The Iron Cross Triumphant
Most people in this modern day and age take the rise of the Teutonic Knights and the unification of Germany entirely for granted. It seems entirely natural to them that the Order should rise from obscurity to glory, and few are aware of the incredible odds and vast array of forces that opposed them. When viewed in a proper historical perspective, one gains proper respect for their meteoric rise, which is comparable to that of Rome or Alexander the Great. Therefore I have decided to write this treatise on to history of the Ordenstadt in the hopes that my readers will better understand and gain a greater appreciation for the monumental task that these men accomplished.
Konrad von Jungingen “The Foresighted”
1393 - 1404
Prologue: What Now?
By the end of the 14th century it was thought that the Teutonic Order had reached its zenith. The monastic state had conquered and converted the heathen Baltic States to the true faith, and the Lithuanians embraced Catholicism with their personal union under Poland. With the destruction of the heathens, the Order's drive and very purpose for existence was beginning to evaporate. While there were infidels in the Holy Land and the Ottoman Turks were expanding into the Balkans, the Order had no means of reaching these lands, and even if they could they lacked the power to simultaneously take on the great Islamic powers and defend their Baltic possessions from their covetous neighbors.
The Order would likely have fallen into obscurity were it but for the vision of one man, Hochmeister Konrad von Jungingen. At the Generalkapitel ("general chapter" - a conference of the members of the Order) in the closing days of 1399, Konrad presented a most controversial proposal to the members of the Order: to refocus their mission towards dismantling the Holy Roman Empire and unifying the Germanic states under their banner. Although many of his contemporaries in the order privately though him a madman, his scheme actually had great merit. The papacy was always butting heads with the emperor, and would at least surreptitiously sanction wars to diminish his authority. Additionally the Order could gain much from absorbing the small German nations as it wouldn’t have to assimilate unruly barbarian heathens. If the Emperor could be proven weak and ineffective, foreign nations might support, or at least tolerate the unification of the Germans under the iron cross.
Few records remain to tell us what caused Konrad to make this fateful decision. We know of his birth in Southern Germany, and of his conquest of Gotland form the Scandinavians, but virtually no writings of his remain to tell us about his inner thoughts. From secondhand accounts, the most prominent of which came from the memoirs of his brother Ulrich (the Marschall or commander of the Order’s army), we can infer that he was of a martial nature and an excellent administrator of the Ordenstadt, but blunt and insensitive to foreign nations. Ulrich also stressed his brother’s excessive piety, and folklore recounts how he attended mass daily even when on campaign, and was of firm moral and spiritual character. From these accounts, most historians conclude that Konrad wished to unite his native people under the firm hand of the Church, both to internally purify it and to better defend against exterior threats.
Konrad and Ulrich von Jungingen, the men
who began the Order's drive to unify Germany
With the help of Ulrich, Konrad convinced the Order of the righteousness and necessity of his cause. After much debate (the records of which were kept few and secret for many years due to the delicacy of the subject), the most prominent members of the Order were swayed to his side. Fears of Imperial usurpation of papal authority, a repeat of events in Hungary (where the Order was forcibly evicted from its lands), and of Ottoman incursions into Europe helped sway the council to support the dismantling of the Empire and creation of a strong, unified Germany. Although not recorded by historical sources, it is safe to assume that avarice for territorial expansion beyond what they had already achieved played no small role in the Generalkapitel's decision. Immediately the army was expanded as much as possible, and diplomats were sent out to Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Novgorod with offers of alliance. Austria and Hungary accepted, and the Order was soon called to support the Hungarians in their conquest of Wallachia. The Order accepted, but sent only moral support. It didn’t matter, as the Hungarians were soon victorious.
