Thirteen Years War

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Light gray : "Teutonic Order State in Prussia" as a fiefdom of the Polish king, called Ducal Prussia from 1525;
Colored : “Prussian royal share” divided into three voivodeships of Kulm, Marienburg and Pomerania and the prince-bishopric of Warmia combined in a union with the Polish crown;
Khaki : Lande Lauenburg and Bütow as pledge of the Dukes of Pomerania (political status of the year 1466)
Polish soldiers 1447–1492, depiction of the history painter Jan Matejko (before 1893)

The Thirteen Years' War (also called Prussian City War , Polish Wojna trzynastoletnia ) lasted from 1454 to 1466. It first began in the Teutonic Order State as an internal conflict between the Prussian estates and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order . The Prussian Confederation , an interest group formed in 1440 for the Prussian cities and the landed aristocracy, revoked the oath of allegiance to the Grand Master in 1454 and shortly thereafter allied itself with the Kingdom of Poland against the rule of the Teutonic Order in Prussia . The war led to the division of the Teutonic Order State in Prussia and thus had political consequences until the 20th century.


In the 14th and early 15th centuries there were repeated armed conflicts between the Teutonic Order and its neighbors Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania . The conflict with the Polish-Lithuanian Union , which broke out again in 1409, was lost for the order due to the defeat in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410. In the Peace Treaty of Thorn in 1411, the order had to undertake to make reparations , whereupon Grand Master Heinrich the Elder von Plauen implemented massive tax increases in the Teutonic Order. Many citizens in the Hanseatic cities did not agree with this economic policy and tried to achieve more independence and autonomy , comparable to the status of the imperial cities in the Holy Roman Empire . For this purpose the Prussian Federation was founded under the leadership of the German Knight Johann von Baysen and asked for help from King Casimir IV Jagiełło .

Heinrich von Plauen did not want to accept the First Thorner Peace. He started arming. For this and for the payment obligations from the peace treaty, he needed money. The cities and the landed gentry should pay that. The situation did not improve for the country when Heinrich von Plauen was deposed in 1413.

The knightly services of the owners of service goods had become uninteresting for the order because of the emergence of the mercenary armies . Therefore he tried to worsen the rights of the owners of service goods by all means, including illegal ones. He was interested in the fastest possible return of the estates he wanted to relocate with farming villages. The interest payments from the peasants were worth more to him than the knightly services of the landlords.

Likewise, the order began to intervene massively in the constitutions of the cities in order to occupy the leading positions of city rule with people who were comfortable with it.

The Prussian estates were politically strengthened by the Polish king: he made them the guarantors of the peace treaties of 1422 and 1435 . De jure, the nobility and the cities were given the power to influence the foreign policy of the order. In fact, the Teutonic Order ignored any interference in its interests.

All this, together with the arrogance of the foreign knights of the order, built up into a threatening mood against the order. On March 14, 1440, the Prussian estates, i.e. the knighthood, the nobility and the cities, united in Marienwerder to form the “ Prussian League ”. At first, they did not want to break away from the order, but rather defend themselves against oppression and legal uncertainty and speak with one voice. The abuse of the order was not forgotten.

A “close council” consisting of 20 members was founded. Thorn was chosen as the seat of this council because it was on the border with Poland. The Grand Master Ludwig von Erlichshausen demanded the dissolution of the league. The federal government refused. Ultimately, the decision on the legality of the covenant was entrusted to the emperor. The emperor set the day of judgment on June 24, 1453 in Vienna . On December 1, 1453, the federal government was declared illegal and its dissolution ordered.

Course of war

The supporters of the Prussian League asked several European rulers for support without success, only the King of Poland was willing to take over the patronage. Thus, on February 4, 1454, the federation terminated obedience to the order and began a well-prepared war. In a few days the greater part of the country was in the hands of the insurgents. All castles in western Prussia, with the exception of Marienburg and Marienwerder, were occupied by federal troops.

The break with the Order had been carried out without a firm agreement with the King of Poland. But since autumn 1452 there had been loose negotiations with the King of Poland between the Kulm knighthood and the cities of Kulm and Thorn. The "Enge Rat" received an invitation to send representatives to the Sejm in Krakow after February 2, 1454 . King Casimir IV Jagiełło was just getting married there to Elisabeth von Habsburg when a federal embassy under Hans von Baysen offered him supremacy over Prussia. In a document dated March 6th (probably back), Casimir IV declared the incorporation of the entire area of ​​the Order into the Polish state, granted the nobility rights corresponding to those of the Polish nobility and confirmed those of the cities.

On February 22nd, the Polish king also declared war on the Teutonic Order and on March 6th he accepted the surrender of the Prussian estates and incorporated the entire order state into the Polish Empire. On May 23, he received the tribute from the estates in Thorn. The country was divided pro forma into four voivodships (Kulm, Pommerellen, Elbing, Königsberg) and Hans von Baysen was appointed governor .

Most of the order castles were manned by very few knights and were taken by the rebels without difficulty. The order was only held in a few castles in the west: Marienburg, Stuhm and Konitz.

During the autumn work on the estates, the king had difficulties in summoning troops from the Wielkopolska and Kujavian nobility to a general aristocratic contingent. The king was forced to make great concessions to the nobility. Only then was he able to move to Konitz with the contingent of Wielkopolska and Kujawy in order to intercept the reinforcement of the order coming from the empire.

