House Of Hohenzollern Established In Brandenburg
Author: Carlyle, Thomas

House Of Hohenzollern Established In Brandenburg


The German princely family of Hohenzollern, which ruled over Brandenburg
from 1415, has furnished the kings of Prussia since 1701, and since 1871 those
kings have also been German emperors. The Hohenzollerns were originally
owners of a castle on the Upper Danube, at no great distance from the
ancestral seat of the Hapsburg family. They acquired influence at the court
of Swabia, and in 1192 had established themselves in Nuremberg, where in that
year Frederick I became burggraf. When Rudolph I, founder of the house of
Hapsburg, finally defeated his rival, Ottocar of Bohemia (1278), his cause was
saved by the assistance of a Hohenzollern-Frederick of Nuremberg.

The Hohenzollerns made fortunate marriages and shrewd purchases and the
descendants of Frederick I, succeeding to his burggravate, in the course of
time acquired great estates in Franconia, Moravia, and Burgundy. Through
their increasing wealth-whereby in the fifteenth century they had gained a
position similar to that of the present Rothschilds - and by use of their
political abilities, they attained commanding influence in the councils of the
German princes.

Such was the eminence of this powerful family at the time when they
acquired the electorate of Brandenburg, the nucleus of the present kingdom of
Prussia. Brandenburg was a district formerly inhabited by the Wends, a Slavic
people, from whom it was taken in 926 by Henry the Fowler, King of Germany, of
which kingdom it afterward became a margravate. Its first margrave was Albert
the Bear, under whom, about 1150, it was made an electorate; from Albert's
line it passed to Louis the Bavarian, in 1319; and in 1371 it was transferred
to Charles (Karl) IV. On the death of Charles, his son and successor Wenzel
(Wenceslaus) relinquished Brandenburg to his brothers, as told by Carlyle, who
in his own pictorial manner describes the subsequent complications which
finally resulted in giving that possession to the ancestors of the present
ruling house of Germany.

Karl ^1 left three young sons, Wenzel, Sigismund, Johann; and also a
certain nephew much older; all of whom now more or less concern us in this
unfortunate history.

[Footnote 1: Charles IV.]

Wenzel, the eldest son, heritable Kurfuerst of Brandenburg as well as
King of Bohemia, was as yet only seventeen, who nevertheless got to be
kaiser-and went widely astray, poor soul. The nephew was no other than
Margrave Jobst of Moravia, now in the vigor of his years and a stirring man:
to him, for a time, the chief management in Brandenburg fell, in these
circumstances. Wenzel, still a minor, and already Kaiser and King of Bohemia,
gave up Brandenburg to his two younger brothers, most of it to Sigismund, with
a cutting for Johann, to help their appanages; and applied his own powers to
govern the Holy Roman Empire, at that early stage of life.

To govern the Holy Roman Empire, poor soul-or rather "to drink beer and
dance with the girls"; in which, if defective in other things, Wenzel had an
eminent talent. He was one of the worst kaisers and the least victorious on
record. He would attend to nothing in the Reich; "the Prag white beer, and
girls" of various complexion, being much preferable, as he was heard to say.
He had to fling his poor Queen's Confessor into the river Moldau-Johann of
Nepomuk, Saint so called, if he is not a fable altogether; whose Statute
stands on Bridges ever since, in those parts. Wenzel's Bohemians revolted
against him; put him in jail; and he broke prison, a boatman's daughter
helping him out, with adventures. His Germans were disgusted with him;
deposed him from the kaisership; chose Rupert of the Pfalz; and then, after
Rupert's death, chose Wenzel's own brother Sigismund in his stead-left Wenzel
to jumble about in his native Bohemian element, as king there, for nineteen
years longer, still breaking pots to a ruinous extent.

