If you ever come to Dresden, and if you like art, architecture and history, you very much should, you may want to turn into Augustusstrasse right by the Residenzschloss. What you fnd there is the largest porcelain artwork in the world, 102 metres long and made from 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. This is the “Fürstenzug”, the procession of princes. It was made to celebrate 800 years of the House of Wettin who ruled over what we now know as the land of Saxony. It portrays 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings from 1127 to 1904.
Being essentially a 19th century artwork, it depicts all these Saxon rulers as powerful military leaders surrounded by their fighting men and important nobles, all in contemporary costume. There are 94 depictions and only one female figure in the whole procession. So, was the lasting rule of the House of Wettin built upon their martial prowess?
Well they did fight a lot, but the true source of their power is depicted in one of the very last figures of the procession coming after the princes, the army, the intellectuals and the artists and largely obscured by the images of the carpenter and the builder involved in the project. What that figure represents and what lay at the heart of the Wettiner success, we will find out…
A German history starting in the Middle Ages when the emperors fought an epic struggle with the papacy to the Reformation, the great 18th century of Kant, Goethe, Gauss, the rise of Prussia and the horrors of the Nazi regime. We will end with the post-war period of moral and physical rebuilding. As Gregory of Tours (539-594) said: “A great many things keep happening, some good, some bad” .
If you ever come to Dresden, and if you like art, architecture and history, you very much should, you may want to turn into Augustusstrasse right by the Residenzschloss. What you fnd there is the largest porcelain artwork in the world, 102 metres long and made from 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. This is the “Fürstenzug”, the procession of princes.
It was made to celebrate 800 years of the House of Wettin who ruled over what we now know as the land of Saxony. It portrays 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings from 1127 to 1904. Being essentially a 19th century artwork, it depicts all these Saxon rulers as powerful military leaders surrounded by their fighting men and important nobles, all in contemporary costume.
There are 94 depictions and only one female figure in the whole procession. So, was the lasting rule of the House of Wettin built upon their martial prowess? Well they did fight a lot, but the true source of their power is depicted in one of the very last figures of the procession coming after the princes, the army, the intellectuals and the artists and largely obscured by the images of the carpenter and the builder involved in the project. What that figure represents and what lay at the heart of the Wettiner success, we will find out…
The music for the show is Flute Sonata in E-flat major, H.545 by Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach (or some claim it as BWV 1031 Johann Sebastian Bach) performed and arranged by Michel Rondeau under Common Creative Licence 3.0.
Homepage with maps, photos, transcripts and blog: www.historyofthegermans.com
Hello and welcome to the History of the Germans: Episode 107: The House of Wettin
If you ever come to Dresden, and if you like art, architecture and history, you very much should, you may want to turn into Augustusstrasse right by the Residenzschloss. What you fnd there is the largest porcelain artwork in the world, 102 metres long and made from 23,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. This is the “Fürstenzug”, the procession of princes. It was made to celebrate 800 years of the House of Wettin who ruled over what we now know as the land of Saxony. It portrays 35 margraves, electors, dukes and kings from 1127 to 1904. Being essentially a 19th century artwork, it depicts all these Saxon rulers as powerful military leaders surrounded by their fighting men and important nobles, all in contemporary costume. There are 94 depictions and only one female figure in the whole procession. So, was the lasting rule of the House of Wettin built upon their martial prowess? Well they did fight a lot, but the true source of their power is depicted in one of the very last figures of the procession coming after the princes, the army, the intellectuals and the artists and largely obscured by the images of the carpenter and the builder involved in the project. What that figure represents and what lay at the heart of the Wettiner success, we will find out…
But before we start let me tell you that the History of the Germans Podcast is advertising free thanks to the generous support from patrons. And you can become a patron too and enjoy exclusive bonus episodes and other privileges from the price of a latte per month. All you have to do is sign up at patreon.com/historyofthegermans or on my website historyofthegermans.com. You find all the links in the show notes. And thanks a lot to Troy, WB, Jim D. and Melinda H. who have already signed up.
