late summer of 1486, couriers burst from
Colditz, one of many castles serving the
House of Wettin princes in Saxony. Over the
next days messengers prompted more
messengers in ever farther reaches. They
urged their steeds through forests, past
harvesting fields, on trails, along wagon
furrows—all arteries into and out of cities
and noble strongholds. Each courier
surrendered his message at the destination
to an official, who after judging its
importance rushed it to a superior. No one
in the entire Holy Roman Empire dawdled over
this message, for the news from Colditz was
of imperial magnitude.
the electoral prince of Saxony, was dead.
great prince had died on the heels of hounds
that chased that most noble prey, the red
stag, in that most prime month of the hunt,
The prince collected spirited stallions like
children collect baubles and perhaps his
mount that day was a new prize that stumbled
and rolled its steely croup over his chest,
breaking ribs and driving them into his
lungs. No simple fall would kill a
hard-muscled noble of 45 who had ridden
horses from his earliest memory and jousted
ahorse before the first stiff hair on his
and parents buried, Ernst's death most
affected his oldest son, Frederick. This
23-year-old, as decreed by the Golden Bull
of the Holy Roman Empire, would assume the
seat of Saxon Elector vacated by Ernst.
As a Nuremberg master had portrayed
Frederick in those very days (Fig. 1, below),
the Saxon exuded youth and sensitivity. To
some observers he even revealed softness
despite a beard, for it just fuzzed meekly
along his jaw line. His saucer-eyed, pink
face was convex, open and as defenseless as
an egg, saved from appearing totally
feckless by a firm jaw and the raptorish
God help him if others saw in his great
brown eyes the eyes of a rabbit.
FIGURE 1: Frederick the Wise in 1486 at 23,
painted by a Nuremberg Master.
it the perception of frailty in this
wide-eyed son Frederick that had led his
father Ernst just the year before to insist
on officially dividing mighty Saxony with
Ernst's own brother Albrecht? After all,
could the portrait's slope-shouldered
Frederick with the delicate hands of a
lutist defend his throne against
battle-fisted uncle Albrecht, a warrior so
domineering, so fierce that he was one of
the emperor's favorite field marshals?
For that matter, could Frederick someday
defend himself against Albrecht's oldest son
George, already showing his teeth at 15?
Whatever Ernst's motive before his demise,
if he and his leading official Hugold von
had schemed shrewdly enough, Frederick could
at least try to rule his half of Saxony and
hope uncle Albrecht was satisfied with his
better half. For Albrecht had definitely
already received the cream of Saxony.
had the rift between the brothers Ernst and
Albrecht happened? They had exhibited an
exceptionally healthy bond, even sharing for
nearly 20 years a common household, though
like most sovereigns of the day never in one
Albrecht himself recalled the brothers' days
of harmony when they "lived in the most
friendly way in one castle, needed one table
and one key, even received and disbursed all
annuities, money and income at the same
time, and always were so brotherly and
friendly that whichever one demanded from
the other whatever goods that were to come
to him or his children, the other was happy
and ready to grant and bestow".
became an illusion, exposed in full discord
when Ernst traveled to Rome in 1480 to
secure powerful ecclesiastical positions for
two of his sons.
Pointedly, during his absence Elector Ernst
did not leave Albrecht in sole charge of
Saxony. Albrecht had but one voice in a
coalition with Ernst's most trusted
At the head of the councilors was High
Marshal von Schleinitz, who in particular
annoyed and perhaps even slandered Albrecht.
That offense together with the affront that
Ernst openly showed he no longer trusted
Albrecht was like poking a lion in both
eyes. Albrecht remained with his family in
the common household after Ernst's return
from Rome, even in some ways helped reform
Saxony, but finally in 1482 the smoldering
lion departed. He set up his own residence
in Torgau at the Hartenfels, a favorite
castle perched on a rock prominence over the
their uncle Wilhelm (the Brave) died that
same year of 1482 Albrecht asked to assume
Wilhelm's rule of Thuringia.
Thuringia was expansive and prosperous, but
no equal to what remained for Ernst. He
refused. This refusal to placate Albrecht
was just one of a succession of decisions by
Ernst that seemed to defy understanding. Why
would he further anger Albrecht? Had he
forgotten the infamous Brother War (Bruderkrieg)
that erupted in 1445 between their father
Frederick and their uncle Wilhelm? The sad
truth was that the Brother War had erupted after
their father Frederick had given younger
brother Wilhelm Thuringia. Influential
councilor Apel Vitzthum kept Wilhelm unhappy
enough with his share of property and power
to fight his brother to the death.
The brothers had gathered their allies and
fought each other year after year. Emperor
Friedrich III himself relished the Saxons
weakening their territory (his house of
Habsburg's greatest rival). That the
emperor's sister Margaretha was married to
elector Frederick no doubt forced the
emperor finally to threaten to intercede.
After six senseless years of lost lives and
Ernst and Albrecht had reason to remember
the conflict well. The two boys at the ages
of 14 and 12 had been kidnapped for a short
time by a knight
who had ardently supported their father in
the Brother War but felt uncompensated. The
rescue of Ernst and Albrecht was celebrated
in song at every Saxon festival, although
the real heroes of the story—brave forest
people including one stalwart
charcoaler—crumbled to dust. The young
princes, especially Albrecht, evolved into
the heroes. But now they too were at odds
with each other.
1484 Albrecht negotiated an annual salary
with Ernst and officially withdrew from any
rule of Saxony for 10 years. This action by
Albrecht jolted Ernst.
The year 1484 had already been wrenching for
Ernst. His wife Elisabeth died in March at
only 41. Next his son Albrecht, placed so
well by Ernst to become an elector, suddenly
died in May at only 17. Though Ernst
promoted another son for the open position,
the pope awarded it almost immediately to
Berthold von Henneberg-Römhild. These tragic
setbacks plus the estrangement from Albrecht
seemed to change Ernst from a hard-driving
optimist to a fearful pessimist.
tactic of withdrawal by Albrecht in some
eyes released him from any obligation to
Ernst or to Ernst's wishes. Was this a
prelude to another brutal 'brother war'? The
threat was now genuine to Ernst and he was
well aware he was no match for Albrecht in a
fight. Ernst could further reflect that he
was himself 43 years old and his father had
died at 52. If Ernst died during the 10-year
withdrawal, Albrecht could claim the
electorate. Who could stop him? Ernst must
have reasoned therefore that he needed to
resolve the danger for his own heirs while
he was still alive.
announced he intended to rip Saxony in two!
MUTILATION OF SAXONY
division of this kind to resolve a family
dispute was not rare for the time. In the
division involving Ernst and Albrecht,
however, the consequences were rare. Not
only had their father forbidden any division
in his last will in1459,
not only did the Golden Bull forbid dividing
an electorate, but consider, as Saxons have
done in all the centuries since, the
enormity of that division by Ernst. Saxons
from the first moment lamented the division
officially acted upon in 1485 in Leipzig,
thus known as the Leipzig Division (Leipzig
Teilung). In the early 1470s Saxony,
one of the largest princely territories of
the empire with well over one million
subjects, was beginning to discover lode
after lode of silver, treasure that was
making it even richer than its great size
merited. Then in 1482 Thuringia once again
was within the electoral territory. Saxony,
controlled by the House of Wettin, was
becoming the only territory that could
challenge in wealth and power the House of
Habsburg. The Habsburgs had controlled the
empire since 1440. The difference between
the two royal houses in the eyes of most
imperial subjects was that the Habsburgs
were suspiciously Austrian and now
Burgundian too whereas the Saxons were
German to the core.
Albrecht, clearly more oriented than Ernst
to an imperial scale of thinking, protested
the division for all the obvious reasons,
denouncing High Marshal von Schleinitz in
particular. Young Frederick may have
protested the division as well.
This enormous potential for Saxony, this
powerful nucleus for nation-building, Ernst
was about to throw away. And this he did.
brothers conceded that Ernst as the elector
(Kurfürst) had to retain the original
electoral land (Kurlande) to the
north around Wittenberg. This one eighth of
their total territory was beloved by
neither. For the rest, according to Saxon
custom, Ernst as the elder brother would
divide the territory and then Albrecht would
pick the half he wanted.
Ernst assigned his advisors, led of course
by the ubiquitous von Schleinitz, to divide
the territory. The High Marshal and his
group purposely left the halves splintered,
yet interconnected, on the premise that two
such ugly halves would have to co-operate
yet as a whole. The silver mines, because
they were just developing, defied even this
poor strategy, so they remained in common
ownership along with coinage, the bishopric
(considered the religious center of Saxony
by all Wettiners),
four large properties to the east outside
Saxony proper. In truth no one could have
fairly appraised the territory because data
on wealth and population were so lacking. In
addition, elements like feudal rights defied
how true rang the proverb "Whoever smells
it, cringes from it".
The resulting division by Ernst and von
Schleinitz smelled foul to the dullest nose
(Fig. 2, facing page 6). The better half
included the major part of the political
entity Mark Meissen, as well as northern
Thuringia. This half even included most of
the precious silver works, though commonly
owned, within its borders. It also had a
major trade route from the southwest that
passed through Leipzig to the eastern
countries. Leipzig also boasted special
trade fair privileges as well as the only
university in Saxony. The poorer half
created by Ernst and von Schleinitz embraced
some of western Meissen, the Vogtland, the
Ortland of Franconia and the greater part of
Thuringia (though that part was riddled by
extensive tracts of non-Wettin land, like
the city-state of Erfurt).
the division seemed contrived to lure
Albrecht who had already shown a preference
for Thuringia and Torgau to take the poorer
To further bait that trap, Ernst and von
Schleinitz added an enormous requirement of
100,000 guldens to take the better half.
