Teutonic Knights

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Teutonic Knight with sword

The Teutonic Order (German: Deutscher Orden or Deutschherrenorden) or Teutonic Knights (German: Deutschritterorden) is a 1190 founded Roman Catholic religious order of once crusading knights famous for their crusades and campaigns in the Holy Land, Hungary, Prussia and Lithuania. They conquered and created a Theocratic State in north-Eastern Europe where they ruled for 400 years.

I promise the chastity of my body, and poverty, and obedience to God, Holy Mary, and to you, the Master of the Teutonic Order, and your successors, according to the rules and practices of the Order, obedience unto death. ~ Oath sworn upon admission into the Teutonic Order.

Martin Luther's Reformation affected the Teutonic Order significantly. In 1525, Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg converted to the Lutheran faith. He then was enfoeffed by the King of Poland as Duke of Prussia. As a medieval, crusading entity, the German Order essentially ended at this time. In 1526, the Teutonic Order Master of the German lands became the "Administrator of the Grandmastery in Prussia and Master in German and Romance Countries." Mergentheim became the main seat of the Order.[1]

Origins - Middle East

The Siege of Acre, 1291
A Teutonic Knights image from West Prussia, showing at top left the Arms of Thorn and top right the Arms of Danzig. The Marienburg castle is also shown, all possessions of the Teutonic Order.

The background to the formation of the Deutscher Orden or Teutonic Order was the Third Crusade (1189-92), the effort by the three most powerful monarchs of Catholic Western Europe to regain Jerusalem for Christiandom. For the German Imperial participants this was something of a disaster even before reaching the Holy land and amongst the remnant arriving to take part in the siege of Acre were the men who established a field hospital, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In March 1198 their new hospital in Acre was granted Papal recognition as an independent military order, the Tratres Domus hospitalis sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum (Brethren or Brothers of the German Hospital of St. Mary) or Hospitale Sanctae Marie Theutonicorum Jerosolimitanum (Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem), which organisation became better known as the Teutonic Knights.[2]

The Order's inspiration was the hospital founded by German pilgrims and crusaders between 1120 and 1128 but destroyed following the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. With the coming of the knights of the Third Crusade two years later, including a large proportion of Germans, a new hospital was built outside Acre to succor those wounded in the siege. This was constructed on a plot near the Saint Nicholas gate from the timbers and sails of the ships that had transported them to the Holy Land. Although this foundation had no connection with the earlier hospital, its example may have inspired them and, keen to restore Christian rule in Jerusalem, they adopted the city as part of their name, along with that of the Virgin Mary, the Order's principal Patron. The knights later adopted Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, giving her the status of their second patron after her canonization in 1235 and, like so many chivalric Orders, also honored Saint George, the patron of chivalry and knighthood. The new institution was confirmed by one of the German leaders, Duke Frederick of Swabia, on 19 November, 1190, and, with the capture of Acre, the founders of the hospital were given a permanent site in the city. Pope Clement III confirmed this body as the "fratrum Theutonicorum ecclesiae S. Mariae Hiersolymitanae" by the Bull Quotiens postulatur of February 6, 1191 and, within a few years, the Order had developed as a Religious Military institution comparable to the Hospitallers and Templars, although initially subordinate to the Master of the Hospital. This subordination was confirmed in the Bull Dilecti filii of Pope Gregory IX of January 12, 1240 addressed to the "fratres hospitalis S. Mariae Theutonicorum in Accon". The distinct German character of this new Hospitaller Order and the protection given to it by the Emperor and German rulers, enabled it to gradually assert a de facto independence from the Order of Saint John. The first Imperial grant came from Otto IV who gave the Order his protection on May 10, 1213 and this was followed almost immediately by a further confirmation by Frederick II on September 5, 1214. These Imperial confirmations each treated the Teutonic knights as independent from the Hospitallers. By the middle of the fourteenth century this independence was acknowledged by the Holy See.[3]

Although never as rich nor as influential as the largely Western Frankish or French Order of Templars or the more mixed Knights Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights acquired lands within the Crusader States in the Middle East, mostly in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and established a military presence within the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia, their ally. The Order's most important site was Montfort Castle in northern Palestine, which became its headquarters in 1230. In 1244, however, this new Order was almost wiped out by the forces of the Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt at the battle of La Forbie, near Gaza. Jerusalem was also lost, and in 1271 Montfort fell to the new Mameluk rulers of Egypt and Syria. The Order moved its headquarters to Acre but it too fell in 1291, and these defeats effectively marked the end of the Teutonic Knights' power in the Middle East.[4] In 1291 the knights headquarters were re-established in Venice under Conrad von Feuchtwangen who was elected Hochmeister or Grand Master.

