Wilhelm von Fürstenberg (mercenary leader)

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Wilhelm von Fürstenberg. Drawing by Heinrich Frank after an oil painting at Heiligenberg Castle

Wilhelm von Fürstenberg (born January 7, 1491 , † August 21, 1549 in Ortenberg ), Count von Fürstenberg , Landgrave in the Baar , was a German mercenary leader.


Wilhelm was the eldest son of Count Wolfgang von Fürstenberg from the Fürstenberg family and his wife, Countess Elisabeth von Solms-Braunfels (1469–1540).

At the age of 12 (1503) his father sent him to the University of Freiburg . However, the scientific training did not suit him and was immediately discontinued. Instead, he was trained in courtly manners and the crafts of war.

Froben Christoph von Zimmer describes him in his contemporary chronicle :
"In vil jaren in the German nation we have no martial mentschen ..., hapt, ...." "He was a wonderful satyr ..."

Marriage 1505 to 1515

At the age of 15 (on October 22, 1505) Wilhelm was married to the widow of Louis de Blâmont, Bona (1480-1515). Bona was the daughter of Claude de Neuchâtel and Bonne de Bolchen. Her older brother, Thiebaut XI, had died in 1501 and her father died in February 1505. The younger sister, Elisabeth, had also been married to Count Felix von Werdenberg in 1505 . Emperor Maximilian had promoted these marriage connections because he wanted to secure the free county of Burgundy, which had been won for Habsburg in 1493, for the House of Habsburg through family connections between the German imperial nobility and the Burgundian nobility.

Wilhelm's wife died in 1515 without any descendants. She had appointed Wilhelm as the sole heir.

Battle for the Burgundian inheritance 1505–1524

After his early marriage, Wilhelm first lived in Héricourt . The inheritance of his wife was not only legally challenged by Duke Ulrich von Württemberg , but also had the estate of Blâmont , which was part of the inheritance, occupied. Wilhelm, for his part, had the Granges dominion belonging to the Württemberg Mömpelgard occupied. Due to various legal relationships between Wilhelm and Ulrich, a number of the federal estates - in particular Basel and Solothurn - interfered in the dispute. When the parliament of the Free County in Dole also decided in favor of the Württemberg man, Wilhelm sold his disputed rights cheaply to the Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand in 1524 .

On May 21, 1521 Wilhelm entered the service of the French King Franz I for a fixed annual salary and was supposed to become Commander-in-Chief of his German and Swiss mercenary troops. Wilhelm recruited troops for France, but the takeover of the high command failed due to the resistance of the Swiss mercenaries and Wilhelm did not go to war. In 1522 Wilhelm switched to the side of Emperor Karl V after he had rejected Wilhelm's offer of service in September 1521. Both changes are also to be seen in connection with the support, hoped for but not effectively received, from Wilhelm in his Burgundian inheritance dispute.

Partisan Franz von Sickingen 1522/23

Together with Eitelfritz von Zollern , he supported Franz von Sickingen in 1522/23 in his feud with the Bishop of Trier , Richard von Greiffenklau zu Vollrads . The basic idea of ​​the knight revolt was to open up the nobility through the secularization of clerical principalities financial and social advancement opportunities. After the defeat and death of Franz von Sickingen, Wilhelm briefly feared the victors would invade his Ortenau, but this could be averted through the mediation of the city of Strasbourg and the Strasbourg bishop, Wilhelm von Hohnstein .

In the Peasants' War 1524/25

The peasant unrest of the years 1524/25 gripped the Fürstenbergische Land as early as autumn 1524. At first there were negotiations and the initiation of legal proceedings to determine the old rights required by the peasants. In April 1525 the dispute escalated and seized all of southwest Germany. The Fürstenberg counts brought families and property to the protection of the city of Villingen and advised Archduke Ferdinand and the Swabian Federation to put down the uprising militarily, for which they themselves wanted to muster 2,000 men. The Swabian Confederation accepted the offer and appointed Wilhelm to the leader of the infantry of his troops, which were under the command of Georg III. Truchsess from Waldburg-Zeil were standing. Wilhelm led the foot troops until the Swabian League was dissolved in July 1525 and was involved in the bloody suppression of the uprising in Upper Swabia, Württemberg, the Odenwald and Franconia.

1526 to 1529 failures as a civilian and military

From 1526 to 1528, Wilhelm lived mostly at his Ortenberg Castle and his estate in Strasbourg, where he led a dissolute lifestyle. He did not manage to manage his estates and his sovereignty successfully.

