Frederick II - The Quarrelsome
April 25th, 1211 - June 15th, 1246
When writing a musical composition, it is important to have it end with a glorious bang, so that the audience knows when to applaud!
My life would turn out to be a very turbulent one, full of conflict and betrayal from even the most trusted allies. Fought against by enemies standing united against me, standing alone, yet I could hold them off. Ostracized by an emperor, yet redeeming myself when defeating and enemy coming so very far from the east, that it would take years to travel there. Warriors standing under the command of an old man, who’s wisdom was as grand as his lust for conquest and his relentless butchering of all his enemies; such were the stories told in my times of these, whom you call the Mongols!
Having grown up in Constantinople [eng, ger], she experienced a great deal of turmoil during her childhood. She was engaged several times and got married as a woman. Her first husband by the name of Ivanko [eng, ger], who was at war with Byzantine at the time, had been executed, her second husband Chrysos [eng, ger] was taken prisoner by emperor Alexios III [eng, ger] after she was given into marriage to Chrysos by Alexios himself.
These experiences taught her many things that she would make sure to pass on to her children – cleverness, an unbendable will to survive and strength!
In 1203, when she was 14 years old, she married my father Leopold [eng, ger, internal]. She must have been quite happy to leave her old home behind, but I remember she never spoke a lot about these times. My father really loved my mother and she bore him 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls.
When he was just 9 years old my oldest brother Leopold [eng, ger, internal] had a tragic accident when he tried to climb a tree and fell to his death. My mother was hit quite hard by the news, Leopold was her favorite boy. She never managed to overcome my brother’s sudden death! As strong and witty a person she was, it was very hard on her.
After Leopold had died my brother Henry [eng, ger, int] became the successor as next patriarch of my family. Before that he had been prepared for a career as a member of the clergy. It would not come to pass.
What my mother did was to instill rivalry among her children. It was also the beginning that I would feel an insatiable appetite brewing inside of me. An ardent longing for power, wealth and influence, fueled by sheer ambition! As I grew in years, this desire would slowly build up inside my heart, slowly turning into anger. When I trained with my sword, I did strike true at my instructors! Only their skills with the sword did prevent them from death. In return they did not give me any quarter either. Something that pleased me as it prepared me to become the warrior I strived to become!
It was the same with my brother Henry whose differences with our father grew over time. So, it was with me and my brother that I more and more relentlessly started to pursue my own interests.
I always had felt a great pride because of my noble lineage coming from my mother’s side. The imperial house that ruled the Byzantine Empire [eng, ger] always had had strong ties to my family and many rulers of my own dynasty were related to this house by marriage and relations, including the marriage of my father and my mother. But also our relations to kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire [eng, ger] did strengthen my position a great deal. The current emperor Frederick [eng, ger, int] who came from the family of Hohenstaufen [eng, ger] and by blood I was directly related to him. And the third pillar to build a powerbase for myself was the excellent connections to the Holy Seat in Rome.
My family often mediated between Rome and Byzantium and has always been received with all honors at either threshold.
Although other nobles did have the same rank as my father, I always looked down on them as they did not have a family lineage as noble as mine. To call me being presumptuous, brazen and arrogant would deliver a proper description of my character next to my erratic decision-making.
It was so that my brother Henry was supposed to get married obeying the wishes of our father as it was the custom in my days. But he also achieved that our own sister Margaret [eng, ger, int] was affianced to Henry of Hohenstaufen [eng, ger, int], the eldest son of emperor Frederick [eng, ger, int].
However, to fund the wedding, my brother’s dowry which he had received from King Ottokar of Bohemia [eng, ger] as he was engaged with his daughter Agnes [eng, ger] had to be redirected. She was simply sent home. The dowry was used to pay in part for all expenses for my sister’s most elaborate imperial wedding. This made my brother very angry and when my father left on a journey to Italy, he formed an alliance with king Ottokar, who wanted revenge for my father’s insult, and helped him to raid the lands north of the river Danube and managed to drive my mother away from her estate in Haimenburg [eng, ger]. It was a formidable fortification, which my grandfather Leopold – the Victorious [eng, ger, int] had ordered to be enlarged, paid by his share of the ransom of king Richard of England [eng, ger], whom they called “The Lionheart” and whom he had taken prisoner.
Upon return, my father immediately learned of this betrayal. He subdued my brother and had him arrested.
In time he forgave his transgression and did forgive him. Later he would show himself with Henry again in public. I wondered if my father had become weak and imprudent in his late years. My brother died unexpectedly in 1228 when he was on a trip to the lands of Swabia [eng, ger, map].