The Teutonic Conquest of Riga
By the spring of 1403 Konrad was ready to set his plan into motion. The Imperial city of Riga was surrounded by the Order’s lands, and ripe for conquest. Konrad hoped that his allies in Austria and Hungary would distract the Bohemian emperor (who had no land border with the Order at this time) while the Order conquered Riga. The ultimate goal however was the rich traders in the Hansa who were allied with Riga. Konrad hoped to vassalize or annex them, thus securing a foothold in Germany proper and dramatically increasing the Order’s resources and manpower. The die was cast, and while the ambitious Austrians honored the alliance, the faithless Hungarians refused to fight the emperor. Riga was immediately besieged and soon annexed, but the bulk of the Order’s army was dispatched to Lubeck force the Hansa into submission.
Riga in 1399, the cause of the first war between the Order and Emperor
The Order’s fleet played a crucial role; it quickly brushed aside the smaller Hanseatic fleet, and transported Ulrich and Konrad’s armies to Lubeck where they annihilated the unprepared Hanseatic army. Meanwhile, Oldenburg, Magdeburg, Luneburg, and Bremen joined the Hansa against the Order. Ulrich remained to besiege Lubeck with a small detachment of ~1000 men, while Konrad took the rest of the Order’s army (roughly 5000 infantry and 4000 cavalry) to defeat the German states. Within half a year, Konrad’s campaign from Altmark to Oldenburg had wiped out their smaller, divided armies. With Northern Germany free of opposing armies, Konrad divided his forces into regiments of 2,000-3,000 men to besiege their fortresses. Additionally, reinforcements from newly conquered Riga were sent to Lubeck to aide Ulrich in his long siege.
In the South, the Austrians at first had great success and ravaged Bohemian lands with two armies of about 12000 men each. However, at 13000 strong bohemian army soon arrived and a single Austrian army foolishly attacked. Despite being a few days march away, the second Austrian army failed to support this first, which was crushed by the Bohemians. Then, a second bohemian army of another 15,000 men arrived, combined with the first, and utterly destroyed the second Austrian army. Konrad was enraged at the incompetence shown by his ally, and as Bohemian armies swept into a prostrate Austria, he was forced to make peace with them for minor monetary reparations. Austria had served its purpose of distracting the Bohemians, but fell to the superior might of the Emperor.
With Bohemia out of the war, the small German states had no hope of relief and their fortresses began to fall to hunger and despair. By May of 1404, Magdeburg fell and was forced to swear fealty and pay monetary reparations to the Order. But before his victory was complete, Konrad fell ill with dysentery during the siege of Bremen and died in the winter of 1404 with his war won but unfinished.
While Konrad’s reign was short and he played a minimal role in the great wars of the Order, he laid the foundation for the Orders future expansion and breathed new life into its crusading spirit. By all but winning his war against the Northern German states in spite of the Emperor’s interference, he silenced many of the doubters in the Order. Future Hochmeisters, inspired by his vision, would lead the Order to great glory in their efforts to achieve his goal. Thus, he is known as “The Foresighted” the man whose dream set the Order on a new path which would re-write the face of the Earth.
- The Hansa was alliance leader in this war letting me buy out Bohemia without ending it
- I didn’t have a land border with Bohemia thank God
- The Order starts out with the strongest navy in the Baltic region, for the early portion of the game I’m a stronger naval power than land power!
- The Brandenburg-Luxemburg and Poland-Lithuania PU’s dissolved sometime in the early1400’s
- England got dogpiled by a Burgandy/Scotland/Bohemia alliance and a separate French war which lasted almost 10 years. They lost Calais and were forced to release Northumberland and Winchester. Portugal joined on England’s side and lost most of their armies, leaving them vulnerable to Castile. The Northern half of Portugal would be annexed by about 1420.
- Denmark was unusually quiet, so I ignored them
- Novgorod rejected my alliance, but I remained on good terms with them and joined their trade league after the Hansa kicked me out. I try to ignore Russia and remain on good terms with Novgorod and Muscovy
Whew! 1st chapter is down! Any comments on the style? Hopefully I wasn't too dry. Up next: the turbulent reign of Walter “The Stalwart”