Historic rulers relevant to the Rhine Saga

So since I am preparing NPCs for my Rhine Gorge saga I have been researching German nobles and the owners of relevant castles. I will use this thread to post the most interesting ones fleshed out a little more so that they are game ready-ish. Given the paucity of sources, I have taken liberties to add birth years when I could not find any.

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Burggraf Gottfried ÔÇťthe oldÔÇŁ von Drachenfels (born 1151, count since 1176, 71 years old when the game starts but in great health when characters meet him, will die in 1225) then his son Heinrich von Drachenfels will take over. He bought the castle and its rights from Philip I.

He has a full head of hair and short pointed grey Van-Dyke goatee and extremely piercing eyes. He is extremely sharp and smiles like a predator. Likes to hunt, had some military success serving under six different Archbishops. They are connected to the nearby Cistercian Heisterbach abbey, which will be their family crypt.

He supports the Welf over the Staufen.

Battles he took part in: battle of Whitsuntide against Barbarossa (won), Wassenberg (defeated, 1206) and fought the armies of the dukes of Kleves and Limburg from 1217-1220. Was in charge of the defence of Bonn while one Archbishop was in Rome and again when Engelbert went to fight the Albigensian crusade.

I have given my party an NPC called Siegfried van Xantem, should they bring him along the old count will mentioning knowing personally the previous Count Diedrich of Kleves (which he used to call young Diedrich) , who helped found the Teutonic Order and ÔÇťdied on Crusade in Acre as I heard itÔÇŁ.

The Burggraf and his descendants have the Unaging virtue, he has made a deal with the Dragon(s) in the caves below.

(see wiki page for a drawing of the castle and the family heraldry)

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The archbishop of Cologne is Engelbert II, a tall, fair, and just man, whose virtues have been publicly extolled by the famous minstrel Walther von der Vogelweide. He will be martyred in 1225 by angry vassals and shortly after declared a local saint.

The archbishop is also very smart, knows about the Order and is willing to play ball. He has many enemies, having just brokered a peace with the dukes of Kleves and Limburg and want to expand/secure the Archbishopric, including by using magical support. He is open to letting the players set up a Covenant under the Rheinfels, as this would counter balance his strong vassal's Welf leanings (the archbishop being clearly pro-Stauffen) and the mage would have to provide occasional assistance against supernatural threats.

Since he is a very busy and important man, most of their dealings should happen through his Envoy: Ludwig van Bylandt, knight of Rheydt. A heavy, sour man. Knight and general legate. Has lots of common sense, if grumpy. (this is a character I made up wholecloth based on a noble house of Byladt which is only recorded as of 1260 and who will later on become the lords of the famous castle of Rheydt.

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The barony of Oberwesel.

Mundane Europe
The city of Oberwesel was long in vassalage to the bishopric of Magdeburg. However in exactly the year 1220, the canonical start date for the game, it gained the status of free imperial city. A mundane explanation for this is that the Archbishopric of Magdeburg had endured heavy financial/economic hardship and devastation under the stewardship of Albrecht I. von K├Ąfernburg, who changed side from Welf to Stauffen and later was warring with Brandenburg.

Since Oberwesel would be quite far from Magdeburg, extraction of revenues as well as their transfer to the archbishopric would be difficult and a large one off payment (while possibly in debt) would be possibly more desirable to the then-archbishop Albert than a trickle over centuries.

The city heraldry is the Imperial eagle, because of this is often the case for Imperial free cities.

This altogether adds up, I think to a perfectly mundane explanation of the city rights being simply sold off.

(As a side note, I believe that the English language wiki-article on the castle of Sch├Ânburg is wrong, since it places it in the dominion of the dukes of Sch├Ânburg, whereas the German page lists the lords of the castle as much more minor nobles whose allegiance was transferred along with the town of Oberwesel.)
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Mythic Europe

However this matches the set up "by the book" only in part:

  • The Baron J├╝rgen holds Oberwesel, the Sch├Ânburg, and Burg Pfalz on the island.
  • His bastard has an "eagle with wings displayed, pierced through the heart with a spear" as heraldry, which I think is a cool way of setting his own heraldry as similar but distinct from his father's, assuming that the Barons of Sch├Ânburg have as heraldry an eagle, such as the Imperial one.

Mythic europe explanation:

Possible spoiler for people playing the Rhine Gorge.

The Bishop has switched his support from the Welf to the Stauffen, but needs to prove his loyalty (which is accepted, since he will, in 1222 go to Italy and later act as mediator between the pope and the Emperor). He does so not by selling the city rights to its burgers, but by giving them to the otherwise insignificant Baron of Sch├Ânburg.

Why to this nobody? The House von Sch├Ânburg are descended from an Imperial bastard begotten and J├╝rgen is specifically related to the Stauffens.

Putting this together I propose the following mythic explanation:

J├╝rgen is the son of a bastard child of Barbarossa by a faerie of the court of Dark Summer which he met during a hunt in the region. Since this could lead to a whole bunch problems, the then-archbishop of Magdeburg (Frederick von Wettin) got the child engaged to the heir(ess) to the knight of Oberwesel, who would be their foster parent, so that this Imperial blooded young child would not fall into poverty but also kept away from important circles.

Timeline:

1145: A young Frederick, then merely the heir to the duke of Swabia, was visiting the Rhineland for the diet of Worms in 1145. While out hunting he met a pretty summer fairy.
1146:A fae blooded child is born.
1160s: marriage of the fay blooded child to the heir(ess) of the knight of Sch├Ânburg (some kind of minor Reichsministeriale), which is possibly upgraded to a Barony in the process. The family adopts an Eagle with displayed wings as their Heraldry along with this ascension.
(note, with a von Wettin as Archbishop of Magdeburg at the time, this would be a sound political move on their part to stay in the good graces of the Emperor)
1165-1171 (ish): birth of the future Baron J├╝rgen, by the fae blooded child and their spouse
1191: Birth of the bastard Robert
late 1190s-early 1200s: Birth of Karlotte to Baron J├╝rgen and his lawful wife.
Post Karlotte's birth: Baron J├╝rgen's lawful wife dies (possibly in childbirth, its complications, or as a result of the next pregnancy going wrong) and he becomes a widower or gives birth to more daughters. either way Karlotte is the heiress. This wife could be once again a member of the court of Dark Summer to explain the high amount of fae blood in Karlotte's veins.
1120: Karlotte goes full sleeping beauty

However this puts only a tenuous link between the current Emperor, the Archbishop of Magdeburg and Baron J├╝rgen. Why do something now in 1220?

As we now know, the Staufen line ended not so long after Frederick II, so could the Stauffen bastards (or cadet if one is generous) of Oberwesel be groomed as backup candidates to the main Staffen line? Or has this secret been lost to the sands of time? Or is there forgotten evidence of this in the unread archive of the castle?

Has Baron J├╝rgen endeared himself to one of the powerful archbishops nearby (either Cologne, a friend of Frederick II, see above for my write up on him) or the more interestingly Siegfried, the Archbishop of Mainz (also a stauffen Loyalist, who fought Philip of Swabia), who then might intercede on his behalf to the Emperor?

My preferred answer is that being a vassal of Magdeburg, he'd have been on the Welf side of the conflict against Philip of Swabia, who then continued opposing Philip out of personal doggedness past the end of the conflict (I don't see him as ambitious and mighty enough to want to see the other Stauffen branches extinct as his own claim to the ducal or imperial titles is too tenuous). He then sided with Siegfried of Mainz against the supporters of Philipp pre 1208. As reward for his service, Siegfried lobbied the Emperor Freddie II during his brief visit to Germany (1218-1220) and/or used his influence on fellow his Archbishop Albert of Magdeburg to help set Baron J├╝rgen as an independent ruler. The elevation from knighthood to barony could also occur at that point, though I feel that the book would mention if he'd just been elevated.

But this is all conjecture from what little information I could glean on wikipedia...

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Having done no research at all, I suspect you are correct, however, both can be true!
If the lords of the castle are minor lords who owe fealty to the dukes of Sch├Ânburg, there is no contradiction. Perhaps they are castellans, perhaps landed minor nobility?

The family which the game's baron would be part of is likely a minor castellan-like family, the Reichministeriale were essentially knight (so the lowest of the nobility) given what we'd now see as "civil service" jobs.

The one thing we do know, is that they would not owe fealty to the Saxon dukes of the same name, since they were direct vassals of the Archbishop of Magdeburg.

I rather think that this is a problem of homonymy leading to a confusion, since the dukes are named after Sch├Ânburg (Saale) (which is in Saxony) whereas the fictitious Baron J├╝rgen is named after Sch├Ânburg (Rhein).

Considering that Sch├Ânburg means nice castle, it is not surprising than multiple places share the name. Same as there are multiple Ems, Gmund or Halle, which lead to some getting an extra word in the name to differentiate them.

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I have made this map of the various power blocks for my game, however this is probably useful for any campaign set in the middle Rhine:


Colour code:
Green: positive relations
Yellow: neutral relations
Red: bad relations
Hashed: weak relations
blue arrow: vassalage (Liege ->vassal)

Notes on :

  • This map is valid for 1226-1230: in 1225 Gottfried of Sponheim dies splitting his county between his sons (the third of which inherits lead north of Aachen and ceases being relevant), in 1225 Gottfried von Drachenfels is succeeded by his son Heinrich and in 1231, Ludwig of Bavaria is murdered (to be succeeded by his son Otto).

  • The change of Archbishops of Mainz in this time frame is irrelevant as the Eppstein family was already bound to the von Wied by marriage. The new Archbishop of Mainz, Siegfried III, was the nephew of both his predecessor and of Trier's Dietrich von Wied.

  • My players are the Covenant of Waldheim.

