Leopold VI - "The Glorious"

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October 15th, 1176 - July 28th, 1230

When I walked this earth, I was called many things: honorable, kind, pious, a knight, righteous, wise even! Later I would be christened “The Glorious”, after I had departed.

Of course this is flattering, but I respectfully decline such praise. I stood in the service to my dynasty, which as my own son Frederick [eng, ger, int] will advise you, dates back to biblical times. In later generations they called us: „Babenberg“! But we were never known under this name. Scholars have agreed upon that our name comes from the city of Bamberg [eng, ger]. No!

There are two parts of our name that, if wise, one understands to come from an old and noble language. This language is not European but comes from these lands, which today you call “The Middle East”. “Ben” and “Bar”! The first word means “Son” the latter “Mountain”. The language – Hebrew!

As my Frederick will advise you, these whom you call “Babenberg” have been known under many names in the course of history. From century to century; from generation to generation!

I lived in vibrant times and did have my share of conflict with my sons, especially Henry, who would openly rebel against me.

I saw new miracles in architecture, which allowed to construct much more elegant structures, rising higher than before [eng, ger]. What could be more suitable to praise God and his creation than to build to the heavens?

A new class of people emerged. Wealthy and influential they were. But not because of aristocratic lineage but because of achievement in their own right – the citizen.

Cities started to prosper by trade and craftsmanship. Wealthy individuals emerged from this, starting their own dynasties; not based on lands or titles but from money earned. Families such as Fugger [eng, ger] or Eggenberg [eng, ger] would become very powerful in centuries to come. Later, they will even bear their own code of arms. Will there be distain for these, whom you now call “New Money” or arrivistes as wealth will be called? Yes! But as times changed over centuries it would be understood that regardless of lineages that can be traced back over centuries or entrepreneurs and smart merchants that had built a fortune – one was still a member of the same club! Nobility itself derives from achievement!

I understood and supported this from the beginning on. It was the very dawn of what you in your times call “Capitalism”.

Being born the younger brother of Frederick [eng, ger, int], I did not have any rightful claims to office and power. So, my well-being would have to be established in another fashion as only the first born will inherit all lands and titles from his father.

My father [eng, ger, int] was a brave man and true warrior. He journeyed twice to the Holy Land, once as a pilgrim, the second time he would come as a crusader, leading his sword into battle!

It was there where he was greatly dishonored by the king of the English, Richard [eng, ger, int], when he denied my father his fair share of reward for the taking of Acre [eng, ger]. But my father devised a resourceful plan to seek vengeance against his adversary and when Richard traveled through his lands, he had him taken prisoner and held him hostage; to be released only after a huge ransom was paid by the English.

My father even agreed to participate in yet another crusade but during a tournament in the city of Graz [eng, ger], during the joust he was thrown of his horse and his foot was severely injured. They amputated his foot to cure the gangrene [eng, ger] that had developed but it was too late for him. This took place in the year of our Lord 1194.

As he knew that his last hours in this world had come, he decided to do something quite remarkable.

Know Thee, my father had successfully negotiated a treaty with Ottokar [eng, ger], the duke of the lands called Styria. As Ottokar had become an old man he would soon leave this world without leaving a legitimate heir behind.

My father made it so, that all of Ottokar’s lands would become his, under the stipulation that Austria, which my father ruled, and Styria would henceforth remain united forever. Such agreement was written in 1186 and was henceforth known as the “Georgenberg Pact” [eng, ger] and all proper seals were affixed to this parchment with the express approval of emperor Frederick [eng, ger]. Both our families were related to each other and always had close ties in political matters.

But as my father lay dying, to everyone’s surprise, he had a change of heart. He decided that I was to be enfeoffed with all the lands of Styria, whilst my older brother Frederick was to rule the lands and dutchy of Austria. This happened with the approval of Emperor Henry [eng, ger] as he also came from the same family as emperor Fredrick, the dynasty of Hohenstaufen [eng, ger].