Last week we talked about Albrecht the Baer and the creation of the Mark of Brandenburg. You may remember that he got his first break in 1123 when the future emperor Lothar III enfeoffed him with the Mark of Lusatia.
At that same time and in the same context Lothar also enfeoffed Konrad, count of Wettin with the Mark of Meissen. Konrad leads the Fürstenzug I mentioned and is generally seen as the founder of the dynasty. If you have listened attentively and have been able to navigate the sea of names, you may remember that Konrad was not the first margrave of Meissen from the Wettiner family. That was Henry of Eilenburg, Konrad’s cousin. In fact the Wettiner had been dukes and margraves for generations before. So, other than Albrecht the Bear, the elevation of Konrad was more in the spirit of continuity and inheritance.
And it shows. Apart from a brief conflict with Wiprecht of Groitzsch in the first two years after his appointment, Konrad did not have to do much fighting. Nor did he have to sign shady deals with local potentates to expand his territory. In fact he benefitted from the shady actions of his neighbour Albrecht the Bear. You may remember from last episode that Albrecht lost the margraviate of Lusatia after his men had murdered Udo of Frecksleben. The margraviate of Lusatia went to Konrad without him having to do anything special. And that sets a pattern. Konrad acquired more and more lands and positions in his margraviates either by purchase or grant. He bought the county of Bautzen east of Dresden, he was granted the county of Rochlitz as well as most of the lands once owned by Wiprecht of Groitzsch. At the end of his 35 years he had amassed a large and coherent territory in what we now know as the Land Sachsen.
Konrad is called “the Great” in the Fürstenzug, which is a moniker not normally given to guys with modest military exploits and a habit of getting gifts from Kings and bishops.
What makes Konrad and his immediate successors stand out is their use of both the colonisation trend and the bundle of rights that come with the title of margrave to create one of the earliest territorial principalities in the empire.
Let’s start with colonisation. That had begun a lot earlier in the margraviate of Meissen than in many other parts. Wiprecht of Groitzsch had invited settlers from Frankonia as early as 1104 to live on previously uninhabited lands south of Leipzig. Konrad dramatically accelerated this process. One of the ways he did that was by not doing everything himself. Instead he would grant vast tracts of sparsely inhabited land to his Ministeriales and even more often to monasteries. These would then organise the colonisation themselves, bringing in people from a wide range of places.
Furthermore the big difference between Meissen and Lausitz compared to Brandenburg was that these territories had been under much more intense Saxon control. The Slavic uprising did not result in Slavic principalities. Though the population was almost entirely Wendish before 1100, the elite was either Saxon or assimilated into the Saxon nobility. Wiprecht of Groitzsch who came from Slavic stock and rose to become the most prominent political figure in the region is a great example. So a lot of the land, including the large forests and marshland were already in the possession of local nobles, bishops and monasteries. Plus there were important centres of power like Meissen itself. The town of Meissen was transformed from a Slavic settlement into a German Town by King Henry the Fowler and had remained the seat of a Bishop since. Meissen has played a role in our podcast before, as had Bautzen, even further east.
Given the majority of the peasants who had come to the lands of Konrad had been free labourers or had been released by their landlords back home, the new settlers were in their vast majority free men and women. There were very few serfs, most of them likely descendants of the original Slavic population.
Which leaves the question, how will Konrad and his descendants benefit from all this development activity when the colonisation is largely managed by other people?
That comes down to the way Konrad managed to exploit the rights that came with being a margrave. As you may remember, a margrave was originally a count in charge of frontier county. His role was not just to administer justice and maintain the king’s peace, he was also responsible for the defence of the border.
In light of this additional burden, the margraves were given full access to the royal regalia in their territory. In other words, all the special rights the kings have in the rest of the kingdom were given to the margrave to fund the defence of the border.