They had misjudged Albrecht. No fool, he
selected the better half anyway. Once
settled, who could make the lion pay?
His half had most of Mark Meissen, the
esteemed southeast portion that also
embedded those royal cities so special to
the heart of every Wettiner: Dresden and
Ernst's ugly half, splintered and inferior
though it was, did have the original
electorate added to the north. In its
entirety it was definitely a territory most
sovereigns would envy. After all, a man
needed three days to ride a good horse from
the southern boundary in Franconia through
sprawling river-fed forests and fields to
the northern boundary by Brandenburg. In the
same way a man needed three days to ride
from the western boundary near Hesse to the
eastern boundary abutting Albrecht's half.
Great stone fortresses, belonging to the
sovereign, loomed from heights. Trees, never
out of sight, yielded hardwoods for every
use: the dominant beech for tool handles but
also the hornbeam for iron-tough gears and the
oak for enduring furniture.
2: Simplified from Blaschke (1985) and
inexhaustible nuts and woods for fuel. The
fretworked canopy sheltered game, especially
wild hogs and the prized red deer. Lowlands
cleared for farming rippled with wheat,
barley, rye, flax and oats. Cattle, horses,
sheep and goats milled over the rougher
pasturelands. Vegetable gardens, pigs and
sundry fowl surrounded robust farmhouses.
Orchards hung heavy with pears, apples, plums
and cherries. Rivers teemed with waterfowl and
silvery fish. Tending this horn of plenty were
hundreds of thousands of the freest, least
discontent countryfolk in the empire.
bountiful feudal lands graced the territorial
sovereign with hard cash. In the 1480s the
rents from nobles and countryfolk still
rivaled the income from silver.
In addition, the ruling prince controlled the
roads including the 'Low Road', the major
southwest-northeast trade route that crossed
what later came to be called 'ernestine
Saxony'. Tolls, tariffs and safe conduct
charges from the sovereign's roads poured into
the coffers. In addition, no small amount of
money came from protection contracts with
imperial cities Mühlhausen and Nordhausen and
with the city-state of Erfurt. Another source
of income, less significant, was the
disjointed judicial system that extracted
fines and penalties. Taxes erratically
collected brought in money to an even lesser
degree. Nevertheless, in an era when annually
a laborer might receive 20 guldens or a lawyer
total income every year to the Elector ran
into many tens of thousands of guldens.
was the ernestine Saxony that young Frederick
assumed upon Ernst's death, not yet one year
after Ernst and Albrecht sealed the Leipzig
Division. The document of that legal
separation named 70 towns and cities in
ernestine Saxony. The most populated of these
were Zwickau, Torgau, Weimar and Wittenberg.
Still, these four had less than 5,000
inhabitants each and probably little more than
2000, mere villages compared to the great
cities of the empire like Augsburg,
Nuremberg, Magdeburg and Cologne.
Demeaning for any territorial prince of the
first rank was the lack of a university. As
events would prove, troubling in particular to
young Frederick was also the lack of any
religious focus like the Chapel of Three Kings
in the city of Meissen where the Wettiners
buried their electoral princes. Overall,
ernestine Saxony virtually shrieked to worldly
outsiders that it was little more than a rough
frontier with scarcely one thread of finery.
with the need of refinement was the urgency to
reform the government, if for no other reason
than governance had been in a shambles since
the Leipzig Division. Subjects and officials
were bewildered as to whom and how they
served. Complicating the outlook for Frederick
even more were his duties as an electoral
prince, for he was now no ordinary prince, not
even an ordinary imperial prince. Much greater
than the responsibilities of other princes of
the empire were the responsibilities of an
electoral prince. These seven electoral
princes or 'electors' had been enfoeffed since
1356 by the Golden Bull with the right to
elect the 'king of the Romans'. This king
expected soon thereafter to be crowned emperor
of the Holy Roman Empire by the pope. At the
right moment then, an electoral prince like
Frederick was indeed a kingmaker. According to
the Golden Bull, which codified electors who
had in truth been serving since 1257, one
elector had to be the king of Bohemia, three
electors had to be the archbishops of Mainz,
Trier and Cologne, and the remaining three had
to be the secular princes from the Palatine,
Brandenburg and Saxony.
The Golden Bull also designated the Saxon
elector to be the High Marshal of the empire.
Moreover, during an interregnum of the highest
imperial office, the Saxon elector was the
administrator of the eastern portion of the
uninformed can be the master of no one,"
was a proverb of the time, perhaps even
muttered against Frederick. He knew that in
1486 he was the same age that his father Ernst
had been when he began his rule in 1464. Just
how well had this young prince Frederick been
prepared for the responsibilities of a secular
His father Ernst had been ashamed in 1480 in
Rome not to be able to talk to Pope Sixtus IV
For Ernst, this lack of knowledge that an
ambitious imperial prince needed, this dearth
of Latin, the language of all educated people
of the Christian world, seems to have arisen
from the parochial attitude of his own father,
Frederick the Meek. Frederick the Meek was so
Saxon that in 1458 when Pope Calixtus III
tried to offer indulgences in Saxony the
elector demanded half the proceeds; he had
'inspectors' at every sale making sure he got
In spite of his father's insular attitude
Ernst and his mother Margaretha knew very well
that Latin was a cornerstone. She was the
sister of the Habsburg emperor, the aunt of
the Habsburg king Maximilian. Just as
certainly, Ernst's wife Elisabeth knew Latin
was a cornerstone. Elisabeth was a princess of
the ruling Wittelsbachs of Bavaria.
Elisabeth's brother Duke Albrecht IV was known
as the shining linguist of the time, rivaled
perhaps only by Maximilian.
none of the maternal influences meant anything
if Ernst resisted the world outside Saxony as
his own father had. From Frederick's birth in
Torgau on January 10, 1463, Ernst must have
vowed his son would never blush before anyone.
Ernst would prove again and again how
perceptive he was. Who could better instill
his children with the niceties as well as the
necessities of a court life than his mother
and his wife? He instituted in about 1470 the
Women's Quarter (Frauen Hof or Frauenzimmer),
virtually independent court from his own.All
the younger royal boys and girls immersed
themselves in this separate Women's Quarter.
Soon after, in 1471 Ernst by letter approved
his mother to supervise Frederick; the boy was
to learn Latin and French as well as the other
necessities of a sovereign.
Thus Frederick was being sculpted into one of
the better educated princes like those of
Bavaria, Burgundy and Austria.
Frederick had an older sister Christine and a
younger sister Margarete he probably had faint
contact with them as a boy other than seeing
them during their two daily meals (mid-morning
and late afternoon) in the women's dining
Excepting mothers and grandmothers,
in day to day activity the female side of any
noble court existed prudishly separate from
the male side. Frederick was much closer to
his brothers and male cousins; until the
breakup of the common household in 1482 he
lived alongside his brothers and uncle
Albrecht's sons. For example, in 1476, before
Frederick's brother Ernst left for his
ecclesiastical career in Magdeburg, seven
royal boys lived in the common household:
Frederick 13; his brothers Ernst 12, Albrecht
9 and Johann 8; and the cousins George 5,
Heinrich 3 and Frederick 1. Older Frederick
had to seem the 'older brother' even to his
cousins. Although Ernst and Albrecht soon left
this group, the others remained together
another six years.
surely wrote her brother the Habsburg emperor
Friedrich III about this sober child. Did she
convey to the emperor that the child was
conscientious and trustworthy? Did she conceal
that the boy, much like the emperor himself,
was deliberate almost to a fault? Soon enough
however the royal ladies yielded Frederick to
a formal education. At age 10 Frederick had
come within the sphere of the scholarly priest
Ulrich Kemmerlin, probably at whatever Wettin
residence the priest was needed. By 1474
Frederick at 11 had his own 'young lords'
court at Torgau for 32 weeks with at least one
of his brothers and 14 servants.
Kemmerlin taught reading, writing, mathematics
and yet more Latin. Kemmerlin no doubt
rigorously taught "the art of
speaking, reading and writing Latin with
facility…[through which] the students
automatically acquired much training of mind
and cultural knowledge."
It is implausible Frederick also studied under
the humanist Fridianus Pighinucius, obscure
except for his acquaintance with renowned
humanist Conrad Celtis. Although documents
prove Pighinucius tutored Frederick's brother
Ernst, who was only one year younger, this
occurred years after Ernst left for Magdeburg.
In any case, Frederick did learn Latin, even
had favorites in Latin like Terence and Cato,
both of whom spun elegant aphorisms so similar
to proverbs. It seems likely because of their
pervasive popularity for children he learned
as well the animal stories of Aesop, each with
an attached moral.
his life Frederick was fond of German
proverbs. He considered proverbs virtually
equal in wisdom to the Bible.
It was common, moreover, among all people in
this time of illiteracy to quote proverbs.
Even the literate nobility quoted proverbs,
including some that targeted themselves. Some
jibes were merely sour: "Where noblemen are,
there are fancy sheets". Many were acid: "When
Adam hoed and Eve spun, where then was the
nobleman?" Some ran bitter: "Where there is a
carcass, then don't worry where the noblemen
and ravens are".
time of Frederick's youth did not stand out as
a creative time in the empire for literary
fare; Gutenberg's invention of the 1450s was
ready and waiting for the printing explosion
that was yet to happen. Frederick must have
listened often to the old songs of chivalry
and love from the minstrels who came and went.
No doubt he read or listened to the wit of
Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th
century Arthurian epic Parzival.
Frederick possibly read the Sachsenspiegel,
an essential compilation of Saxon laws from
that same century.
He probably heard accounts of the Heliand,
the Old Saxon saga from the 9th
century. Its mixture of New Testament and
ancient pagan elements was provocative.
