Episode 31 – The (second) Saxon War

In 1065 king Henry IV begins his personal rule. After 9 years of regency., the last 3 of which under a government of barons headed by archbishop Anno of Cologne, imperial power is much diminished. Prelates and lords are raiding the imperial purse, when the barons force the young king to dismiss his main adviser, he realises that the previous model of kingship no longer operates. He cannot rely on the oaths of fealty sworn by his counts and dukes, nor can he put faith in the Imperial Church System his predecessors could draw on.

He chooses the royal lands around the rich silver mines of Goslar as the nucleus for his new, territorial power base. He builds mighty castles on the tops of mountains that project royal power, he installs a governor, rather than a count as the head of his administration, and most of the castles’ garrison and administrators are ministeriales, unfree men trained in war.

This new policy clashes with the Saxons, the stem who had already stood in opposition to Henry’s father and had plotted to murder him when he was only a child. In 1073 the Saxons gather in an assembly to hear Otto of Northeim ‘s famous speech that turned disaffection into outright rebellion. In 18 months, Henry IV’s Saxon War will become a rollercoaster where he goes from unconditional surrender to triumph – but is the triumph going to last?

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