Princely Brothers and Sisters

Princely Brothers and Sisters: The Sibling Bond in German Politics, 1100-1250

Jonathan R. Lyon
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Princely Brothers and Sisters
    Book Description:

    In Princely Brothers and Sisters, Jonathan R. Lyon takes a fresh look at sibling networks and the role they played in shaping the practice of politics in the Middle Ages. Focusing on nine of the most prominent aristocratic families in the German kingdom during the Staufen period (1138-1250), Lyon finds that noblemen-and to a lesser extent, noblewomen-relied on the cooperation and support of their siblings as they sought to maintain or expand their power and influence within a competitive political environment. Consequently, sibling relationships proved crucial at key moments in shaping the political and territorial interests of many lords of the kingdom.

    Family historians have largely overlooked brothers and sisters in the political life of medieval societies. As Lyon points out, however, siblings are the contemporaries whose lives normally overlap the longest. More so than parents and children, husbands and wives, or lords and vassals, brothers and sisters have the potential to develop relationships that span entire lifetimes. The longevity of some sibling bonds therefore created opportunities for noble brothers and sisters to collaborate in especially potent ways. As Lyon shows, cohesive networks of brothers and sisters proved remarkably effective at counterbalancing the authority of the Staufen kings and emperors. Well written and impeccably researched, Princely Brothers and Sisters is an important book not only for medieval German historians but also for the field of family history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6785-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Maps
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    According to the anonymous author of the late thirteenth-century Chronicle of the Princes of Saxony, the brothers and co-margraves John I (d. 1266) and Otto III (d. 1267) of Brandenburg “began [to exercise lordship] in the year of the Lord 1220. . . . After they had reached the age of majority, with one deferring to the other, they lived together harmoniously as was proper for brothers; and on account of this harmony, they trampled their enemies underfoot, exalted their friends, increased their lands and revenues, and expanded their fame, glory, and power.”¹ Although chroniclers writing the histories of medieval...

  8. Chapter 1 The Origins of Twelfth-Century Princely Lineages
    (pp. 16-32)

    For generations of medieval historians, the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries have been viewed as a critical period in the history of German noble families. According to a model first proposed by Karl Schmid in the 1950s, these years witnessed a shift from the horizontally oriented extended kinship group (Sippe) of the early Middle Ages to the vertically focused lineage (Geschlecht) of the central Middle Ages.¹ In other words, direct descent in the male line—especially from father to eldest son—became increasingly important inside noble families at the same time that other types of kin relationships were losing...

  9. Chapter 2 Forging the Bonds between Siblings: Succession, Inheritance, and Church Careers
    (pp. 33-59)

    Modern assumptions about the prevalence of primogeniture during the central Middle Ages have long obscured scholarly visions of noble lineages. For the German upper aristocracy of the Staufen period, lineages were not based on narrow lines of descent from father to eldest son. Instead, they embraced multiple children with equal claims to rights and properties. During the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, lords who had succeeded in establishing independent positions for themselves distributed their patrimonies in ways that ensured the interconnectedness of their offspring’s interests. When members of this next generation married and had children of their own, they...

  10. Chapter 3 Baby Boomers: The First Generation of the Staufen Upper Aristocracy
    (pp. 60-88)

    The generation of young nobles who first began to appear in the surviving sources during the 1130s and 1140s included many lords who would dominate the political scene in the German kingdom throughout the later twelfth century. Because their fathers or grandfathers had been the noblemen who had most benefited from the upheaval that accompanied the Investiture Controversy, one of the defining characteristics of this generation was abundance—not only of lands and rights but also of siblings. Numerous brothers in the nine lineages under investigation here were able to succeed to lordships and to receive substantial pieces of their...

  11. Chapter 4 Frederick Barbarossa and Henry the Lion: Cousins in an Age of Brothers
    (pp. 89-119)

    For a quarter century from the mid-1150s to the late 1170s, Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria was the most powerful magnate in the German kingdom. Then, in the years around 1180, he fell precipitously from his perch atop the princely hierarchy. Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, acting in conjunction with many of the principes imperii, stripped him of his duchies and other imperial fiefs. Soon thereafter, Henry left the German kingdom for exile in the Angevin lands ruled by his father-in-law, King Henry II of England. He would eventually return, but his position as the preeminent magnate within...

  12. Chapter 5 Cooperation, Conflict, and the Rise of a New Generation, ca. 1180–1210
    (pp. 120-149)

    By the close of the year 1181, those fraternal groups who had acquired pieces of Henry the Lion’s once-sprawling collection of lordships had dramatically reshaped the political landscape of the German kingdom. Several of these lineages were at the height of their authority and influence in subsequent months. However, this age of princely brothers did not last long. Most of the nobles and churchmen of the upper aristocracy who played central roles in the events of the late 1170s and early 1180s had been born decades earlier in the first years of the twelfth century. As a result, death soon...

  13. Chapter 6 From Bamberg to Budapest: Four Brothers and Four Sisters in the Early Thirteenth Century
    (pp. 150-195)

    The largest and most dynamic sibling group operating within the German upper aristocracy during the period of the civil war included eight brothers and sisters from the Andechs lineage. Because of the unusually rich source material that survives for this generation, these Andechs siblings offer an excellent opportunity for exploring the interactions and relationships among noble brothers and sisters. This generation’s multifaceted role in imperial politics—and European politics more generally—also enables detailed analysis of the political aspects of the sibling bond. For this sibling group, King Philip of Swabia’s assassination on June 21, 1208, was the darkest day...

  14. Chapter 7 The Uncertain Future of Lineages: Siblings during the Reign of Frederick II
    (pp. 196-231)

    King Philip of Swabia’s assassination in 1208 ended the generation of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa’s children. At the time of Barbarossa’s death in 1190, his five adult sons had been well positioned to play prominent roles in imperial politics; eighteen years later, however, all of them were dead. Only a single male heir survived in the next generation: Emperor Henry VI’s son, Frederick II, the future emperor, who was a boy of thirteen living in Sicily. Meanwhile, the Welf claimant to the German throne, Otto of Brunswick, saw the wheel of fortune turn briefly in his favor. On the brink...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 232-238)

    In the Western tradition, the first person in human history to have a brother was also the first person to commit fratricide: “Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ ” (Gen. 4:8–9). When Romulus later killed his brother, Remus, at the founding of Rome, the sibling bond became even more closely associated with violence....

  16. The Andechs Lineage
    (pp. 240-240)
  17. The Ascanian Lineage
    (pp. 241-241)
  18. The Babenberg Lineage
    (pp. 242-242)
  19. The Ludowing Lineage
    (pp. 243-243)
  20. The Staufen Lineage
    (pp. 244-244)
  21. The Welf Lineage
    (pp. 245-245)
  22. The Wettin Lineage (Part 1)
    (pp. 246-246)
  23. The Wettin Lineage (Part 2)
    (pp. 247-247)
  24. The Wittelsbach Lineage
    (pp. 248-248)
  25. The Zähringen Lineage
    (pp. 249-250)
  26. Works Cited
    (pp. 251-282)
  27. Index
    (pp. 283-294)