The battle of Konitz took place on September 18, 1454 , the only major field battle of the war. Despite the numerical superiority of the Poles, it ended with their heavy defeat against the mercenary troops of the order from Silesia and Bohemia under Duke Rudolf von Sagan . As a result, numerous cities, especially Königsberg , returned to the order.

In the further course there were no more major open battles; the rest of the war was largely waged without troops from the Polish nobility. It was just a war of devastation with mercenaries for permanent positions. It was especially the federal cities, especially Danzig, which raised the money for the mercenaries.

At sea, Danzig waged a successful pirate war against Lübeck and the other cities of the Wendish quarter , in order to prevent their trade with the ports of the order, Königsberg and Memel , and thereby weaken the order.

By losing large parts of the country, the order lost important sources of income. For lack of money he had to sell Neumark to the Electorate of Brandenburg in 1454 . He received no support from Livonia or from the German Balleien . By contract of October 9, 1454, he had to pledge a number of castles to his mercenaries.

When he could not meet the agreed payment dates, mercenary captains sold the Marienburg and five other castles to the king and the federal government on August 16, 1456 after long negotiations. The federal government paid the Bohemian mercenaries 304,000 marks, of which Danzig alone took over 144,400. The sale of the castles to the enemy was viewed as dishonorable by some mercenary leaders.

The Grand Master cleared the Marienburg Order Castle in 1457 without a fight and went to Königsberg. On June 7th, 1457 King Casimir IV moved into the fortress. The city of Marienburg, however, defended itself for another three years under its mayor Bartholomäus Blume . It was not until 1460 that the city of Marienburg Danzig surrendered; Mayor Blume was executed.

The opponents of the order recorded decisive military successes in the 1460s: On September 15, 1463, a sea battle broke out on the Frischen Haff when the order tried to relieve the city of Mewe across the Vistula . It was the decisive victory for the Confederation and its ally Poland. Mewe and other cities on the Vistula , which were still in the hands of the order, were conquered. Now the federal government and Poland controlled the Vistula.

Attempts to mediate by Mayor Hinrich Castorp from Lübeck in 1463/64 failed. Finally, in the end, the financial strength of the Teutonic Order was exhausted, and fighting flagged.

Second Peace of Thorn

Intensive negotiations by the papal legate Rudolf von Rüdesheim led to the conclusion of peace in 1466, the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466. The treaty was expressly rejected by Pope Paul II . From the perspective of the papacy, it was formally not legally binding, but this did not result in any consequences due to the papacy's weakness in power politics.

Eastern Prussia of the Teutonic Order remained under the direct control of the Order under Polish suzerainty . The grand masters had to take personal oaths of loyalty to the Polish crown. The western part of Prussia, i.e. the area of ​​the Prussian Confederation, was linked to the Polish crown as a largely autonomous “ Prussian Royal Share ” in a not clearly defined “union” . The Lauenburg and Bütow regions , which had become Polish, were given to the dukes of Pomerania as pledges as thanks for their support against the Teutonic Order.


In 1525, after the lost equestrian war , the Teutonic Order had completely lost its influence there too. The secular rule of the Teutonic Order in Prussia (East Prussia) turned into the first Protestant state in Europe, the Duchy of Prussia . In addition, the Teutonic Order was secularized in its capacity as a religious order in the territory of Prussia .

Prussia's royal share became part of the Union of Lublin in 1569, endowed with a number of special rights, in the Real Union of the I. Rzeczpospolita . The autonomy or the special rights of the "Royal Prussia" vis-à-vis the Polish crown (own state parliaments with German as the language of negotiation, own coin, own defense sovereignty of the three big city republics Danzig, Elbing and Thorn as well as the right of big cities to have their own diplomatic connections with the Overseas etc.) became the subject of conflicts between the Polish monarchy and the Prussian estates in the second half of the 16th century.

Royal Prussia was incorporated into the Hohenzollern Kingdom of Prussia in the course of the first partition of Poland in 1772 . With the annexation of the House of Brandenburg-Prussia, the Royal Polish Prussian corporate state lost its special status under state law and corporate privileges.


  • Marian Biskup: Wojna trzynastoletnia z Zakonem Krzyzackim 1454–1466. Warsaw 1969 (with a German summary). (The Thirteen Years War with the Teutonic Order)
  • Marian Biskup: The Prussian Confederation 1440-1454 - history, structure, activity and significance in the history of Prussia and Poland. In: Konrad Fritze, Eckhard Müller-Mertens, Johannes Schildhauer (Eds.): Hansische Studien III: Citizenship - Commercial Capital - City Associations (= Treatises on Commercial and Social History XV). Weimar 1975, pp. 210-229.
  • Marian Biskup: Wojna trzynastoletnia i powrót Polski na Baltyk w XV wieku (= Dzieje narodu i panstwa polskiego tom I i II). Krakow 1990. (The Thirteen Years War and the return of Poland to the Baltic Sea in the 15th century)
  • Karin Friedrich: The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569-1772. ( online in Google Book Search)
  • Lothar Dralle: The state of the Teutonic Order in Prussia after the 2nd Thorner peace. Studies on the economic and class political history of Old Prussia between 1466 and 1497. Wiesbaden 1975.

Web links


  1. ^ Bruno Schumacher: History of East and West Prussia. 7th edition. Weidlich Verlag, Würzburg 1987, p. 137.
  2. Pages 43, 44 No fiefdom, oaths of loyalty in person
  3. ^ Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg : Between the Polish estates and the Prussian government. From Royal Prussia to West Prussia (1756–1806) , Munich 1995, p. 236.