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The History of the Empire as Depicted in the Art of the Time

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Fidelis von Sigmaringen:
As a spin-off from another thread, I will try to illustrate the history of the Empire under the Holswig-Schliestein Dynasty with contemporary pictures and paintings. Comments, corrections and suggestions are more than welcome.

Chronology of dates and events relevant to this History.1

1152-2304: Age of  Wars 

The Tree of War

Sigmar looks in horror how the Empire devours itself during the Age of Wars. In the treetop, the elected Emperor (in gold) tries to ward off the Ottilian Counter-Emperor (in black). To the left, the Grand Theogonist (in red) is fighting the Ar-Ulric (in blue). Elsewhere, the various social classes are warring amongst themselves. Illumination from the treatise Arbor Bellorum by Honorius Beckstein (ca. 2450), Imperial Library, Altdorf.2

* 1360: Ottilia I proclaims herself Empress;  Ottilian Counter-Empire 1360-2304
* 1547: Heinrich of Middenland proclaims himself Emperor.
* 1547-2304: Age of the Three Emperors
2304- : the Empire re-united
2304-2369: Reign of Magnus von Bildhofen (the Pious), who reunites the Empire.
2369-2401: Reign of Leopold Krieglitz
2401-2429: Reign of Dieter IV Krieglitz, grandson of Leopold

* 2410-2424: Waaagh of the Goblin Warboss Grom the Paunch. Grom’s huge army first attacks Dwarf territory. In response of a Dwarven request for support, Dieter IV moves the capital from Nuln to Altdorf to remove the court from the threat, but does nothing to remove the threat itself. From 2020 onwards, the Waaagh lays waste to the Empire. In 2424, his fleet, build to attack Marienburg from the sea, destroys the Imperial Navy, but a storm ravages the Orcs, driving them to the open sea and ultimately Ulthuan.
* 2429: Dieter IV grants independence to Marienburg. As a result, he is deposed by the Elector Counts, who elect in his stead
2429- Reign of Wilhelm III.

* 2429: After the inconclusive First Campaign against Marienburg, Wilhelm III defeats his rival Frederik of Talabheim in the “War of Succession”. The Golden Bull of Talabheim introduces reforms and secures his position as Emperor. 
2502: Karl Franz elected Emperor.

1. A more detailed Chronology of the Empire from official and unofficial sources can be found in:
2. Honoré Bovet, Arbre des Batailles, Illumination by Loyset Liédet, (1461-1467), ms. 9079, fol. 10v, Koninklijke Bibliotheek Brussel.

Prelude: Emperor Dieter IV and the end of the Stirland Dynasty

After the death of Emperor Magnus (2369), the crown did not pass to his brother, Gunther von Bildhofen, but to Elector Count Leopold von Krieglitz of the Stirland House of Unfähiger. In 2411, his grandson Dieter succeeded him, but proved to be a vain, corrupt, ineffective, and incompetent ruler, earning him the nicknames der Fette (the Fat) and der Faule (the Lazy/Idle).

1.Emperor Dieter IV with full regalia

His focus was the reconstruction of Nuln, the Imperial capital at the time, as a grandiose and beautiful metropolis. Nearly half of the city was demolished to create space for the Palace of Gold. He also neglected the defence of the Empire, diverting funds from the Imperial military towards his extravagant building plans.

2. The Psalter of Dieter IV.

This is the first page of a Psalter was produced by Johannes Mallard and presented to the Emperor when still residing in Nuln. Dieter, reading the Psalter in the lavish surroundings of the Palace of Gold, is looking to the reader – who was of course himself! The Classical text reads: Beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum, et in via peccatorum non stetit, et in cathedra pestilentiæ non sedit (Blessed is the man who does not guide his steps by ill counsel, or turn aside where sinners walk, or, where scornful souls gather, sit down to rest). Dieter himself has added in the margin: Nota quis sit beatus (Look who is blessed) - an extraordinary display of smugness and vanity!