Could the Christian God conquer the inexorable
forces of time and fate? Although the wealthy
Wettiners might have possessed a copy, it is
unlikely Frederick would have labored through
the Low German alliterative poetry so tortuous
Besides that, its pagan doubts were firmly
answered by a much advanced Roman liturgy.
later life confirmed that in his youth,
probably reinforced by Father Kemmerlin, he
deeply believed the tenets of the Roman
church. There is nonetheless solid evidence
that astrology intriguedhim
lifelong as it did many other contemporaries,
even the humanists (although his early
confidante Dr. Mellerstadt in Leipzig carried
on a highly audible harangue against
Not only did most people of the time believe
that the stars and planets forecast events but
also that two-headed calves and other sports
of nature revealed the future. The safest
course for a Christian prince was strict
observance of traditional church discipline.
As a tot Frederick probably already knew "The
pious regret nothing".
Reading the Bible was not a normal part of
church discipline, though Frederick could have
read the Latin of the sanctioned Vulgate
Bible. Fundamental to piety was learning the
vast accumulation of church rituals and
requirements on the church calendar.
1480 catechism in German by Dietrich Kolde
detailed the duties of a Christian.
The essence of duties to the church was
threefold obedience: to the seven Holy
Sacraments, to the church's interpretation of
the Ten Commandments, and to the five
'commandments of the church'. These latter
five were weekly attendance at Mass, annual
confession, annual communion, designated
fasting and obedience to clerical
jurisdiction. By church law, clerics could
punish the disobedient by excommunication,
refusal of burial in church grounds and other
means. Sins were legion, the worst being
idolatry, the next murder. The church
formulated at least 16 categories of sexual
Least offensive was an 'unchaste kiss'; not
much worse was fornication. The worst were
five categories of sins 'against nature'.
Self-gratification was a graver sin in the
eyes of the church than raping a woman.
Frederick no doubt realized early on that most
nobles and many clerics themselves winked at
most of these sexual sins. Noblemen had few
reservations in gratifying themselves with
women below their class and not much more for
those within the nobility.
sin that was truly perilous was one that was
also a civil crime, a transgression that would
fall under the Elector's own jurisdiction.
Frederick had to witness the administration of
in various entities under his father.
Imprisonment other than short internment was
seldom an option in those days. Throughout the
empire, torture was a standard step in the
legal processing of a defendant once accused
by witnesses (more than one witness as in the
bible) and indicted. Few accused, guilty or
innocent, held out under torture pursued in
well established stages of increasing
degradation and pain. Punishment was public
and watched excitedly "amid the noise of the
crowd and the smell of frying pork sausages
from butchers' stalls put up for the
The penalty of death was usually only for
murder, treason or theft. The executioner
'mercifully' beheaded the highborn but
pitilessly hanged most others. Burning and the
horrific breaking on the wheel for heinous
crimes were less frequent. Murder of an infant
could require burial alive or drowning. Local
officials were leery of executions on holy
days and festivals although the anticipation
and gore were highly popular, simply because a
visiting sovereign so often pardoned criminals
as a grand gesture. Theft and fraud were the
most common crimes, punished occasionally by
death but routinely by loss of fingers or
ears. Some received public humiliation or
banishment. Rape and adultery were definitely
serious civil crimes, even capital crimes,
though hard to prove.
Convictions for heresy and witchcraft, the
foodstuff of gossips for centuries, were
a more pleasant subject, music was an everyday
presence in the Wettin court, usually very
brassy. Saxons were known throughout the
empire for their trumpeters. These musicians
were the most admired and the best paid. Ernst
would loan them to other courts for special
occasions but if the best were not returned he
sent them a hard reminder. Documents from 1484
suggest Frederick for his own playing
preferred the lute, a popular stringed
instrument of the time.
Animals were also favorite diversions of the
court besides the usual many dozens of
falcons, dogs and horses.
Menageries were maintained at many locations.
Several kinds of deer were ubiquitous. Bears
had been common at Torgau and Meissen for
decades. Other creatures included wolves,
lynxes, eagles, waterfowl, songbirds, monkeys
and peacocks. Exotic beasts amused the royals,
though sometimes the imports did not survive
long. Among these in Ernst's time were a camel
and a lion.
had many male influences. Within the Wettin
court, Frederick's uncle Albrecht without
doubt influenced him.Did
Albrecht's ominous restlessness make Frederick
wary later of the possible discontent of his
own brother Johann? Uncle Albrecht moved out
of the electoral shadow of his brother Ernst
to make a name for himself as a military
leader. In 1471, in part because of his
marriage to the daughter of the just deceased
King George Podjebrad of Bohemia and in part
because it was in the interest of Saxony,
Albrecht with thousands of knights and foot
soldiers fought futilely for the contested
throne in Bohemia. In 1475 at Neuss on the
lower River Rhine, Albrecht was the "emperor's
great marshal and flagmaster"
at the side of the imperial field general
Both fought Charles the Bold of Burgundy
(ironically, a territory gained by Maximilian
just a few years later through marriage to
Charles's daughter Maria).
Though a fierce and cruel warrior, Albrecht
was widely admired by Saxons. In 1476 he even
put aside his bloody sword to travel with a
great entourage to the Holy Land. On his
return he resumed his imperial military career
and rose ever higher in command.
Frederick himself was versed in the ways of
the knight is undeniable. As a youth, in
Dresden riding up to the barrier for his turn
to joust he overheard a woman in the crowd
blurt, "Oh, what can that young child show!"
This disturbed him so much at the time he
could still recall it years later for
Spalatin, his secretary and biographer.
How rarely he must have heard harsh words in
his exalted station. Even as a child he
undoubtedly wore the finest armor available
and fought hard. A contemporary told Spalatin
that the elector fought as hard as anyone in
Early on, Frederick developed a love for the
great hunting lodge at Lochau, where red deer
and wild boar
abounded as well as wolves and bears.
Hunting and jousting were not only for
pleasure. Standing firm in the face of danger
was no small element of the joust and the
hunt. To shirk these knightly aspects was
unthinkable for a prince of the time
unless he had already been slated for a
religious life as had Frederick's brothers
Ernst and Albrecht.
prepared himself well for the risk arising
from combat, the joust or the hunt.
Nevertheless he lived in a time of abrupt
death in many forms. One danger above all
seemed to later observers
to have caused in Frederick a fear of death
that ballooned into a phobia: the threat of
plague. Plagues were real enough; in half of
the 25 years prior to 1487, somewhere in the
empire plague raged.
Nuremberg alone during those 25 years had five
severe outbreaks; similarly, Erfurt had four.
Two forms of plague seemed ever ready to
strike and both were deadly. Deaths in towns
mounted into the hundreds and in cities into
thousands. Ernst had to move his court
temporarily to Coburg in 1484 from fear of the
was too late to save Frederick's mother
Elisabeth, who died of plague that March at
It is plausible the death in May that same
year of Frederick's 17-year-old brother
Albrecht, who had begun a life in the church,
was also from the plague. In 1487 the first
altarpiece Frederick commissioned featured St.
Mary, "most often invoked as a protector in
times of war or against the plague".
the Wettin court, Frederick spent time in the
court of Mainz when his brother Albrecht had
taken an ecclesiastical position there. In
addition, Frederick undoubtedly visited the
courts of powerful relatives, including uncle
Albrecht IV of Bavaria and even the Austrian
court of his grandmother Margaretha's brother,
Probably he had also visited the court in
Burgundy of his great uncle Maximilian, for
somewhere Frederick polished the skill to
speak, read and write French. All highborn
princes also began attending at an early age
'diets'. Not only would Frederick have gone
with his father the Elector to Landstags
(territorial diets) within Saxony but he also
would have gone to Reichstags
(imperial diets) 'out in the empire'. Some
claim in 1481 Frederick at 18 went with uncle
Albrecht to the Reichstag in Nuremberg.
More certain is that Frederick at 23 and
Johann at 18 attended the Reichstag at
Frankfurt in 1486 with their father.
other possibilities arise for Frederick's
preparation. His father Ernst and uncle
Albrecht had traveled in rarified air. The
atmosphere was colorful and festive. Perhaps
in 1474 Frederick at 11 had been with father
Ernst and uncle Albrecht when they traveled to
Amberg east of Nuremberg for their niece's
marriage to Prince Philipp of the Palatine.
Was Frederick in the procession from Saxony
that entered Amberg with 300 subject knights,
all dressed in flaming red? Did he note at the
dance the amazement of nobles from the
Palatine and Bavaria when Saxon musicians with
their convoluted trumpets covered a range of
notes unheard before? Did he see his father
and Albrecht dance with each other? Did he
watch the jousting tournament won by uncle
Albrecht, a tournament so hotly contested a
knight from Bavaria died of injuries?
doubt there were many festive occasions. In
1476 Frederick certainly numbered among 1200
resplendent Saxons and Thuringians at his
brother Ernst's installation in the city of
seems likely in 1478 Frederick at 15 attended
the extravagant wedding of his sister
Christine to Hans, crown prince of Denmark.
Frederick, however, did not accompany his
father and his "two hundred mounted retainers
dressed in black livery, their horses in
jewelled halters" to Rome in 1480.
That grand opportunity lost for Frederick to
meet the pope seems reasonable only in light
of Ernst's growing distrust of Albrecht. Did
Ernst leave 17-year-old Frederick behind to
observe and report the activities of Albrecht
and even Ernst's own advisers?
greatest mentor was surely his father Ernst.
Father Ernst was pious enough for a prince,
taking Frederick and Johann in 1482 to a
Franciscan monastery in Jüterbog for an
overnight stay and confession.
There is nevertheless evidence Ernst enjoyed
himself outside the marriage bed.
