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The Countess of Geroldseck
Bernhart Herzog, a man highly honoured and esteemed, relates the following story which dates from 1592. The heroine of this tale is the Countess of Geroldseck who performed a deed much the same as the famous women of Weinsberg.
Walter, Master of Geroldseck and Schwanau, had a long and tedious war with the Free Towns of Germany. In the year 1333 on Holy Thursday in Easter week, the people of Strassburg were lying in wait outside the town of Schwanau, but retired after some days. However on St. Mark's Day they came on to the attack again, this time with the help of the towns of Berne, Lucerne, Basle, and Freiburg, and commanded by a great leader Ruhmann Schwäbern, but again they found themselves driven back.
Walter of Geroldseck and some other knights who had joined him in his castle, supposed that the people from these different towns knew his stronghold was well provided with stores, and could sustain a long siege.
They resolved to treat with their enemies, and in order to make them believe they had no cares or wants, they allowed the besiegers to examine the castle.
The people of the Free Towns accepted this compact readily, hoping to be able to draw some advantage from this proceeding. Two men among them were chosen as delegates, one of whom was a gun-maker. When these two had thoroughly examined the castle and had seen how it was arranged and supplied With food, Walter of Geroldseck then asked them if they intended to take possession of the stronghold.
The two ambassadors however were not inclined to give any definite answer. "Noble lord, what hands can make can be destroyed by hands."
With these words they left the castle and returned to their own camp. There they reported to the united people that this same stronghold would be a very difficult one to take possession of, and the only means of doing so was to destroy the stores of the besieged. The people concluded that this advice was very sound, and breaking up their camp they moved off and took up their position at the other side of the castle. Here they attacked the chambers and storehouses where the provisions were.
For three months no rain had fallen, and this enabled the besiegers to encamp much closer to the castle.
But even with this help they were unable to gain any great advantage. At last Walter determined to make a treaty, not desiring to hold out any longer. After much talking and arranging it was agreed that castle Schwanau and all its inhabitants should surrender to the Free Towns unconditionally, with only one proviso, – that the Mistress of Geroldseck might carry across the drawbridge whatever belonged to her body. This should still be hers, and no one should have a right to touch it.
The cunning lady placed her husband, an old man, on her back, and with a young son in her arms she carried her burden across the bridge. This act troubled the people of the cities who complained that the great lady had not kept her word; they thought she would have taken jewels or gold, and never guessed that her choice would fall on her husband and son.
The chronicle however tells us that her scheme was quite successful, and her husband and child were thus saved.
Fifty nobles were seized in the Castle of Schwanau and beheaded.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine