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Princely Brothers and Sisters

The Sibling Bond in German Politics, 1100-1250

by Jonathan R. Lyon

Publication Year: 2012

In Princely Brothers and Sisters, Jonathan R. Lyon takes a fresh look at sibling networks and the role they played in shaping the practice of politics in the Middle Ages. Focusing on nine of the most prominent aristocratic families in the German kingdom during the Staufen period (1138-1250), Lyon finds that noblemen-and to a lesser extent, noblewomen-relied on the cooperation and support of their siblings as they sought to maintain or expand their power and influence within a competitive political environment. Consequently, sibling relationships proved crucial at key moments in shaping the political and territorial interests of many lords of the kingdom.

Family historians have largely overlooked brothers and sisters in the political life of medieval societies. As Lyon points out, however, siblings are the contemporaries whose lives normally overlap the longest. More so than parents and children, husbands and wives, or lords and vassals, brothers and sisters have the potential to develop relationships that span entire lifetimes. The longevity of some sibling bonds therefore created opportunities for noble brothers and sisters to collaborate in especially potent ways. As Lyon shows, cohesive networks of brothers and sisters proved remarkably effective at counterbalancing the authority of the Staufen kings and emperors. Well written and impeccably researched, Princely Brothers and Sisters is an important book not only for medieval German historians but also for the field of family history.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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Acknowledgments, Maps

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pp. xiii-xviii

In the five years spent researching and writing this book, I was consistently amazed by the support I received from friends, colleagues, librarians, and archivists in both the United States and Europe. I am therefore pleased to acknowledge the people who helped make this book possible. ...

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pp. 1-15

According to the anonymous author of the late thirteenth-century Chronicle of the Princes of Saxony, the brothers and co-margraves John I (d. 1266) and Otto III (d. 1267) of Brandenburg “began [to exercise lordship] in the year of the Lord 1220. . . . After they had reached the age of majority, with one deferring to the other, ...

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1. The Origins of Twelfth-Century Princely Lineages

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pp. 16-32

For generations of medieval historians, the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries have been viewed as a critical period in the history of German noble families. According to a model first proposed by Karl Schmid in the 1950s, these years witnessed a shift from the horizontally oriented extended kinship group (Sippe) of the early Middle Ages ...

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2. Forging the Bonds between Siblings: Succession, Inheritance, and Church Careers

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pp. 33-59

Modern assumptions about the prevalence of primogeniture during the central Middle Ages have long obscured scholarly visions of noble lineages. For the German upper aristocracy of the Staufen period, lineages were not based on narrow lines of descent from father to eldest son. ...

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3. Baby Boomers: The First Generation of the Staufen Upper Aristocracy

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pp. 60-88

The generation of young nobles who first began to appear in the surviving sources during the 1130s and 1140s included many lords who would dominate the political scene in the German kingdom throughout the later twelfth century. Because their fathers or grandfathers had been the noblemen who had most benefited from the upheaval ...

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4. Frederick Barbarossa and Henry the Lion: Cousins in an Age of Brothers

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pp. 89-119

For a quarter century from the mid-1150s to the late 1170s, Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria was the most powerful magnate in the German kingdom. Then, in the years around 1180, he fell precipitously from his perch atop the princely hierarchy. ...

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5. Cooperation, Conflict, and the Rise of a New Generation, ca. 1180–1210

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pp. 120-149

By the close of the year 1181, those fraternal groups who had acquired pieces of Henry the Lion’s once-sprawling collection of lordships had dramatically reshaped the political landscape of the German kingdom. Several of these lineages were at the height of their authority and influence in subsequent months. ...

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6. From Bamberg to Budapest: Four Brothers and Four Sisters in the Early Thirteenth Century

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pp. 150-195

The largest and most dynamic sibling group operating within the German upper aristocracy during the period of the civil war included eight brothers and sisters from the Andechs lineage. Because of the unusually rich source material that survives for this generation, these Andechs siblings offer an excellent opportunity for exploring ...

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7. The Uncertain Future of Lineages: Siblings during the Reign of Frederick II

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pp. 196-231

King Philip of Swabia’s assassination in 1208 ended the generation of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa’s children. At the time of Barbarossa’s death in 1190, his five adult sons had been well positioned to play prominent roles in imperial politics; eighteen years later, however, all of them were dead. ...

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pp. 232-238

In the Western tradition, the first person in human history to have a brother was also the first person to commit fratricide: “Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ ...

Appendix: Genealogical Charts

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pp. 239-250

Works Cited

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pp. 251-282


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pp. 283-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780801467851
E-ISBN-10: 0801467853
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801451300
Print-ISBN-10: 0801451302

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1