The Teutonic Knights' campaigns in the Middle East and Hungary were essentially the same as those of other Western European military forces. In the Baltic region, however, things tended to be different because of the climate, terrain and the opponents they faced. The winters obliged the crusaders to learn new strategies and tactics. Summer floods or sudden winter thaws could trap armies without hope of relief. In addition, war with the pagans, who were considered wild barbarians by their appearance, tactics and for their atrocities against those captured, meant ruthlessness became the order of the day on all sides. Knights were burnt alive in their armour and the Lithuanian defenders of Pilene, in 1336, even killed their own wives, children, and then each other, rather than surrender.[5]

The Baltic crusades also had a naval dimension as the coasts and islands came under Christian control and the Teutonic Knights began to make use of larger ships to move men and supplies early in the 13th century.[6]


Coat of Arms with the Imperial Eagle (Reichsadler) of the Holy Roman Empire


Since the mid-12th century Germans (mainly Saxons) had been encouraged by the Kings of Hungary to colonise south-eastern Transylvania, a primitive, sparsely-populated and autonomous region which had as its neighbour across the Carpathian Mountains, Wallachia. In 1241 the area was over-run by Mongols and the Cuman Turks. The Teutonic Knights arrived in Burzenland in Transylvania only seven years after the Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) at the invitation of Andrew II King of Hungary, and proceeded to erect wooden fortresses, then stone castles. However, by 1225 the King, facing resistance from a powerful group of his own barons, expelled the Knights.


Grand Master (1210-1239) Hermann von Salza
Teutonic Knight II.jpg

In 1223, the Tartars invaded Russia, and in 1226 Conrad, the autonomous Duke of Masovia, also in difficulty with constant marauding raids over his territory by the heathen old Prussian tribes, asked the religious military order of the Teutonic Knights for their help to conquer the Prussians. He agreed to offer the Order a sweetener, the small frontier territory around the settlement of Culm (Chełmno). However, in return for the Order's services, Grand Master Hermann von Salza wanted to have its rights legally documented beforehand, by treaty, that was to be confirmed by the Holy Roman Emperor and the Roman Curia. Therefore:

Emperor Frederick II issued in March 1226 the Golden Bull of Rimini[7], stating that:

"Brother Konrad had offered and promised to furnish brother Herrmann, Honorable Master of the Holy Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem (Teutonic Order).. with the Culmensis[8] Land between his march and the Prussians and equip them (T.O.) well, so they may take Preussenland (Terra Prussiae) in possession... we recognize the fact, that this land is included in the realm of the empire, we trust the judgement of the Master... we recognize all land in Prussia as an ancient right of the empire ...".[9]

Conrad decided to make one last attempt at subduing the Prussians, and on the suggestion of Bishop Christian of Oliva (outside Danzig), in 1228 Conrad founded his own Order of the Knights of Dobrzyń, for another Prussian Crusade - and was again defeated. In view of a now imminent Prussian invasion, Conrad signed the Treaty of Kruszwica in 1230, according to which he formally granted Kulm province to the Teutonic Knights, and the remnants of the Order of Dobrzyń were incorporated into the Teutonic Order. By this donation, disclaiming any overlordship in relation to Kulm, Conrad acknowledged the forthcoming establishment of the Theocratic State of the Teutonic Order (Prussia lay outside his borders in any event). The Knights, under the command of Hermann Balk, now crossed the Vistula river into Kulm. Within a few years the Order's first castles began to appear: Thorn was built in 1231, Marienwerder (1233), and then Elbing secured the line of the river Vistula in 1237. In 1234 Pope Gregory IX issued the Golden Bull of Rieti, confirming Conrad's treaty with the Teutonic Knights, and stating that the lands conquered by the Order were to be theirs, and were only subject to the Pope, and not a fief of any other monarch (effectively cancelling HRE Emperor Frederick's 1226 claim of overlordship of Prussia).

In 1236 the Livonian Order of the Brothers of the Sword had been heavily defeated by the pagan Lithuanians at Saule and its remnants were thereafter incorporated into the Teutonic Order who thus inherited their territories; by 1239 the Order controlled 100 miles of the Baltic coast in addition to a considerable area of the interior. In 1242 the Order, led by Bishop Hermann of Estonia with Danish allies were defeated at Lake Peipus by the Russian Prince of Novgorod; and taking advantage of this the native Prussians rose up in an unsuccessful but bloody rebellion against the rule of the Teutonic Knights. In 1244-5 Pope Innocent IV again recognised and confirmed the rule of the Order and authorised them to conduct a permanent crusade against pagans and 'schismatics', granting full indulgences to all who went to Prussia to crusade with the Order[10], and his successor Pope Alexander IV "awarded them everything they could conquer"[11].

