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.
Burggraf Gottfried “the old” 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 “died on Crusade in Acre as I heard it”.
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)
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.
The barony of Oberwesel.
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 Käfernburg, 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 Schönburg is wrong, since it places it in the dominion of the dukes of Schönburg, 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.)
However this matches the set up "by the book" only in part:
- The Baron Jürgen holds Oberwesel, the Schönburg, 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 Schönburg 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 Schönburg.
Why to this nobody? The House von Schönburg are descended from an Imperial bastard begotten and Jürgen is specifically related to the Stauffens.
Putting this together I propose the following mythic explanation:
Jürgen 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.
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 Schönburg (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 Jürgen, by the fae blooded child and their spouse
1191: Birth of the bastard Robert
late 1190s-early 1200s: Birth of Karlotte to Baron Jürgen and his lawful wife.
Post Karlotte's birth: Baron Jürgen'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 Jürgen. 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 Jürgen 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 Jürgen 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...
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 Schönburg, 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 Schönburg (Saale) (which is in Saxony) whereas the fictitious Baron Jürgen is named after Schönburg (Rhein).
Considering that Schönburg 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.