18.04.09, Becher and Wolter-von dem Knesebeck, eds., Die Königserhebung Friedrichs des Schönen im Jahr 1314

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David Bachrach

The Medieval Review 18.04.09

Becher, Matthias and Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck, eds. Die Königserhebung Friedrichs des Schönen im Jahr 1314: Krönung, Krieg und Kompromiss. Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2017. pp. 356. ISBN: 978-3-412-50546-2 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
David Bachrach
University of New Hampshire

In 1314, Louis, duke of upper Bavaria, a scion of the house of Wittelsbach, was elected king of Germany. He was subsequently crowned as emperor in 1328, and held this title until his death in 1347. Because of his successful career and the subsequent importance of the Wittelsbach family in Bavarian and German history, Louis has received enormous scholarly attention. By contrast, Frederick the Fair, the Habsburg duke of Austria and Styria, who was also elected king of Germany in 1314, has received very little attention from scholars. This has been due to many factors, not least the fact that he was seen by contemporaries and later supporters of the Habsburg dynasty as a failure. In an effort to redress this imbalance in the scholarship, the University of Bonn hosted an interdisciplinary conference in November 2014 on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of Frederick's royal coronation in this city. The volume under consideration here is the product of that conference.

Comprising fourteen essays from a range of disciplinary perspectives, the book begins with a brief forward by Professor Dr. Matthias Becher of the University of Bonn, which explains the purpose of the conference and volume. The first essay of the text is also by Becher, who provides a political background to the double election of Louis and Frederick and the contending parties backing these two candidates. Becher emphasizes that the lack of fixed rules regarding which princes had the right of election led to more voters than were allowed. Becher then turns to the years-long struggle between Frederick and Louis to gain the upper hand in Germany, which concluded with Louis' victory at Mühldorf on September 28, 1322. This battle, however, proved indecisive despite the capture of Frederick on the field, because the younger Habsburg brothers continued the fight, and Pope John XXII (1316-1334) excommunicated Louis. Ultimately, Louis and Frederick made a novel agreement at Munich in September 1325, which established a double kingdom, in which the two men jointly held the royal office until Frederick's death in 1328.

The second article, by Andreas Büttner, focuses on comparing the rituals used in the crowning of Frederick and Louis in 1314. According to a hostile Bavarian source, Frederick was elected in a field while standing on a beer keg, into which he subsequently fell. The partisans of Frederick tended to downplay the location of his election and to emphasize, instead, that he had been crowned legitimately because it was the archbishop of Cologne who placed the crown on his head. By contrast, the partisans of Louis focused on the fact that he was crowned in Aachen, the traditional locus of royal coronation ceremonies. Because of the highly partisan nature of the elections and coronations of the two rulers both when they took place, and in the subsequent representation by contemporary writers, Büttner concludes that the ceremonies involved in these acts had little impact on political reality. However, the chaos caused by the double election did have an important long-term impact of pushing the German princes to codify the rules for royal elections more carefully.

The third essay, by Matthias Schmoeckel, turns from the question of the ritual aspects of the double election to consider the contemporary understanding of royal elections in canon law. In this context, Schmoeckel raises three main questions: who was being elected rex Romanorum, who had the right of election, and when is an election legitimate? He begins with a survey of the scholarship regarding canon law treatments of royal elections, and then concludes that canon law did exercise some influence on royal election law in the thirteenth century, but that further investigation is required before detailed conclusions can be drawn on this point. He then turns to the legal problems inherent in holding an election for king, including the place and time when an election should take place, whether a coronation in Aachen was a legally constitutive act, what meaning was held by the crown, and the importance of papal confirmation. Schmoeckel concludes with a call for more research on all of these questions.

Albert Gerhards, in the fourth essay, also considers an ecclesiastical perspective by asking how prayers for the king and the kingdom were transformed into a coronation ritual. He provides a brief survey of Roman, Byzantine, and German coronation rituals. He then turns his attention to a discussion of the Aachen coronation ritual, which survives in a fifteenth-century manuscript, but which was first issued in 1309 for the coronation of King Henry VII (1308-1312). This coronation ritual was itself based on the 980 revision of the German-Roman pontifical originally produced at Mainz for King Otto I (936-973).

The next three essays are concerned with various aspects of Habsburg familial and political policy. In the first of these Gerald Schwedler focuses on the corporate and dynastic self-conception of the Habsburgs. He notes the embarrassment of early modern adherents of the Habsburg dynasty about Frederick the Fair, which has continued to bedevil scholarly treatments of this king up to the present. Most scholarship has considered, instead, the close cooperation of the members of the Habsburg family to secure the interests of their dynasty as a whole. In order to examine this aspect of Habsburg familial dynamics more closely, Schwedler considers five case studies dealing in turn with the transmission of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia by King Albert I (1298-1308) to all of his sons jointly, the effort by Albert to establish his eldest son Rudolf as king in Bohemia, the negotiations between Albert and Philip IV of France for a marriage between Rudolf and Philip's daughter Blanche, the marriage negotiation with King James II of Aragon for a marriage between his daughter Isabella and Frederick, and finally the joint rule of Frederick and Louis after the Munich agreement.