However, there was a little twist. My fiefdom was confirmed to me by the emperor himself, my brother’s by one Wolfger of Erla [eng, ger], the archbishop of Passau on behalf of the emperor. A man of great diplomatic skills and renown – entrusted with most sensitive matters of the roam. A worthy choice to represent the emperor’s will. And a trusted ally to my dynasty as well as to the dynasty of Hohenstaufen he was!

He also was a very devoted patron for the fine arts and scholarly work. Legend will tell that his patronage made it possible to compose the “Nibelungenlied” [eng, ger]. Today it is considered as one of the most important poems of German medieval literature.

After my father was laid to rest at the abbey of Heiligenkreuz [eng 1, eng 2, ger 1, ger 2] in 1194, my brother and I assumed our new positions as rulers of our lands. I soon discovered that much work was to be done.

Know Thee, during my times the economy started to change a great deal. Through the development of new farming techniques like the Three-field-system [eng, ger] and the reclamation of new lands much more food became available and the population started to grow. One of the reasons why my dynasty had founded abbeys was that once established, the monks would start to reclaim the land, cutting down forests and thus opening these lands to farming and the production of livestock. Around these abbeys people would settle down and towns started to grow, as monasteries could be defended in case of an attack and provided protection for the people.

Towns grew into cities and became thriving and vibrant places. A new class emerged – the citizen. Before that there were only three classes of people: the Fighting Knight, the Praying and the Peasant. Now there were four! And cities became more independent and self-confident. They demanded more independence from their overlords, and it would be wise to grant such freedoms and rights as they would forward trade and economic prosperity. And wealth started to accumulate rather quickly.

Many in your days believe that the medieval world was dark, fogy, without any color and void. It is not true! My times were vibrant. People did not wear rags but proper clothes and farmers were not robbed of their entire harvest in the fall. Taxation was based on the annual yield of crops.

Monasteries who owned lands which they leased to farmers would only demand the so-called “Tithe” [eng, ger]. So, 10% of the annual yield of the lands leased. What good could it possibly do to deprive people of all their resources and food? This would only lead to famine and rebellion.

Goods were being traded throughout all the known world. Spices would come from as far as Africa and the Far East to us. Cinnamon or clovers would come from as far as India. Frankincense would come from Arabia [eng, ger], as well as many other goods. It was used by the church and for medicinal application. The English had become the greatest producer of wool and did supply all of Europe with it. As well as metals such as tin.

From the shores in the north of what you call today Germany herring was fished in huge quantities. Having it pickled, smoked, dried or salted, it could be transported over huge distances and was available to anyone for a cheap price throughout the entire year.

In the north entire trade organizations started to develop such as the “Hanseatic League” [eng, ger, map] or centers in the lands called Flemish [eng, ger, map]. Italian merchants did use their ships to carry crusaders to the Holy Land and returned back with the bowels of their vessels filled with valuable goods from there.

Even these who were called Vikings [eng, ger], once a menace to all of Christendom, had become skilled traders and provided goods as far away as the lands of Rus [eng, ger] in the east; or Russia as it is known in your times.

So, one winter evening I could recline in front of a fire. I would drink wine from Spain that was laced with spices from the Far East; this type of wine was called Hippocras [eng, ger]. My cup would be made of tin from England or glass from Italy, coming from Venice [eng, ger], whilst my dinner where herring would be served as well came from the northern shores of Germany whilst my physician prepared an ointment that contained frankincense. My garments would be made of wool coming from the English as well.

With trade not only goods did travel but also scholarly wisdom and knowledge. New wisdom would arise, new techniques for craftsmen of all different trades to improve and to devise new ways of working. Imagine a blacksmith who learned to forge much better and harder steel, yet being lighter than the tools made before. Better plows for farming or better blades for swords and much more.

In cities craftsmen did start to form guilds [eng, ger] to establish standards for price and quality.

