Then that magnanimous monarch lost his life at the same time with the victory, and was overthrown, not by our power and strength, but by the right hand of the Most High.”
Continuing Hapsburg Dynasty Founded,
our selection from History of the House of Austria. by William Coxe published in 1807. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in six easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Hapsburg Dynasty Founded
Time: August 28, 1278
At this period he was joined by some troops from Alsace and Swabia, and particularly by his confidant and confessor, the Bishop of Basel, at the head of one hundred chosen horse, and a body of expert slingers. This small but timely reinforcement revived his confidence, and although he was privately informed that his son Albert could not supply him with further succors, and was advised not to hazard an engagement with an enemy so superior in number, he resolved to commit his fortune to the decision of arms. Turning then to the chosen body newly arrived, he addressed them with a spirit which could not fail of inspiring them with courage, and gave at the same time the most flattering testimony to their zeal and fidelity. “Remain,” he said, “one day at Vienna, and refresh yourselves after the fatigues of your march, and we will then take the field. You shall be the guard of my person, and I trust that God, who has advanced me to this dignity, will not forsake me in the hour of danger.”
Three days after the arrival of the Bishop of Basel Rudolph quitted Vienna, marched along the southern bank of the Danube, to Hainburg, crossed that river, and advanced to Marcheck, on the banks of the March or Morava, where he was joined by the Styrians and Carinthians, and the forces led by the King of Hungary. He instantly dispatched two thousand of his Hungarian auxiliaries to reconnoiter and interrupt the operations of his adversary. They fulfilled their orders with spirit and address, for Ottocar, roused by their insults, broke up his camp, and marched to Jedensberg, within a short distance of Weidendorf, whither Rudolph had advanced.
While the two armies continued in this situation, some traitors repaired to the camp of Rudolph and proposed to assassinate Ottocar, but Rudolph, with his characteristic magnanimity, rejecting this offer, apprised Ottocar of the danger with which he was threatened, and made overtures of reconciliation. The King of Bohemia, confident in the superiority of his force, deemed the intelligence a fabrication and the proposals of Rudolph a proof of weakness, and disdainfully refused to listen to any negotiation.
Finding all hopes of accommodation frustrated, Rudolph prepared for a conflict, in which, like Caesar, he was not to fight for victory alone, but for life. At the dawn of day, August 26, 1278, his army was drawn up, crossed the rivulet which gives name to Weidendorf, and approached the camp of Ottocar. He ordered his troops to advance in a crescent, and attack at the same time both flanks and the front of the enemy, and then, turning to his soldiers, exhorted them to avenge the violation of the most solemn compacts and the insulted majesty of the empire, and by the efforts of that day to put an end to the tyranny, the horrors, and the massacres to which they had been so long exposed. He had scarcely finished before the troops rushed to the charge, and a bloody conflict ensued, in which both parties fought with all the fury that the presence and exertions of their sovereigns or the magnitude of the cause in which they were engaged could inspire. At length the imperial troops gained the advantage, but in the very moment of victory the life of him on whom all depended was exposed to the most imminent danger.
Several knights of superior strength and courage, animated by the rewards and promises of Ottocar, had confederated either to kill or take the King of the Romans. They rushed forward to the place where Rudolph, riding among the foremost ranks, was encouraging and leading his troops, and Herbot of Fullenstein, a Polish knight, giving spurs to his horse, made the first charge. Rudolph, accustomed to this species of combat, eluded the stroke, and, piercing his antagonist under his beaver, threw him dead to the ground. The rest followed the example of the Polish warrior, but were all slain, except Valens, a Thuringian knight of gigantic stature and strength, who, reaching the person of Rudolph, pierced his horse in the shoulder, and threw him wounded to the ground. The helmet of the King was beaten off by the shock, and being unable to rise under the weight of his armor he covered his head with his shield, till he was rescued by Berchtold Capillar, the commander of the corps of reserve, who, cutting his way through the enemy, flew to his assistance. Rudolph mounted another horse, and, heading the corps of reserve, renewed the charge with fresh courage, and his troops, animated by his presence and exertions, completed the victory.
Ottocar himself fought with no less intrepidity than his great competitor. On the total rout of his troops he disdained to quit the field, and, after performing incredible feats of valor, was overpowered by numbers, dismounted, and taken prisoner. He was instantly stripped of his armor, and killed by some Austrian and Styrian nobles whose relations he had put to death. The discomfited remains of his army, pursued by the victors, were either taken prisoners, cut to pieces, or drowned in their attempts to pass the March; and above fourteen thousand perished in this decisive engagement.
Rudolph continued on the field till the enemy were totally routed and dispersed. He endeavored to restrain the carnage, and sent messengers to save the life of Ottocar, but his orders arrived too late, and when he received an account of his death he generously lamented his fate. He did ample justice to the valor and spirit of Ottocar; in his letter to the Pope, after having described the contest and the resolution displayed by both parties either to conquer or die, he adds: “At length our troops prevailing drove the Bohemians into the neighboring river, and almost all were either cut to pieces, drowned, or taken prisoners. Ottocar, however, after seeing his army discomfited and himself left alone, still would not submit to our conquering standards, but, fighting with the strength and spirit of a giant, defended himself with wonderful courage, until he was unhorsed and mortally wounded by some of our soldiers. Then that magnanimous monarch lost his life at the same time with the victory, and was overthrown, not by our power and strength, but by the right hand of the Most High.”
The body of Ottocar, deformed with seventeen wounds, was borne to Vienna, and, after being exposed to the people, was embalmed, covered with a purple pall, the gift of the Queen of the Romans, and buried in a Franciscan convent.
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