Christian Lackner then discusses the question of whether Frederick the Fair was the first “Austrian” Habsburg. The scholarly consensus has been that the failure of Frederick's royal aspirations led to a new focus by his successors on the eastern lands of his family that up to that point had served mainly to provide resources for aspirations further west. Lackner offers a reconsideration of this model by focusing on Frederick as the prince of the former Babenberger lands, and considers Frederick's itinerary as illuminated through the charters that he issued as king. This itinerary highlights Frederick's effort to transform Vienna into a princely seat comparable to the Wittelsbach center at Munich. In addition to this focus on Vienna, Frederick also altered the policy of his father and elder brother of bringing in foreigners, mostly Swabians, to administer his eastern lands and relied more on local men. On this basis, Lackner concludes that Frederick, himself, can be understood as the first Austrian Habsburg, not because of his failures but rather because of his own policy choices.

The final essay in this group, by Stefanie Dick, considers the question of noble marriage as a politically effective tool through an examination of the relationship between Frederick and his wife Isabella. Dick begins with a general overview of the practicalities involved in arranging noble marriages. She then turns to a chronological examination of the negotiations between the Habsburgs and King James of Aragon to arrange a marriage with Isabella, pointing to the advantages that accrued to both sides. After their marriage, Dick argues, Isabella took an active role in supporting Frederick's goals, particularly by providing access to the Aragonese court and through her father, to the papacy as well. Dick points to the large collection of surviving letters that passed among Frederick, Isabella, and James II, which dealt extensively with both personal and political matters. She concludes that Frederick and Isabella epitomized the benefits that could accrue to both partners in an effective political couple.

The next two essays deal in turn with the role played by Archbishop Henry II of Cologne and the northern magnates in the election of Frederick, and Archbishop Henry's effort to use the coronation of Frederick to reinforce the long-standing claims of his see to hold the exclusive right to crown German kings. The first of these essays by Manfred Groten begins with a detailed account of the political relationships among the major magnates of the Northern Rhineland, including the archbishops of Cologne, the counts of Jülich, Berg and Geldern, and the city of Cologne. Archbishop Henry II was the son of the minor count of Virneburg and made his early career at Trier. While there, he joined in the struggle against the archbishop of Cologne that culminated in the battle of Worringen in 1288, in which virtually all of the northern magnates as well as the citizens of Cologne participated. Because of this blemish on his career, namely in fighting against a seated archbishop, Henry of Virneburg's election as archbishop of Trier was disallowed by Pope Boniface VIII. Henry was, however, elected as archbishop of Cologne in 1304. But the echoes of Worringen continued on throughout his episcopate. As a result, the political forces that were set in motion while Henry was a young man continued to play a role during the contested election of 1314. In particular, Archbishop Henry's strong support for Frederick the Fair alienated him from the northern counts, who supported Louis. This hostility between the archbishop and the counts was the main reason why Frederick was denied entry to Aachen for his coronation and Louis was admitted. In addition, the rights gained by the citizens of Cologne after Worringen meant that they were unwilling to bow to the archbishop's demand that Frederick be allowed into the city to be crowned in the cathedral. As a consequence, Frederick had to go to nearby Bonn to be crowned in a church there.

The second essay in this group, by Peter Kurmann, is focused on Archbishop Henry's role as the donator of the Three Kings Window in the high choir of the Cologne cathedral. The completion of the choir in 1322 was a high point of Henry's episcopate, and Kurmann seeks to tie this particular act of patronage to the long-standing effort by the archbishops of Cologne to fortify their role as the crowners of German kings. Kurmann provides a detailed architectural and art historical survey of the various elements of the artistic program introduced by Archbishop Henry, and draws comparisons to contemporary sculpture and glass work in other churches, including those in Rheims and Strasbourg. Kurmann concludes on the basis of his analysis of the windows and sculpture that Archbishop Henry did, indeed, seek to enshrine the rights of the archbishops of Cologne to crown Germany's kings into the fabric of his cathedral church.

The following essay, by Claudia Garnier, is focused on the use of symbolic communication by Frederick, Louis, and their adherents to emphasize the legitimacy of their side and the lack of legitimacy of the other. Drawing on a considerable body of scholarly research on symbolic communication, Garnier argues that symbols, signs, and rituals served important roles in the process of creating legitimacy, but that these often are lost to historians because they were part of non-written cultural practices. She states that these oral and visual rituals and signs usually were only consigned to writing in the context of the new installation of a ruler, or during a conflict. Drawing on this background, Garnier argues that diplomatic interactions between contenders could be manipulated to achieve particular ends, and that the possibility of variable interpretations of a particular sign or act could lead to violence, as happened in the case of the murder of King Albert I in 1308 by his nephew John. In turning to Frederick the Fair, Garnier emphasizes that particular actions also were interpreted differently by contemporaries depending on their partisan bias. Thus, for example, Frederick's display of humility following his defeat at Mühldorf was depicted by Bavarian chroniclers as abject humiliation and surrender, whereas Austrian chroniclers have nothing to say about this matter at all.