He ended by apoplexy, or sudden spasm of the heart; terrible Ziska, ^1 as
it were, killing him at second hand. For Ziska, stout and furious, blind of
one eye and at last of both, a kind of human rhinoceros driven mad, had risen
out of the ashes of murdered Huss, and other bad papistic doings, in the
interim; and was tearing up the world at a huge rate. Rhinoceros Ziska was on
the Weissenberg, or a still nearer hill of Prag since called Ziska-berg (Ziska
Hill); and none dust whisper of it to the King. A servant waiting at dinner
inadvertently let slip the word: "Ziska there? Deny it, slave!" cried Wenzel,
frantic. Slave durst not deny. Wenzel drew his sword to run at him, but fell
down dead: that was the last pot broken by Wenzel. The hapless royal
ex-imperial phantasm self-broken in this manner. Poor soul, he came to the
kaisership too early; was a thin violent creature, sensible to the charms and
horrors of created objects; and had terrible rhinoceros ziskas and unruly
horned cattle to drive. He was one of the worst kaisers ever known-could have
done Opera Singing much better-and a sad sight to Bohemia. Let us leave him
there: he was never actual Elector of Brandenburg, having given it up in time;
never did any ill to that poor country.

[Footnote 1: Allusion to John Ziska, leader of the Hussites, who waged a
fierce war against Wenzel and the empire.]

The real Kurfurst of Brandenburg all this while was Sigismund, Wenzel's
next brother, under tutelage of cousin Jobst or otherwise-a real and yet
imaginary, for he never himself governed, but always had Jobst of Mahren or
some other in his place there. Sigismund was to have married a daughter of
Burggraf Friedrich V; ^1 and he was himself, as was the young lady, well
inclined to this arrangement. But the old people being dead, and some offer
of a king's daughter turning up for Sigismund, Sigismund broke off; and took
the king's daughter, King of Hungary's-not without regret then and afterward,
as is believed. At any rate, the Hungarian charmer proved a wife of small
merit, and a Hungarian successor she had was a wife of light conduct even;
Hungarian charmers, and Hungarian affairs, were much other than a comfort to

[Footnote 1: Head of the House of Hohenzollern, Burggraves of Nuremberg.]

As for the disappointed princess, Burggraf Friedrich's daughter, she said
nothing that we hear; silently became a Nun, an Abbess: and through a long
life looked out, with her thoughts to herself, upon the loud whirlwind of
things, where Sigismund (oftenest an imponderous rag of conspicuous color) was
riding and tossing. Her two brothers also, joint Burggraves after their
father's death, seemed to have reconciled themselves without difficulty. The
elder of them was already Sigismund's brother-in-law; married to Sigismund's
and Wenzel's sister - by such predestination as we saw. Burggraf Johann III
was the name of this one; a stout fighter and manager for many years; much
liked, and looked to, by Sigismund, as indeed were both the brothers, for that
matter; always, together or in succession, a kind of right hand to Sigismund.
Frederick (Friedrich), the younger Burggraf, and ultimately the survivor and
inheritor (Johann having left no sons), is the famed Burggraf Friedrich VI the
last and notablest of all the Burggraves - a man of distinguished importance,
extrinsic and intrinsic; chief or among the very chief of German public men in
his time; and memorable to Posterity, and to this history, on still other
grounds! But let us not anticipate.

Sigismund, if appanaged with Brandenburg alone, and wedded to his first
love, not a king's daughter, might have done tolerably well there; better than
Wenzel, with the empire and Bohemia, did. But delusive Fortune threw her
golden apple at Sigismund too; and he, in the wide high world, had to play
strange pranks. His father-in-law died in Hungary, Sigismund's first wife his
only child. Father-in-law bequeathed Hungary to Sigismund, who plunged into a
strange sea thereby; got troubles without number, beatings not a few, and had
even to take boat, and sail for his life down to Constantinople, at one time.
In which sad adventure Burggraf Johann escorted him, and as it were tore him
out by the hair of the head. These troubles and adventures lasted many years;
in the course of which, Sigismund, trying all manner of friends and
expedients, found in the Burggraves of Nuremberg, Johann and Friedrich, with
their talents, possessions, and resources, the main or almost only sure
support he got.

No end of troubles to Sigismund, and to Brandenburg through him, from
this sublime Hungarian legacy. Like a remote fabulous golden fleece, which
you have to go and conquer first, and which is worth little when conquered.
Before ever setting out (1387), Sigismund saw too clearly that he would have
cash to raise: an operation he had never done with, all his life afterward. He
pawned Brandenburg to cousin Jobst of Mahren; got "twenty thousand Bohemian
gulden" - I guess, a most slender sum, if Dryasdust would but interpret it.
This was the beginning of pawnings to Brandenburg; of which when will the end
be? Jobst thereby came into Brandenburg on his own right for the time, not as
tutor or guardian, which he had hitherto been. Into Brandenburg; and there
was no chance of repayment to get him out again.