Amongst these rights was the right to build castle, to establish markets, to demand tolls, to mint coins and to exploit mineral resources. Konrad and his descendants had the great advantage that their margraviate no longer bordered any hostile enemies. To their south was the duchy and soon kingdom of Bohemia, an integral part of the Holy Roman Empire. When the Bohemian rulers came into Meissen it was for some reason of internal imperial politics, not as a foreign foe.
As for the eastern border with Poland, the threat had much diminished. Ever since Boleslav the Brave, the kingdom of Poland was riven by internal conflict. Boleslav III Wrymouth had managed to unify the kingdom in 1107. But in 1138 he was forced by internal politics to split his kingdom amongst his five sons. This division lasted until 1320, leaving the individual states unable to mount any expansionist policies westwards. We will look at this in more detail in a future episode. For now what matters is that Poland was no longer a threat to the exterior border.
The absence of any need to fortify the borders did however not mean that the margraves of Meissen and Lusatia were prepared to hand back all the great regalia they had received. Instead they used them to leverage themselves into territorial rulers. They erected castles across their ands and put men in charge of them who reported directly to the margrave. The castles were there to guarantee the peace and often the seats of justice. For these services they collected tolls from passing merchants, court fees and general levies on the peasants.
When they gave land from the royal demesne to a monastery, they made themselves the Vogt or worldly administrator of this land, collecting a share of the income.
The most valuable part of these rights was also the most unexpected. In 1162 Konrad’s eldest son Otto gave a large tract of land in a forest that Thietmar of Merseburg had called Mircwidu between What is today Dresden and Chemnitz to the monastery of Altzelle. This was to become the house monastery for the house of Wettin and the Cistercians there were to pray for the passage into the afterlife of the family members. So far so normal. The Cistercian began developing the land, cutting down the trees, invitingcolonists and establishing new villages.
In one of these new villages called Christiansdorf, after a locator called Christian, a settler finds a curiously looking rock. It turns out this rock contains not just lead but also silver. And this one rock was no fluke. More and more appear and it is clear that there is a huge deposit of silver under this hill. An enormous deposit.
Margrave Otto does two things. First, he takes the land back from the monks of Altzelle – leaving dad in purgatory for a bit longer. And then he invites over the only people in the empire who have expertise in mining silver, the miners of Goslar. You may remember that the silver mines of Goslar were a crucial part in the economics that kept the emperors in funds. In particular the Ottonians relied heavily on the silver mines to fund their wars in Italy. During the Salian reign Goslar was a massively important location and Henry III built his great palace there.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, silver is so important because it is much less valuable than gold. Gold coins are pretty much useless as day-to-day money. One single gram of gold costs currently £50 and a typical coin would be 4.5 grams i.e., worth £225 in today’s money. There is very little that costs £225 in a medieval shop. Silver is much better for this. One gram of silver costs £0.60 today. That makes silver coins a much better means of exchange than gold. In fact very few gold coins were minted in the Middle Ages. Frederick II minted his Augustales more as a demonstration of his power than as a way to pay anyone. It will take until the High Middle Ages before Gold coins become common.
All this means is that silver is in very high demand. And Otto, margrave of Meissen just got himself one. No wonder he is called Otto the Rich.
The settlers flood into the little village of Christiansdorf. This is a proper gold rush. By 1170 there are already two large churches, a third is begun in 1180. The common view is that the place is given city status in 1168, a mere six years after the first tree was cut down and presumably only 2 or 3 years after the first rock was found. The name is changed to Freiberg and it quickly overtakes Leipzig as the mercantile centre of the region.
Now one silver mine is great, but what about several? Here again the Wettiner approach of letting other people do the work kicks in. Otto declares the right to mine a “free right”. That means that anyone is free to dig wherever they want – and have the permission of the landowner. Whatever they find, they have to give one tenth to the margrave. This precipitates a mining boom, first around Freiberg, but in the 13th century at Dippoldiswalde and Scharfenberg, in the 14th Neustaedel and Neustadt. In the 15th and 16th century this goes into overdrive with Altenberg, Annaberg, Baerenstein, Buchholz, Ehrenfriedersdorf, Marienberg, Scheibenberg, Schneeberg and Zinnwald feeding the coffers of the margraves and later electors. Riches funded the stay of Martin Luther on the Wartburg as guest of the Elector Frederick the Wise where he translated the bible.
