Gertrude of Andechs-Merano and Przemysl Ottokar II


Gertrude of Andechs-Merano and her family. (Hedwigs-Codex fol 10v°)



The image of a noble family with nine children in the so-called. Hedwig’s Codex  is commonly called "The Family of Gertrude of Andechs-Meran" in modern publications. [1] Represented are (f.l.t.r): St. Elizabeth, Gertrude, Queen of Hungary (the mother of Elizabeth); Agnes, Queen of France; St. Hedwig, Duchess of Silesia; Agnes, Duchess of Merano; Berthold VI, Duke of Merano; Berthold Patriarch of Aquileia; Ekbert, Bishop of Bamberg; Otto, Duke of Merano and Henry, Margrave of Istria. On the ground  in front Mahaut, Abbess of Kitzingen. The names are written in figures and text at the top BERCHTHOLDUS DUX MERANIE PR SCE HEDWIGIS AGNES UXOR EIUS CU FILIIS & FILIALY SUIS INFRA POLITIS. The manuscript would have been made in 1353 and was commissioned by Louis I of Liegnitz-Brieg (r. 1356-'98). [2]

This would be quite obvious when the coats of arms depicted on the ailettes of Berthold and Agnes and the shield at the left foot of Berthold would be the coats of arms of Andechs-Meran. However, the coat of arms of the dukes of Merano was a white eagle and the coat of arms of the last duke, Otto III, who in 1234 succeeded in the title of Merano and Franche Comté, a lion above an eagle. On the shield of the head of household, however, is a black eagle on white and he and his wife are wearing the coats of arms of Carinthia on their shoulders. The coat of arms of Carinthia was initially, as Conrad von Mure says:. Albo Carinthia duo nigri stare leones / Sed gilvam zonam mid rubei fore pones (i.e. two black lions on gold divided by red, a white bar). But why this coat of arms is depicted and not  the coat of arms with the usual three lions dating from a little later, is unclear.

The coat of arms with the black eagle can be anything, from Sicily to Echternach but in this regard, it is nevertheless the most likely that it is the coat of arms of Bohemia which in the thirteenth century was white with a black eagle.

In the Middle Ages the commissioner of such a precious work as a manuscript often appears on one of the folios, sometimes presenting the work. So it is quite possible that here the client and his family are portrayed. This would be, judging after the coats of arms displayed, the Duke of Carinthia, king of Bohemia. This could have been one of two princes: Przemysl Ottokar II king of Bohemia from 1269 to 1278 who was also Duke of Carinthia, and Henry, Duke of Carinthia, from 1295-1335 and King of Bohemia from 1307 to 1310. This Henry was ousted in 1310 by John the Blind of Luxemburg and Henry was thereafter confined to his own duchy.

When Henry of Carinthia and his wife are depicted, the number of children would not make sense because, although married three times, he had only three children including two illegitimate ones. [3]

Przemysl Ottokar II has been married twice, first in 1252 with Margareth of Austria and then, from 1261 with Kunhuty of Kiev. From this last marriage he had three children viz. Agnes († 1296), Kunhuty, later abbess of the St. George Monastery in Prague († 1313) and Wenceslas II (*1271- † 1305). He had four illegitimate children viz. a daughter whose name is not known and who married in 1276, Nicholas († 1318), John († 1296) and Elizabeth (†?). Together four daughters and three sons.

On the picture we may notice that the outer two children, "St. Elizabeth" and "Henry" have been added later. [4] The original number of children which stood on the image thus closely corresponds to the number of children of Przemysl Ottokar II. The girl with the nimbus is Abbess Kunhuty and the two mitered men are Nicholas and John which may have been, due to their illegitimacy, destined for the ministry. [5] The boy with the ducal hat is Wenceslas II, who succeeded his father in 1278. The two other girls wear ducal coronets while Elizabeth (with a with a little crozier!) is still an infant.

If indeed Przemysl Ottokar II is repesented, then the family portrait must date from his last years of life as Wenceslas II, although only born in 1271, already is represented as a big boy. The most likely year of onset is therefore 1278.

The ducal hat instead of a the royal crown he is wearing indicates that he is represented as a Duke of Carinthia and not as the king of Bohemia. This would be related then to the fact he had inherited Carinthia for which he did not have to pay homage. All other areas in which he claimed the regime were fiefs which had been withdrawn by Roman King Rudolf I, but which he refused to give up. In a campaign that was taken against him, he was killed in the battle of Dürnkrut (28 August 1278).


That the manuscript is in the hands of Louis I of Brieg in 1353 can be explained by the fact that his mother Margareth was a daughter of Wenceslas II and a granddaughter of Przemysl Ottokar II. Presumably, the manuscript, which is indeed about the life of St. Hedwig († 1243) is, therefore, not ordered by him - he was penniless - but "adapted" by adding captions and, perhaps, the new figures.




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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-02-08




[1] Hedwigs-Codex (Schlackenwerther Codex), fol 10v° (upper half) 1353. Köln, Schnütgen-Museum, Ludwig Ms. xi 3.

[2] Die Heilige Elizabeth in Hessen. Katalog der Ausstellung. Marburg 1983  N° 21 p. 102. Die Andechs-Meranier in Franken. Ausstellung in Bamberg 19.6-30.9.1998. N° 1.2. p. 266, Abb. 32, p.60

[3] That is to say the illegitimate children Mattheus († 1363) and Matthias (†1357)  and his daugther from Adelheid of Brunswick, Margareth (*1318-†1369) 

[4] Apart from the fact that they are drawn with a less able hand they are not on the platform and under the the vault of the throne.

[5] Nicholas was recognized in 1260 but had probably to cede his right of succession after the birth of  Wenceslas.  John was from 1288 until his death a  dean of Vysegrad. With what ministry he was invested in 1278 is not known.