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 peace in Germany as well as with the papacy. But in 1110 he runs out of road. He needs to come to a lasting agreement with the intractable Pope Paschalis II. Paschalis himself is looking for a solution. And he comes up with a solution, so cunning, you can put a tail on it and call it a weasel..

In the meantime, the King of France transitions from sexually incontinent simoniac to papal pet. Something that will yield immense benefit to royal power in the long run. The King of France becoming the friend of the pope brings the King of England closer to the future emperor. Henry V marries the English king’s daughter, 8-year old Matilda. Matilda would later become famous as the Empress Matilda, adversary of King Stephen in the Anarchy, mother of King Henry II of England and founder of the Plantagenet dynasty..

A lot to get through but fun…check it out here

#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. The aim was to convince the allies that their demands were impossible to deliver. This policy led to rising government debt that was covered through the printing of currency, ultimately resulting in the 1923 hyperinflation.

In 1922 his foreign secretary Walther Rathenau negotiated the Treaty of Rapallo whereby the Soviet Union and Germany recognised each other as sovereign states, opened trade relations and Russia renounced any reparations.

Two months later Walther Rathenau was assassinated. Wirth blamed his death on right wing parties, accusing them of “pouring poison into the wounds of the nation”.

By November 1922 his policy of compliance had buckled under the opposition and -having failed to bring together another coalition- resigned as chancellor. He left the Zentrum when his party entered into a coalition with the right wing DNVP. He briefly returned to frontline politics as minister of the interior under the Bruning government in 1931.

When the Nazis brought the Enabling Act (Ermaechtigngsgesetz), he pushed back in a passionate speech but was required to vote for it. He emigrated to Switzerland immediately afterwards. Whilst there he tried to alert the Vatican of the Nazi’s anti-Semitic policies though with little success.After the war he returned to West Germany but failed to find a political home. He opposed Adenauer’s policy of integrating into the West, advocating closer ties with the Soviet Union. He visited Moscow and was given decorations by the Soviet Union and the GDR. The CIA claimed he was a Russian spy and he was refused a pension. He died in his hometown of Freiburg in 1956.

On this day, September 5th, 1304 Rüdiger Manesse, Alderman of Zurich and collector of German medieval Minnelieder died at home. Manesse was a senior figure in the city of Zurich and acted as judge and member of the city council.

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.

Though some of the Minnesaenger may have been professional musicians and poets, the majority were members of the lower nobility, and some works are attributed to dukes, counts, kings and even to emperor Henry VI.

Manesse’s collection was the basis for the most comprehensive and most beautiful collection of Minnesong, the Heidelberger or Manesse Codex, created around 1340. It contains lyrical works of 140 different poets, Each poet is introduced with a miniature depicting courtly life. These are some of the most beautiful medieval illustrations – full stop.

The exact link between the Codex Manesse and Rüdiger Manesse is not recorded. The University Library in Heidelberg, where the Codex is kept, asserts that it was made in Zurich in around 1340. It may well be that it had been produced for the Manesse family, though Rudiger himself was long dead when it was made.

It first came to Heidelberg in the 16th century but when the Elector Palatinate had to flee in 1622 after the battle of White Mountain, they took the Codex with them and sold them for cash. It returned in 1888 after long and difficult negotiations with the Bibliotheque Nationale. Under the deal Heidelberg handed over 166 manuscripts, including 23 Carolingian ones plus 400,000 Gold Mark in exchange for just this one book, the Codex Manesse.

For more stories check out the History of the Germans podcast and blog on my website www.historyofthegermans.com or Spotify, Apple podcast etc. (link https://history-of-the-germans.captivate.fm/listen )

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.

The authorities were slow to respond as his theatre of operations stretched over multiple jurisdictions, the lands of the elector of Bavaria, the bishop of Augsburg, the prince-abbot of Kempten, the counts Fugger, Waldburg-Zell, and Stadion, to name a few. And then there were the free imperial cities of Augsburg and Ulm.