In 1528 he returned to the service of Emperor Charles V, was initially involved in the preparations for his war in Italy and then took part in the unsuccessful procession of Duke Heinrich II of Braunschweig to Italy.

In the service of the Landgrave of Hesse from 1529 to 1534

Wilhelm von Fürstenberg; Photograph of an oil painting at Heiligenberg Castle

After his return to Germany, he offered his services to the Lutheran, Saxon Elector Johann , whose financial offer seemed inadequate to him. At the Reichstag in Speyer in 1529 he stood up for the interests of the Protestant city of Strasbourg and joined the protest of the Protestant imperial estates . A few months later he entered the service of the Hessian Landgrave Philipp on lucrative terms . The treaty reconciled his religious inclinations with his material interests and resulted in his final departure from the Habsburgs .

Wilhelm was partially present at the Marburg Religious Discussion and accompanied Zwingli on his journey home to Strasbourg.

In 1530, with the permission of the Hessian landgrave, he also entered the service of Duke Anton II of Lorraine . When France was to be won over to the anti-Habsburg Saalfeld Bund in 1531 , Landgrave Philipp also sent Wilhelm to the French king as a negotiator. During the Landgrave's further negotiations with France on the restitution of the expelled Duke Ulrich from Württemberg, Wilhelm was appointed envoy several times . In the spring of 1534, Wilhelm used the money received from France to recruit the landgrave for the war campaign against the Habsburgs. At the end of April 1534 Wilhelm set off with 9,000 to 10,000 recruited mercenaries from the muster ground near Strasbourg to Pfungstadt , where the union with the landgrave, his cavalry and other mercenary troops took place. Wilhelm became commander-in-chief of the 17,000-strong infantry. On May 12th there was a first undecided battle near Nordheim and on May 13th the battle of Lauffen , which ended with the defeat of the Austrians. After the Hohenasperg fortress was taken by the Hessian troops and an advance on the Austrian hereditary lands threatened, King Ferdinand agreed in the Treaty of Kaaden to the restitution of Duke Ulrich.

Since Wilhelm, out of consideration for the rulers of his brother Friedrich, had refused to allow his regiments to march into the Austrian Breisgau , a rift broke out between Wilhelm and Landgrave Philipp. Further points of contention were the remuneration of Wilhelm and allegations that under his command there had been excesses against monasteries and clergy.

In French service from 1535 to 1539

In 1535 Wilhelm entered the service of the French King Franz. I and in 1536 brought him a 6,000-strong mercenary force, which he had recruited in southwest Germany and Alsace, although the German king had explicitly prohibited advertising. He led these troops in the Piedmontese campaign (1536–1538) under the command of Anne de Montmorency against the army of Charles V.

In 1538 he was in the entourage of Francis I as Pope Paul III in Nice . met and refused to kiss the Pope's slippers, as Francis I and his courtiers did, although he received express orders from Montmorency.

In the dispute with the Alsatian mercenary leader Sebastian Vogelsberger , who was also in French service, Wilhelm lost his last influence on French politics and quit his service with King Franz I.

Wilhelm and the Schmalkaldic League 1538/39

In 1538, the Narrow Kaldic League tried hard to form an alliance with France, as it was feared that Charles V might attack the Protestant imperial estates after the war with France was over. Wilhelm was asked to support the embassies at the French court. In the same year Wilhelm was used by King Franz I in the War of the Geldr Succession as a mediator between Duke Anton and Duke Wilhelm von Cleve from Lorraine . Wilhelm tried to persuade Lorraine to join the Narrow Kaldic League on his own, but his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

In October 1538 he offered his services to the Narrow Kaldic League, whereby he made high demands on wages and competencies in a psychologically awkward manner. Although there was no employment relationship and Wilhelm was not a member of the federal government either, he recruited mercenaries to make them available to the federal government in the event of an attack by Charles V. When in 1539 the so-called Frankfurt decency secured the status quo in the empire for the time being, it disbanded the troops quartered in the Ortenau.

In the Imperial War against France (1544) and imprisonment in 1544/45

After his personal break with France and under the impression of the harsh persecution of the Protestants in France, William - like many Protestant imperial estates - allowed Charles V to win him over to a new war against France.

On June 6, 1544, the imperial troops under Gonzaga and Wilhelm took Luxembourg and then moved on to Saint-Dizier , which they besieged. On July 23, 1544, Wilhelm was wounded while taking Vitry-le-François . After his speedy recovery, he returned to the army on August 26th, which had meanwhile taken Saint-Dizier. On his advice, Charles V marched towards Paris. While exploring a Marne crossing, Wilhelm was captured by the French on September 4, 1544 and thrown into the Bastille as a traitor . He was denied treatment of a prisoner of war and was initially released for a ransom. Later an exorbitant demand for 30,000 sun crowns was made. On September 18, Charles V made the Peace of Crépy with France , although the Fürstenberg case was not settled.