1. Henry VIII on an illuminated plea roll of the Court of the King's Bench from 1544. Public Record Office, London.
2. Henry VIII’s Psalter, London c. 1540, by Jean Mallard or Mallart. The British Library, London

Fidelis von Sigmaringen:
Due to Dieter’s policies, the Empire was largely unprepared in the face of the Waaagh! Grom (2420-2024). The Dwarfs were the first to bear the brunt of the Greenskin onslaught, and, hard pressed, High King Bragarik sent an envoy to the Empire for help. Dieter IV refused. Instead, although the enemy had yet to reach the Empire, he quickly transferred the Imperial court from Nuln towards Altdorf, in order to be as far as possible from the future threat. The Elector Counts were told to defend themselves. While Nuln and the Palace of Gold were soon destroyed and large parts of the Empire laid to waste, Dieter IV in Altdorf proved more interested in creating the Imperial Menagerie than in managing the Empire.

After the Waaagh!, much of the Empire lay waste, the economy was ruined and state revenues had virtually run dry. For his unending plans of luxury, Dieter had to find new means of income. He looked to Marienburg, which had been largely spared from the war. 

In 2429, Emperor Dieter IV visited Marienburg receiving a magnificent welcome. In the fields before the Oostenpoort, the most elaborate arrangements for the accommodation of the Emperor and his large retinue, had been erected, including a temporary palace, modeled on the Palace of Gold in Nuln (destroyed in the Waaagh). The Emperor would have wept when he first saw the replica.
Because of the sumptuousness of the materials used for the tents, pavilions and other furnishings, the terrain became known as “the Field of the Cloth of Gold”. He also received substantial bribes from the city, which was subsequently granted its independence.

1. The Field of the Cloth of Gold

The painting shows only the eastern part of Marienburg; the western part and the entrance of the river Reik are not visible. Various events are portrayed simultaneously. In the foreground, the Emperor enters Marienburg in procession through the Oostenpoort. To the right is the temporary Palace of Gold. Two fountains in front of the palace provided wine and beer for people's consumption (the overindulgence of which leads some of the figures in the painting being sick or engaging in brawling). Behind the temporary palace are the Emperor’s golden dining tent and the ovens and tents in which the his meals were prepared. In the centre background, the Emperor and the Directorate hold talks, and in the right background a tournament is taking place, with the Emperor and Staadtholder watching from the side.

The detail shows Emperor Dieter IV and  the Staadtholder of Marienburg, protected by Altdorf Halberdiers and preceded by the Imperial Champion, holding the Sword of Justice.

Although commissioned by Dieter himself, the anonymous painter seems to have included several subversive scenes, an indication of the general anger and indignation.

In the air, top left, one can see the young dragon2 procured by Marienburg from an unknown source. Not that it ever actually flew during the visit, the Directorate being far too concerned that it might fly away. It is said that this "gift" for the Imperial Menagerie, established by Dieter, really swayed the Emperor to release Marienburg from the Empire.
(Below the dragon is Rijker’s Isle with its fortifications, and in the distance the contours of Fort Reaver - probably just a scholarly reference, as it is highly  unlikely that it would ever be visible from Marienburg).

In this scene (right hand middle), a vehicle commonly used to transport bullion is speeding out of sight – a clear reference to the gold transports from Marienburg to Altdorf after the visit.

At the corner of the  jousting field stands a tree of honour, with coats of arms turning in the wind. Or in other words: turncoats. Note also that the tree of honour is barren.

Finally, a number of scenes can reasonably be interpreted as harlots conducting their business.  Hardly unknown at such occasions – but perhaps also a reference to the Empire selling its body?

1. The Field of the Cloth of Gold (anonymous painting, Flemish School, ca. 1545), Royal Collection.
On 7 to 24 June 1520, a meeting between Henry VIII (of England) and Francis I (of France) took place, near Guisnes to the south of Calais. The meeting became known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, because of the sumptuousness of the materials used for the tents, pavilions and other furnishings.

2. This ‘dragon’ was a kite made by the English from canvas stretched around wooden hoops. It was pulled across the sky at the end of a long rope tethered to a carriage. Eyewitnesses reported that the dragon’s eyes blazed and its mouth hissed which suggests that it might have been filled with fireworks.

Fandir Nightshade:
This is great stuff....

Prime stuff, best thing in years.


Fidelis von Sigmaringen:
The scandal of an entire Imperial province breaking away with the Emperor's permission was so shocking that the Elector Counts demanded Dieter to appear before them to answer to the charges  in an emergency meeting in the Volkshalle in Altdorf.  The Emperor chose not to appear, but fled the city instead. As a result, the outraged Electors unanimously deposed Dieter IV .