As my father had arranged wisely, I gave my hand into Holy Marriage to princess Eudpokia Laskarina of Byzantium [eng, ger]. Her father Theodore Laskaris [eng, ger] was the undisputed ruler of the Empire of Nicaea [eng, ger]. From her mother’s side she was also directly related to the imperial family of Byzantium. This would also reduce the risk of invasion by the Hungarians and Bohemians. And such noble lineage would make sure that even more glory would shine on my name!
Being a man of ruthless ambition, I did know what was expected of me and my wife - to produce a male heir. But all my attempts failed. My wife, whom we called Sophia, could obviously not conceive. Knowing that I would not be able to consolidate my reign without a legitimate male heir, I was left with only one option but to separate from her and to get divorced.
Know Thee, papal law clearly states that a marriage may be divorced if no children can be produced within a reasonable period of time. I did marry again in 1229. My wife to be was Agnes of Merania [eng, ger]. From her mother’s side she was directly related to the house of Hohenstaufen.
As part of her dowry I was to be given sizable lands in the south of our lands called Carnolia [eng, ger, map] which would extend my reign as far to the south that I would then have direct access to the “Mare Nostrum” [eng, ger]. I also would get lands, called the “Windic March” [eng, ger] and would also receive allonds [eng, ger], which were located in the lands of Bohemia, or Bavaria as they are known in your days [eng, ger, map]. An allod is land which is owned by a person directly and does not stand under the control of an overlord of any kind, granting full sovereignty.
In other words, I would extend my reach to the south as well as to the north. With my brother dead, my father as well as I knew, that I was next in line for succession as his heir apparent.
I never was able to put my thoughts to a test as I learned that my father had become gravely ill and died during his journey on the way home. I had no hand in this, I was not there when it happened. His death occurred in the year of our Lord 1230.
But now I was to inherit and become the sole ruler of all lands and titles my father had owned! And from now on my ambitions would never again know any attempt of restraint!
My strict rule was contested from its very beginning on. First the family of Kuenring [ger] started to rebel against me. This family had stood in the most loyal service to my dynasty for generations and were most trusted vassals to my father.
Their current patriarch Hademar [eng, ger] was a most trusted man in the service of my father and was entrusted with a great many secret missions, which he fulfilled to my father’s full satisfaction.
Being ministeriales [eng, ger], their job was to run matters within their given lands according to my or my father’s desire and to ensure order. They did receive fiefs, allods even [eng, ger] and privileges, thus making them being looked upon as nobles.
Depending on their merit these nobles would be allowed to act freely and as they pleased. My father had given Hademar a great deal of independence as a trusted knight, which he and his brother used to rule their lands quite freely. My father accepted this, I found this conduct more troublesome.
Know Thee, during my days the economy drastically changed. Cities had become new centers of power and wealth, driven by the ever-increasing importance of coin rather than natural goods. It was the very dawn of capitalism. In the old days one had to be a noble and needed to have lands to gain prosperity. In my days regular citizens started to accumulate wealth and influence, without being of noble birth.
My father had realized this and urged me and my brothers, even my brother Leopold whom had been called to him to the heavens when he was just 9 years old, to mind this and to adapt to it.
Hademar and his brother Henry ruled their lands with a great deal of independence. Their lands were located at the river Danube, which was a most important trading route.
The local ministeriales started to impose taxes, tolls and tariffs. So, for a traveling merchant whose carriage was loaded with valuable spices such as cloves, pepper or cinnamon, it would have been attractive to secure the services of a local noble to provide a small force of armed soldiers for the safe passage through his lands to avoid being robbed. Many travelers lost all their possessions and often even their lives to the Highwayman, who robbed them.
If you could cross a river as mighty as the Danube over a bridge or by raft, it could save days to transport one’s merchandise to the next city.
As there was no regulations as to the amount of fees that could be charged for these and other services, some knights earned the reputation of being a “robber baron” [eng, ger] if they imposed fees that were too high.
News reached me regularly that Hademar was even called “a dog” for his ruthless demands. A “dog”, a polite way to express contempt, I suppose. As I assumed the rule over all my lands, I was approached and petitioned by the Kuenring’s that all their rights as ministeriales shall be documented on parchment and henceforth be made their permanent privilege to possess and to pass on to their heirs.
I did not see any cause to grant such rights permanently. Hademar had been in very good standing with my father during his reign; if he had wished to grant such privileges to Hademar in written, he could have granted these rights as he saw fit. Now, why should I feel obligated to do so? Why would I take orders from a vassal?
Although not wanting to do it, I crushed their uprising and made sure they once again would learn their place. As a duke I could not afford to allow that a vassal would dictate me any conditions.