Jobst tried at first to do some governing; but finding all very anarchic,
grew unhopeful; took to making matters easy for himself. Took, in fact, to
turning a penny on his pawn-ticket; alienating crown domains, winking hard at
robber barons, and the like - and after a few years, went home to Moravia,
leaving Brandenburg to shift for itself, under a Statthalter (Viceregent, more
like a hungry land-steward), whom nobody took the trouble of respecting.
Robber castles flourished; all else decayed. No highway not unsafe; many a
Turpin with sixteen quarters, and styling himself Edle Herr (noble gentleman),
took to "living from the saddle": what are Hamburg pedlers made for but to be

The towns suffered much; any trade they might have had, going to wreck in
this manner. Not to speak of private feuds, which abounded ad libitum.
Neighboring potentates, Archbishop of Magdeburg and others, struck in also at
discretion, as they had gradually got accustomed to do, and snapped away some
convenient bit of territory, or, more legitimately, they came across to
coerce, at their own hand, this or the other Edle Herr of the Turpin sort,
whom there was no other way of getting at, when he carried matters quite too
high. "Droves of six hundred swine" - I have seen (by reading in those old
books) certain noble gentlemen, "of Putlitz," I think, driving them openly,
captured by the stronger hand; and have heard the short querulous squeak of
the bristly creatures: "What is the use of being a pig at all, if I am to be
stolen in this way, and surreptitiously made into ham?" Pigs do continue to be
bred in Brandenburg: but it is under such discouragements. Agriculture,
trade, well-being and well-doing of any kind, it is not encouragement they are
meeting here. Probably few countries, not even Ireland, have a worse outlook,
unless help come.

Jobst came back in 1398, after eight years' absence; but no help came
with Jobst. The Neumark of Brandenburg, which was brother Johann's portion,
had fallen home to Sigismund, brother Johann having died; but Sigismund, far
from redeeming old pawn-tickets with the Neumark, pawned the Neumark too - the
second pawnage of Brandenburg. Pawned the Neumark to the Teutsch Ritters "for
sixty-three thousand Hungarian gulden" (I think, about thirty thousand
pounds), and gave no part of it to Jobst; had not nearly enough for himself
and his Hungarian occasions.

Seeing which, and hearing such squeak of pigs surreptitiously driven,
with little but discordant sights and sounds everywhere, Jobst became
disgusted with the matter; and resolved to wash his hands of it, at least to
have his money out of it again. Having sold what of the domains he could to
persons of quality, at an uncommonly easy rate, and so pocketed what ready
cash there was among them, he made over his pawn-ticket, or properly he
himself repawned Brandenburg to the Saxon potentate, a speculative moneyed
man, Markgraf of Meissen, "Wilhelm the Rich," so called. Pawned it to Wilhelm
the Rich - sum not named; and went home to Moravia, there to wait events.
This is the third Brandenburg pawning: let us hope there may be a fourth and

And so we have now reached that point in Brandenburg history when, if
some help does not come, Brandenburg will not long be a country, but will
either get dissipated in pieces and stuck to the edge of others where some
government is, or else go waste again and fall to the bisons and wild bears.

Who now is Kurfurst of Brandenburg, might be a question. "I
unquestionably!" Sigismund would answer, with astonishment. "Soft, your
Hungarian Majesty," thinks Jobst: "till my cash is paid may it not probably be
another?" This question has its interest: the Electors just now (1400) are
about deposing Wenzel; must choose some better Kaiser. If they wanted another
scion of the house of Luxemburg - a mature old gentleman of sixty; full of
plans, plausibilities, pretensions - Jobst is their man. Jobst and Sigismund
were of one mind as to Wenzel's going; at least Sigismund voted clearly so,
and Jobst said nothing counter: but the Kurfursts did not think of Jobst for
successor. After some stumbling, they fixed upon Rupert KurPfalz (Elector
Palatine, Ruprecht von der Pfalz) as Kaiser.

