Werner von Urslingen

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Werner von Urslingen (Italian: Guarnieri d'Urslingen or Duca Guarnieri; c. 1308 – 1354) was a German mercenary.

Biography[edit]

He was born at Irslingen, in Irslingen Swabia, a member of the family of the dukes of Urslingen, and probably a descendant of the dukes of Spoleto. In 1338 he fought for the Republic of Venice against Mastino II della Scala of Verona. After the end of the conflict he entered the Compagnia di San Giorgio, financed by the Veronese and led by Lodrisio Visconti. He took part in the battle of Parabiago.

From 1342 he was at the service of the Republic of Pisa in the war against Florence, whose troops were led by Malatesta III Malatesta. Afterwards he collected a troop of adventurers under the name "Great Company", and with which he plundered Tuscany, Umbria, Romagna. There he supported Francesco Ordelaffi against the Papal States. Here he was bribed by his enemy, Malatestino Malatesta of Rimini, to help him in his feud with Ferrantino Malatesta. In 1343 he was hired by Taddeo Pepoli of Bologna for a very large sum, to fight against Obizzo III d'Este of Modena; he however switched to the Este side and moved to ravage several cities, including Correggio. The company was subsequently expelled from the Ferrara area, and von Urslingen returned to Germany with parts of his troops.

In 1347 he returned to Italy. He then entered the service of Louis I the Great, king of Hungary and Poland, whom he assisted to obtain possession of Naples. von Urslingen's troops defeated Louis, Prince of Taranto (Joan's husband) near Naples, and Louis of Hungary was able to enter Naples; the following year, however, Werner was accused of collaboration with Joan, and arrested. After having been freed, he entered the service of the Caetani of Fondi with 3,000 men, to attack the Orsini at Supino. In 1348 he sacked and destroyed Anagni: this spurred Perugia and other communes to muster an army against him, and Werner, whose troops had also been struck by plague, was forced to retire. He then passed under the Papal States, for which he conquered several territories, and then to Joan of Naples, whom he helped to return in Naples. In 1349, after a period of operations in Apulia (of which he was named viceroy), he was ambushed by the voivoda of Transylvania, Stephen Laczkfy and defeated. Werner mustered an army of 3,000 Hungarian, German and Neapolitan knights and 2,000 Lombard infantry to counter Stephen, defeating him before Naples.

In 1350 he allied with Giovanni di Vico to ravage the Papal fiefs in northern Latium. In the same period he signed an agreement with Louis of Taranto to cede him Capua, Aversa and other strongholds in the Kingdom of Naples. Werner subsequently fought for the lords of Forlì and Faenza against the papal legate, and, hired by Giacomo Pepoli of Bologna, helped him to return in his city, not before sacking it. After Bologna was sold back to the Visconti, Werner besieged it, but was defeated by Galeazzo II Visconti's army.

In 1351 his company was unable to find any contract, until he was hired by Mastino II della Scala and then by the Visconti. Later, he returned to Swabia, where he died in 1354. After his death, the leadership of the Grand Company went to Fra' Moriale.

He is said to have worn a breastplate with the inscription, "The enemy of God, of pity and of mercy."

Sources[edit]

  • Rendina, Claudio (1999). I capitani di ventura. Rome: Newton & Compton. ISBN 88-8289-056-2.