cunning Plan

Having lured his father into a trap and then deposed, we now have a new king. Last week you heard the story from the father’s perspective, this time we look at it from Henry V’s perspective. Maybe he was not as much of a rotten apple as it looks? For five years Henry can maintain […]

The end of Emperor Henry IV

It is hard to believe, but the last years of Henry IV’s tumultuous reign still held one final humiliation that capped the pain this man had already endured.

The First Crusade

In 1095 Pope Urban II launches the First Crusade and things get out of control almost immediately as preachers whip up crowds to set off immediately. These crowds bring unimaginable horrors to the Jewish communities in Mainz, Worms, Trier and elsewhere

Episode 34 – Gaining the Upper Hand

Unperturbed by Henry IV’s release from the ban the German princes elect Rudolph von Rheinfelden as the new king, change the constitution of the empire and start a civil war that is lost when a man loses not his head, but his hand

Episode 33 – Canossa Finally

It is time – we are finally going to Canossa. Expect imperial power to go up in smoke, greedy mothers-in-laws, frozen passes, hoisted horses and tobogganing empresses.

How King (future Emperor ) Henry IV (1056-1105) turned a disagreement over the archbishop of Milan into a major crisis

Henry had appointed a new archbishop of Milan in direct opposition to the Pope Gregory VII’s candidate (see previous post). As a consequence Gregory had sent a letter to Henry admonishing him and threatening excommunication. Henry then called a synod of 26 German bishops in Worms for the 24th of January. These mighty prelates were […]

Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrand), 1020-1085

Gregory VII is one of the great papal figures of the Middle Ages. He establishes the concept of the universal primacy of the papacy that has never erred and will never err. His clash with Emperor Henry IV, erroneously called the Investiture Controversy is about much more than that, it may even be one of the great turning points in European history on par with the French and Russian Revolutions

Episode 32 is Live!

The rise of the papacy since 1046 is almost linear. Popes free themselves from the Roman aristocracy, take over leadership of the church reform movement and claim universal leadership of Christianity. Conflict with the other universal power, the emperor is inevitable..

Otto von Northeim (1020-1083)

Otto was born into a family of Saxon magnates with possessions in the Harz mountains. He was one of the most accomplished military and political leaders in Germany during the reign of Henry IV. The Empress Agnes made him duke of Bavaria in 1061 to lead a campaign into Hungary. A mere 12 months later […]

The Harzburg (1065-1075)

There are nearly 20,000 castles in Germany, some are famous for good reason like Trifels, Wartburg or the Hambacher Schloss. Some are historically irrelevant pastiches like Neuschwanstein or Schwerin. And very few are really important to the point of being almost protagonists by themselves. One of these few is the Harzburg.
The Harzburg symbolises the shift in imperial power under Henry IV from the previous model built around oaths of fealty and royal assemblies to the raw projection of territorial control. The Harzburg both provoked the uprising of the Saxons in 1073 and brings it to an end when the sacking by the Saxon peasant army goes to far.

E31 – The (second) Saxon War

King Henry IV embarks on his ambitious castle building project around Goslar, Otto of Northeim delivers a rousing speech, Saxons rebel, royal bones are thrown in the rubbish, brother fights brother…and more!

Godfrey the Bearded (997-1069)

Godfrey the Bearded is one of those figures of History who despite his significant influence over crucial events has fallen through the cracks because he did not fit into a national narrative in either Germany, France or Italy.

Anno of Cologne (1010-1075)

Anno of Cologne is most famous for the abduction of (not yet Emperor) Henry IV at Kaiserswerth. But there is a lot more to him than sheer lust for power…

Agnes of Poitou (1025-1077)

The Investiture Controversy did not start with Henry IV. and Gregory VII. Its roots go deeper and earlier protagonists like Agnes of Poitou set events in motion that would culminate in the great events of 1077-1120.

Episode 30 is Live!

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”.

Karl Joseph Wirth

#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.


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About Me

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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