These developments also ushered in a drastic change for the economy. Although coins were used, for the average person trade in natural goods was much more common. A small barrel of salt could be traded for linen cloth. Taxes could be paid in this fashion as well. So a farmer could pay the tithe to a monastery by bringing a few jugs filled with mead [eng, ger] or a few chickens. And monasteries could pay their debts to their lord by delivering wine to his estates rather than coin.

Since most people could neither read or write also measurements were adopted to this. A good example is the “Hufe”. It was a measurement how much land a pair of oxen would be able to plow in the course of one day. That was something people could understand as any farmer including his children, would know by heart through experience how much land that is.

It was the same with money. Of course, coin, no bills yet, did exist and was used. But this would for the most part apply to the church or nobles. When my father did take king Richard of England, called The Lionheart prisoner the largest amount of ransom was negotiated for his release that would be the highest amount negotiated until your very days. To be paid in silver coin. Tons of silver were delivered from England.

Know Thee, there were no exchange rates for different currencies. And it would not matter anyway. The really important factors were the weight of a coin and how pure the metal was.

But all of this had started to change drastically. With trade and commerce expanding the economy had started to change from natural goods to currency. The times in which economy was just located around a manor, fortress or monastery were over!

My father [eng, ger, int] already had enlarged Vienna [eng, ger] and founded two cities and I was determined to proceed with this course.

My brother Frederick [eng, ger, int] was different from me in this regard, that he was very pious. So, in the year of our Lord 1197 he left for a crusade to the Holy Land. A most dangerous endeavor. It was so dangerous that one could not even be sure to get there alive. He was joined by Wolfger, the Bishop of Passau and his uncle Henry, whom they called “Duke of Medling” [eng, ger, int]. I learned one year later that Henry had bravely proven himself in battle but had fallen ill and died on his way back from Palestine. His personal friend and bishop Wolfger personally performed the rite of “Mos Teutonicus” [eng, ger] to prepare his remains to come back home. When he arrived, I ordered for him to be laid to rest at the abbey of Heiligenkreuz with all honors.

It also meant that I did inherit all lands and titles from my departed brother, re-uniting all the lands under one, my rule!

„zê gôtes und Marien êr, diesen slac und keinen mêr!“

„By the honor of God and the Virgin Mary, this whack on the cheek shall be Thy last to suffer!”

Such I was told in Vienna in 1200 when I was officially proclaimed to raise, and be recognized by all clerics and nobles present during this ceremony, a knight! This ceremony took place in Vienna and was accompanied with many celebrations and a tournament. It was the first accolade [eng, ger] to ever have taken place there. And by doing so, I did grace the city of Vienna [eng, ger] and elevated her to be recognized as well, for I had plans I desired to work there in the future.

But for a rule of my rank the proper choice of bride was essential as well. My father had married Ilona/Helena, the sister of king Béla [eng, ger] of Hungary. My family had a very uneasy relationship with the Hungarians for a long time and this marriage would guarantee the expansion of my dynasty’s interests there and diminish the danger of being raided by “marauders” who were regular soldiers in disguise. Only a fool would fall for this.

My grandfather Henry [eng, ger, int] was married to Theodora who was the niece of the Byzantine emperor. As my family always had close relations with the Byzantine Empire, I so decided to renew this long tradition.

After negotiations I courted Theodora Angelina, the niece of the Byzantine emperor Alexios. In 1203 we celebrated our wedding in Vienna with a most grand spectacle. The most powerful nobles and clerics from near an afar attended. Chroniclers of my days described my wedding as “magnifice” and “pomposissime”. The wines and foods served were of course as elaborate as possible. Know Thee, the display of status and extravagance for nobles was as important during my days as they are in yours. The difference: in your days you would buy an expensive wrist watch or drive a fancy car, possessing several of them of course. Or if one enjoys the hunt, one would seek out the services of a master-gunsmith and have a handmade rifle crafted according to a precise set of specifications and desires. And one would mind that guests, attending the hunt could see such elaborate gun, to speak of the prestige and wealth of its owner.