The Holy Roman Empire had been organised into administrative entities, the Kreise, to coordinate action between these smaller entities. But it took nearly 5 years before a military expedition set off to capture the Hiasl.

They lured the gang into trap and captured them in January 1771. Hiasl was captured. He was brutally executed on the bridge of Dillingen and his body mutilated.

Hiasl became a folk hero in Southern Germany and may have been one of the models for Friedrich Schiller’s play “Die Räuber”. He inspired Robin Hood style legends all across Southern Germany and became a symbol of revolt against the absolutist micro-monarchs that controlled most of Germany.

For more such stories check out the History of the Germans Podcast and blog on http://www.historyofthegermans.com or Spotify, Apple Podcast etc. link here https://history-of-the-germans.captivate.fm/listen

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 starts with the Merovingian kings, a period I now realise I should not have skipped over so casually. These are some truly brilliant stories. But only because I missed out does not mean you have to miss out. Here is how Benjamin describes it:

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Thugs and Miracles! In this first episode of the podcast that looks back at 1,500 years of history through the eyes of the kings and queens of France, we’ll set the scene for you.

With the Western Roman Empire collapsing and on its way out, a power vacuum developed in the areas that the legions once kept under the control of emperors; now, barbarian kings, many who had ties to the old Empire, are left to fight it out for supremacy. This is the world of 476 CE, the beginning of the Medieval Era, and a time filled with more violence, spirituality and drama than any television show or movie could even hope to capture.
This is a time of long-haired, mystical kings; of queens making power plays in a male-dominated society, and stories of patricide, fratricide, and every other type of -cide possible. It’s the history of court members making power grabs and overthrowing regimes; of deals made to unite religions and compel alliances; and of miracles, saints and relics appearing through the years to change the course of events and make the impossible possible.

Professor Paul Freedman may have said it best when he said of these times, “we’re into what certainly seems like a combination of thugs and miracles.”

Thugs and Miracles is available on all major podcast platforms and on http://www.thugsandmiracles.com

On this day, August 31st, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic signed the Einigungsvertrag (Unification Treaty). With this agreement the Laender of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen will become Laender within the Federal Republic of Germany. At the same time all 23 boroughs of the city of Berlin will become the Land Berlin. The city of Berlin becomes the capital of Germany and the 3rd of October, the day the Unification treaty enters into force, becomes a national holiday.

This brings the only ever successful German revolution to its political conclusion. As such it was a bit of a downer.

At the time there were two routes to create a unified German state under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz). The first one was for the whole of Germany to get together and design a new constitution (Art. 146).  The other option was for the former GDR to simply join the Federal Republic of Germany, adopt its political structures and laws (Art.23).

In 1990 the second option was chosen, presumably because it was a lot simpler and quicker. Time may have been of the essence. Though we all know in hindsight that the Soviet Union disappeared shortly thereafter, but there was no guarantee for that to happen. Germany was still negotiating the “Treaty on the Final Settlement with respect to Germany” whereby the four former allies US, UK, France and Russia allowed reunification to happen and a fully sovereign German state to be formed. This agreement was only signed on September 12th, i.e., after the Unification Treaty.

The quick implementation however had a significant downside. The people of East Germany, who had brought about the revolution did not get a chance to determine the political and legal structures of the country they would now be living in. This is certainly not the only, but one of the reasons for what came to be known as the “Mauer in den Köpfen”, the cultural and political divide between East and West that still exists, over 30 years later.   

