Leopodl II. - "The Fair"
At these days the people of Hungary would besiege and attack my lands. The position of margrave [eng, ger] I was holding was to hold of any intruder and to see to it that the lands would be run in an orderly fashion and laws to be upheld.
You must understand that in my times wealth and power was directly associated with lands and estates. The more territory one controlled, it meant access to more resources. Monasteries were places not only of worship but also, and greatly so, places of commerce, industry and wealth. They also provided food and produce as they were large agricultural institutions.
The same way castles provided protection but also military might! For an attacker to besiege a well-built castle was a huge and very costly endeavor, whilst the besieged only had to wait, if well supplied with stored food of course.
It would require the express permission of one’s overlord to being granted the right to build a new castle or any other form of stronghold. As you will be advised, alliances could change quickly. And if the lord would allow one to build a new castle, if there were to be any conflict in the future, it would be harder to subdue the other.
A castle would convey three things. It would speak of protection as many commoners would settle in the proximity of such places. Many cities would be the result of such settlements as they would be growing.
But it would also speak of the wealth and power of the lord who commissioned these fortresses. Sometimes it could take decades to build these castles.
Castles [eng, ger] had come a long way before my times. First, they were little more than a settlement surrounded by a wooden palisade fence with some watchtowers. Later they would emerge having a central tower built on a mount, in some lands being called “Motte”, where the lord of the lands and his family would reside.
In my times castles were built of stone and mortar at wisely chosen locations to make them impregnable. I understand that in your times some people think that the labor of prisoners, slaves even, was being used. But this is an untrue myth entirely.
A noble would acquire the services of the finest builders, knowledgeable and experienced in the art of warfare to design these castles. Only the finest masons would know how to cut stone so strong to withstand the impact of siegemachinery, battering on walls several meters thick. Only the finest carpenters would know how to devise roofing which would be able to withstand an enemy’s barrage of stones and flaming arrows fired on the castle, and many more mastercraftsmen would be needed to accomplish such task.
It did cost a fortune to build a castle and it would cost a fortune to maintain it. And in order to secure one’s lands, one would have to either build or being given several castles.
As technology and tactics in warfare would evolve these castles were bound to see additional reinforcement and enlargement of the site over generations.
If one is wise, one will appeal to one’s lord for permission to erect such structures. But one will be even wiser about the trust and loyalty given in return by one’s lord, if he would bestow such privilege upon you, or if such privilege would be denied!
Lands, privileges and estates could be acquired by a set of different approaches. One was to be faithful to your Lord such as a king who would reward loyalty with lands and privileges. Such privileges could be such as the right to not only apply the law of the lands but also to decree new laws, the right to strike coins - making one’s own legal tender or the right to mine and harvest salt - a most important and valuable commodity during my times as there was no artificial refrigeration of foods. So how to make meat durable? It could only be dried, smoked or salted. Vegetables for the winter would have to be put in jars that were then being filled up with brine or a vinegar-based solution.
Another important issue was also the question of inheritance. If such privilege was granted, one’s oldest son would inherit these lands and later pass them on to his oldest son.
Another way was the sacrament of holy marriage. When I walked this earth the right choice of spouse was of the upmost importance. Marriages among noble families were political alliances and would be negotiated by the leaders of the involved families. It was done so among nobles as well as commoners.
It was not about love or personal preference; it was about to strengthen and increase the power and wealth of one’s dynasty. Sometimes bride and groom would even find themselves being engaged to each other when they still were children. Of course, the wedding and consummation of the marriage would only be performed by the time both were of proper age for such proceedings as an heir was very much needed and expected to being produced.
But of course, there was the option to also buy land. When I lived, we would have different sets of measurements. We would not use acres or morgens during these times, we called it “Hufe” [ger]. It was the amount of land a pair of oxen would be able to plow within one day, from sunrise to sunset.
Know ye, it was the time where my own dynasty was slowly and gradually expanding her wealth and influence. This required foresight, perseverance, mutually beneficial political alliances and wise decisions in marriage. One of my own daughters, Sophie was married to Henry of Eppenstein [eng, ger], Duke of Charintia, south of my own lands.
Such was the alliance that when the family of Eppenstein would eventually die out in 1122 [ger], long after my own death they would pass on all lands and estates to the family of Traungau [ger] who ruled in a region called Styria, situated south of my lands and would give all their lands and estates back to my family in 1192 almost 100 years after my passing, which also included lands they had owned in northern Italy – today called Friuli [eng, ger].
“Growth of Power” - 101, one could feel inclined to conclude.
My own son Leopold [eng, ger], later being called “The Good” was asked during his lifetime to allow to being elected as king, a rank higher than this of Duke, yet he declined. He proclaimed to be concerned with being too old and that feuds might break out between his many children.
But with the wisdom I am sharing with you on this parchment, you now understand why he declined. The power, influence and wealth of my dynasty was such that kingship would not present any additional gain. If one is wise, one will not invoke greed and menacing forces to conspire against one. Treachery travels on fast wings. And the blade of its sword is the deadliest of them all.
And such can come rather quickly and even from the most unexpected sources. The king of the lands, called Germany in your days was Henry [eng, ger]. Indeed, we were on very friendly terms with each other. That’s why he granted me lands. In 1077, even after his return from Canossa [eng, ger], where he was humiliated by the Holy Father, but then through forgiveness was raised to proper status once again, returning as a ruler.
I would visit Henry at his court where I was received with honors. But as you will see, even the friendliest of relations can change!
Mine was a time where nobility and Church would have a dispute about the question if nobles could hold office within the church [eng, ger], although they are not ordained, matters of celibacy and more.
That was the reason why Henry was in conflict with the pope. And although he lifted Henry's ban from the Holy Mother Church, Henry did not regain all his authority with his own nobles who wanted, despite the lift, to elect a new king.
Here they elected a new souverain by the name of Rudolph of Rheinfelden [eng, ger], Henrys own brother-in-law. A most loyal vassal at first, but ye can see now what I mean with the word ”treachery” when your own relative turns on you.
Also, my relationship to Henry became a grave one as our spiritual differences regarding the conflict with nobles and clergy had deepened a great deal. But also, Henry had expelled a close confidant of mine from the city where he was bishop. Altmann of Passau [eng, ger], who was a supporter of pope Gregory VII [eng, ger] but also a supporter of new king Rudolph. We had a good relationship to each other and it was him who convinced me to support the pope in these matters.
After he had to flee the city of Passau he found help as I granted him asylum from his pursuers. Altmann would become a personal friend and advisor to me, a great theological and spiritual leader in my lands, he would build monasteries, achieved many reforms and worked many other deeds. It was also him who reminded me of my own father Ernest [eng, ger] who was a follower of Henry. And this did cost him his life, when he was killed at the battle at Homburg [eng, ger].
And so, in 1079, because he had lost my support, Henry attacked my lands with his army and forced me into surrender; or so he thought!
Just one year later kind Rudolph succumbed his injuries which he had received at the battle on the Elster [eng, ger] against Henry. Rudolph had always been known for being an exceptionally brave warrior.
A new king therefore had to be elected. Henry had lost many of his supporters and could only try to rule by sheer military might! So Hermann, Duke of Salm [eng, ger] was elected as king. But he was nowhere near as strong a leader as Rudolph and so Henry regained part of his former power. He even managed to be crowned Emperor by Antipope Clement III [eng, ger] on Easter Sunday in 1084.