1. From the Decree of Disposition (Reichstagsakten III, Nr. 204):

--- Quote ---In Sigmars namen. Wir Johann von Sigmars gnaden erczlector der heiligen kirchen zu Nulne des heiligen richs erczkanczeler.

(…) als unser herren und middekorfursten des heiligen richs und auch wir von (…)den durchluchtigen fursten hern Dieter kaiser und kurfürst von Stirland von langer czijt here dicke und ernstlich davon ermanet und ersucht han (…) daz er dem heiligen riche ny zu fridden gehulffen hait (…) daz yme als eynem voygde und schirmer des riches zubehorte (…).

So hait er auch daz heilige rich swerlich und schedelichen entgledet und entgleden laßen, nemelich Marienburg und daz Westerland, daz deme heiligen riche zugehoret und daz riche großen nucz und urber davon gehabt hait, darinne der von Nordland eyn dyner und amptmann ist des heiligen richs, den er nu widder gelt synen titel und gelimp genommen.

Und wir Johann erczlector vorgenant, Sigmar zu dem ersten angeruffen, in gerichtes stad geseßen in namen und wegen unsere vorgeschriben herren und middekorfursten des heiligen richs und auch unser selbes umbe diße egenanten und andere vile großer gebresten und sachen uns darczu bewegende abethun und abeseczen mit dißem unserme orteil, daz wir thun und geben in dißer schrifft, den vorgenanten hern Dieter als eynen unnüczen, versümelichen, unachtbaren entgleder und unwerdigen hanthaber des heiligen richs von demselben riche und von alle der wirde, eren und herlichkeid darczu gehörende und verkundigen darumbe allen fursten, herren, ritteren, knechten, Steden, landen und luden des heiligen richs, daz sy nu furbaßer ire eyde und hulde, die sy des vorgenannten hern Dieter personen als von des heiligen richs wegen gethan hant, zumal und genczlichen ledig sint (…).
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---In the name of Sigmar. We Johann by the grace of Sigmar Archlector of the Holy Church in Nuln, Arch-Chancellor of the Holy Empire of Sigmar.

(...) our Lords and fellow Elector Counts and we too have the illustrious prince, lord Dieter, Emperor and Elector Count of Stirland, since long often and in earnest admonished (…) and urged (…) that he failed to restore the peace in the Holy Empire, which befalls on him as steward and protector of the Empire ( …)

That he also has severely and to its great detriment dismembered  the Holy Empire, namely Marienburg  and the Westerland which belong to the Holy Empire and which are of great gain and benefit to the Empire, and furthermore deprived for money the Lord of Nordland, a servant and official of the Holy Empire of his title and rights.

And we Johann, aforementioned Archlector, having first called upon Sigmar, sitting in judgement in the name of and for our Lords Electors of the Empire and also ourselves, for these and many other serious errors and matters dethrone and depose with this our judgment that we pronounce and give in this decree Lord Dieter as a useless, lazy, careless dismemberer and unworthy caretaker of the Holy Empire from the same Empire and all its related honours, titles and glories, and announce therefore to all the princes, nobles, knights, servants, cities, lands and peoples that they from now are released utterly and completely from their oath and allegiance which they have made to the person of the aforementioned Lord Dieter as well as because of the Holy Empire (…).

--- End quote ---

Copies of the Decree, signed and sealed by all the Electors (except, of course, Dieter IV) were immediately sent to all provinces and city-states of the realm. Dieter first tried to find shelter in Nuln and then Stirland, but both refused. Some say that this was in fact Dieter's choice, as, still suffering from the destructions of the war, they could not provide the shelter of luxury Dieter was looking for.

In another twist of the political wheel, however, he found refuge in Talabheim (v. infra), where he stayed under virtual house arrest, until his death in 2434. Never acknowledging his deposition, he insisted to the last to be called “Imperial Highness”. But true to character, he never attempted to regain the throne. Although the story goes that he choked on a fishbone from a Marienburg goldfish, he probably died of a stroke in his sleep.

2. Dieter in his later years, playing the harp with his jester (in reality a spy of Wilhelm III).

1. Mutatis mutandis otherwise verbatim from the Decree of Disposition of Wenceslaus III (1400) Reichstagsakten III, Nr. 204, p. 254 ff.
2. Henry VIII’s Psalter, London c. 1540. The British Library, London


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