Around 1232 I started to call myself “Dominus Carniolae” – “Lord of Carniola” for everyone to see how vast my lands had become and how far my will could reach with ease!
The relationship to my mother got a lot worse. It had started after my brother and then my father had passed away. She had always been a head-strong woman, very determined and focused on her agendas. As my father had often been on diplomatic missions, she managed all affairs in the absence of her husband. However, she started to act as if she were a Lord and did as she pleased. When I was still very young, I took pride in my mother as I knew full well that the strength that was inside of her, did also reside within me. But as my father had died in Italy, my role has been ever since to preside over all affairs of my dynasty; such had to be so without anyone contesting my authority! I drove her of her lands forcefully and made her flee to the court of one of my greatest rivals, king Wenceslaus of Bohemia [eng, ger].
Legend tells even that I publicly announced that if I was ever to capture her alive, I would give orders to mutilate her body, by cutting away her breasts! And the dagger to perform this deed would be commanded by and rest in my own hand!
My mother would make her last public appearance at the funeral of my father. Pope Gregory sent her personal letter of condolence in which he called my father “Christianissimus Princeps” – “most noble lord of Christian faith”. After that she retired to a monastery where she would become a humble nun; having finally learned her place under my rule!
King Wenceslaus did not only shelter my mother, he was also one of my greatest adversaries. I stood in constant conflicts with him, ruling Bohemia, the Hungarians and the Bavarians. All these lands were directly adjacent to mine.
But these were not really of concern to me. I did have a very difficult relation to emperor Frederick [eng, ger]. The fact that my own sister Margaret was married to his own son, did not make any difference.
I had been summoned by the emperor to attend to his court. I did travel there in style accompanied by 200 of my finest knights in full armor, bearing with pride the code of arms of my dynasty – red-white-red! It was the same trusted knights that I presented with their swords and code of arms when I was proclaimed a knight in 1232!
Frederick did receive me with all honors and invited me to break bread with him, for all to see. A custom that endures until your very days: bread and salt and a cup of wine to drink to good health. When I was offered this, I refused, boldly telling the emperor that I had brought my own gold and could pay for my own provisions. But the emperor insisted without prevailing that I would accept his offer of peace and greetings.
This humiliated Frederick in public and he gave orders that nobody in town would be allowed to sell any firewood to me or any of my confidants. So, I gave orders to simply buy a house in town and have it supplied with food, wine and firewood.
When Frederick learnt of this, he forbade it. So, it was I who sent my commander out at night to buy nuts for my dinner. The emperor learnt of this as well and was so impressed that he revoked his decision and gave orders that everything I would desire would be allowed to be purchased.
In return I asked if arrangements could be made for me to see two assassins who tried to kill the emperor and had been arrested for their crime, awaiting punishment. I was granted this by the emperor himself and was led to a prison tower, where these two condemned men were in custody.
Upon entering Frederick ordered both to jump out of the window and to fall some 50 feet to certain death. The first did not hesitate, when the second man wanted to jump, he was held back! I showed my respect to Frederick for the absolute power he commanded over his subjects, which did please him a great deal! Of course I knew that both men had been aware all along that their punishment would be extremely painful and cruel until the executioner would be given the order to end them with the sword. So, the jump would be quick and painless.
But my differences with Frederick would deepen and develop into a direction that we would face open conflict. Although I was obligated to attend, I did not appear at the diet in Aquileia in 1232. I did repeat this in 1235 when I refused to appear at the diet of Mainz. I was perfectly aware the Frederick as emperor could not allow for this.
In 1236 he ostracized me, declared my powers void and the citizens of Vienna would welcome this to become a free imperial city [eng, ger]. It meant that I did not rule her anymore; well that’s what they hoped for.
However, I did reside within the city walls for months after that, just showing the good people of Vienna how little I cared about their support for the emperor. After all, all I had done was to impose higher taxes on them.
As if God had sent it to favor me, something happened that would immediately redeem my position with Frederick. We knew about them for some time now. Warriors on horses who did come from far east. They were true gods of warfare, fast, immortal, they commanded their horses a like that no one had ever seen before. They possessed a bow much mightier than ours, and they could aim and fire with precision from horseback in full gallop.
Stories even told that they did even cook meat and did sleep whilst riding in their saddles; no matter the season, the daylight or the distance they intended to cross!
Once I managed to acquire one of these bows. Upon inspecting and testing it I knew, that all stories must be true. It was being said: “They kill many with ease! But only a few with their swords!”