In my times status was displayed differently. For clothes: the dominant types of cloth were either made of wool or linen. So, a noble or cleric would dress in much more expensive garments such as brocade, fur or pure silk. Such garments could be interwoven with threads of silver or even gold. Garments could also be embroidered. Nobles and clerics were allowed to have their garments dyed in any color they pleased. Peasants were obligated to wear much simpler clothes in darker colors.

If it came to food: things like tomatoes, corn, potatoes and many other foods were unknown in my time. But if a noble would be hosting a feast, he would have served expensive fish, wild boar, deer, swans or even birds like peacock, suckling pig and others. Foods were all served at the same time. So, I could display wealth and power by the foods I served and my guests could ascertain what power and wealth I possessed. Actually, peacock is rather plain in taste and chewy. But it is expensive.

This was the same with spices used. Cinnamon, clovers and other spices had to be imported from as far as Asia. Pepper from Ethiopia [eng, ger] was the most expensive one to serve. All the meats would be prepared with as exotic spices as possible.

Candied fruits in sugar came from Arabia. And for dessert – cakes made of marzipan was the pinnacle of any feast as its production required foods such as almonds, sugar and rosewater.

It so sometimes happened that master-chefs who were in the employ of a lord were actually knighted for their cooking skills. After all, their art was testimony to the power and wealth of their lord.

During my times it was also very important to observe who attended a gathering in who’s company. Something I would put to use in the future.

Actually, there were so many guests present that there was not enough suitable estates available for all the attendees. To make my wedding with Theodora even more magnificent a great many artists such as artistes, poets, magicians, musicians and a great many more entertained our congregation. My departed brothers friend, Wolfger of Erla [eng, ger] brought in his entourage the most famous poet Walther von der Vogelweide [eng, ger].

There he would recite his famous poem “Ir sult sprechen willekomen” [eng, ger] for our entertainment. My father was a great supporter of him and his art. He was also granted residence at the fortress in Medling [eng, ger] by my brothers uncle Henry [eng, ger, int]. But also, other artists of great renown would perform for us. Famous poets such as Neidhart of Reuental [eng, ger] or Ulrich of Liechtenstein [eng, ger].

Legend tells that a poet, unknown today, was present at my wedding. He composed one of the most famous poems of all of German medieval literature – the “Nibelungenlied” [eng, ger].

„Do riten si von Tulne ze Wiene zuo der stat.“…

… describes the scene when Kriemhild and king Etzel would get married. And my wedding is believed to be the inspiration for this poetic wedding.

After my wedding and because of the great support I had received from the board of directors of the Mint in Vienna my father had established, I granted a loan of 20,000 Marks in coin to the good merchants of Vienna to support and boost the economy. I did establish new markets and the city-council of Vienna could rest assured of my support. I saw to it that clerical orders would take residence in Vienna but also orders of faithful knights of the Teutonic Order [eng, ger] and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller [eng, ger] who were in the service to the Lord. In 1212 I raised Enns to become a city in its own right [eng, ger].

In 1220 I founded an entire new city to advance commerce – Freistadt [eng, ger].

By 1221 I granted Vienna all “Town Privileges” [eng, ger] as the customs of my times would prescribe.

This did expressly include the privilege of “Staple Right” [eng, ger]. It meant that no merchant was allowed to simply travel through Vienna without offering his goods for sale for a fixed number of days. As taxes would apply to any sale, the good people of Vienna would profit from this a great deal and it would regulate all trade with the Hungarians according to my desire. Contemporary scholars compared Vienna to be equal to the most important city in all the German lands – Cologne [eng, ger]. And to make its importance known in all the lands, I did choose not a fortress but the very city of Vienna as my point of residence. I did hold luxurious court there and, as a symbol of wealth and status surrounded myself with artists from various fields and greatest renown in all the lands. By that time and under my rule cities started to extend even beyond their immediate city walls.