The mountain range that held all this wealth stretched along the border between Saxony and Bohemia. It contained so much metal ore, mainly silver and tin, that they are now known as the Erzgebirge, the Ore Mountains. On the Bohemian side one place became famous for the silver coins minted there, the town of Joachimstal or Jachymov in Czech. Tal is valley in German. This coin was called the Joachimsthaler and was so common, people abbreviated the name to s’thaler and finally just Thaler. Thaler became the word for many large silver coins, like the Reichsthaler or the Maria Theresia Thaler. From there the word moved to Spain where it was another term for the famous “Pieces of Eight” or Peso’s for short. The Spaniards pronounced it dollar.
During the American war of independence the British restrained the colonies’ access to hard currency. So the Spanish silver coins, the dolars began circulating in the United States. On April 2, 1792 Alexander Hamilton, a famous musical entertainer and in his spare time treasury secretary, declared the money of account for the new country should be expressed in dollars or fragments thereof. There you go, from medieval margrave to modern monetary instruments in under fur minutes.
The wealth of the House of Wettin came from mining, which makes it simply rude that the Furstenzug gives room only to one miner tucked away in the back.
And how important the mines were is getting apparent when you remember what happened to the descendants of Albrecht the Baer. Both he and Konrad of Meissen end up splitting their possessions between their many sons. The Ascanier divisions are permanent and every time one of the lines dies out, none of the others have the clout or the money to bring the inheritance back together.
Not so the House of Wettin. Otto the Rich had been the eldest of the five sons of Konrad. When Konrad retired to a monastery in Halle, his possessions were divided amongst them. But the difference is that the Wettiner possession almost always come back together again. That to me comes down to the mines and the wealth they produce. If at least one side of the family controls the mines, they can push through their claims, even against the harshest opposition, as we will see.
It begins with Otto the Rich’s two sons, Albrecht called the Proud and Dietrich called the Pressured. Albrecht was the elder but Dietrich was his mother’s favourite. Hedwig somehow convinced her husband to promise the succession in the margraviate and hence possession of the mines to the younger son Dietrich. In 1188 Albrecht the Proud did the one thing one could do at this point, he gathered support amongst his uncles and apprehended his father and threw him in jail. That was a severe disturbance of the peace, so the emperor Frederick Barbarossa intervened. Albrecht had to release his father. After an uneasy 2 years Otto the Rich died and Albrecht the Proud immediately took over as margrave. That was unfortunate timing, because – as we know – 1190 is also the year Barbarossa dies and Henry VI takes over. Henry VI invites Albrecht to come along to fight for his crown of Sicily, an offer he could not refuse.
Once Albrecht is out of town, the younger brother Dietrich stages a coup, together with his father-in-law, the landgrave Hermann of Thuringia. The coup did fail partially because Albrecht returns and the two sides fight for 4 years, at the end of which Dietrich gained just Weissenfels.
All that becomes irrelevant when Albrecht dies in 1195 without male heir. At which point Dietrich should now finally become margrave -but no. There is a reason he is known to history as dietrich der Bedraengte, Dietrich the Pressured.
The emperor Henry VI cancels the enfeoffment and takes the mark of Meissen for himself. Why he did that may have to do with the deal he was trying to strike with the imperial princes right around this time. The suggested deal was that the princes would gain the right to dispose of their fiefs, their duchies, margraviates and palatinates as they wished, even pass it down the female line. In exchange they would have to accept that the imperial title would also become inheritable, rather than an elective title. In other words the emperor could no longer recall a fief upon the death of the incumbent if the princes place the Hohenstaufens on the throne forever. Recalling the Mark of Meissen may just have been a way to putting a bit more power behind his proposal. Or it was just a part of his father’s policy of expanding the imperial territory.