But what more can be gleaned of Ernst himself?
What can outsiders believe of this influential
prince who history ignores except for venting
contempt on him over his decision to divide
the most powerful territory in the core of
Germany? Ernst never even earned a sobriquet.
Yet he was able to gain from Rome two splendid
ecclesiastical positions, Mainz and Magdeburg,
for his sons as well as gain the coveted
Golden Rose for himself. He managed powerful
marriages of his daughters to the future king
of Denmark and to the House of
Braunschweig-Lüneburg. He also encouraged and
achieved major institutional reforms in
Nonetheless, Frederick's confidante Spalatin
was said to have described Ernst as competent
and prone to moderation—except a tendency to
Was this Frederick's own assessment? If true,
did this volcanic temper erupt, and then
simmer for weeks and months? Did it result in
the Leipzig Division? Did Frederick resolve
never to fall prey himself to this destructive
loss of control?
prove that before his father's death Frederick
made demands on subjects in the name of the
Ernst's concern for his sons' survival may
have prompted him to bring Frederick as well
as Johann into governance early. If so,
Frederick learned from high-powered officials
like Chancellor Johann von Mergenthal and the
notorious schemer Hugold von Schleinitz. Did
Frederick question from this experience the
custom of the time to use as councilors
powerful nobles with their own personal
ambitions? On the other hand, did he surmise
those who were not powerful tended to become
sycophants? Young Frederick had to have met
the main councilors residing at the electoral
court and everyone down to the grooms. If
nowhere else, he encountered them while
dining. Judging from later evidence,
at meals the constant retinue of the Elector
numbered over 100, with places assigned at
tables of ten. In reality, Frederick
undoubtedly saw everyone of influence except
some of Ernst's officials (usually called Amt
men) scattered in towns about the territory.
summary, in 1486 Frederick was a trilingual,
well-traveled young prince who was acquainted
not only with all the powers in the electorate
but also with the mightiest figures of the
empire. He was in truth related to almost all
the most powerful families of the empire. It
was a time when those who ruled called each
other 'cousins', assuming with good reason a
real blood connection or at least a marital
bond of some kind. Though these 'cousins'
quarreled among themselves it was a rash and
unwise act for one to turn violently against
another. The violence occasionally came from
within the immediate family. Witness the
brother wars. Nor did the nobility of
countries outside the empire feel the same
restrictions as those within. Beyond the
eastern border in 1486 two dangerous factions
were seething with impatience to test his
mettle . . .
FIRST MONTHS OF RULE
young Frederick's weighty preparations meant
nothing if he was too much the rabbit to
retain his position as the electoral prince of
Saxony. External dangers did exist. And they
were immediate. In 1486 at the Reichstag in
Frankfurt the six 'German' electors, bullied
by Emperor Friedrich III, had elected his son
Maximilian king of the Romans in the absence
of the seventh elector, the king of Bohemia.
The Bohemian king Vladislaus objected to this
election of Maximilian.
In truth, the election in Frankfurt had
violated the terms of the Golden Bull.
Vladislaus and his Hungarian allies were
particularly upset with the electors of
Brandenburg and Saxony, whose territories
abutted their own. Shouldn't their sympathies
be with their neighbors and not with the
Moreover, because the two electorates of
Brandenburg and Saxony shared a defense pact,
it meant little in the long run which
electorate the Bohemians and Hungarians
attacked first; the other electorate had to
fight too. It was also of no importance that
Ernst, weeks before he died, had been the one
to cast the vote for Maximilian at the
Reichstag. Frederick and his Saxons would bear
had in his complaint an ally, the Hungarian
king Matthius Corvinus. Corvinus was not just
a rapacious lout. Like war-loving Maximilian,
Corvinus embodied many of the admired traits
of the time. He was multilingual, accumulated
a notable library, and as a patron of the arts
flaunted artists, poets and humanists in his
court. Moreover he buffered the empire from
the Ottoman Turks. Corvinus also claimed part
of the rule of Bohemia himself. Therefore in
his eyes he was also the Bohemian king; hence
he too was the elector who had been wronged.
Most likely he was the driving force behind
the complaint. In contrast to Vladislaus he
was truly menacing. He had already proven he
was as formidable as the imperial power. He
had captured the Habsburg stronghold Vienna in
1485 and no doubt had designs on the empire
Was Saxony his next steppingstone? Matthius
Corvinus and Vladislaus were to meet in the
Bohemian city of Iglau within days after
Ernst's death. Could anyone doubt that
untested Frederick was one topic of their
as Frederick mourned father Ernst at his
burial ceremony in Three Kings Chapel in
Meissen, he must have worried. Threats lurked
on all sides of the new elector's territory.
Perhaps even inside. Younger brother Johann
had been accompanying Frederick and his father
often to functions inside and outside Saxony.
Johann was only 18 years old but as the
younger brother decreed to rule in some
capacity yet knowing in reality his role would
be nominal, he, just like his uncle Albrecht
many years earlier, had thrown himself fully
into the ways of a knight. A princely family
expected a younger brother to follow a
military career if he could not or would not
contend for a powerful ecclesiastical
position. Johann had firmly embraced this
martial course; none was keener on the joust.
Horses, leather, steel and sweat were sweeter
to Johann's nose than any flower. Frederick
must have known he had to mollify this younger
was not the only Wettiner who might have been
interested in the electorate. Who knew if
uncle Albrecht, a pet of both the emperor and
his son King Maximilian, might not decide to
reunite Saxony by overthrowing untested
Frederick? Many throughout the empire would
cheer such a move because it would set up
again a powerful entity to keep the ruling
Habsburgs from running roughshod over the
imperial estates. The emperor had just weeks
before Ernst's death been only too happy to
sanction officially the division of Saxony;
divided Saxony was less a rival to the House
of Habsburg. Even so, if a crisis arose, who
would fault a warrior like Albrecht for
seizing power to save the honor of all Saxony?
the meantime Frederick had to take the reins
of ernestine Saxony. Swayed by his father over
the years, Frederick had learned to prefer
Dresden as his residence and to a lesser
degree another residence on the moody River
Elbe: his birthplace Torgau. Because uncle
Albrecht now reigned in Dresden, Frederick
gravitated in general to the Hartenfels castle
in Torgau during the first half of the year
and to the residence castle in Weimar the rest
of the year.
Furthermore, because the Wettiners
intentionally spurned permanent residences,
the sovereign's court had to be mobile.
Frederick also made the effort to 'live' in a
number of towns; occasionally he even visited
the old rundown Askanian castle at Wittenberg.
Of course he relished stays in the opulent
hunting lodges at Lochau and Colditz.
Friedrich III was to confirm Frederick at a
future Reichstag. In the meantime the
fledgling had to evade some of the greatest
predators in and out of the empire. He awaited
the outcome of the meeting in Iglau between
the Hungarian Corvinus and the Bohemian
Vladislaus. No Saxon had reason to trust the
Bohemians. It had been little more than 50
years since thousands of 'Hussite' soldiers
invaded Saxony with hundreds of their dreaded
Only the Swiss rivaled the Bohemians in
ferocity and ingenuity. Though Vladislaus was
a weak leader, his partner Corvinus was not.
The Saxons, fueled by their knightly skills,
were fierce enough, but like citizens of other
imperial territories they won by superior
numbers and courage, almost never by military
and Johann Cicero, his counterpart in
soon heard the outcome from Iglau. Corvinus
and Vladislaus demanded extravagant
remuneration from the two electoral princes.
Demands from Corvinus had teeth. He had taken
much of Austria, including prized Vienna, from
the emperor because the emperor had not paid
400,000 guldens that Corvinus demanded. In
January 1487 Frederick and Johann Cicero, in
the face of an attack by the Bohemians and
Hungarians, appealed to the empire for
military aid. Was this also the moment for
Albrecht to seize the reins of power from
Frederick? Albrecht as yet showed Frederick
nothing but cooperation, but what if threat of
war and the safety of Saxons demanded his
total command of the situation?
were the dispositions of Frederick's other
In addition to previously discussed Bohemia to
the east, Brandenburg to the north and
intermeshed albertine Saxony, Frederick's most
powerful adjacent neighbor was Hesse to the
west. This territory under Landgrave Wilhelm
was well-disposed toward Saxony. Many of
Frederick's other adjacent neighbors were
territories of counts and lords, chief among
them Schönburgs, Hartensteins, Wildenfelsses,
Tautenburgs, Schwarzburgs, Stolbergs and
Mansfelds. In general they cooperated but were
defiantly independent. Only slightly less
independent were the bishoprics of Meissen,
Merseburg and Naumburg,
imperial fiefs ruled by bishops who were
essentially territorial lords. Once nearly
embedded in one Saxony, the Leipzig Division
had made all of them more difficult to
dominate. Toward Frederick Naumburg was most
cooperative, Merseburg least. Other neighbors
were the powerful archdiocesan territories of
Magdeburg and Mainz and the equally powerful
dioceses of Würzburg and Bamberg—all of them
for the moment friendly. Additional neighbors
were abbeys, imperial cities and city-states
as well as entities that defied definition.
