1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grumbach, Wilhelm von

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7125771911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 12 — Grumbach, Wilhelm von

GRUMBACH, WILHELM VON (1503–1567), German adventurer, chiefly known through his connexion with the so-called “Grumbach feuds” (Grumbachsche Händel), the last attempt of the German knights to destroy the power of the territorial princes. A member of an old Franconian family, he was born on the 1st of June 1503, and having passed some time at the court of Casimir, prince of Bayreuth (d. 1527), fought against the peasants during the rising in 1524 and 1525. About 1540 Grumbach became associated with Albert Alcibiades, the turbulent prince of Bayreuth, whom he served both in peace and war. After the conclusion of the peace of Passau in 1552, Grumbach assisted Albert in his career of plunder in Franconia and was thus able to take some revenge upon his enemy, Melchior von Zobel, bishop of Würzburg. As a landholder Grumbach was a vassal of the bishops of Würzburg, and had held office at the court of Conrad of Bibra, who was bishop from 1540 to 1544. When, however, Zobel was chosen to succeed Conrad the harmonious relations between lord and vassal were quickly disturbed. Unable to free himself and his associates from the suzerainty of the bishop by appealing to the imperial courts he decided to adopt more violent measures, and his friendship with Albert was very serviceable in this connexion. Albert’s career, however, was checked by his defeat at Sievershausen in July 1553 and his subsequent flight into France, and the bishop took advantage of this state of affairs to seize Grumbach’s lands. The knight obtained an order of restitution from the imperial court of justice (Reichskammergericht), but he was unable to carry this into effect; and in April 1558 some of his partisans seized and killed the bishop. Grumbach declared he was innocent of this crime, but his story was not believed, and he fled to France. Returning to Germany he pleaded his cause in person before the diet at Augsburg in 1559, but without success. Meanwhile he had found a new patron in John Frederick, duke of Saxony, whose father, John Frederick, had been obliged to surrender the electoral dignity to the Albertine branch of his family. Chafing under this deprivation the duke listened readily to Grumbach’s plans for recovering the lost dignity, including a general rising of the German knights and the deposition of Frederick II., king of Denmark. Magical charms were employed against the duke’s enemies, and communications from angels were invented which helped to stir up the zeal of the people. In 1563 Grumbach attacked Würzburg, seized and plundered the city and compelled the chapter and the bishop to restore his lands. He was consequently placed under the imperial ban, but John Frederick refused to obey the order of the emperor Maximilian II. to withdraw his protection from him. Meanwhile Grumbach sought to compass the assassination of the Saxon elector, Augustus; proclamations were issued calling for assistance; and alliances both without and within Germany were concluded. In November 1566 John Frederick was placed under the ban, which had been renewed against Grumbach earlier in the year, and Augustus marched against Gotha. Assistance was not forthcoming, and a mutiny led to the capitulation of the town. Grumbach was delivered to his foes, and, after being tortured, was executed at Gotha on the 18th of April 1567.

See F. Ortloff, Geschichte der Grumbachschen Händel (Jena, 1868–1870), and J. Voigt, Wilhelm von Grumbach und seine Händel (Leipzig, 1846–1847).