In 1254 Ottokar II King of Bohemia, Count Rudolf von Habsburg and Otto of Brandenburg, with accompanying knights, joined forces with the Teutonic Knights to again defeat the old Prussians and harrass the Lithuanians. The Order then founded a new fortress on the Pregel river which they named Königsberg, in honour of King Ottokar. In 1259 the Tartars raided deep into Prussia and inflicted heavy losses on the Order, and the Papacy put great effort into the development of a sophisticated system of communications in the East to keep an eye on the threat from the Tartars.[12] Taking advantage of this this the following year the Lithuanians defeated a detachment of the Order at Durben, and the native Prussians again unsuccessfully rebelled; by 1283 the Prussians were completely crushed and pacified.[13]


Following the death of independent Pomerelia's Duke Swantopolk in 1266, his sons fought each other bitterly. One, Wartislaw, now 'Duke of Danzig', enjoyed the support of the Order. His brother, Duke Mestwin, however, offered Danzig to the Margrave of Brandenburg if he would support him! Brandenburg, welcoming the opportunity to extend its rule to the mouth of the Vistula, occupied Danzig in 1271. When Mestwin regretted his bargain, he obtained the help of Duke Boleslav of Great Poland, reconquered Danzig, punishing severely the good burghers and noblemen who had done homage to the Margrave. Upon Mestwin's death in 1294 the first personal union took place between Pomerelia and the Duke of Poland under Mestwin's successor Przemyslav, Duke of Pomerelia, (later King of Poland). This was short-lived, and upon his death two years later, the several ducal contestants for the rule of Pomerelia called upon their neighbours, Margrave Otto IV of Brandenburg (a nephew of Bohemia's King Ottokar II) and the Teutonic Order, for assistance.[14] The Order considered the capture of the adjoining territories to the west would allow them to join their Prussian territories with Germany proper. In 1308 the Margrave of Brandenburg launched a new attack upon Pomerelia and its capital, Danzig. Realising the Brandenburgers were unable to win or at least consolidate it without them, the Knights now drove out the Brandenburgers, captured Danzig and also Dirschau, and ultimately annexed Pomerelia. The Poles fought on against all concerned in continuing skirmishes. The following year the Order moved its headquarters from Venice to Marienburg Castle, south of Danzig, which would remain the symbol of the Order's greatness for the next two centuries.[15][16]

In 1320 Polish King Wladislav engaged in a lengthy and bizarre lawsuit at Avignon against the Teutonic Order over Pomerelia, which failed. His war with the Order brought more loss than gain. His only son, Casimir III, abandoned the hopeless war with the Teutonic Order and consented to the Treaty of Kalisz in 1343 ceding Poland's claims to Pomerelia and Kulm.[17]


In 1343 King Waldemar IV of Denmark accepted 10,000 marks from the Livonian Teutonic Order for Danish Estonia which then became a dependency of the Order until 1562. In 1402 the Teutonic Order purchased the province of Newmark from Jobst, Margrave of Brandenburg.


Poland in 1370 at the death of Casimir 'the Great', showing his annexations of his neighbours' territories. Silesia and Sweidnitz were not part of Poland, and the territories south-east of the Duchy of Cracow were invaded and conquered by Poland.
Eastern Europe c1386.jpg

Prussia became a major showplace for fourteenth-century chivalry, visited by knights from England, Scotland, France, and Italy, men who had seen every monarch and tournament champion. Such knights returned to Prussia for a second, third and fourth crusade.[18]

After the total subjection of Prussia and seeing off the Tartars, the Order's primary foe was to revert to Lithuania, the last pagan state in Europe "pestilential enemies of Christ"[19]. The Lithuanians had skirmished intermittently with both Mazovia and the Order for many years, but their military campaigns against their eastern neighbours had been much more successful. An example of a Lithuanian raid was against the island of Ösel early in 1270 across the frozen Gulf of Riga. Forewarned, an army of Knights, led by the Bishop of Leal, with some Danish help, was waiting but had a very hard battle, but during the night the Lithuanians fled. Campaigns against the Lithuanians largely relied upon traditional raid-and-devastate tactics, which had been typical of the Baltic region before the crusaders arrived. The most dreaded territory was the Grauden north-east of Königsberg, a sparsely-populated home of the Samogitian tribe. Usually no quarter was given but campaigning with the Order in 1329 King John of Bohemia insisted upon sparing the estimated 6,0000 Samogitians who surrendered to the Knights at Medewage. The Littauischen Wegeberiche ("Livonian Roads Books"), written between 1384 and 1402, described the routes between Prussia and Lithuania. There were campaigns against the pagan Lithuanians almost every year from 1283 until 1406, with the Lithuanians retaliating in kind usually in September.[20]