Frederick's neighbors typified the murkiness
of the empire: numerous and diverse to the
very limit of comprehension.
who advised Frederick in this time of
It was not the schemer von Schleinitz. The
Saxon High Marshal had outwitted himself. All
his hereditary properties were in Albrecht's
half. He quietly slipped away from the
Frederick significantly abolished the office
of High Marshal. His chief advisors in the
first months were other incumbents who had
served his father: Hofmeister Hans von
Doringberg, Chancellor Johann Seyfried and Rentmeister
None of these appeared in the chamber registry
book of 1487 and 1488 that listed Frederick's
15 closest advisers.Of
these 15, four were of the titled nobility:
counts from the families von Gleichen and von
Stolberg. The other 11 were with less
certainty all untitled nobility (collectively
called knights): Heinrich and Götz von Ende,
Otto and Dietrich Spiegel, Doctors Mellerstadt
and Schrenk, Heinrich Löser, Ernst von
Schonberg, Hans von Obernitz, Dietrich von
Stenz and Cristoffel von Lipsk.Notable
in these earliest days because they were
university graduates were Mellerstadt and
Assuming from their worth to Frederick over
the next years, other advisors probably
included Michael von Denstedt, Hans Hundt von
Wenkheim, Conrad von König, Hans von Leimbach,
Siegmund von Maltitz, Hans von Minkwitz,
Heinrich von Starschedel and Anselm von
engagement of Frederick's sister Margarete
with Duke Heinrich II of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
had occurred in Leipzig in better days. For
once, the two power-marriage partners had at
least probably seen each other because years
before Heinrich had been a guest of the Saxon
court at Rochlitz. In February 1487 Margarete
at 16 married 18-year-old Heinrich at the
duke's royal residence in Celle. The young
prince had just assumed his reign of this
considerable territory northwest of ernestine
Saxony. Yet the Braunschweig territory had
once been much larger, one more example of a
large dynasty shredded by poorly defined or
poorly enforced inheritance rights. However
splintered it was, the Braunschweig extended
family was threaded throughout the empire. The
marriage of Margarete and the previous
marriage of Christine to the future king Hans
of Denmark reflect a strategy of Ernst that to
compete with the growing strength of the
Hohenzollerns (that is, the Brandenburgs) to
the north the Wettiners needed stronger
alliances with other northern neighbors.
Religious appointments of Ernst's sons
Albrecht and Ernst also fit the northern
eastern neighbors remained a worry, although
the Saxons heard King Vladislaus was having
trouble enlisting support for any attack on
Saxony and Brandenburg. Would his much more
dangerous ally Corvinus feel in view of that
poor alliance it would be more prudent for him
to tend to the defense of his recent conquest
of Austria? The Austrian situation was also
the reason uncle Albrecht had no time for his
ernestine nephews. He had become the emperor's
commander in chief preparing a campaign to
retake Austria. Albrecht's participation
angered Corvinus even more against the Saxons.
Albrecht had been granted feudal rights to
some properties east of Saxony under the
control of Corvinus. Where would Corvinus try
to take his revenge? In Austria or in Saxony?
Was it significant that Iglau, the meeting
place for Corvinus and Vladislaus, had been
only a four- or five-day march directly
southeast of Dresden, the heart of albertine
during early months of his rule, signaled his
interest in influencing church matters and
spiritual behavior. He initiated
ecclesiastical changes, especially among the
Franciscans so favored by the Wettins.
Brother Johann was active in this effort too.
They prodded for reform in the Franciscan
monasteries in Torgau and Wittenberg. Pope
Martin had suggested reform in this begging
order of monks in 1430. Now Frederick wanted
this 'Martinian' form of stricter, more pious
behavior implemented in the monasteries. This
was not just to make them more
self-sufficient; Frederick generously endowed
and supported these cloisters. His territory
enveloped about 100 monasteries and
foundations. They were located in any town of
size, but they were especially concentrated in
the dioceses of Mainz and Halberstadt in
western Thuringia and the Ortland (Coburg
Less than 30 in his territory at the beginning
of his reign were reformed or in the process
is probable that Frederick's father Ernst had
planned to push reform himself. He had
achieved a remarkable concession in 1485 from
Pope Innocent VIII.
The pope expressly permitted the Saxon
sovereign to reform both exempt and non-exempt
monasteries of his territory if necessary. In
all these matters Frederick included Johann.
His father had wished this. Moreover, Johann
was more likely to remain a loyal partner. One
unspoken reason undoubtedly was that Frederick
was preparing to launch an aggressive effort
on more than one front that would become
obvious only during and after his confirmation
as Elector at the upcoming Reichstag. To do
this Frederick needed a loyal Johann.
REICHSTAG AS SAXON ELECTOR
a bird is, one knows by his song and
prince knew the value of 'Representation'
or 'Presentation', that is, the public display
befitting his office. It was not merely a
display of power to intimidate. It was a
deliberate, well-planned effort to show all
the qualities of a prince most admired at the
time: physical courage, power, generosity,
thoughtfulness, intellect, curiosity, piety,
nurturing, loyalty and other virtues.
Representation included among other methods
jousting, symbols, rituals, stagings, music,
coins, books and funding. It was costly to
carry out. To be totally effective every
representation had to be as public as
possible. In the empire no one surpassed King
Maximilian at pomp; and he lagged behind the
Italians. Frederick's first venture into this
demanding, highly visible trial was in the
first spring days of 1487 at the Reichstag in
the imperial city of Nuremberg.
The impression he gave 'out in the empire' was
of great importance.
March 28 Frederick and his well-armed
entourage emerged from dense forest north of
Nuremberg. Across one half mile of cleared
flats loomed one of the gems of the empire.
Inside the great three-fold walls with over
100 towers lived 20,000 citizens, among them
the empire's finest artists and craftsmen.
Frederick and Johann rode in through one of
the west or north gates near the Kaiserburg
fortress with several hundred horsemen in
no doubt all the knights in the same vivid
color, a showy arrival only a powerful prince
could do. Triumphant harmony by his paid
musicians amplified his importance; his court
employed nine permanent musicians, all
trumpeters but for one drummer.
Frederick's procession exhibited all the
splendor of the well-orchestrated processions
that began jousting tournaments. He was
unlikely to forget one iota of flags, banners,
staffs, or indeed any symbol of Saxon rule.
Peers had to be noticing he was already a
master of protocol.
money-starved emperor had called for the
At that time Reichstags still occurred only as
mandated by the emperor, an indication of how
subordinate the estates were in the imperial
view of governing. A Reichstag, always held in
an imperial city, was nevertheless no trifling
event; hundreds of masters and thousands of
servants were involved for several weeks,
often for several months. They burned time and
money. For Frederick this Reichstag was a
succession of grand occasions.
On April 18 the emperor crowned humanist
Conrad Celtis poet laureate of the empire.
Frederick had championed this honor for
Celtis, as indirectly acknowledged in 1486
when Celtis dedicated to Frederick his most
significant work, Ars versificandi et
carminum (The Art of Writing Verses and
Here is clear evidence that Frederick was far
from a newcomer on the imperial scene.
Moreover, he recognized that the work of
Celtis was important, one of the first
impulses of the humanistic groundswell from
the south spreading over the empire. That
Celtis was the son of a peasant suggests
Frederick was open to talent regardless of
social position. By crowning Celtis the
emperor indirectly honored Frederick himself.
was only the first triumph for Frederick at
the Reichstag. On May 23 Frederick finished
negotiations for a renewed 'inheritance
protectorate' of ernestine Saxony with
albertine Saxony, Brandenburg and Hesse. This
kind of agreement among upper nobility
dynasties was more and more popular. It served
to define boundaries, protect inheritance and
determine succession if a family died out.
Implied also was some degree of mutual
assistance in military difficulties. Such
protectorates were only as dependable as the
integrity and willingness of the parties
involved. Frederick's father Ernst had signed
a similar agreement with Bohemian king
Vladislaus in 1482. That agreement seemed of
little value in 1487. Still, the protectorate
renewed among both Saxonies, Brandenburg and
Hesse afforded some comfort to Frederick.
May 23 occurred an even greater event. The
emperor enfoeffed Frederick as Elector. From
then forward without doubt he was Elector
Frederick III of Saxony. He was the sixth
Saxon sovereign named Frederick in the line of
Wettiners that went back to Frederick I of the
Bitten Cheek, who began his reign of Mark
Meissen in 1292. Frederick I the Warlike had
been the first Saxon elector, enfoeffed in
1423. It was convention at the time to begin
numbering from one again after the third use.
The only interruption in this almost
200-year-long chain of Saxon sovereigns named
Frederick was Frederick's father Ernst. That
was only because Ernst's older brother, of
course named Frederick, died before he could
assume the reign.
June 3 Frederick and Johann hosted a great
feast. All the princes and noble women at the
Nuremberg Reichstag attended, as did the most
important patricians of the city.
Records show the chefs served 20 courses.
Frederick and Johann must have offered a wide
spectrum of the animal kingdom, from pork to
peacocks and from turtles to eels.
Highlighting courses were 'subtleties', dishes
designed to amaze and amuse, such as a 'baked'
pie spewing forth live birds. No doubt the
best wines from Rhine vineyards flowed freely
too. Throughout the day the Saxon brass
entertained, even at the dance that evening.
The brothers surely followed custom (records
prove Frederick did in later years) in hiring
for the dance unattached ladies, the younger
and more willing the better.
Later yet, patricians and highborn nobles
gambled at cards. Cautious Frederick on such
occasions seems to have won or lost only
hundreds of gulden, not thousands as some
patricians and nobles did.
to the business of the Reichstag itself, young
Frederick and the other territorial princes
were cynics. Nothing was to happen this time
but the usual sad sequence of imperial
politics. The emperor needed resources. The
technique of Friedrich III was well worn. The
emperor was mute in the meetings, and then
cornered each individual prince or prelate
privately to muscle money or soldiers from
that person, while attempting to give nothing
significant in return.
If pressed, in true Habsburg fashion he
promised marriages, fiefs and other rewards
that he might or might not deliver later.
Though ancient for the time—he was 71—and
considered sluggish by his detractors, the
emperor was in truth doggedly effective. At
Frankfurt the previous year the emperor had
given the estates nothing but empty promises.