Rupert of the Pfalz proved a highly respectable Kaiser; lasted for ten
years (1400-10), with honor to himself and the Reich. A strong heart, strong
head, but short of means. He chastised petty mutiny with vigor, could not
bring down the Milanese Visconti, who had perched themselves so high on money
paid to Wenzel; could not heal the schism of the Church (double or triple
Pope, Rome-Avignon affair), or awaken the Reich to a sense of its old dignity
and present loose condition. In the late loose times, as antiquaries remark,
most members of the Empire, petty princes even and imperial towns, had been
struggling to set up for themselves; and were now concerned chiefly to become
sovereign in their own territories. And Schilter informs us it was about this
period that most of them attained such rather unblessed consummation; Rupert
of himself not able to help it, with all his willingness. The people called
him "Rupert Klemm (Rupert Smith's-vise)," from his resolute ways; which
nickname - given him not in hatred, but partly in satirical good-will - is
itself a kind of history. From historians of the Reich he deserves honorable
regretful mention.

He had for Empress a sister of Burggraf Friedrich's; which high lady,
unknown to us otherwise, except by her tomb at Heidelberg, we remember for her
brother's sake. Kaiser Rupert - great-grandson of that Kur-Pfalz who was
Kaiser Ludwig's elder brother - is the culminating point of the Electors
Palatine; the highest that Heidelberg produced. Ancestor of those famed
Protestant "Palatines"; of all the Palatines or Pfalzes that reign in these
late centuries. Ancestor of the present Bavarian Majesty; Kaiser Ludwig's
race having died out. Ancestor of the unfortunate Winterkonig, Friedrich,
King of Bohemia, who is too well known in English history - ancestor also of
Charles XII of Sweden, a highly creditable fact of the kind to him. Fact
indisputable: a cadet of Pfalz-Zweibruck (Deux-Ponts), direct from Rupert,
went to serve in Sweden in his soldier business; distinguished himself in
soldiering; had a sister of the great Gustaf Adolf to wife; and from her a
renowned son, Karl Gustaf (Christiana's cousin), who succeeded as King; who
again had a grandson made in his own likeness, only still more of iron in his
composition. Enough now of Rupert Smith's-vise; who died in 1410, and left
the Reich again vacant.

Rupert's funeral is hardly done, when, over in Preussen, far off in the
Memel region, place called Tannenberg, where there is still "a churchyard to
be seen," if little more, the Teutsch Ritters had, unexpectedly, a terrible
defeat; consummation of their Polish miscellaneous quarrels of long standing;
and the end of their high courses in this world. A ruined Teutsch Ritterdom,
as good as ruined, ever henceforth. Kaiser Rupert died May 18th; and on July
15th, within two months, was fought that dreadful "Battle of Tannenburg,"
Poland and Polish King, with miscellany of savage Tartars and revolted
Prussians, versus Teutsch Ritterdom; all in a very high mood of mutual rage;
the very elements, "wild thunder, tempest and rain deluges," playing chorus to
them on the occasion. Ritterdom fought lion-like, but with insufficient
strategic and other wisdom, and was driven nearly distracted to see its pride
tripped into the ditch by such a set. Vacant Reich could not in the least
attend to it; nor can we further at present.

Jobst and Sigismund were competitors for the Kaisership; Wenzel, too,
striking in with claims for reinstatement: the house of Luxemburg divided
against itself. Wenzel, finding reinstatement not to be thought of, threw his
weight, such as it was, into the scale of cousin Jobst. The contest was
vehement, and like to be lengthy. Jobst, though he had made over his
pawn-ticket, claimed to be Elector of Brandenburg; and voted for himself. The
like, with still more emphasis, did Sigismund, or Burggraf Friedrich acting
for him: "Sigismund, sure, is KurBrandenburg, though under pawn!" argued
Friedrich - and, I almost guess, though that is not said, produced from his
own purse, at some stage of the business, the actual money for Jobst, to close
his Brandenburg pretension.

Both were elected (majority contested in this manner); and old Jobst,
then above seventy, was like to have given much trouble; but happily in three
months he died; and Sigismund became indisputable. In his day Jobst made much
noise in the world, but did little or no good in it. He was thought "a great
man," says one satirical old Chronicler; and there "was nothing great about
him but the beard."