The 31-year rule of the Grand Master Winfrich von Kniprode from 1351 to 1382 saw the Lithuanian crusades at their height. The Order was usually joined in their crusades by knights from across Europe and the Holy Roman Empire[21], including Duke Albert III of Austria in 1337, and also from Britain where English aristocrats such as Henry, Earl of Derby (later King Henry IV of England), and diverse Scottish noblemen[22] joined the fray. In January 1352 a young Henry of Derby challenged King Casimir of Poland to combat. Henry had brought an army to fight the pagans with the Order but had been told that there could be no expedition because the King of Poland was making trouble over the boundary markings between Prussia and Poland. So he decided to put an end to this interference. Henry's bravado helped hasten a compromise but he was delayed in reaching Königsberg for the winter expedition.[23] Henry was back in Prussia in 1390 and spent the full year supporting an unsuccessful siege of Vilnius (capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) by the Teutonic Knights with 70 to 80 of his household knights. During this campaign he bought captured Lithuanian women and children and took them back to Königsberg to be converted to Christianity. Henry's next expedition to Lithuania in 1392 illustrates the financial benefits to the Order of these guest crusaders. His small army consisted of over 100 men, including longbow archers and six minstrels, at a total cost to the Lancastrian purse of £4,360 sterling. Despite the efforts of Henry and his English crusaders, two years of attacks on Vilnius proved fruitless. In 1392–93 Henry undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he made offerings at the Holy Sepulchre and at the Mount of Olives.[24] Later he vowed to lead a crusade to 'free Jerusalem from the infidel,' but he died before this could be accomplished.[25] In 1394 Duke Philip of Burgundy wrote to the Hochmeister asking if there would be a crusade against the Lithuanians that or the following year and Marshal Boucicault of France, a veteran of the defeat at Nicopolis (1396), went to fight alongside the Teutonic Knights on three occasions during lulls in the Hundred Years War with England[26]; and in the summer of 1402 twenty four German nobles from Kulmerland campaigned with the Order in western Lithuania.[27]

Jogaila (c.1352/1362 – 1 June 1434) was Grand Duke of Lithuania 1377–1434 and was born a pagan, but in February 1386 converted to Roman Catholicism and was baptized as Władysław in Kraków, Poland. The French chronicler Monstrelet notes that he "had just recently pretended to become a Christian in order to win the Polish Crown". He had initially sought an alliance with the Teutonic Order during a civil war in Lithuania which brought him to that throne. Polish King Casimir 'the Great' died in 1370 without male heirs and Louis 'the Great', King of Hungary, succeeded him. However he died also without male heirs and his younger daughter Jadwiga (d.1399) became heiress to the throne of Poland. Jadwiga married Władysław (Jogaila or Jagiello) of Lithuania. He immediately decreed the abolition of all the ancient Lithuanian Gods and ordered mass baptisms into Christianity (which the Teutonic Order called a sham). It also removed the Order's raison d'etre for the crusades, which nevertheless continued as paganism continued to be practised in many parts of Lithuania. The loose royal union of these two countries, Lithuania then being the largest state in Europe, greatly increased the military threat to the Teutonic Order. In 1401 Jagiello's cousin Vytautas became Grand Duke of Lithuania with Jagiello as Supreme Prince (or feudal overlord) by formal agreement.[28]


Teutonic Order castles in Prussia
Theocratic State of the Teutonic Order in the 14th-15th centuries also showing the autonomous Prince-Bishoprics.

The Samogitians, whose frequently disputed territory lay arguably in western Lithuania, rebelled against the Teutonic Order with the open support of Duke Vytautas of Lithuania. Samogitia effectively constituted a corridor between Teutonic Prussia and Teutonic Livonia and had been bitterly contested. Jagiello himself had originally ceded Samogitian lands to the Order in 1382. The Order brutally suppressed the uprising. In 1404 the Order and Poland sought a peace treaty and Poland bought back the province of Dobrin (Dobrzyn) from the Order, who had agreed to the sale as a gesture of goodwill. In 1409 the Samogitians, however, started another rebellion. The Teutonic Order's spies reported that Vytautas was urging the Samogitians to 'seize Königsberg and drown the Knights' and a crisis arrived when the Order seized Jagiello's barges at Ragnit (on the Neiman or Memel river) which were transporting supplies and weapons to Samogitia. (Ragnit is in Prussia.)[29] Great Poland, Masuria, and Lithuania were all cut off from the Baltic coast and, like other landlocked countries such as Bohemia, relied upon river traffic to the Order's ports.


In response, in August 1409 the Order declared war on Poland and Lithuania, now allies. But after a few indecisive actions an armistice was brokered by Wenceslas, King of Bohemia (who was paid the sum of 60,000 florins by the Order), and signed, and due to last until at least the 24th June 1410 when it would be reviewed. However Poland-Lithuania had decided upon renewal of the war against the Order and began a diplomatic effort across Europe for support. In January 1410 their diplomats met with King Henry IV of England in London, to be told by him that he would never support them as he was "a child of Prussia"![30] Schismatic Novogorod and Pskov, and even Moldavia, promised to send a unit of troops to aid Poland. On 15 February 1410 Wenceslas, again in mediation, judged that if Dobrzyn was to go to Poland then the Order should retain Samogitia. When Poland-Lithuania expressed dissatisfaction with this, Wenceslas openly threatened to side with the Teutonic Order, whose diplomats were reporting back on Poland's war plans. Sigismund, King of Hungary, now secretly negotiated with the Order. In return for 30,000 ducats he would attack Poland from the south when the truce expired in June. Meanwhile there were constant skirmishes with the Poles and Lithuanians. Ready for action, Jagiello, and his cousin Vytautas, now gathered all their strength, with, in addition, huge numbers of Czech and other mercenaries, schismatics, and even pagan Tartars to fight "the soldiers of Christ". The encounter of the two great armies, the Polish-Lithuanian twice the size of the Order's[31] took place on July 15, 1410 at Tannenberg in Prussia. At first it appeared things were going in favour of the Order, being highly trained in warfare, but the tide gradually turned in favour of the larger force and ended in the Order's disastrous rout. The Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen was among the slain. The victors drew nearer together.[32][33] According to the imposed Peace of Thorn treaty in 1411[34], the Order had to pay penal financial indemnities to the victors. The renewal of a ravaging war by the Order from 1414 to 1422 made no considerable change and ended badly for the Order.