Dietrich seemed to have caved to imperial pressure and signed up for Henry VI’s crusade, presumably as a way to regain the imperial grace or -failing that – benefitting from the proposed deal.
Dietrich is one of the few participants in this crusade who make it to the Holy Land where he hears that Henry VI had died. He swiftly returns home and – again with his father-in-law’s help regains physical possession of his margraviate. In 1198 he sides with Philip of Swabia in the civil war between the Welfs and the Hohenstaufen and is confirmed in his fief. That was a close shave that could have ended the family right there.
Instead Dietrich the Pressured becomes one of the most successful early Wettiner. He takes advantage of the constant back-and-forth in the war between Philip and Otto IV and towards the end, when Philip seems to be winning, boldly shifts to Otto IV, a move that pays out handsomely when Philip is murdered in 1208 leaving Otto IV in charge. Another 180 degree turn was needed when emperor Frederick II comes up to Germany in 1213 to challenge Otto IV. and again he can keep his territory.
And he does a great job with it. The first wave of colonisation is coming to an end and his next effort is to build out the existing cities like Leipzig and Chemnitz and create new ones, the most important of which was Dresden. During his 24 year reign the administration of the margraviate tightened further ensuring peace and justice to a much higher degree than other parts of the empire. And just like today, if the state provides a reliable framework in which to operate, enterprising minds find it easier to build and grow businesses.
The flipside of tight control is the loss of freedom. And that is particularly the case with the citizens of Leipzig. The city had grown fast and its citizens were looking to places like Lübeck and Cologne and demanded to become a free imperial city. But that was not something Dietrich with all his love for growth and merchants could tolerate. He used his vast wealth to oppose their demands. The citizens had some initial military successes, but in 1217 Dietrich prevailed. So Leipzig, one of the largest German cities and one driven by trade and its famous fair never became a free city.
And it may have been the reason for Dietrich’s early death. It is likely that he was poisoned by his doctor who in turn may have been bribed to do so by the citizens of Leipzig.
Dietrich’s son, Henry nicknamed the Venerable ruled at least nominally for 67 years. He was just 6 years old when his father died in 1221. Despite his minority and the ambitions of his neighbours the margraviate held together. Not only that Henry continued the policy to build out the territorial power of the margrave in his lands. We are now in the period when power shifts from the medieval system of interlocking rights and privileges to territorial principalities. The concept was first tried by Henry IV in Saxony during the 1070s. The idea is that instead of holding a long list of individual rights as a personal possession the magnate would be a prince who exercises all power over a specific territory. So in the 10th century a senior nobleman would look at his possessions and say, I own this castle, this set of fields, the toll on that bridge and a market over in the next town. Everything he does not explicitly own is either someone else’s, or the king’s. A territorial prince looks at things and says that in this specific territory everything is his, except for the things others have a legitimate claim to.
The transition from one state to the other is naturally gradual and vestiges of the older system still prevailed into the 19th century. But it can be argued that the Wettiner in Meissen were ahead of their peers in forming a territorial principality largely on the back of the fact that the land was comparatively new, that they had the king-like position of the Margraves and the wealth to buy out competitors.
And the last great benefit for them was the privilege in favour of the princes that emperor Frederick II signed in 1231/32. With that he grants pretty much all the regalia to the imperial princes, i.e., those who have received at least one fief from the emperor directly. In his charters Henry is referred to as princeps terre, territorial prince.