In return he received a colossal triumph: the
electoral princes elected his 26-year-old son
Maximilian king, assuring his succession to
the imperial throne. The electors had
foolishly surrendered all their future
for the king was the privilege of the curia of
seven electors. On any issue other than the
election of the king, all three curias of the
imperial estates voted. The electors remained
the most influential curia, deliberating first
and then meeting with the 'curia of princes'.
This 'curia of princes' consisted of some 250
non-electoral princes, counts, other titled
nobility and prelates. Within this curia about
10 princes, especially those of Hesse,
Württemberg and now albertine Saxony,
dominated. Only after the curia of electors
and the 'curia of princes' had resolved their
differences and agreed on an issue did they
meet with the third curia.
It was inevitable that the vote of this third
curia of 60 or so free imperial cities meant
nothing; its influence was an illusion.
Within the empire, with no voice whatever were
about 2000 families of lower or untitled
nobility (knights), hundreds of thousands of
burghers from roughly 3000 non-imperial cities
and towns, and over 15 million countryfolk (Bauern).
1484 a new force had arrived among the
electors: 42-year-old archbishop of Mainz,
Berthold von Henneberg-Römhild. This carried
sad irony for Frederick, for Berthold had
replaced Frederick's younger brother Albrecht
who had succeeded Diether von Isenburg in
At first Berthold seemed a toady to the
emperor and his son. How false that notion
proved to be! Berthold had a vision of
organizing the empire internally in a way that
would benefit the estates, not simply help
solve the problems of the House of Habsburg.
The Habsburgs' concerns were real enough.
Because their holdings were on the most
peripheral parts of the empire they scuffled
constantly with France, Switzerland, Italy,
Bohemia, Hungary and even the Turks. In any
case, by 1487 Berthold was truly emboldening
all the estates. Though the three curias of
electors, princes and imperial cities that
voted at the Reichstag were well established,
the emperor had learned to circumvent matters
easily by inviting only those he trusted. Now
the estates, encouraged by Berthold, resisted.
Those present would not approve funds for the
empire until the missing estates voted,
present or absent. Berthold and others won
change on another matter of great importance:
the curias could now negotiate among
themselves in secret. No longer were the eyes
and ears of the imperial circle in attendance
to intimidate. In 1487, as in no previous
Reichstags, both the curia of electors and the
curia of princes had become boldly
independent. Under Berthold's influence the
curias were now talking of a constitution.
the curias were so much stronger at the 1487
Reichstag that the emperor had to employ more
subtle tactics. Friedrich III became more the
fox, less the wolf. A long-standing grievance
of the electors and princes was lack of an
imperial judicial court. The emperor's
'concession' to the final compromise of the
1487 Reichstag was that he allowed the concept
of an imperial judicial court to be drafted
In return the estates approved money for the
emperor but in their new defiance they set
rigid conditions on the funds. They would
furnish money only for relief of the Austrian
properties captured or threatened by Corvinus.
To assure this outcome they would give the
money only to the Brandenburg elector Johann
Cicero. He would in turn disburse it only to
the imperial commander in chief of the
military, Frederick's uncle Albrecht. The old
emperor had won just in time the previous year
the guarantee of his son Maximilian as his
Nuremberg in 1487, new elector Frederick
probably listened far more than he talked in
the now secret discussions of the curias.
Besides Frederick and the dynamic Berthold,
four other electors completed this most
powerful of the curias. Johann Cicero of
Brandenburg at 31 was also a newcomer. More
senior members were Archbishop Hermann of
Cologne, at 36 an elector for 6 years and
Philipp of the Palatine, at 38 an elector for
10 years. Grand old prince of the electors was
Archbishop Johann II of Trier. Though only 52,
the archbishop nevertheless had been an
elector for 30 years. First becoming an
elector at only 22 himself, the archbishop may
have warmed to 24-year-old Frederick.
Doubtless they all welcomed him, for whatever
political skirmishes ensued, these five
electors remained uppermost in Frederick's
esteem the rest of his life.
of Frederick's real or perceived role in the
political maneuvers during the 1487 Reichstag,
after it was over he was in good standing both
with the curia of electors and, perhaps more
importantly at the time, with the imperial
circle. Frederick was not so naïve to think
that the Habsburgs were indifferent to his
assets of silver. Still, he knew advantages
flowed from imperial approval. This tentative
harmony with the Habsburgs was some assurance
for the safety of ernestine Saxony against all
potential enemies, with exception of
1487 would indeed bring a chill from the east
as icy as the usual piercing winds.
Chapter 1: The Beginning
Spalatin, Friedrichs des Weisen Leben
und Zeitgeschichte von Georg Spalatin
(Georg Spalatins historischer Nachlaß und
Briefe 1), ed. Christian Gotthold
Neudecker and Ludwig Preller (Jena: 1851),
32. Translated from German. This and all
subsequent translations (unless noted) are
by the writer.
. Ernst died
August 26, 1486, some time after he 'fell'
from his horse while hunting.
. Markus Leo
Mock, Kunst unter Erzbischof Ernst von
Magdeburg (Lukas Verlag, 2007),
217–218, reports unpublished details exist
in Thüringisches Hauptstaatarchiv, Weimar,
Ernestinisches Gesamtarchiv [ThHStA
Weimar, EGA], Urk. 673, fol. 3r. Elector
Ernst lingered long enough to execute his
Holborn, A History of Modern Germany:
The Reformation (New York: Alfred
Knopf, 1959), 27–28. The Golden Bull of
1356 was a quasi-constitution of the
empire. The Bull detailed procedures for
voting, governance and succession. It was
revolutionary not only for its specificity
but for obtaining active or passive
approval from all the headstrong powers
involved: Pope Innocent VI, Emperor Karl
IV and the most powerful princes of the
empire. The emperor, however, had been
elected since the 9th century by the five
Stämme of the Germanic people,
among them Saxons, then since 1257 by
Buchner, Das deutsche Bildnis der
Spätgotik und der frühen Dürerzeit
(Berlin: Deutscher Verein für
Kunstwissenschaft, 1953), 129–131.
Regarding this portrait in the Frankfurt
Städelsches Kunstinstitut (Invoice Nr.
2128), Buchner, 130, stated (translated)
the "dark brown, staring eyes with the
great, precipitous pupils determine the
overall impression of the picture," and
noted the "intensive dull pink of the
steeply oval face". Within the
'Schutzmantel Madonna' (formerly at
Schloss Grafenegg, Austria, but 'lost'
since 1945) is a virtual replica of the
man portrayed in Frankfort (though
kneeling). Fortunately a banner in the
Schutzmantel identifies the kneeling
"Frederick Elector of Saxony" (in Latin).
Bodo Brinkmann and Stephan Kemperdick, Deutsche
Gemälde im Städel 1300–1500 Kataloge
der Gemälde im Städelschen Kunstinstitut
Frankfurt am Main, v. 4 (Mainz, 2002),
368–374, summarize well the history of
interpretation since 1953 as well as the
museum's own investigations of the
"resolute face…marked by a pronounced nose
and prominent brown eyes" (translated).
The identity of the artist can be no more
specific than a Nuremberg Master.
Ingetraut Ludolphy, Friedrich der
Weise: Kurfürst von Sachsen, 1463–1525
& Ruprecht, 1984), 14 (translated):
head, whose severity is underlined by a
sprouting beard, expresses
concentration, willpower and strength."
. Germans for
centuries regarded the rabbit a symbol for
cowardice. The great eyes portrayed for
Frederick are probably valid. No other
portraits from the period show enlarged
eyes, so evidently the artist did not
gratuitously add them as a desired
attribute of the time.
Heyck, Deutsche Geschichte; Volk,
Staat, Kultur und geistiges Leben,
v. II, (Leipzig, 1906), 368, states
(translated) Albrecht by 1487 was called
"the emperor's right arm".
Hans-Stephan Brather, "Administrative
Reforms in Electoral Saxony at the End of
the Fifteenth Century" in Pre-Reformation
Germany, ed. Gerald Strauss (New
York: Harper & Row, 1972), 236,
characterized Hugold von Schleinitz, High
Marshal (Obermarschall) since 1464,
as "practically omnipotent" in Elector
. For a
superior treatment of the division of
Saxony see Ernst Hänsch, "Die wettinische
Hauptteilung 1485 und die aus ihr
folgenden Streitigkeiten bis 1491" (PhD
diss., Un. Leipzig, 1909), or see the more
accessible Karlheinz Blaschke, "Leipziger
Teilung der wettinische Lander von 1485"
in Sächsische Heimatblätter,
Streich, Zwischen Reiseherrschaft und
Residenzbildung der wettinische Hof im
späten Mittelalter (Köln; Wien:
Böhlau,1989), 534, notes the Wettin
princes were so adverse to designating any
permanent residence, their court (Hof)
was highly mobile; Ernst and Albrecht,
nevertheless, clearly preferred Dresden
and began in the 1470s a grand residence
in nearby Meissen (now called the
Thurnhofer, "Die Romreise des Kurfürsten
Ernst von Sachsen im Jahre 1480," Neues
Archiv für Sächsische Geschichte
[NASG] 42 (1921), 3. Ernst's trip to Rome
for an appeal to Pope Sixtus IV, and
considerable money well spent, secured the
future archbishopric of Mainz for his son
Albrecht and the diocese of Halberstadt
for his son Ernst, the latter already on
track to become archbishop of Magdeburg.
Moreover, (Thurnhofer, 22f.) the pope
awarded Ernst the prestigious Golden Rose,
an honor no previous Wettiner had
. This is not
equivalent to Frederick later entrusting
Saxony to a coalition of Johann and
Frederick's trusted councilors. Johann was
a lightly experienced 20-year-old.