Thirteen Years War

In the 1420s, Grand Master Paul von Rusdorf brought stability to the Order and its relations. But to meet the indemnities demanded, the theocratic state imposed high taxes on their cities and towns to raise the funds. In 1430 a new revolt commenced in Lithuania, and the following year there was a fresh war between Poland and the Teutonic Order, both of which were won by Jagiello of Poland, who died in 1434. Poland then entered and lost the Turkish war with their defeat at Varna (1444), plus the loss there of their King Wladyslav III.

In 1440, under the burdens imposed to meet the 1411 financial indemnities, as well as continuing sporadic warfare, town burghers across the country formed the Prussian League in order to resist the Knights' authority. In 1454 the League appealed to the next King of Poland, Casimir IV (r.1447-92) for him to simply annex Prussia (and relieve them of the oppressive taxation). Encouranged, Casimir IV decided to abandon the Turkish wars and to resume the national war of aggression against the Teutonic Order in a decisive struggle. The consequent thirteen years' war was fought by all with ferocious mercenaries on both sides with customary devastation. In 1454 the Order, now very short of money, felt obliged to sell their province of Newmark back to Brandenburg to raise funds. In 1457 the Grand Master was expelled from his castle at Marienberg by unpaid Bohemian mercenaries (who were garrisoning the castle for the Order) and forced to settle with his retinue in the castle at Königsberg.[35] The Order was now losing ground and short of men and money, and following the Battle of Pluck (Płock) in Mazovia in 1462 the Knights' fortresses were taken in succession. By a second imposed Peace of Thorn in 1466[36] the Order's State was forced to become a vassal of the King of Poland as feudal overlord (much like Normandy was to France, and Scotland was to England before Robert the Bruce). Poland annexed outright Pomerelia. Danzig was permitted to retain her autonomy as a free Hanseatic city, as was the Prince-Bishopric of Ermland, but like the Order, to pay homage to the Polish Crown. The Slavs had finally triumphed.[37] The hard fought over Samogitia was also ceded to Lithuania. The defeat of the Teutonic Knights, whose fame, splendour, and authority was held in awe across western Europe was seen by most, especially in Germany, as a tragedy: "The best half of what German soldier, priest, missionary and trader had won had passed to the Pole".[38]

Prussia nevertheless continued as a Teutonic Order statelet with its own laws, customs and currency. Königsberg and Memel now became the Order's principal ports.


Albert von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, 1st Duke of Prussia

50 years later, in 1511, Albert von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and a nephew through his mother to King Sigismund of Poland, was elected Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. In about 1521/2 he sent Dietrich von Schönborn to England and Scotland professedly to ask for help in military expeditions against Poland, secretly, if secondarily, to devise a common plan for checking the growth of Protestantism.[39] However, he soon became a Lutheran and on 1 July 1526 he married Dorothea daughter of Frederick I, King of Denmark, dispensed with the mediaeval trappings of the Order, and transformed their theocratic state into a secular Duchy of Prussia (from 1618 in union with Brandenburg), establishing a secular university, the famous Albertina, in Königsberg. Meanwhile, between 1519–1521 Königsberg was unsuccessfully besieged by Polish Forces. This family collected innumerable territories and titles, especially through marriages, and became very powerful. The second great chapter of Brandenburg-Prussian history commences with the Thirty Years' War in 1618. On 21st June 1631 Brandenburg-Prussia joined the Protestant Swedish alliance. The Elector and Duke Georg Wilhelm I died at Königsberg on 1st December 1640, and the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648 closed the war leaving Brandenburg with the eastern half of Pomerania which had been ceded by Sweden. In 1655 the Second Northern War broke out, with Sweden's Charles X challenging Poland. In January 1656 by the Treaty of Königsberg the feudal overlordship of East Prussia was stripped from Poland and taken by Sweden. The same year, however, the Battle of Warsaw, July 18-20, took place between the armies of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Sweden-Brandenburg-Prussia, a major battle in the period 1655–1660, also known as 'The Deluge'. The ensuing Polish-Lithuanian defeat marked "the beginning of Prussian military history" in the modern era. The Elector-Duke now made further representations to the Swedish King for the recovery of the old Teutonic Order sovereignty and territory. By the Treaty of Labiau (Nov 1656), East Prussia and Ermeland were to be once more fully sovereign possessions of the Duke. The wars continued, and the Treaty of Oliva (1660) again confirmed to "The Great Elector" Friedrich-Wilhelm, a sovereign Duchy of Prussia, but minus the Prince-Bishopric of Elbing, which was, for the moment, withheld from Prussia, remaining a fief of Sweden.[40] This period finally marked the end of any [imposed] connexion by Poland to Prussia.