I improved the network of roads in all directions and extended my reach even to the south where I purchased lands and markets in the region of Tyrol [eng, ger], lands in the proximity of cities like Linz [eng, ger] or Wels [eng, ger] and extended my purchases down to the south to the lands of Carnolia [eng, ger] and Friuli [eng, ger] which allowed me to have direct access to the “Mare Nostrum” [eng, ger] and henceforth to all trading routes to the south and east, including Arabia. Also, standing on the very threshold of these places allowed me to extend my influence to their doings, having them do my bidding. Of course, I would gently persuade them to pursue my ways in a mutually prosperous fashion.

When my forefather Leopold [eng, ger, int] became margrave [eng, ger] in my lands generations before me, this was done by my dynasty to build a stronghold much more situated in the middle of all of Europe as it is known in your days.

The reason for this was rather simple. Our adversaries were located much further north in the middle of these lands whom you call Germany today. We would know these regions as Franconia [eng, ger] or Saxony [eng, ger]. If we could control lands located more south, we would always have a head start for movement or communication. Keep in mind that my dynasty always held strong ties to the Byzantine Empire or the Holy Seat in Rome as well as many other powers throughout all of Europe. My choice of marriage reflected this as well. At the same time other members of my dynasty, although known under different names, expanded their activities in other parts of Europe. And they have done so over generations.

My political ambitions I had with Theodora could not be facilitated because Constantinople [eng, ger] had been conquered by troops led by the Venetians just one year after our wedding. So, it was not her fault.

It is being said: “Whom God loves he will bless with many children!” And God blessed my marriage with 7 children: 3 boys and 4 beautiful girls. A proud father I was indeed!

And I did teach my children the importance to recognize new developments and to adopt to them. Nobles were not only that by birth, but with the economy changing, even peasants could achieve prosperity, status and influence based upon their own merit. In your days you say: “money talks!”; well during my times money “started to talk”! I was known to be one of the wealthiest men in all the lands and the reason why I could simply buy so many lands was that many noble families who had not understood that times had changed simply vanished. So why would I not exploit this?

But as God grants live, he also takes it away! It so happened that in 1216 my youngest son and heir Leopold [int] attended the schola. One morning after a rainy night he climbed a tree, slipped and fell to his death. My wife and myself were stricken very hard by this news and bent with grief. In particular my wife Theodora never really managed to recover from this terrible loss as Leopold was her favorite son. As a ruler and husband I had to maintain my composure to display strength and protection; as a man and father, well tears do come when alone.

But a great many other duties fulfilled my life. Right at the border between the land my departed brother once ruled and my own domain Styria I founded the monastery of Lilienfeld [eng, ger] which I devised to serve as a subsidiary branch of the abbey of Heiligenkreuz [eng, ger]. Lilienfeld would also be the chosen place for my burial. I would personally see to it that I was provided with a holy relic of the highest order – a piece of the cross our Lord died upon. Relics always meant that many pilgrims would come to a holy site, to pray before the relic. It was also here where I introduced a completely new form of architecture in my lands – the Gothic art [eng, ger]. I also ordered for a church to be built at Klosterneuburg – the “Capella Speziosa”. She was the very first gothic building in the entire region.

I intended to make Vienna to become a diocese in her own right in 1207. It was intended to form a strong counterweight against the diocese in Passau which, due to its enormous size, wealth and power had the ability to shift powers against my interests.

To help my plans I started to relentlessly persue heretics and to put them on trial as I had agreed upon with pope Innocent [eng, ger] when we exchanged letters and I was seeking his favor for my plans. I reasoned to the pope that such a large entity like the diocese of Passau could easily spread and advance heretic ideas that were against the wishes of the Holy Mother Church. But my plan failed due to the resistance of Passau and the diocese in Salzburg.

Yet in 1212 God called upon my services to go on crusade. And I did do so in 1212 in Spain where I participated in an campaign against the Cathars [eng, ger] and the so-called Fifth Crusade [eng, ger] in Egypt.