Although the ransom arrived in Paris on August 2, 1545, Wilhelm was not released until the first half of October 1545, as the French initially demanded the release of the Prince of Roche-sur-Yon and also waited to see whether Charles V would fulfill his obligations from the Keeping the Crépy Peace Treaty. The ransom was raised from funds from the Fürstenberg counts and some friends, as well as an interest-bearing loan from the city of Strasbourg on the income of the Kinzigtal rulership - Charles V made no contribution.

In the wake of the Narrow Kaldic War of 1546/47

After Charles V did not show any appreciation for his services even after Wilhelm was released, Wilhelm offered his services to the Narrow Kaldic League again and wanted to become a member of it. Since he was unable to make any financial contribution to the federal government after the ransom was paid and no special rights were granted to him, this did not happen. In addition, the war wound and imprisonment had severely impaired his health, so that he was no longer fully operational. Nevertheless, it was known that Wilhelm supported the federal government and in autumn 1546 he stayed as a visitor for a short time in the federal army camp. When the federal army disbanded practically without a fight in the Schmalkaldic War in November 1546, Charles V initially suppressed all opposition in southern Germany. Wilhelm too felt the emperor's disfavor, especially since he was not ready to submit. After King Ferdinand announced the redemption of the Ortenau imperial pledge, the Counts of Fürstenberg, Wilhelm and Friedrich tried to save this area for the Fürstenberg family and Wilhelm ceded his possessions to his brother. In November 1547 the residents of the Ortenau and the Kinzig valley paid homage to Count Friedrich.

The end

On July 4, 1549, the emperor ordered Count Friedrich to arrest his brother Wilhelm. Wilhelm was no longer allowed to leave Ortenberg Castle, which he was increasingly unable to do, physically and mentally - there was talk of mental derangement. Wilhelm died on August 21, 1549. He was buried in Haslach .

Reformation in Wilhelms Landen

Reformation in the Ortenau

During the Peasants' War, the population had a say in the appointment (and removal) of pastors. The Strasbourg bishop Wilhelm von Hohnstein had also approved the Renchen contract as the owner of the half pledge through the Ortenau bailiwick. Count Wilhelm, as owner of the other half of the pledge and governor, promoted the Reformation anyway, so that it slowly spread in the Ortenau and Kaspar Hedio mentioned in a letter in 1545 that he had been in the Ortenau for Count Wilhelm and the Reformation was active.

Reformation in the Kinzig valley

The Kinzigtal was the Wittum of Wilhelm's mother, Elisabeth, who adhered to the Catholic faith and only died in 1540. Due to their influence, the Reformation in the Kinzigtal could not gain significant influence. After her death, the rule fell to Count Wilhelm, who quickly introduced the Reformation here. Kaspar Hedio sent Martin Schalling the Elder from Strasbourg , whom Wilhelm appointed as pastor in Wolfach and head of all pastors in the rule and who became the reformer of this area.


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Graf von Fürstenberg  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. s. Wagner p. 9/10
  2. Froben Christoph von Zimmer: Zimmerische Chronik. Volume III. Published by Karl August Barack. Freiburg, Tübingen 1881, page 337. Digital full-text edition at Wikisource, [1] (version from August 18, 2016)
  3. ^ Called Bonne in France; see also Lords of Neuchâtel-Bourgogne in the French wikipedia
  4. s. Wagner p. 13
  5. s. Wagner p. 12
  6. s. Wagner p. 19
  7. s. Wagner p. 21
  8. s. Wagner pp. 32-36
  9. s. Wagner p. 39
  10. s. Wagner p. 44
  11. s. Wagner p. 47
  12. s. Wagner p. 69
  13. s. Baumgarten p. 16/17
  14. s. Baumgarten p. 17
  15. s. Wagner p. 146
  16. s. Wagner p. 260
  17. s. Wagner p. 261
  18. s. Wagner p. 270
  19. s. Wagner p. 273
  20. s. Wagner p. 275
  21. s. Wagner p. 276 and Baumgarten p. 23
  22. s. Vierordt pp. 215 and 309
  23. s. Wagner p. 195
predecessor Office successor
Wolfgang von Fürstenberg Count von Fürstenberg
(together with Friedrich II. )
Friedrich II.