  • Duodoma is a Covenant of two Tytallus which I have added to my game purely as a nuisance for the party.

  • Trevorum is a chapter house of Triamore in my game.

  • The Character of Gunther von Rothbart is an invention for my game, he is a skinchanger lordling of a minor line of the lords of Broemserberg, using the party to advance his cause.

  • Robert of Oberwesel is not in fact a vassal of the count von Sayn, however should he live long enough in game, his plotline is easily entwine with that of Henry von Sayn.

  • Henry Raspe's poor relations with Mainz and Nassau deteriorate starting in the late 1220s as he consolidates his power and leads to over three decades of chaos in central Germany.

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Once again you provide another highly useful resource with a high degree of detail that makes it easy to apply to any saga set in the same area and time.

The annotations really take it to the next level as they make it extremely obvious what each thing is, what it does and thus how they can be safely changed or removed.

KUDOS.

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So as part of typing up my game notes for public release, I have made these two diagrams to illustrate in broad strokes the relationships between the major Families and archbishoprics with infleunce in the Rhine Gorge area.
These relationships are summarised in the following figures, with Green double arrows mean an alliance, Black single arrow shows suzerainty and a red line indicates enmity and rivalry.
I used the historic heraldic shields from Wikipedia, except for Drachenfels which I just redrew in Armoria. The von Schoneburg and von Broemserburg are too minor to have been recorded in the period, however I attributed them the arms of later descendants who did manage to get their arms recorded. (both of there I made using armoria).

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The Lords of Hagen-Munzberg

The family line traces itself back to the first Bailiff of the Wildbahn of Dreieich (see below), Eberhard von Hagen (a confident and friend of Henry IV) who received the title around the 1075 and who had the Bergfried build immediately, with the support of the Emperor. Within a century, the castle had been expanded to an Imperial castle, with many duties and obligations to the visiting Monarch (including two week's supply and a number of heads of cattle after each visit).

The family fortunes have been high for generations, even despite the loss of the Vogtship of the all important abbey of Fulda, which Konrad II traded away for the hill of M├╝nzberg around 1150, and began fortifying it. He never saw this construction finished but his young son, the long lived Kuno I (father of the current Lord) grew up there.

Kuno I was a devout man, donating the ancestral castle of Arnsberg to the Cistercian order in 1174, further weakening the family's grip on the region. He erected a hospital in Sassenhausen (a village south of Frankfurt) which he donated to the Teutonic Order. He held the position of Imperial Chancellor to the Emperor Henry VI, through which he obtained minting rights for his castle of Munzburg. He spent the latter part of his life feuding with the Welfs opponents of Philip of Swabia, which he saw as the legitimate heir to the Imperial throne.

The current Lord Kuno II grew up at the imperial court but is not the equal of his father, his grip on the spread out lands of his father is weak, he named a knight by the name of Arnold (a loyal servant of the emperor) to rule the K├Ânigstein as Burggraf in his place (and along with it the responsibility of the safety of the Imperial road leading to Cologne) and tragically lost the castle of M├╝nzberg (along with its minting rights) when it was stormed by the rival Thuringian forces. His wife, Elisabeth von Hohenheim, was married to the recently deceased Welf-leaning mayor of Frankfurt, but unable to conceive in either marriages, rumours spread of her being barren.

His sister Isengard is engaged to the lord Philip of Falkenstein, an alliance with the county of Bolanden through which Kuno the young seeks to maintain his position, but he lacks his (fore)father's acumen. His brother Ulrich is no more talented.

The Wildbahn

The Royal Preserve of Dreieich extends from the castle of Vilbel on the Nidda, cities of Frankfurt, Hanau and Aschaffenburg to the north down to the Odenwald to the south, even past the village of Darmstadt and is curtailed by the Main (to the east) and Rhine (to the west) rivers, extended all the way to the Odenwald hills and the territories of Lorsh and Bernsheim to the south.

This forest is an Imperial hunting ground since centuries, with the Lord of Hagen-Munzberg as its royal administrator. It is densely forested with only occasional small villages such as the nearby Dreieichenhain near the castle, as well as individual villages or large individual farms spread in the clearings.

Immediate neighbours

  • The hamlet of Mersenvelt (and it's small moated castle) under the leadership of the knight Walter (a vassal of his) has been petitioning the Bishop of W├╝rzburg for the right to build a chapel there.

  • The village of Nauheim belongs to the Abbey of Eberbach, who have some brothers there working in the forest at the clearing known as M├Ânchbruch.

  • The road themselves are well cared for and patrolled as they are a major overland route known as the Bergstrasse (mountain road) leading from the Alps to the large market towns such as Frankfurt and Mainz.

  • One of the moated castles at the southern end of the forest is Bessingen, which is held in the name of the Bishop of W├╝rzburg. It acts as a gateway to the forest road, and is kept well garrisoned.

  • The region is dangerous, as the western end is the marshy overflow of the Rhine river, and known to be the haunt of bandits living off the forest and hiding in its depths.

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