My reason for all of this was to maintain good relationships to both, the emperor and the Holy Seat in Rome. It so happened that I, due to my wisdom and contacts, was often sent on diplomatic missions to be a mediator between the emperor and the pope. Often I did visit gatherings and sometimes spent months in his proximity. But I also enjoyed a good relationship with the Roman Curia [eng, ger]; the very body of trustees that surrounds and advises the pope. It is fair to say that I was away from home much longer than being home. During these times my wife Theodora managed to run all of my affairs in my interest. She was a strong and independent woman. What I had to learn the hard way was that she instilled a regime of competition among my children. This particularly influenced my son Henry a great deal.

In 1225 I managed to have my daughter Margaret [eng, ger, int] married to Henry [eng, ger] the son of the emperor. Chroniclers would later record this event as “Stupor Mundi” (Latin) – “To the Amazement of all the World!”.

Before that my son was affianced to Agnes of Bohemia [eng, ger] but this marriage was now cancelled of course. By that time Agnes resided at my court to be taught the German language and our customs. So, I sent her home to her father Ottokar.

Now she had brought a substantial dowry into this arrangement, which I used to pay for the expenses of a most elaborate wedding that was held in the city of Nuremberg. After all, I could marry one of my daughters into the imperial family and I would see the couple crowned as king and queen in 1227. Henry was very angry about this, and I could understand his anger. But then, I have raised my children to understand that one’s first duty is to serve the dynasty.

After a few months I left for a very important diplomatic mission. During my absence Henry had decided behind my back to raise against me. He forged an alliance with Ottokar, king of the Bohemians, and together they started to raid my lands north of the river Danube.

My son even tried to turn many of our vassals to his side. His plans however failed. Ottokar was defeated in open battle by Henry of Kuenring [ger], one of the most loyal families in the service of my dynasty, and had to withdraw.

Henry even drove his own mother Theodora off her estate at the fortress of Heimenburg, close to Vienna [eng, ger 1, ger 2].

When I returned home, I learned of all the atrocities that Henry had committed. Next to bringing my wife back home, I gave orders to arrest my son on the charges of high treason!

I had him moved to the fortress of Medling to await his faith. There he would reside in style but would be cut off from any communication until I had decided his future. If he were just one of my subjects or confidants, it would have been easy – the sentence of death! But I already had lost a son and I struggled how to proceed. So, I traveled to Medling to visit him. I was undecided what to do but I offered my son the opportunity to explain himself to me.

I did have any legal right to have my son either executed or to offer him the possibility of committing suicide. Nobody would ever have questioned my decision or challenge me.

We talked for a long time and we regained trust to each other once again as we started to understand each other’s reasons and motivation for our actions. And I decided to forgive my son. As public display was very important during my days, I made sure to being seen with Henry in public at Donauwörth at the “Hoftag” there. A “Hoftag” is a gathering of the most important nobles in the presence of the king or emperor to hold council. I told Thee, it is important to being seen in company with the right people; one of the many ways during my times to assess the real importance and influence of a noble or cleric.

To assure him of my trust I sent Henry on a delicate mission to Swabia [eng, ger]. I regret that he fell ill and died on this mission. So now my last remaining son Frederick [eng, ger, int] would have to carry on once I had left this world.

In the year of our Lord 1230 I was once again called upon to employ my diplomatic and negotiating skills to mediate a dispute between emperor Frederick [eng, ger] of the imperial family of Hohenstaufen [eng, ger] and the pope [eng, ger] who had him excommunicated [eng, ger]. It is the harshest penalty to be inflicted upon a ruler by a pope.

My journey let me to the city of San Germano as also Frederick resided in Italy at the time. So, we met for talks and these were successful really. As Frederick had successfully ventured in a crusade [eng, ger] and managed to reclaim many important sites for pilgrims, a truce between both men could be established.

But it is so that God only grants us a limited time on this earth. I fell sick and died there. As these were my last wishes my remains were brought back to the abbey of Lilienfeld and I lay interred there in the love of our savior Jesus Christ.