The Medieval Review 15.06.18


Hlawitschka, Eduard. Die Ahnen der hochmittelalterlichen deutschen Königen, Kaiser und ihrer Gemahlinnen: Ein kommentiertes Tafelwerk, Vol. 3: 1198-1250. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Hilfsmittel, 29. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2013. pp. xlvii, 482. €74.00 (hardback). ISBN: 9783447100595 (hardback).



Reviewed by:


John B. Freed
Illinois State University
jbfreed@ilstu.edu

I doubt that anyone, including me, will ever read every word in this book; but it should prove an invaluable reference work. (I have already used it to ascertain the family connections of Margrave William V of Montferrat.) The problem is that it is impossible to guess from the title whom in particular Eduard Hlawitschka discusses. This is the third/fourth volume (the first appeared in two parts) in a detailed, annotated genealogical study of the East Frankish kings, medieval emperors, their wives, and the anti-kings who opposed them. Each person under consideration has a separate genealogical table--fifty in all--going backwards, where possible, for five generations. The "text" consists basically of extensive footnotes that cite, quote, and evaluate everything that is known from primary sources and that has been hypothesized in the secondary literature about the genealogical affiliations, date of birth, marriage(s), and death of every individual who is listed in each of the tables. Except for Greek chronicles, which have been translated into German, the primary and secondary material is cited at length in the original language. Fortunately, each volume has an excellent index, so it is possible to locate all references to a particular individual. Since volume three references the previous volumes, it cannot in many instances be used by itself to trace the ancestry of a person.

The first volume deals with all the monarchs and their spouses, starting with Conrad I (911-18) and ending with Lothar III of Süpplingburg (1125-37) and his wife Richenza. The thirty-two tables were published separately as volume 25/1 of the Hilfsmitteln (2006). The commentary appeared the same year as volume 25/2. The early Staufer--Conrad III, Henry (VI), Frederick Barbarossa, and Henry VI--and their wives were the subject of volume 26 in the same series (2009). Unlike this third volume, the Hahnsche Buchhandlung in Hanover published the earlier volumes. Volume three contains the genealogies of Philip of Swabia, Irene/Maria Angelos, Otto IV, Beatrice of Swabia, Mary of Brabant, Frederick II, Constance of Aragon, Isabella of Brienne, Isabella of England, and Bianca Lancia, the mother of Manfred, whom Frederick married on her deathbed. On account of his advanced age (he was born in 1928) and the difficulty of working on this project by himself, Hlawitschka excluded Frederick II's sons and co-kings, Henry (VII) and Conrad IV, and the anti-kings Henry Raspe and William of Holland, whom he had originally planned to include.

Since the genealogies frequently repeat themselves, the reader is referred back to the earlier relevant tables and commentaries in such instances. Thus, since Hlawitschka had already dealt in the previous volume with the parents of Philip of Swabia, Frederick Barbarossa and Beatrice of Swabia, he merely provides biographical data about Philip himself. His treatment of Otto IV is more complicated and illustrative of how most of the tables and commentaries work. Hlawitschka covers Otto's father Henry the Lion, paternal grandparents Henry the Proud and Gertrude of Saxony, mother Matilda of England, and maternal grandparents Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. However, since Henry the Proud was the brother of Barbarossa's mother Judith, all of Otto IV's prior Welf ancestors are discussed under the listing for Frederick. Gertrude was the daughter of Lothar III and Richenza, who were the subjects of their own studies. Likewise, since Henry II's mother Matilda was first married to Emperor Henry V, the reader learns about Otto IV's Norman, Scottish, and Anglo-Saxon ancestry there. Only Otto's Angevin and Aquitanian ancestors require a detailed examination of their own in volume three, but an unsuspecting reader would hardly expect to find a discussion, say, of Fulk V of Anjou (49-54) or William IV of Toulouse (78-82), who died, respectively, in 1143 and 1093, in a book ostensibly about the rulers of the Empire in the first half of the thirteenth century. This approach means, in turn, that Hlawitschka has already treated all of Isabella of England's Plantagenet ancestry, except for her father King John, in the section on Otto; the reader is introduced, instead, to the ancestors of her mother, Isabella of Angoulême.

