With the death of the Holy Roman Emperor Lothair II in 1137, Henry the Proud was the Welf heir of the patrimony of his deceased father-in-law, and possessor of the crown jewels. I always find that strange. Because Henry the Proud had married the Emperor’s daughter, Gertrude, it was he and not the Emperor’s daughter who became the heir and who possessed the crown jewels. Her name is often not mentioned at all. Still, as most of us know, the wife should never be discounted as being insignificant. She will prove you wrong every time.
The Siege of Weinsberg took place in Weinsberg, which is in the modern state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. At that time, Weinsberg was part of the Holy Roman Empire. As often happens, nations and kingdoms often disagree on matters, and wars ensue. The Siege of Weinsberg was a decisive battle between two dynasties…the Welfs and the Hohenstaufen. For the first time, the Welfs changed their war cry from “Kyrie Eleison” to their party cries. The Hohenstaufen used the ‘Strike for Gibbelins’ war cry. Unlike wars these day, apparently, the war cry was very important. I suppose that it was similar to “Charge!!” It was a necessary command to let everyone know that the moment of truth had arrived. Part of the problem might have been the same one that I found odd…Henry the Proud was the son-in-law, and not the son…meaning that had the daughter not married, someone else would have been made the heir.
Henry was a loyal supporter in the warfare between his father-in-law King Lothair and the Hohenstaufen brothers, Duke Frederick II (who was Henry’s brother-in-law, having been married with his sister Judith) and Conrad, then duke of Franconia and anti-king of Germany. While engaged in this struggle, Henry was also occupied in suppressing an uprising in Bavaria, led by Count Frederick of Bogen, during which both duke and count sought to establish their own candidates as bishop of Regensburg. After a war of devastation, Count Frederick submitted in 1133, and two years later the Hohenstaufen brothers made their peace with Emperor Lothair. Because of his loyalty, Henry stood as a candidate for emperor when his father-in-law passed. However, the local princes were very much against him, so they elected Conrad III, a Hohenstaufen, in Frankfurt on February 2, 1138.
Conrad III immediately began the process of governing, no matter how improper or illegal his reign was. When Conrad III gave the Duchy of Saxony to Count Albert the Bear, the Saxons rose in defense of their young prince, and Count Welf of Altorf, the brother of Henry the Proud, began the war. The reign of Conrad was illegal. He was not the emperor Lothair II had planned to pass his mantle to. The crowning of this illegal emperor outraged the Welfs, and the immediately retaliated. Conrad III had planned to destroy Weinsberg and imprison its soldiers. Still, he was not completely heartless, and in a kind hearted moment, he suspended the final assault after a surrender was negotiated. Conrad III could not kill the women and children. He told the women of the city that they were to be granted the right to leave with whatever they could carry on their shoulders. He though he was going to let them have enough to set themselves up elsewhere, but he underestimated the women.
I don’t know if the women planned what happened next…they must have, because with one accord, they left their possessions, lifting their husbands and children on their backs, they headed out of town. Of course, it was within the power of the emperor to then kill the women too, but he was honorable. When the emperor, saw what was happening, he actually laughed and accepted the women’s clever trick. He decreed that a king should always stand by his word…and he let them go with their families intact. This story became known as the “Loyal Wives of Weinsberg” (Treue Weiber von Weinsberg). The castle ruins are today known as Weibertreu (“wifely loyalty”) in commemoration of the event. I cant say if the story is true, or a fable, but either way, it speaks to the true love a wife has for her husband.