. This was
already in Albrecht's inheritance since
1464. Streich 1989, 22, noted that the
last will of Frederick the Meek (1459), in
addition to the demand for 'indivisibility
with no exception' of the
territory, bequeathed Albrecht
(translated) "the castle and city of
Dresden, the castle and city of Torgau
together with Lochau as well as a yearly
pension of 14,000 gulden".
1989, 24: Wilhelm often left Thuringia in
charge of his favorite nephew Albrecht.
Kötzschke and H. Kretzschmar, Sächsische
Geschichte (Dresden: 1935), revised
H. Schiekel (Weidlich: Frankfurt am Main,
1965), 138–138. Also Karl Czok, Geschichte
(Weimar: Böhlau, 1989), 165.
Frederick II (1412–1464) was dubbed 'the
Meek' (or 'Gentle') only in comparison to
his father Elector Frederick I (1370–1428)
who was called for good reason the
'Warlike' or 'Belligerent'. Frederick the
Meek, anything but meek, ruled so strongly
he firmed Saxony into a powerful
territorial state at the expense of the
cities. Ernst Ullmann, ed., Deutsche
Architektur und Plastik, 1470–1550,
(Gütersloh: Prisma Verlag, 1984), 61,
gives one example. Frederick the Meek's
1462 territorial protection letter for the
entire construction trade ("gesamte
Bauwesen") allowed him to enlist any
craftsman at any time for his own
had indeed mediated between her husband
and Wilhelm, according to Birgit Streich,
"Politik und Freundschaft. Die Wettiner,
ihre Bündnisse und ihre Territorialpolitik
in der zweiten Hälfte des 15.
Jahrhunderts" in Kontinuität und
Zäsur: Ernst von Wettin und Albrecht von
Brandenburg, ed. Andreas Tacke
(Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2005), 25.
. Kunz von
Kaufungen, beheaded in the Saxon town
Freiberg just days after the crime.
Gross, Geschichte Sachsens (Berlin
: Edition Leipzig, 2001), 31. Chapter I
"Historical Survey of Saxony before 1486"
in Maria Grossmann, Humanism in
Wittenberg, 1485–1517 (Nieuwkoop: B.
de Graaf, 1975), 10–19, is an excellent
overview in English. Paula Sutter
Fichtner, Protestantism and
Primogeniture in Early Modern Germany
(Yale Un. Press, 1989), 8, noted for
'German houses': "Partible inheritance of
all private and even some public resources
associated with princely titles remained
the rule until the beginning of the
eighteenth century…There were, however,
serious limitations on what any
territorial ruler could do with the lands
attached to whatever office he held in the
empire." Ernst technically did not divide
the electorate defined by the Golden Bull.
27, alludes to tension caused by the
Habsburg dynasty becoming more European
than German, especially after 1477 when
future emperor Maximilian wed Mary of
Burgundy. How could the aims of a
'European' emperor ever agree with those
of the German princes?
. F. A. von
Langenn, Herzog Albrecht der Beherzte
(Leipzig: 1838), 550–553, quotes
Albrecht's own statement that the scheming
Schleinitz caused both the alienation of
his brother and the bizarre Leipzig
Division. Klaus Kühnel, Friedrich der
Weise: Kurfürst von Sachsen
(Wittenberg: Drei Kastanien, 2004), 11–12,
and Ernst Borkowsky, Das Leben
Friedrichs des Weisen, Kurfürst zu
Sachsen. (Jena: Eugen Diedrichs,
1929) assert Frederick also vigorously
objected. Neither author however supports
assertions with sources. Bernd Stephan,
"Beiträge zu einer Biographie Kurfürst
Friedrichs III. von Sachsen, des Weisen
(1463–1525)," (PhD diss., Un. Leipzig,
1980), 299, n. 130, notes that archives
show only that Frederick and his brother
Johann were in Leipzig with their father
from September 20 to November 17, 1485;
Ernst and Albrecht officially signed the
division November 11.
. Enno Bünz,
"Die Kurfürsten von Sachsen bis zur
Leipzig Teilung, 1423–1485," in Die
Herrscher Sachsens, ed. Frank-Lothar
Kroll (Beck, 2004), 54–55: A territorial
prince of that time who admired
nation-building would have been rare; they
regarded their territory a family
possession, their goals dynastic. Larry
Silver, Marketing Maximilian: the
Visual Ideology of a Holy Roman Emperor
(Princeton Un. Press, 2008), repeatedly
points out the Wettiners (and the
Wittelsbachs even more so) viewed the
Hapsburgs not as empire-builders but as a
. The name
'Meissen' referred to three entities in
the divided Saxony of 1486 to 1539: 1. the
bishopric of about 150 km2
, 2. the city of Meissen southeast
of the bishopric, and 3. the territory
of Mark Meissen, built up to about
5000 km2 by the early
Wettiners, that enveloped the other two.
1989, 470–475, argued Kreuzkirche in
Dresden has strongest claim as the church
for the royal court in the time of Ernst.
Kreuzkirche did seem favored, much as
Dresden was the favored residence. Yet
Ernst and Albrecht before their rift were
pulling the court to Meissen, to the
Wettin burial site and one main residence
with one main church.
. James C.
Cornette, Proverbs and proverbial
expressions in the German works of
Martin Luther, ed. Wolfgang Mieder
and Dorothee Racette (Bern: Lang, 1997),
95: a rhymed proverb "Wer es reücht,
aus dem es kreucht" that does not
rhyme in literal translation.
. Max Lewy, Schloss
Hartenfels bei Torgau (Wasmuth:
1908), 9. The Wettins were indeed fond of
Hartenfels castle in Torgau. Frederick the
Meek was married there in 1428 and
regularly resided there from October to
Ash Wednesday. Hartenfels was weakly
fortified but commodious for the time.
Albrecht particularly liked to stay there.
had clouded the issue even more by
demanding compensation for all the money
Ernst had doled out to secure two prime
ecclesiastical positions for his sons
Moritz Tutzschmann, Friedrich der
Weise, Kurfürst von Sachsen, ein
Lebensbild aus dem Zeitalter der
Reformation nach den Quellen für alle
Stände dargestellt (Grimma, 1848),
48, also assessed it in terms of travel
time. Both the north-south distance and
east-west distance are about 250 km. or
155 miles but that is misleading as to the
actual area. Thomas Klein, "Politik und
Verfassung von der Leipziger Teilung bis
zur Teilung des ernestinischen Staates
(1485–1572)," in Geschichte Thüringens,
eds. von Patze, Hans and W. Schlesinger.
V. 3. Das Zeitalter des Humanismus und der
Reformation. (Cologne/Graz: 1967), 148,
calculates an area of 21,780 km2
(or about 8400 square miles ).
Rösener, Peasants of the Middle Ages,
trans. Alexander Stützer (Cambridge:
Polity Press, 1992), 231. Many Saxon
countryfolk were landowners and virtually
free, stemming from incentives to move
them from Flanders and other lands to farm
the Saxon frontier. The writer uses
countryfolk in preference to 'peasants'
and its multitude of connotations.
285–289, discusses sources of electoral
Strauss, Nuremberg in the Sixteenth
Century (New York: John Wiley &
Sons, 1966), especially 205–207, reports
wages in detail.
studies estimate populations for this
time. Among several relevant to ernestine
Saxony is Edith Eschenhagen, "Beiträge zur
Social- und Wirtschaftgeschichte der Stadt
Wittenberg in der Reformationszeit," Lutherjahrbuch
9 (1927), 29–41.
. It is
revealing and suggestive of future events
that secular power was concentrated in the
north and east; ecclesiastical power in
45–47, describes Frederick's education and
training, but she relies primarily on
 Paul Kirn, Friedrich
der Weise und die Kirche
(Leipzig/Berlin, 1926), 9. Elector Ernst
received the golden rose. Kirn is an
excellent source for all matters
concerning Frederick's religious beliefs
. Heiko A.
Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and
the Devil (Yale University Press,
performed in the court of Landgrave
Hermann I of Thuringia. Hermann's
residence was none other than the fabled
Wartburg. Frederick during his rule
possessed this great castle, which would
become Luther's refuge in 1521 and 1522.
Dobozy, ed./trans., The Saxon Mirror:
A Sachsenspiegel of the Fourteenth
Century (Un. of Pennsylvania Press,
1999). Superb English version.
. G. Ronald
Murphy, S.J., The Heliand: The Saxon
Gospel (Oxford Un. Press, 1992).
Salomon. Literature in Medieval
Germany (NY: Barnes & Noble,
1967), 17: details why the "alliterative
verse in the Heliand does not
appear to be particularly happy".
1982, 68. Also Stephan 1980, 374, n. 484:
Frederick's grandmother Margaretha wrote
his uncle Albrecht (translated),
"understand well astronomy and the motion
of heavenly bodies," in 1472, the very
year she took charge of Frederick. By
'astronomey' she meant astrology.
43. Dr. Mellerstadt, a physician, was also
known as Martin von Pollich.
32: one of Frederick's 19 favorite
Curtis Steinmetz, Luther in Context
(Indiana Un. Press, 1986), 4–5.
. Thomas N.
Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve
of the Reformation (Princeton Un.
Press, 1977), 140–143.
. Richard van
Dülmen, Theatre of Horror: Crime and
Punishment in Early Modern Germany
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990).
Dann, "The Language of Ravishment in
Medieval England" Speculum 86
(2011), 79–116, discusses rape in the late
middle ages. She notes, 115, the vague
regard for a difference between knightly
conquest and rape in a chivalric epic like
that of Chretien de Troyes. The German
epic Parzival is similar. Did not
Parzival rape the sleeping Jeschute?
Certainly the influence of these
widely-admired, orally transmitted epics
was no help to women.