This procedure can lead the reader in some unexpected directions. For example, Constance of Aragon's maternal grandmother, Richilde, was the daughter of Otto of Freising's sister Agnes and the exiled Polish duke, Wladyslaw II (1138-46). Consequently, there is information about his Piast and Rurik ancestors in this table about a Spanish princess. It should be stressed that Hlawitschka deals only with those individuals who are in a monarch's direct line and not with their collateral relatives and descendants. Unlike other genealogical studies, there is no complete genealogy of any dynasty, including the Staufer, that is, Hlawitschka treats only Barbarossa's sons who became kings, Henry VI and Philip, but not Otto who inherited the Burgundian palatinate or Frederick's younger half-brother Conrad, the count-palatine of the Rhine. Since the commentaries are presented by generations in reverse chronological order, the reader has to skip over the person's other ancestors who belonged to the same generation in different lines of ascent to follow a particular dynasty.

Genealogical reconstructions are, of course, a tricky business because the information is often incomplete and contradictory. Let me cite an example in the second volume that intrigued me: the annulment of Frederick Barbarossa's first marriage to Adela of Vohburg in March 1153 on the grounds of consanguinity. Abbot Wibald of Stavelot included in his letter collection a table of consanguinity, which he may have prepared with Frederick's assistance to support the king's request for a divorce and which is our chief source on his Staufer ancestry. According to Wibald, the great-grandparents of Duke Frederick I of Swabia (1079-1105), Frederick's paternal grandfather, and Duke Berthold I of Zähringen (died 1078), Adela's great-grandfather, had been siblings--a distant 5:6 connection. Hlawitschka maintains that Adela's mother Adelaide was the daughter of Duke Wladyslaw I of Poland (1080-1102) and Judith, the daughter of Henry III and the sister of the Henry IV, Frederick's great-grandfather (2:144-7), a 4:3 marriage that was clearly within the prohibited degree. As far as I know, no modern biographer of Frederick has mentioned the latter connection in discussing the king's divorce; and Hlawitschka does not address in the book why the court should have based its case for an annulment on the more distant affiliation. Is his reconstruction of Adela's ancestry right or was Wibald's table merely supplementary evidence to cinch the argument that the couple's marriage was consanguineous?

The disputed birth year of Frederick's cousin Henry the Lion shows how difficult it is to achieve total certainty about even the most basic facts. Hlawitschka relies on the chronicle of Provost Gerhard of Steterburg, which was written before 1209 and which said that Henry was in his sixty-sixth year at his death in 1195, that is, Henry was born in 1129/30. He rejects the counter argument that Henry was born only in 1134/5 because it is not very likely that he would have participated at 12 or 13 in the Wendish Crusade of 1147 and married Clemence of Zähringen the same year (3:27). However, when Hlawitschka discusses Henry's father, he cites the chronicle of Burchard of Ursberg, a major source on Welf history that was written in 1229/30 and that says that Henry the Lion was baptized in 1136 (33). It is hardly likely that anyone would have waited five or six years to baptize the emperor's only grandchild and male heir. Henry's most recent biographer, Joachim Ehler, pointed out in Heinrich der Löwe: Eine Biographie (Munich, 2008), which Hlawitschka does not list in his bibliography, that Gerhard's chronicle survives only in a single fourteenth-century copy of a copy. The original date LXIII could easily have been miscopied, Ehlers maintains, as LXVI (47-8). If Henry was only in his sixty-third year in 1195, he would have been, nevertheless, 14 or 15 in 1147, legally old enough to marry and perhaps under some pressure to assure the continuity of the Welfs. Either proposed date for Henry's birth is problematic.

I do not wish to disparage in any way Hlawitschka's work. Anyone who studies the medieval European high aristocracy will find it extremely useful, but users will have to assess themselves the vast information he has assembled.



Copyright (c) 2015 John B. Freed



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