Administrators, traders and the arts

The Order adopted St.George and St.Elizabeth of Thuringia as their Patron Saints, and was governed by a Grand Master (Hochmeister), elected by the General Chapter of the professed Knights, and his Council of officials. Prussia and Livonia were under subordinate Landmeisters and were subdivided into Komtureien in charge of Houses of the Knights.[41] Like the other military orders the Teutonic Knights soon employed administrators and lawyers, particularly because of their complicated dual allegiance to Emperor and Pope, and because they became rulers of huge domains in the Baltic region. (Much of the Order's archives have survived.) They also encouraged learning and literacy and their most famous piece of literature is the Livonia Rhymed Chronicle written at the end of the 13th century, in which there is a description of the battle of Lake Peipus. Others include Peter von Dusburg's Chronicon Terre Prusse (c.1330) and the Krónike von Prúzinland (c.1340).[42] The Teutonic Knights liked secular literary works, but they favoured especially histories filled with battle, acts of valour, humorous incidents, and reflections on God's justice. Stories of warfare across the Samogitian frontier were detailed and explicit, offering lessons applicable to future combat. The Order's patronage of poets was generous. The Treasurer's Book at Marienburg (1399-1409) recorded numerous payments to joungleurs and fools, singers and orators, musicians and entertainers. Not only was the Grand Master of those years, Conrad von Jungingen, a patron of arts, but he needed performers to entertain visitors and crusaders from abroad. Numerous poems mention music, song, and dances. There was music for the frequent prayers and masses and choirs sang mass in the major convents.[43]

Commercially, the Order were great traders, notably with England, Scotland, and the Low Countries. Notices are not wanting of the brisk commercial intercourse between Scotland and Danzig and between Scotland and the Teutonic Order. For example, on 7 Dec 1401 Hochmeister Ulrich von Jungingen was petitioned by King Henry IV of England to afford the Scottish shipmasters then sailing to Prussia to bring home cargoes of food-stuffs, neither favour nor protection. The Order's administrators in Königsberg wrote to Scotland's Governor, the Duke of Albany, on 23 July 1418, with a request to order the restoration of goods confiscated (or impounded) there belonging to Königsberg merchants; the magistrates of Edinburgh petitioned the Hochmeister during the Thirteen Years War to make the city of Danzig raise the arrest against the goods of various Scottish merchants in Danzig. In 1475 a Scottish merchant, Jacob Wright, made purchases of cloth, velvet and damask for the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.[44]

From the outset the Order's territories were the chief possessions outside Germany proper and where the Drang nach Osten commenced with large numbers of German settlers. Nobles and burghers were the principal emigrants to Livonia. Germans of every class swarmed to Prussia, where the surviving tribes were Germanized. The nobles were given fiefs and formed an important part of the army. The town burghers received full autonomy and were allowed to join the Hanseatic League. The peasants, led by their locators, held their hereditary land by rent and services which were not onerous. For many years they were the most prosperous in Europe.[45]

End of military activities

The military history of the Teutonic Knights was to be ended in 1805 by the Article XII of the Peace of Pressburg, which ordered the German territories of the Knights converted into a hereditary domain and gave the Emperor of Austria responsibility for placing a Habsburg prince on its throne. Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the Knights' remaining territory to be disbursed to his German allies, which was completed in 1810. After Napoleons defeat (Battle of Leipzig) the German order decided to stay in Vienna and become solely a religious order with the official name "Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem".

The military branches of the Teutonic Knights were formally dissolved in Austria in 1923, though the Order continues to work as a charitable organisation of Roman Catholic priests ad sisters. Their extensive archive is in Vienna.[46]


According to this document, Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim became head or principal of the order on 12 February 1191 (MCXCI) on order of the Roman-German King Henry VI, who would be crowned Holy Roman Emperor on 15. April 1191, and of Pope Clement III. The first official Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights died, also according to this source, on 24 October 1200 (MCC).

Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order[47]