This, the 3rd of October 1990 will be the end-date of the History of the Germans Podcast. Given we are currently in the year 1056 and run at a rate of c. 5 years per episode the estimated date of arrival will be October 2025, the 35th anniversary of German Reunification. If you want to come along for the journey, check out the Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google etc. Links are here: https://history-of-the-germans.captivate.fm/listen or on my website www.histryofthegermans.com

#onthisday, August 29th, 1523, Ulrich von Hutten, poet, humanist, reformer and rebellious knight died on Ufenau island in lake Zurich. His grave is the subject of the famous picture by Caspar David Friedrich above. Ulrich came from a knightly family in Franconia but instead of learning the art of war he went to university in Leipzig, Greifswald and elsewhere after an initial plan to become a monk. He travelled extensively in Italy where he studied law in Bologna as well as being a mercenary in the imperial armies.
He became famous for his Latin poetry and was made poet laureate by emperor Maximilian but soon moved on from poetry to politics. He issued broad criticism of the state of affairs in the Holy Roman Empire. He mocked Jakob Fugger, the banker to the Habsburg emperor and probably richest man who ever lived. He called duke Ulrich of Wuerttemberg a tyrant and wrote his Dunkelmaennerbriefe (Letters of the Obscure men) as a satirical defence of Johannes Reuchlin, a fellow humanist.
After a trip to Rome where he saw the decadence of the church first-hand, Hutten turned from church critic to all out agitator against the Roman Curia. He wrote pamphlets calling for the German people to stand up against the worldly power of the prince bishops and the minor princes. He dreamt of a return of the mighty Ottonian and Salian emperors who would unite the realm and return the imperial knights to their previous position of power. At this time, the early 16th century the Imperial Knights were being squeezed out by the territorial powers, both bishops and secular princes, and the urban elites. Having lost their military role thanks to the growing use of guns and mercenaries and their income due to a ban on feuding, kidnapping and ransoming, these knights were sinking into obscurity and poverty. What irritated them even more was their insignificant representation in the recently established Reichstag.
In 1522 Hutten joined his friend Franz von Sickingen in what became known as the Knights’ Revolt. Sickingen who was a knight and war entrepreneur went after the archbishop of Trier to “take back what was theirs”. His probably mostly monetary intentions were presented as a fight for the Reformation which had just begun. The rebellion quickly faltered, Sickingen was besieged in one of his castles. That castle fell within just a week under an artillery assault. Nothing made clearer that the old world of knights and maidens had ended for good. Sickingen died of his wounds and Hutten fled to Switzerland where he also died shortly afterwards.
The Knights’ revolt inspired the much larger Peasant’s Revolt of 1524 where many knights including the famous Götz von Berlichingen took lead roles.
The 19th century adopted Hutten as an early nationalist who stood up against the petty princely rulers. Hutten had written a pamphlet where he interpreted the battle in the Teutoburger Forest as a patriotic uprising throwing of the tyranny of Rome, which became compulsory reading. Later Hutton, like so many figures of Germany’s past became a Nazi symbol and at least one neo-Nazi organisation (mis)uses his name to this day.
Others identified with his fight against tyranny and corruption, his humanist thinking and support for intellectual freedom. 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.
More History of the Germans on my website hstoryofthegermans.com or my podcast available of Apple Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts from. Links are here: https://history-of-the-germans.captivate.fm/listen

On this day, August 28, 1969 the German Association of Mineral Water Sources (Deutsche Brunnen) introduced the Normbrunnenflasche (please do not make me translate it).

The bottle was part of an early recycling system based on refundable deposits. 0.15 DM was added to the price of each bottle, which would be returned if the customer brings the bottle back.

The bottle is an icon of German design developed by Gunther Kupertz. One of its two great innovations were the screw top that facilitated the re-use of the bottle and the “pearls” around the top that improved grip. Glass bottles would be refilled about 50 times before being recycled. The standardisation was driven by the success of the Coca Cola company. Small German manufacturers feared that if they kept their individual bottles, the refund system would become too complex logistically. So they pooled together.

Over 5.5bn bottles have been manufactured since the late 1960s and the recycling system is still in operation, though bottles are now mostly made from plastic which is lighter.

For more interesting stories check out the History of the Germans Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other purveyors of fine audio entertainment. Alternatively check out my website historyofthegermans.com.