The importance of symbols and the choice of terminology also is emphasized by Florian Hartmann in his discussion of the epistolary practice of royal chanceries in the period of the double-monarchy. Hartmann begins by observing the increasing importance of rhetoric in chancery letters over the course of the twelfth century. Chanceries often drew on Italian forms leading to an increasing level of standardization across Europe, with ever stricter adherence to the ars dictaminis. The standardization became so complete that by the early fourteenth century variations from the standard form threatened either misunderstandings or were purposefully intended to cause insult. Working in a chancery required considerable training and knowledge of all of the possible appropriate addresses for all possible recipients. So the question raised by Hartmann is how the chanceries in Germany dealt with the novel problem of having two competing kings, and subsequently a double monarchy. He suggests that many chancery personnel, who trained in Italy, may have been able to resolve this problem by drawing on the experience in Italian cities of having competing centers of political power. Hartmann tests this thesis in a detailed examination of the Munich agreement between Frederick and Louis, and concludes that Italian models are apparent.

Sandwiched between the studies by Garnier and Hartmann, Martin Clauss examines the relationship between Louis and Frederick before 1314 and then during their struggle for the German throne. The two were first cousins, and Louis was between 3 and 7 years older than Frederick. They are known to have spent some time together at Albert I's court in Vienna, and the scholarly consensus has been that they had a close relationship, and even studied Latin together. But there are very limited sources to support this close relationship, and these sources are quite late. The two men did engage in a military conflict in 1312-13 over their competing jurisdictions in lower Bavaria. This conflict came to an end with Louis' victory at the battle of Gamersdorf. Although Frederick was not present at the battle, the victory raised Louis' profile in Germany, and according to Clauss, it was this victory that encouraged the Luxemberg family to support the candidacy of Louis for king, after their own candidate, John of Bohemia, bowed out of the election. After considering their early history, Clauss then turns to the battle of Mülhdorf and asks why Louis did not execute Frederick after capturing him. Clauss does not answer this question definitively, but points to the ongoing resistance to Louis by Frederick's younger brothers as well as the papacy. After considering all of the evidence, Clauss concludes that whatever their early relationship may have been, the decision by Frederick to seek the throne ultimately led to Louis' own coronation as king.

The final two essays in the volume focus on art historical questions with a focus on the patronage of art by Frederick the Fair. The penultimate study, by Christian Freigang, begins with a review of the literature regarding the question of what the term Hofkunst actually means, concluding that this is artwork based at court or patronized by courtiers. Freigang then emphasizes the limited nature of Frederick's artistic patronage, even taking into account the monasteries that he founded, and argues that there are no clear styles associated with him. Instead, Freigang argues that the sites patronized by Frederick are better characterized as being part of a general southern-German style. Freigang then looks somewhat further afield and points to the French kingdom where major magnates such as the duke of Berry had a chambre de comptes that was focused on organizing artistic and architectural projects under the control of a building master. Similarly, King Charles V of France (1364-1380) maintained a master general of royal works on his payroll. Freigang concludes that a similar level of artistic patronage is not seen in the empire until the reign of Emperor Charles IV (1355-1378).

The final essay in the volume by Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck takes a closer look at the works of art that can be seen as associated with Frederick the Fair. He argues that the variability that we see in the written sources about Frederick is reproduced in the artwork that touches upon him. There are no surviving representations of Frederick being crowned, as there are for Louis. However, Frederick is presented in an idealized form, in one portrait, as a suppliant, and in another portrait as a stylized ruler in a manuscript of a text known as the Chronicle of the 95 Rulers. The author adds that most of Frederick's building activities were confined to personal residences in Vienna. The surviving elements of the funerary architecture associated with Frederick shows as much influence of Isabella as it does of his own. In sum, the limited artwork associated with Frederick does not provide a much closer understanding of him than do other aspects of his reign.

As a group, these essays provide a number of useful ways of considering, or reconsidering both the double election of 1314 and Frederick himself. However, these insights are rather peripheral in nature and leave many of the central historical questions regarding Frederick unasked, much less answered. What, for example, were Frederick's policies as king? How did he conceptualize the royal office? How did he conduct diplomacy both within and outside of the German kingdom? How did he attract and maintain allies? Of particular importance for a study that has Krieg in the title: what was the nature of warfare in early fourteenth-century Germany, and how did Frederick conduct his military campaigns? What were the resources available to Frederick to wage war and to govern? What role did the king have in the maintenance of the law and the provision of justice? What relationship did Frederick have with the cities? Did Frederick have an urban policy? These questions and many more remain to be asked, and it is to be hoped that future conferences and collections of essays dealing with this period of German history will begin to fill in these many lacunae.

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