1989, 496–7. Also Fritz Stoy, "Friedrichs
des Weisen Hoflager in Lochau in seinen
letzten Lebensjahren," in Forschung
und Leben. Heimatblätter des
Schönburgbundes. Arbeitsgemeinsch. f.
Heimatpflege im Regierungsbezirk
Merseburg 2 (1928), 288.
der Beherzte (the Courageous) was subject
(as brother Ernst never was) of many
books, past and present. Recent is Andre
Thieme, ed., Herzog Albrecht der
Beherzte (1443–1500) Ein sächsischer
Fürst im Reich und in Europa
(Böhlau: Cologne/Weimar/Wien, 2002).
der Beherzte" in Allgemeine Deutsche
Biographie, ed. Historischen
Kommission bei der Bayrischen Akademie der
Wissenschaften, vol. 1 (1875), 314:
"Kaisers gewaltiger Marschall und
Brandenburg Elector was also the
brother-in-law of Ernst and Albrecht,
having married their sister Anna in 1458,
yet another example of the intertwined
is somewhat misleading. Burgundy per
se was a large territory west of
Basel (Switzerland), deep within the
continent. Not obvious is that Charles the
Bold (and thus Mary of Burgundy, then the
Habsburgs) also ruled a sprawling
territory on the North Sea that included
roughly what is now Luxembourg, Belgium
and the Netherlands.
52. Spalatin's source was Sebastian von
Mistelbach, about the same age as
Frederick and a member of the electoral
entourage since at least 1491.
86, quotes a story from Luther's 'Table
Talk' in which grandfather Frederick the
Meek crowed (translated) "He is of our
blood!" when toddler Frederick gulped down
wild boar meat. Source is V. 4, 224, of
Martin Luther, D. Martin Luthers
Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe,
Tischreden 6 volumes (Weimar:
Hermann Böhlaus, 1912ff), hereafter
. Bear pens
exist today in the moat around Hartenfels
castle in nearby Torgau. Local lore claims
the pens were there in some form since
1452, the Wettiners keeping as many as 30
brown bears. Local lore has eleven of the
bears being slaughtered for the feast at
Johann's coronation as Elector in 1525.
That is plausible because princely feasts
were often on such a colossal scale, every
food had to be garnered. Ludolphy, 88,
documents 11,500 guests attended Johann's
wedding with Sophie of Mecklenburg in
Torgau in 1500.
. Even noble
ladies felt pressure to join the hunt. In
1482 Maximilian's pregnant wife Maria fell
from her horse while hunting and died. See
Hermann Wiesflecker, Maximilian I.:
die Fundamente des habsburgischen
Weltreiches (Munich: Oldenbourg,
1991), 51. Wiesflecker distills his
definitive five-volume biography of
Maximilian I into this one volume, which
also includes his reflections over the
Panofsky, Life and Art of Albrecht
Dürer (Princeton Un. Press,1943),
93: Frederick was "more than normally
afraid of those epidemics which had
Benecke, Maximilian I (1459–1519): an
analytical biography (London:
Routledge, 1982), 158–162.
Nuremberg: Benecke, 158–162. For Erfurt:
Erich Kleineidam, Universitas studii
Erffordensis: Überblick über die
Geschichte der Universität Erfurt im
Mittelalter 1329–1521, vol. 1
(Leipzig, 1964), 180.
. Paul Bacon,
"Art Patronage and Piety in Electoral
Saxony: Frederick the Wise Promotes the
Veneration of His Patron, St.
Journal (2008), 973–1001, on page
989. Elisabeth died March 5, 1484, in
. Paul Bacon,
"Mirror of a Christian Prince: Frederick
the Wise and Art Patronage in Electoral
Saxony," (PhD diss., Un.
Wisconsin-Madison, 2004), 64.
Buchner, "Zur Biographie des Stammvaters
des sächsischen Königshauses, Herzog
Albrechts des Beherzten, und seines
Bruders, Kurfürsten Ernst von Sachsen," in
Neues Archiv für Sächsische Geschichte
[NASG] 29 (1908), 155–162. Details of the
Burchard-Gotthelf Struve, the librarian at
Jena, attributed this in 1719 to Spalatin.
Implied was documentary evidence. Hänsch,
9, confirms only the favorable part
(translated): "Albrecht honored in Ernst
the scrupulous conscientiousness,
steadiness and moderation…"
268, 244. Also Stoy, 277. Weimar had been
under uncle Wilhelm until 1482.
1989, 534: Saxon court councilors even
into the 1500s strongly advised against
any permanent place. Streich, 505–506:
Only the most important castles had
furniture and kitchenware. For lesser
residences, all necessities had to be
transported or borrowed locally.
"The Hussites" in Hans Delbrück, Medieval
Warfare (1923 original in German,
English reprint Un. Nebraska Press, 1990),
Cicero's father had voted (like
Frederick's father Ernst) to make
Maximilian king in 1486 and like
Frederick's father had died that same
year. Johann Cicero was as pacific as his
father Albrecht Achilles had been prone to
war. Johann Cicero was the son of
Albrecht's first wife Katherine, not the
son of his second wife who was Frederick's
aunt Margarethe (of Thuringia).
243–248, discusses relationships of
ernestine Saxony with all adjacent
neighbors, including menaces to the east
advisors are assessed primarily from Uwe
Schirmer, "Untersuchungen zur
Herrschaftspraxis der Kurfürsten und
Herzöge von Sachsen. Institutionen und
Funktionseliten," in Hochadelige
Herrschaft im mitteldeutschen Raum (1200
bis 1600): Formen, Legitimation,
Repräsentation, ed. Jörg Rogge und
Uwe Schirmer. (Leipzig/Stuttgart, 2003),
305–378, and Uwe Schirmer, "Die
Ernestinischen Kurfürsten bis zum Verlust
der Kurwürde 1485–1547," in Die
Herrscher Sachsens, ed. Frank-Lothar
Kroll (Beck, 2004), 55–71. Also Brather
and Streich 1989.
2003, 368. Hugold von Schleinitz died
January 1490. His family remained
influential and the name appears often as
advisers to the Wettins.
236, and Ludolphy, 294. Brather notes
Doringberg may be Dörnberg.
Schirmer 2003, 315–6, who attributes the
information to Brather's archival work.
Streich 1989, 429, noted that two
important officials, Guntherode and
doorkeeper Karlowitz, almost immediately
had no roles at all.
1989, 410. The first hint of the later
flood of advisors from the universities.
2005, 11. Prior to Ernst many marriages
occurred between Wettiners and various
Braunschweig lines. Frederick's own
paternal great grandfather Frederick the
Warlike wed Catherina of
. Kirn, 84
(translated): "The Franciscan order
probably stood of all ecclesiastical
orders closest to the Wettin
princes…Frederick and Johann promoted them
in every manner. Also here were their
aims: introduction of the devout ascetic
life in every single cloister; unity
within the order (of Franciscans)…In the
following years until 1496 the following
conventions were reformed: Weimar (before
1487), Wittenberg and Torgau (1488),
Altenburg (1489), Saalfeld and Weida
(1493), Coburg (1496). Both princes gave
in all these cases the motivation."
Zöllner, 'Der Untergang der Stifter und
Klöster im sächsischthüringischen Raum
während des Reformationszeitalters',
157–169, in 450 Jahre Reformation
, eds. Leo Stern and Max Steinmetz (VEB:
Berlin, 1967), 157.
195–197, provides a list of the reformed.
378. No doubt money was involved. Innocent
VIII's successor in 1492 was Pope
Alexander VI, even more corrupt.
98–99. Nurembergers at that time crafted
the finest brass instruments in the
empire; they must have appreciated the
famed Saxon trumpeting.
sources in English for politics of
Reichstags and politics of the Holy
Roman Empire are Fritz Hartung, "Imperial
Reform, 1485–1495: Its Course and its
Character" and Karl
Siegfried Bader, "Approaches to imperial
Reform at the End of the Fifteenth
Century", both sources in
Pre-Reformation Germany, ed. Gerald
Strauss (New York: Harper & Row,
1972), 73–135 and 225–262. Also
helpful is Wiesflecker 1991.
. During this
Reichstag Frederick probably sat for the
portrait by the 'Nuremberg master' (Fig.
. "Chapter 1:
The First Poet laureate" in Lewis Spitz, Conrad
Celtis, the German arch-humanist
(Cambridge: Harvard Un. Press, 1957),
. Spitz, 7:
"The physician of Frederick the Wise,
Martin Pollich of Mellerstadt, had drawn
the attention of the prince to Celtis.".
were wealthy urban families, arising not
from nobility but merchants. In this time
the nobility accepted patricians socially
more and more.
94. Confirmed by records kept by Hans
Hundt von Wenkheim, Frederick's keeper of
the door, who managed the private purse of
32: Luther many years later said the same
of Frederick, that he (translated)
"gathered with a shovel and gave out with
Bemmann, Zur Geschichte des Reichstags
im XV. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1907)
proved that the view that the curia of
cities did not yet exist is incorrect.
84, noted that even by 1491 "the cities
remained, as before, dependent in all
essentials on the discretion of the higher
Estates". Imperial cities supposedly owed
allegiance only to the emperor. They were
concentrated in the south, the most
prominent being Frankfurt, Nuremberg,
Augsburg, Cologne and Worms.
irony was that Berthold had fought hard to
elect Maximilian king in 1486, deluded
into thinking Maximilian was himself a
. The old fox
in his lifetime never did allow an
imperial judicial court.
36. The five electors Frederick esteemed
so highly remained intact for the next 12
years. In addition, Frederick's exclusive
list had only three other names, all
bishops: Friedrich of Entricht, Lorenz of
Würzburg and Gabriel of Bamberg.
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