They raided my lands as well as the lands of my enemy Béla of Hungary. The damage they inflicted on Béla’s lands was horrible, killing around 20% of his subjects, burning and looting entire areas of his lands. He petitioned the pope for help and asked me for help as well. What a despicable Christian would I have been to not help my enemy in times of peril? All I asked in return was that he would pawn some lands to me. And I did send him a small army of knights to fight the Mongols of. They also raided Vienna and my point of residence “Nova Civitas” [eng, ger]. We defeated them on my own soil. It was, after all just a matter of time to realize that even these were just humans. It bleeds, that means you can kill it.
Around the same time emperor Frederick realized my skills as a natural leader and our conflicts subsided. I would even become one of his closest advisors and confidants.
This allowed me to devise a plan that only a man of my ambition could possibly dare to devise.
My dynasty had started as humble margraves. We later became dukes. Although we always acted like kings in our lands being called “Reguli” in Latin (“Small King”), we never were officially awarded this rank.
So, Frederick and myself started to negotiate. Know Thee, in all the Holy Roman Empire [eng, ger] there were only two crowns worth mentioning. The first was that of the House of Bohemia, which we were directly related to.
To join these ranks officially my lands needed to become a kingdom, blessed by the emperor and the pope. Being closely related to either, it would not present any problem.
The negotiations went well and all my lands would be proclaimed a kingdom, including my lands in Styria. There was just one more price to pay. Frederick demanded that I would give my niece’s hand, Gertrude [eng, ger, int], into Holy Marriage with him.
Frederick had recently been banned by the pope and stood in need of new allies. A marriage always proved as an excellent way to form new alliances.
He was some 50 years old already and had been a widower for three times already whilst Gertrude was just 19 years old. It was so arranged that at the diet of Verona the marriage contract should be officially signed by both for all the nobles to see in a public ceremony, however she did not attend and the deal seemed to be off, for now!
In your days most scholars write and say that my negotiations did not bear any fruitful results and that my endeavor had failed. It is not true!
All historical artifacts that will prove my claim to be true have been under lock and key in one of the secret archives of my dynasty. These artefacts have never been exhibited to the public; the world has never seen them.
The many contents of these archives, containing millions of documents and priceless artifacts have so far been accessible to only a very few.
The secret council that governs the affairs of my dynasty up until your very days has decided that these many secrets shall now be made accessible to experts and the general public.
Scholars may contest my words; the facts will prove them wrong about a great many things regarding my dynasty and other biblical matters. May God forgive their little vanities their intellectual pride has driven them into.
Although Frederick was most displeased to be humiliated in public in such fashion, nothing was off the table. Perhaps Gertrude just needed more convincing.
But my plans were dashed! Not by failure on either side but by war itself. Although I had helped Béla to defeat the Mongols, the conflict between us was far from being over. On June 15th, 1246 his forces and mine engaged at the banks of the river Leitha [eng, ger]. It was just a minor battle. Legend tells that although my troops did defeat the Hungarians, the bolt of a crossbow hit my horse. As it fell, I was crushed to death by its weight!
Since I did not have any children of my own and both my brothers’ dead, the male line of my dynasty came to an end. So, one might conclude that this was the final chapter of the Dynasty of Babenberg! – It was not!
The “Privilegium Minus” [eng, ger, int] my family was granted to my forefather Henry-„Jasomirgott” [eng, ger, int] clearly stated that all lands and titles could be inherited by male and female succession!
So, both my sister Margaret and my niece Gertrude were allowed to inherit and to carry on with all pride and honor!
My dynasty has existed since the times of Abraham. They called us margraves, later dukes; we always were allowed to, and acted like kings!
We became known by many noble names in European history: the House of Meroving, the House of Robertians, the House of Capetians, the House of Bourbon, the House of Anjou, the House of Wittelsbach, the House of Liechtenstein, the House of Orléans and many more!
The family of Habsburg came to “power” by the means of a forged document, called “Privilegium Maius”, but we produced legitimate kings and rulers, of worldly and of spiritual powers over all these many centuries that followed my time.
If you look upon emperor Charlemagne [eng, ger]. Without our doing, he would have never been crowned by pope Leo III to become emperor and to become the “Father of Europe”!
If you look upon the sun king of France, Louis XIV [eng, ger], he descends from the House of Capetian!
If you look upon modern king Felipe VI [eng, ger] of Spain, he descends from the Houses of Bourbon and Anjou!
All these and many more names of most prominent renown and achievements in history, all descended from one dynasty alone– the Dynasty of Babenberg!
So, for these scholars who in their complacency believe that we ended in 1246, I strongly advise: “Do know! Do reconsider! Thy quest for wisdom has only just begun!”