"The cause of Sigismund's success with the Electors," says Kohler, "or of
his having any party among them, was the faithful and unwearied diligence
which had been used for him by the above-named Burggraf Friedrich VI of
Nuremberg, who took extreme pains to forward Sigismund to the Empire; pleading
that Sigismund and Wenzel would be sure to agree well henceforth, and that
Sigismund, having already such extensive territories (Hungary, Brandenburg,
and so forth) by inheritance, would not be so exact about the Reichs-tools and
other imperial incomes. This same Friedrich also, when the election fell out
doubtful, was Sigismund's best support in Germany, nay almost his right hand,
through whom he did whatever was done."

Sigismund is Kaiser, then, in spite of Wenzel. King of Hungary, after
unheard-of troubles and adventures, ending some years ago in a kind of peace
and conquest, he has long been. King of Bohemia, too, he at last became;
having survived Wenzel, who was childless. Kaiser of the Holy Roman Empire,
and so much else: is not Sigismund now a great man? Truly the loom he weaves
upon, in this world, is very large. But the weaver was of headlong,
high-pacing, flimsy nature; and both warp and woof were gone dreadfully

This is the Kaiser Sigismund who held the Council of Constance; and
"blushed visibly," when Huss, about to die, alluded to the letter of
safe-conduct granted him, which was issuing in such fashion. Sigismund
blushed; but could not conveniently mend the matter - so many matters pressing
on him just now. As they perpetually did, and had done. An always-hoping,
never-resting, unsuccessfuly, vain and empty Kaiser. Specious, speculative;
given to eloquence, diplomacy, and the windy instead of the solid arts; always
short of money for one thing. He roamed about, and talked eloquently; aiming
high, and generally missing. Hungary and even the Reich have at length become
his, but have brought small triumph in any kind; and instead of ready money,
debt on debt. His Majesty has no money, and his Majesty's occasions need it
more and more.

He is now (1414) holding this Council of Constance, by way of healing the
Church, which is sick of three simultaneous popes and of much else. He finds
the problem difficult; finds he will have to run into Spain, to persuade a
refractory pope there, if eloquence can (as it cannot); all which requires
money, money. At opening of the council, he "officiated as deacon"; actually
did some kind of litanying "with a surplice over him," though Kaiser and King
of the Romans. But this passage of his opening speech is what I recollect
best of him there: "Right reverend Fathers, date operam ut illa nefanda
schisma eradicetur," exclaims Sigismund, intent on having the Bohemian schism
well dealt with - which he reckons to be of the feminine gender. To which a
cardinal mildly remarking, "Domine, schisma est generis neutrius (schisma is
neuter, your Majesty)," Sigismund loftily replies: "Ego sum Rex Romanus et
super grammaticam (I am King of the Romans, and above Grammar)!" For which
reason I call him in my note-books Sigismund Super Grammaticam, to distinguish
him in the imbroglio of kaisers.

How Jobst's pawn-ticket was settled I never clearly heard; but can guess
it was by Burggraf Friedrich's advancing the money, in the pinch above
indicated, or paying it afterward to Jobst's heirs whoever they were. Thus
much is certain: Burggraf Friedrich, these three years and more (ever since
July 8, 1411) holds Sigismund's deed of acknowledgment "for one hundred
thousand gulden lent at various times"; and has likewise got the Electorate of
Brandenburg in pledge for that sum; and does himself administer the said
Electorate till he be paid. This is the important news; but this is not all.

The new journey into Spain requires new money; this council itself, with
such a pomp as suited Sigismund, has cost him endless money. Brandenburg,
torn to ruins in the way we saw, is a sorrowful matter; and, except the title
of it, as a feather in one's cap, is worth nothing to Sigismund. And he is
still short of money; and will forever be. Why could not he give up
Brandenburg altogether; since, instead of paying, he is still making new loans
from Burggraf Friedrich; and the hope of ever paying were mere lunacy!
Sigismund revolves these sad thoughts too, amid his world-wide diplomacies,
and efforts to heal the Church. "Pledged for one hundred thousand gulden,"
sadly ruminates Sigismund; "and fifty thousand more borrowed since, by little
and little; and more ever needed, especially for this grand Spanish journey!"
these were his sad thoughts. "Advance me, in a round sum, two hundred and
fifty thousand more," said he to Burggraf Friedrich, "two hundred and fifty
thousand more, for my manifold occasions in this time - that will be four
hundred in whole - and take the Electorate of Brandenburg to yourself, Land,
Titles, Sovereign, Electorship and all, and make me rid of it!" That was the
settlement adopted, in Sigismund's apartment at Constance, on April 30, 1415;
signed, sealed, and ratified - and the money paid. A very notable event in
World-History; virtually completed on the day we mention.