Abbot-General Frank Bayard, 66th Grand Master (Hochmeister) of the Teutonic Order since 22 August 2018; from 1530 until 1929 the official title of the General Superior was "Hoch- und Deutschmeister".
  • Meister Sibrand (1190)
    • Master Sibrand, as a follower of Adolf III of Holstein, was the founder of the hospital in Akkon, which was to become the base of the Teutonic Knights. For this reason, he is sometimes considered the "first Grand Master" of the order, even if it was only given recognition in 1192, and transformed into a military order in 1198. After the Fall of Acre in July 1191, the hospital was moved into the city and evolved into the permanent base of the Teutonic Order.
  • Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim (1191/98-1200)
    • from 1191 until 1198 his title was "praeceptor" or "prior" or "primariam" and was therefore head of the order.
  • Otto von Kerpen (1200-08)
  • Henrich Bart (1209-1210)
  • Hermann von Salza (1210-39)
  • Conrad von Thuringen (1239-40)
  • Gergard von Malberg (1241-44)
  • Heinrich von Hohenloe (1244-49)
  • Hunther von Wullersleben (1249-53)
  • Poppo von Osterna (1253-7)
  • Anno von Sangershausen (1257-74)
  • Hartmann von Heldrungen (1274-83)
  • Burchard von Schwanden (1283-90)
  • Conrad von Feuchtwangem (1291-97)
  • Gottfried von Hoenlohe (1297 - resigned 1303) H.Q. at Venice.
  • Siegfried von Feuchtwangen(1303-11) moved to Marienberg in 1309.
  • Karl von Trier (1311-24)
  • Werner von Orseln (1324 - assassinated Autumn 1331 at Marienberg)
  • Luther von Braunschweig (1331 - d.Autumn 1335 nr. Koenigsberg)
  • Dietrich von Altenberg (1335 - 1341/2)
  • Ludolf König (1342-45)
  • Heinrich Dusemer (1345-51)
  • Winrich von Kniprode (1352-82)
  • Conrad Zöllner von Rothenstein (1382-90)
  • Conrad von Wallenrode (1390-93)
  • Conrad von Jungingen (1393-1407)
  • Ulrich von Jungingen (1408 - k.15 July 1410 in Battle of Tannenberg)
  • Heinrich von Plauen (1410-13)
  • Michael Kuchmeister (1414-22)
  • Paul von Rusdorf (1422-41)
  • Conrad von Erlichshausen (1441-49)
  • Ludwig von Erlichshausen (1450-67)
  • Heinrich Reuss von Plauen (1469-70)
  • Heinrich von Richtenberg (1470-77)
  • Martin Truchsess von Wetzhausen (1477-89)
  • Johann von Tiefen (1489-97)
  • Friedrich von Sachsen (1498-1510)
  • Albert von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Duke of Prussia. (1511-25)
  • Walter von Cronberg (1527 to 1543)[48]

Some who campaigned with the Order

English crusaders with the Teutonic Order can be found in their individual entries in Plantagenet Ancestry[49].

  • Raoul d'Exoudun, a Seigneur in Poitou, etc. (at Acre 1190)
  • Ottokar II, King of Bohemia (Prussia 1254) (after whom Königsberg was named)
  • Count Rudolf von Habsburg (later King of Germany) (1254)[50]
  • Otto III, Margrave of Brandenburg (1254)
  • John von Luxemburg, King of Bohemia (1328/9, 1331, 1337, 1345)
  • Duke Albert III von Habsburg of Austria (1337) (married Elisabeth von Luxemburg)
  • Thomas de Holand, Earl of Kent, England (1340)
  • Duke Heinrich of Bavaria (1345)
  • Charles von Luxemburg, Margrave of Moravia (1345) (HRE from 1347)
  • Louis of Anjou, King of Hungary and Croatia from 1342 (1345), later King of Poland from 1370.
  • Count William 'the Bold' of Holland (1345)
  • Peter, Duke of Bourbon (1345)
  • Henry II ('of Iron') Count of Holstein (1345)
  • John II von Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg (1345)
  • Count of Schwarzenberg (1345)
  • Henry Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster, K.G., England (1352)
  • Walter and Norman de Leslie, Scotland (1356)[51]
  • Rudolf, Duke of Saxony (1361)
  • Thomas de Beauchamp, K.G., 11th Earl of Warwick, England, (1362-5)
  • David de Barclay and 12 knights, Scotland (1362)[52]
  • Thomas de Beauchamp, K.G., 12th Earl of Warwick, England (Nov 1367)
  • William de Beauchamp, K.G., 1st Lord Bergavenny, England (Nov 1367)
  • Adam de Hepburn (? of Hailes) and 10 knights, Scotland (1378)[53]
  • Sir Roger de Felbrigg, Knt., of Felbrigg, England, (fell in the Lithuanian crusades c1380)
  • Henry Plantagenet, Duke of Lancaster, Earl of Derby, K.G., England,(later King Henry IV)(1390)(1392)
  • Thomas Plantagenet, 'of Woodstock', Duke of Gloucester, England (1391)
  • John Montagu, K.G., 3rd Earl of Salisbury, England (1391)
  • Thomas 5th Lord Despenser (Spencer) (England) (1391)
  • Thomas 4th Lord Morley, England (1391)
  • [Thomas] de Clifford, England (1391)[54]
  • William Douglas, Lord of Nithsdale, Scotland (1391)[55][56]
  • Michael de la Pole (later 2nd Earl of Suffolk, England)(1391)
  • John Beaufort, K.G., (later Marquess of Dorset, England)(1394)
  • John Holand, K.G., (later Duke of Exeter, England)(1394)

