An Assessment of Dieter IV:De mortuis nil nisi bene.
If this adagium is indeed true, many will argue that this paragraph should end right here. It certainly cannot be denied that Dieter’s reign proved a major disaster for the Empire, whereby the long-term effects of Marienburg’s secession probably even outweigh the destruction inflicted by Grom’s Waaagh
. Much of the responsibility falls to Dieter himself, not really because of incompetence, but because of egotism. This seems to have been his major character flaw. He was not interested in state affairs or the defence of the realm, but in comfort and luxury, art and architecture. His main fault is the failure to recognise that the first is the prerequisite for the latter: its neglection will in the end ruin both.
1. The Empire after the Waaagh
: destitute and in ruins. Note Grom's fleet in the background being ravaged by the storm and swept out to the Western Ocean. The angel indicates that the storm is being interpreted as the divine wrath of Sigmar.
The Arch-Chancellor Johann of Nuln seems to have blamed this on Dieter’s roots, as he was overheard on many an occasion muttering in despair: “What else to expect from a shoeless Stirlander?”. Presumably he meant that as relatively poor and provincial Stirlanders, the Krieglitzers were ill equipped to deal with a rise from rags to riches (or as the Stirlanders themselves say “from shoeless to slip-shoes”.2
In addition, he may have been referring to the joke that Stirlanders wear no shoes because they would in any case “völlig neben den Schuhen stehen
” (stand completely beside their shoes), i.e.
to be confused. Or in short: shoeless=clueless.
If Dieter IV lacked good judgment, he does not seem to have lacked good taste – and we do not mean his gluttony. His generous patronage of arts and architecture sparked off somewhat of a renaissance, The sad irony is the same policies ensured that this renaissance was very short-lived indeed – sometimes literally. Many of the artists and architects he sponsored were killed and most of their works destroyed in a Waaagh
, which might have been prevented, if the defence of the realm had not been neglected.
As ruler, Dieter IV was ineffective and irresponsible; as a man self-centred and self-indulging. He was the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he was not evil, cruel or malicious. His reign was not marred by terror or atrocities (at least not his own). He is not known to have ordered the torture or murder of his enemies, let alone innocents. Neither did he maltreat his kin, his servants or the common man. Although he raised taxes for his extravagancies, they were not collected with undue harshness. The few times he presided over the Imperial Court, his judgements were sound and just.
This forgotten side of Dieter IV was apparently also recognised by Wilhelm III, who put him under only the mildest form of house arrest, instead of eliminating once and for all this potential threat to his throne.
3. The last (extant) portrait of Dieter IV by Hannes Hohlbein
1. From Breve trattato delle afflittioni d'Italia et del conflitto di Roma con pronosticatione. (1525) Spencer Collection Ms. 081, f. 3v
3. Note that slip-shoes are about the cheapest footwear available!
3. Portrait of Henry VIII (by or after Hans Holbein ca. 1540), National Gallery, London Digression: The Imperial Menagerie
As the most visible and known legacy of Dieter IV, it seems proper to add some words here about the Imperial Menagerie. In 2503, the famous artist Albrecht Dierer visited Altdorf and wrote in his diary: Ich hab gesehen ins Kaysers Haus zu Altdorf hinten hinaus die Brunnen, Labyrinth, Thiergarten, daß ich lustiger Ding, mir gefälliger, gleich einem Paradies, nie gesehen hab.
(I saw in the Emperor’s house in Altdorf out at the back the fountains, labyrinth, menagerie; a more enjoyable and attractive thing, like a Paradise, I have not seen.)
The diary also contained these drawings of the grounds and some of the animals in the Imperial menagerie:
1.Note the joustig area and the labyrinth in the foreground.
Dierer also made this etching of the Monstrous Sow of Landser, a pig possessing a single head with two tongues and 4 ears, two bodies and 8 legs.
Last but not least, he made this woodcut of two of the major attractions: the Abomination of Stirland and the Spawn of Hochland.
5.The Emperor himself is giving a guided tour to foreign dignitaries, who are suitably impressed. The Abomination (known by its caretakers as Mathi) can easily be identified as a chaos hydra.
Albrecht Dierer himself has not left us a picture of the Imperial dragon – most likely because the animal was still injured from a fight with a lion, some days before. However, this incident, in which one caretaker was killed and several injured, was captured by a Tilean artist.
6. 1-2. Albrecht Dürer: The Menagerie at the Coudenberg Palace in Brussels and some of its animals. Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien. The quote in the text (adjusted) is from Albrecht Dürers Tagebuch der niederländischen Reise (1521).
3. Albrecht Dürer: Rhinoceron (1515). British Museum, London.
4. Albrecht Dürer: Die wunderbare Sau von Landser (1496). Metropolitan Museum, New York.
5. Albrecht Dürer: The Revelation of St John, scene 11 (1498). Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe.
6. Leonardo da Vinci: Dragon fighting with lion. Uffizi, Firenze.