The last great benefit the Hohenstaufen grant Henry is also the largest. Henry’s mother was a daughter of the Landgrave of Thuringia. The Landgraves rivalled the Wettiner for wealth and for the efficiency of their administration. They were the most astute players in the game of back and forth between Philip of Swabia, Otto IV and Frederick II, becoming immensely rich and powerful in the process. Their castle of Wartburg became the centre of Minnesang culture and the splendour of their court was legendary. In their short existence they also counted a most venerable saint in their midst, Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia. The luck of the landgraves ran out with Heinrich Raspe. Raspe had thought he could play the game in the big league when he became the head of the papal party that opposed Frederick II. They made him anti-king and he began a war against Frederick II’s supporters, one of which was Henry the venerable. Heinrich Raspe was wounded in one of these battles in 1247 and died. With that the male line of the landgraves had died out. There were a number of sisters married to various princes with eminent offspring. But Frederick II gave the whole of the landgraviate to his faithful servant, Henry the Venerable, Margrave of Meissen.
That did not go down well with other claimants and a war of succession broke out. One conflict ended in 1249 with the treaty of Weissenfels whereby the landgraviate was split, the part west of the Werra river came to the counts of Hesse and the remainder came to the house of Wettin. The other leg ended in 1264. To celebrate the achievement Henry the Venerable organised an eight-day long tournament. The first price was a tree made from solid silver with solid gold fruit hanging off it. The court of Dresden was quickly taking over from the Wartburg as the centre of high medieval culture in the German lands.
By 1268, as the empire fell into the interregnum, Henry the Venerable was the most powerful secular lord north of the alps. Or he should have been, had he not undermined his own position by splitting his lands with his sons. These two, again called Albrecht and Dietrich each got a piece whilst Henry held on to the margraviate of Meissen. The two brothers instantly began fighting each other and in 1268 it became open war. In 1270, Albrecht, the elder, who became known as “der Entartete” or the Degenerate turned on his venerable father.
This was not the only thing that horrified his peers. Albrecht had been married to Margaret, the legitimate daughter of emperor Frederick II and his wife Isabella of England. But the relationship broke down. Albrecht fell for lady Kunigunde von Eisenberg. His wife Margaret felt deeply insulted that this margrave would so humiliate the daughter of an emperor and granddaughter of a king. She did leave Albrecht and went to Frankfurt where she died shortly afterwards. What a scandal!
Albrecht the Degenerate had three sons with Margaret, one where it said laconically that he “disappeared in Silesia”. The two younger ones were Frederick and Diezmann. There is the story that Margaret when saying goodbye to her sons bit Frederick in the cheek so that he should forever remember what his father had done. Hence Frederick is known as Friedrich der Gebissene or Frederick the Bitten.
To compound the scandal, the two younger sons also run off, joining their uncle Dietrich, who is still at war with their father. At that point a sort of total war starts between Albrecht and all other members of his family.
In the midst of all this sits Henry the Venerable who sees his life’s work crumble into dust. In 1288 he is released from his mortal toil, no doubt cursing his sons.
The death of the patriarch did however calm things somewhat. The different legs of the family divide up the inheritance of Henry the Venerable and sign an agreement promising each other to respect the newly drawn borders to eternity.
Family feuds run on their own timelines. Eternity turns out to be just 12 months. By 1290 they are back at it hammer and tongs.
At which point a new party enters the fray, king Rudolf of Habsburg. Rudolf had an amazing career which we will no doubt investigate in detail in a later episode. But let’s just summarise it as follows. A modest count from what is essentially Switzerland is elected king in 1273 because he is obscure nobility, limited power and horribly poor. But clearly, he had some other qualities because by 1275 he had taken Austria from king Ottokar of Bohemia and made himself a duke. Following this success recalled all imperial territories that had been lost since the death of Frederick II. What was and was not imperial became a bit fluid as time went by. First, he demanded the Pleissenland, a territory between Meissen and Thuringia that had been acquired for the crown Frederick Barbarossa but had come to the House of Wettin via the ill-fated marriage of Albrecht and Margaret.
That was reverted to the crown after a payment of 10,000 mark of silver to Albrecht who found himself in an ever-tighter spot financially. All that fighting had disrupted the silver production in Freiberg.
In 1290 Rudolf von Habsburg dies and his successor, another impecunious count with grand ambitions, Adolf of Nassau has a go at the possessions of the ever-quarrelling Wettiner. When first Albrecht’s brother and then his son died, his lands get split between Frederick the Bitten and Diezmann. This split is then objected to by king Adolf of Nassau who awards this to the Ascanier in nearby Brandenburg, bringing another party to the table.