See also

Further reading

  • The Evolution of Prussia by Sir J. A. R. Marriott, M.A., Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, and Sir Charles Grant Robertson, C.V.O., LL.D., M.A., Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1937, pps:46-49.
  • A History of Prussia, by Professor H. W. Koch, London & New York, 2nd edition 1984, pps:1-21.
  • The Germanization of Early Mediaeval Christianity by James C. Russell, PhD., Oxford University Press, 1994/6, ISBN 0-19-51046608
  • The Northern Crusades by Professor Erik Christiansen, London, 1997, ISBN 0-14-026653-4.
  • The Teutonic Knights: a Military History, by Professor William Urban, London & USA, 2003, ISBN: 1-85367-535-0


  1. Eric Opsahl: Teutonic Knights
  2. Nicolle, David, Teutonic Knight 1190-1561, Oxford UK, 2007, p.4-5. ISBN 987-1-84603-075-8
  4. Nicolle, 2007, p.5.
  5. Nicolle, 2007, pps:45, 49.
  6. Nicolle, 2007, p.48.
  7. The Teutonic Knights by Professor William Urban, London & Pennsylvania, 2003, p.157, ISBN: 1-85367-535-0
  8. KDMaz. Koch., nr 238, s. 249-254.
  9. (German) Der Deutsche Orden erhält das Kulmer Land
  10. Christiansen, Professor Eric, The Northern Crusades - The Baltic and the Catholic Frontier 1100-1525, Macmillan, London, 1980, pps:78-80.
  11. Urban, 2003, p.157
  12. Nicolle, 2007, p.46.
  13. Turnbull, Stephen, Tannenberg 1410, Osprey Publishing, Oxford UK, 2003, p.12, ISBN: 978-1-84176-561-7
  14. Mason, John Brown, The Danzig Dilemma, Stanford University Press, London, Oxford University Press, 1946, p.16-17.
  15. Turnbull, 2003, p.12-13.
  16. The Shorter Cambridge Mediaeval History by C. W. Previté-Orton, vol.ii, Cambridge University Press, 1952, p.746-7.
  17. Previté-Orton, 1952, p.924.
  18. Urban, 2003, p.151.
  19. Turnbul, 2003, p.14
  20. Nicolle, 2007, pps:46, 49, 50-1
  21. Turnbull, 2003, p.13
  22. Fischer, Th. A., The Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia, Edinburgh, 1903, p.123.
  23. Urban, 2003, p.175.
  24. Bevan, Bryan (1994). Henry IV. London: Macmillan, 32. ISBN 0-948695-35-8. 
  25. Bevan, 1994, p.1, 1.
  26. Turnbull, 2003, p.13-14.
  27. Nicolle, 2007, p.45.
  28. Turnbull, 2003, p.17-19.
  29. Turnbull, 2003, p.18-21.
  30. Turnbull, 2003, p.20-1.
  31. MacDonogh, Giles, Prussia, London, 1994, p.22.
  32. Previté-Orton, 1952, p.1014-5.
  33. Turnbull, 2003
  34. "It has come to be felt that there is a moral taint about treaties signed under duress"...[making them] "morally discredited." Carr, Professor Edward Hallett, The Twenty Years' Crisis 1919 - 1939 Macmillan, London, 1939, "The Sanctity of Treaties", p.241-1.
  35. McDonogh, 1994, p.22.
  36. "It has come to be felt that there is a moral taint about treaties signed under duress"...[making them] morally discredited." Carr, 1939, "The Sanctity of Treaties", p.241-1.
  37. Previté-Orton, 1952, p.1016.
  38. Marriott and Robertson, 1937, p.57.
  39. Fischer, 1903, p.114.
  40. Marriott and Robertson, 1937, various sections & pages: see index.
  41. Previté-Orton, 1952, p.747.
  42. Nicolle, 2007, p.28-9.
  43. Urban, 2003, p.142=3.
  44. Fischer, 1903, pps:7, 46n.
  45. Previté-Orton, 1952, p.747.
  46. Nicolle, 2007, p.55.
  47. Urban, 2003, p.280-1.
  48. At this point the Grand Master's seat was moved from Königsberg to the seat of the Deutschmeister in southern Germany, at Mergentheim near Würzburg.
  49. by Douglas Richardson, Baltimore, Md., 2004, ISBN: 0-8063-1750-7
  50. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Rudolf-I-king-of-Germany
  51. Fischer, Th. A., The Scots in Germany, Edinburgh, 1902, p.70.
  52. Fischer, 1902, p.70.
  53. Fischer, 1902, p.70.
  54. Fischer, 1902, p.71, who only names him as Clifford, an Englishman, who killed Sir William Douglas in a duel in Danzig in 1391. Doubtless this is Sir Thomas Clifford, 6th Lord Clifford and Lord of Westmoreland, who in June 1390 was being sued in the Court of Chivalry in London by Sir William Douglas 'of Scotland'. See: Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland edited by Joseph Bain, F.S.A.Scot., etc., vol.iv, Edinburgh, 1888, no.414-5, p.92. Clifford may have died from his wounds either in the duel or in the crusades as he is recorded as dying "abroad" on 18 August 1391.
  55. Fischer, 1902, p.70.
  56. Fischer, 1903, p.123.