War of the Lüneburg Succession

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The War of the Lüneburg Succession (German: Lüneburger Erbfolgekrieg) was a conflict that broke out in 1370 in north Germany and lasted, with interruptions, for 18 years. The war was over the line of succession to the Principality of Lüneburg. Due to a serious illness in 1388, possibly a result of poisoning, one of the combatants could no longer prosecute the war, and hostilities ended.

Background[edit]

After William II of Lüneburg died in 1369 without a male heir, the Old House of Lüneburg died out. In accordance with the rules of the House of Welf and William's wishes, Magnus Torquatus of Brunswick (Magnus II) was the rightful heir. But the Emperor, Charles IV, considered that the imperial fiefdom (Reichslehen) fell to the Empire and enfeoffed Albert of Saxe-Wittenberg and his uncle Wenceslas with the principality, thus precipitating the Lüneburg War of Succession.

The fighting[edit]

Because Magnus II of Brunswick (Magnus Torquatus) could not assert his claim to the Welf Duchy of Lüneburg by peaceful means, he initiated hostilities and seized Lüneburg with 700 knights and their pages. In the fight that now ensued, which Magnus now prosecuted principally through the Ascanian Duke, Albert of Saxe-Wittenberg (who was promised Lüneburg), the towns of Lüneburg, Harburg, Winsen an der Luhe, Uelzen and Hanover went over to Albert. Fighting then shifted to the vicinity of Wolfsburg Castle. By 1371/72 the Brunswick duke had had Neuhaus Castle built as a siege castle. On 24 June 1372 the opposing forces clashed on the field of battle near the village of Heßlingen, but the outcome was undecided. In 1906, a mass grave with 72 dead was discovered in the village. In 1373, Duke Magnus was killed in a battle near Leveste am Deister on 25 July.

Settlement[edit]

After the death of Magnus II, an arrangement was agreed between Prince-Elector Wenceslas and his nephew, Albert, on the one hand and the widow of Magnus II and her sons on the other. It was agreed that the land would belong, undivided, to the two Ascanians from Wittenberg and, after their deaths, would be transferred to the sons of the fallen duke, Magnus II. And that it should continue to alternate after the deaths of the Welfs, i.e. the succession would pass to the Ascanians again. In order that this plan could also be reinforced by family ties, in 1374 Albrecht of Saxe-Lüneburg married the widow of Magnus II, Catharina and chose Celle as his home, which he made a residence in 1378. The two still underage sons also married into the House of Ascania in 1386. Duke Frederick of Brunswick-Lüneburg married Duchess Anna of Saxe-Wittenberg a daughter of Prince-Elector Wenceslas, and Duke Bernard of Brunswick-Lüneburg was wedded to Duchess Margaret of Saxony, also a daughter of Wenceslas.

Continuation and end of hostilities[edit]

But trouble flared up time and again in the land and violaters of the peace treaty rampaged through the duchy, killing and burning. In 1385 Ricklingen Castle, where the robber barons of Mandelsloh were based, was besieged. When a catapult hurled a mighty boulder at the forces of Duke Albert, he was struck by it and died as a result on 28 June 1385.

Magnus' sons now took over the reins of power in Lüneburg. Prince-Elector Wenceslas, who held the title according to imperial law, tried to enlist his son-in-law, Bernard, to his cause. But the latter's brother, Duke Henry of Brunswick-Lüneburg, did not support his ruling and after fruitless attempts at an agreement the war flared up again in spring 1388. Wenceslas had put an army together by himself, in the absence of Bernard, in which he was supported by the town of Lüneburg. Leaving Winsen an der Aller he planned to attack Celle, which was held by Henry and his mother. During the preparations Wenceslas became seriously ill. Legend has it that he was probably poisoned. Either way, he could not continue the war, so that on 28 May 1388 Henry was finally victorious.

Sources[edit]

  • Wilhelm Havemann: Geschichte der Lande Braunschweig und Lüneburg. 3 Bände. Nachdruck. Hirschheydt, Hannover 1974/75, ISBN 3-7777-0843-7 (Originalausgabe: Verlag der Dietrich'schen Buchhandlung, Göttingen 1853-1857)
  • Hans Patze (Begr.): Geschichte Niedersachsen. 7 Bände. Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover 1977- (Publications by the Historic Commission for Lower Saxony and Bremen