The ceremony of investiture did not take place till two years afterward,
when the Spanish journey had proved fruitless, when much else of fruitless had
come and gone and Kaiser and council were probably more at leisure for such a
thing. Done at length it was by Kaiser Sigismund in almost gala, with the
Grandees of the Empire assisting, and august members of the council and world
in general looking on; in the big square or market-place of Constance, April
17, 1417; is to be found described in Rentsch, from Nauclerus and the old
news-mongers of the times. Very grand indeed: much processioning on
horseback, under powerful trumpet-peals and flourishes; much stately kneeling,
stately rising, stepping backward (done well, zierlich, on the Kurfurst's
part); liberal expenditure of cloth and pomp; in short, "above one hundred
thousand people looking on from roofs and windows," and Kaiser Sigismund in
all his glory. He was on a high platform in the market-place, with stairs to
it; the illustrious Kaiser - red as a flamingo, "with scarlet mantle and crown
of gold," - a treat to the eyes of simple mankind.

What sum of modern money, in real purchasing power, this "four hundred
thousand Hungarian Gold Gulden" is, I have inquired in the likely quarters
without result; and it is probable no man exactly knows. The latest existing
representative of the ancient gold gulden is the ducat, worth generally a
half-sovereign in English. Taking the sum at that latest rate, it amounts to
two hundred thousand pounds; and the reader can use that as a note of memory
for the sale-price of Brandenburg with all its lands and honors - multiplying
it perhaps by four or six to bring out its effective amount in current coin.
Dog cheap, it must be owned, for size and capability; but in the most waste
condition, full of mutiny, injustice, anarchy, and highway robbery; a purchase
that might have proved dear enough to another man than Burggraf Friedrich.

But so, at any rate, moribund Brandenburg has got its Hohenzollern
Kurfurst, and started on a new career it little dreamt of; and we can now,
right willingly, quit Sigismund and the Reichs-History, leave Kaiser Sigismund
to sink or swim at his own will henceforth. His grand feat in life, the
wonder of his generation, was this same Council of Constance; which proved
entirely a failure; one of the largest wind-eggs ever dropped with noise and
travail in this world. Two hundred thousand human creatures, reckoned and
reckoning themselves the elixir of the intellect and dignity of Europe. Two
hundred thousand - nay some, counting the lower menials and numerous
unfortunate females, say four hundred thousand - were got congregated into
that little Swiss town; and there as an Ecumenic Council, or solemnly
distilled elixir of what pious intellect and valor could be scraped together
in the world, they labored with all their select might for four years' space
That was the Council of Constance. And except this transfer of Brandenburg to
Friedrich of Hohenzollern, resulting from said council, in the quite reverse
and involuntary way, one sees not what good result it had.

They did, indeed, burn Huss; but that could not be called a beneficial
incident; that seemed to Sigismund and the council a most small and
insignificant one. And it kindled Bohemia, and kindled Rhinoceros Ziska, into
never-imagined flame of vengeance; brought mere disaster, disgrace, and defeat
on defeat to Sigismund, and kept his hands full for the rest of his life,
however small he had thought it. As for the sublime four years' deliberations
and debates of this Sanhedrim of the Universe - eloquent debates, conducted,
we may say, under such extent of wig as was never seen before or since - they
have fallen wholly to the domain of Dryasdust; and amount, for mankind at this
time, to zero plus the burning of Huss. On the whole, Burggraf Friedrich's
Electorship, and the first Hohenzollern to Brandenburg, is the one good

Burggraf Friedrich, on his first coming to Brandenburg, found but a cool
reception as Statthalter. He came as the representative of law and rule; and
there had been many helping themselves by a ruleless life, of late. Industry
was at a low ebb, violence was rife; plunder, disorder, everywhere; too much
the habit for baronial gentlemen to "live by the saddle," as they termed it,
that is, by highway robbery in modern phrase.