Friedrich the Bitten and his brother manage to push the Brandenburger back. Flush with this success they turn against their father who flees to the court of king Adolf of Nassau. Albrecht is now completely broke and sells the Margraviate of Meissen, the Landgraviate of Thuringia and the Pleissenland for a mere 12,000 mark of Silver to king Adolf of Nassau. The richest territory with the seemingly inexhaustible silver mines of Freiberg is going for a song.
Fredrich and Diezman refuse to hand over any of these lands. In 1294 royal troops enter the margraviate and burn what is left of the once flourishing land to the ground. They returned home before reaching Leipzig, but returned in 1295 now pushing on to Freiberg and Meissen. The two brothers flee. Frederick the Bitten resumes the fight in 1297 and by April 1298 he is again lord, but lord of a shell of a land.
But the pain is not over. King Adolf’s reign ends ignomiously at the battle of Goellheim when the anti-king, Albrecht of Habsburg beats his troops and takes over. Naturally Frederick and Diezman are fans of the new king Albrecht of Habsburg. But hey, we are before the good old times of “felix Austria nube”.
King Albrecht does like the policies of his father and one of those was to get hold of Meissen and the great silver mines of Freiberg. He reinstalls Albrecht the Degenerate in Meissen with the proviso that upon his death all his lands go to him. Same deal as Adolf, just this time no payout.
He then calls Frederick and Diezmann to come to a royal assembly to finalise the feudal arrangements for Thuringia and all the other possessions, presumably so that they can go to their father and then to king Albrecht. The two brothers one twice the other one trice bitten once shy, give this opportunity a miss.
Everything is now in total chaos. The cities think this their opportunity to become free imperial cities and fight whoever is currently claiming overlordship. For Eisenach that was at the time Albrecht the Degenerate. They besiege him in the Wartburg, where none other that his son Frederick relieves him.
The family, or what is left of it are now holding hands and promise eternal mutual support. They muster an army to fight King Albrecht who had now dropped all pretence. On May 31st 1307 the two sides join battle at Lucka near Aldenburg. The royal army was commanded by Count Frederick of Nürnberg from the House of Hohenzollern and consisted mainly of southern Germans and some city contingents whilst the army of Frederick and Diezmann comprised armed peasants, contingents of some other cities and knights from Brunswick.
The result was a comprehensive defeat of the royalists. Count Frederick of Nürnberg was captured. King Albrecht of Habsburg was murdered by his nephew over some other outlandish demand for land and privileges.
For the sake of family unity Diezmann did the best possible thing and died without offspring. Albrecht the degenerate now had enough and retired to Erfurt where he died in relative obscurity. The new king and emperor, Henry VII recognised Frederick as the sole ruler and heir to the lands of the house of Wettin.
That left Frederick the Bitten in control of the extensive territories of the House of Wettin. Everything is broken and devastated. The recovery takes decades, but in the end the descendants of Konrad of Wettin become one of the richest, if not economically the richest territorial princes in the German lands. Rich enough to buy the crown of Poland, to turn Dresden into a jewel of Art and architecture but not rich enough to ever gain the imperial crown and despite all the pictures of soldiers on the Fürstenzug, not rich enough to hold against the rising power of neighbouring Prussia.
We are gradually coming to the end of these summary histories of the territories that had once been the stem duchy of Saxony. One big one is still missing though, and that is the story of the house of Welf and its greatest proponent, Henry the Lion. That will be the subject of next weeks episode. And then, I promise we will get into the world of the Hanseatic League. I hope you will come along.
Ah, and there was the quiz. Do you remember them all?
Her they go:
Konrad the Great
Otto the Rich
Albrecht the Proud
Dietrich the Pressured
Henry the Venerable
Albrecht the Degenerate
Friedrich the Bitten.
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