The towns, harried and plundered to skin and bone, were glad to see a
Statthalter, and did homage to him with all their heart. But the baronage or
squirearchy of the country were of another mind. These, in the late
anarchies, had set up for a kind of kings in their own right. They had their
feuds; made war, made peace, levied tools, transit dues; lived much at their
own discretion in these solitary countries; rushing out from their stone
towers ("walls fourteen feet thick"), to seize any herd of "six hundred
swine," and convoy of Lubeck or Hamburg merchant goods, that had not contended
them in passing. What where pedlers and mechanic fellows made for, if not to
be plundered when needful? Arbitrary rule, on the part of these noble robber
lords! And then much of the crown domains had gone to the chief of them -
pawned (and the pawn-ticket lost, so to speak), or sold for what trifle of
ready money was to be had, in Jobst and Company's time. To these gentlemen a
Statthalter coming to inquire into matters was no welcome phenomenon. Your
Edle Herr (noble lord) of Putlitz, noble lords of Quitzow, Rochow, Maltitz,
and others, supreme in their grassy solitudes this long while, and accustomed
to nothing greater than themselves in Brandenburg, how should they obey a

Such was more or less the universal humor in the squirearchy of
Brandenburg; not of good omen to Burggraf Friedrich. But the chief seat of
contumacy seemed to be among the Quitzows, Putlitzes, above spoken of; big
squires in the district they call the Priegnitz, in the country of the
sluggish Havel River, northwest from Berlin a forty or fifty miles. These
refused homage, very many of them; said they were "incorporated with Bohmen";
said this and that; much disinclined to homage; and would not do it. Stiff,
surly fellows, much deficient in discernment of what is above them and what is
not: a thick-skinned set; bodies clad in buff leather; minds also cased in ill
habits of long continuance.

Friedrich was very patient with them; hoped to prevail by gentle methods.
He "invited them to dinner"; "had them often at dinner for a year or more:"
but could make no progress in that way. "Who is this we have got for a
Governor?" said the noble lords privately to each other: "A Nuremberger Tand"
(Nuremberg plaything - wooden image, such as they make at Nuremberg), said
they, grinning, in a thick-skinned way: "If it rained Burggraves all the year
round, none of them would come to luck in this country;" and continued their
feuds, toll-levyings, plunderings, and other contumacies.

Seeing matters come to this pass after above a year, Burggraf Friedrich
gathered his Frankish men-at-arms; quietly made league with the neighboring
Potentates, Thuringen and others; got some munitions, some artillery together
- especially one huge gun, the biggest ever seen, "a twenty - four pounder,"
no less; to which the peasants, dragging her with difficulty through the
clayey roads, gave the name of Faule Grete (Lazy or Heavy Peg); a remarkable
piece of ordnance. Lazy Peg he had got from the Landgraf of Thuringen, on
loan merely; but he turned her to excellent account of his own. I have often
inquired after Lazy Peg's fate in subsequent times; but could never learn
anything distinct; the German Dryasdust is a dull dog, and seldom carries
anything human in those big wallets of his!

Equipped in this way, Burggraf Friedrich (he was not yet Kurfurst, only
coming to be) marches for the Havel Country (early days of 1414); makes his
appearance before Quitzow's strong house of Friesack, walls fourteen feet
thick: "You, Dietrich von Quitzow, are you prepared to live as peaceable
subject henceforth? to do homage to the laws and me?" "Never!" answered
Quitzow, and pulled up his drawbridge. Whereupon Heavy Peg opened upon him,
Heavy Peg and other guns; and, in some eight-and forty hours, shook Quitzow's
impregnable Friesack about his ears. This was in the month of February, 1414,
day not given: Friesack was the name of the impregnable castle (still
discoverable in our time); and it ought to be memorable and venerable to every
Prussian man. Burggraf Friedrich VI, not yet quite become Kurfurst Friedrich
I, but in a year's space to become so, he in person was the beneficent
operator; Heavy Peg and steady human insight, these were clearly the chief

Quitzow being settled-for the country is in military occupation of
Friedrich and his allies, and except in some stone castle a man has no chance
- straightway Putlitz or another mutineer, with his drawbridge up, was
battered to pieces, and hisdrawbridge brought slamming down. After this
manner, in an incredibly short period, mutiny was quenched; and it became
apparent to noble lords, and to all men, that here at length was a man come
who would have the laws obeyed again, and could and would keep mutiny down.

Back to Main menu

A project by History World International

World History Center