Otto VIII of Wittelsbach, count palatine of Bavaria, together with the men of Bishop Ekbert of Bamberg and Istrian Margrave Henry, brothers of House Andechs, murder King Philip of Swabia (notices from the contemporary chronicler Burchard of Ursberg).
Anno itaque sequenti , statuit Philippus cum exercitu venire in Saxoniam contra quosdam qui adhuc ibidem sibi rebelles extiterunt. Venit itaque in Babinberc. Advenerat quoque illuc nefarius Otto ille palatinus de Witilsbach. Rex vero minutionem sanguinis fecit ibidem de venis utriusque brachii, plurimi quoque de suis minuebant sanguinem. Tunc sceleratus Otto assumptis militibus episcopi Eggiberti et marchionis de Andehse Hainrici, fratris prefati episcopi, venit in palatium. Ille vero impius accessit ad hostium camere, in qua rex quiescebat, pulsabat ut intromitteretur; quem rex iussit intromitti nichil mali suspicatus. Cumque cerneret neminem esse in camera preter regem et cancellarium et H[ainricum] dapiferum de Walpurc, qui erant in consilio, rediens aperuit ianuam camere accipiens gladium a serviente, quem vibrare cepit in collum regis; sed dapifero exclamante territus vix plagam perfecit et parvulum vulnus in collo regis dedit, sed venam unam organicam amputavit. Cumque prefatus dapifer exitum ianue sibi intercludere voluisset, maxillam ipsius eodem gladio vulneravit, quam laudabilem cicatricem usque ad mortem habuit. Oritur undique tumultus, rex quoque paululum procedens exspiravit. Ille vero malignus ad prefatos episcopum et marchionem confugit, unde et illi rei habiti sunt de tali mordo. Fuit autem occisus X. kalendas iulii, hac sola causa quia, cum desponsasset unam de filiabus suis prefato sceleroso, idem quendam liberum familiarem ducis Bawarie perfide interfecit, de qua perfidia coram principibus notatus fuit, et ideo rex filiam suam sibi tradere denegavit.
In the following year , King Philip decided to come to Saxony with an army to fight certain men who still remained in rebellion against him. He came therefore to Bamberg. The wicked Count palatine Otto of Wittelsbach also arrived there. There [too] the king was having blood taken from the veins of both arms, and many of his men were also being bled. The wicked Otto then entered the palace, accompanied by the knights of Bishop Ekbert and of Margrave Henry of Andechs, the bishop’s brother. This evil man went to the antechamber in which the king was resting and knocked [on the door] seeking admission. Suspecting no danger, the king ordered that he be let in. When Otto realized that there was nobody in the chamber apart from the king, the chancellor, and the steward Henry of Walburg, he went back and opened the door of the chamber, taking a sword from a sergeant, with which he aimed a stroke at the king’s neck, but when the steward cried out, he was terrified and almost missed his target. He only inflicted a small wound on the king’s neck, but he cut a vital vein. And when the aforesaid steward tried to prevent him from escaping through the door, he wounded him on the cheek with his sword. The steward carried this honorable scar for the rest of his life. A general commotion broke out, but the king died a little while later. That wicked man fled to the aforesaid bishop and the margrave, who thus became accessories to this murder. The king was killed on the 10th day before the Kalends of July [= 22nd June], and the only reason for this was that he had previously betrothed one of his daughters to this evil man, but after Otto had treacherously murdered a certain freeman who was a member of the household of the duke of Bavaria, and was accused of this treacherous act in the presence of the princes, the king then refused to give him his daughter.
[Trans. G.A. Loud, available online, and slightly modified by the editor.]
Imperial Diet in Frankfurt of 1208 - edited here.
King Otto IV's charter to Duke Ludwig of Bavaria from 1208 - edited here.
Imperial Diet in Augsburg of 1209 - edited here.
King Otto IV's donation charter to Patriarch Wolfger of Aquileia from 1209 - soon to be edited here.
King Otto IV's re-issue of the donation charter to Patriarch Wolfger of Aquileia from 1210 - edited here.
The murder of King Philip remains one of the great mysteries of European Middle Ages.
So far three theses on the motives of this murder have been put forward:
- The traditional one, based on the above-quoted account of the contemporary Burchard of Ursberg, according to which the murder was motivated by an affront to Count Otto VIII's honor as King Philip reneged on his promise to give him the hand of his daughter; this thesis enjoys the most support from historians to this day.
- Hucker's thesis (cited above), according to which there was a wider conspiracy connecting both House Andechs and Count Palatine Otto VIII and whose ultimate goal was to bring Duke Henry of Brabant to the royal throne; the thesis had not garnered much support from other scholars.
- Finally, Alois Schütz proposed, although based on no evidence other than his intuition, that it was King Otto IV who stood behind the murder; this thesis remains the least supported of all three.
Be that as it may, the murder of King Philip of Swabia opened wide the door to unchallenged royal reign to King Otto IV. A few months later, in November of 1208, an imperial diet was convoked in Frankfurt where the princes gathered to solemnly recognize Otto as the sole lawful king of the Romans. At this very diet, King Otto IV assumed the role of King Philip's avenger as he officially condemned the murderers and stripped them of their titles, allods, and fiefs (see the narrative account of the Diet of Frankfurt here).
This is how Istrian Margrave Henry IV of Andechs lost his title and the jurisdiction over the Margraviate of Istria. The titles, allods, and fiefs that had been stripped from the murderers were given to Duke Ludwig of Bavaria, Otto VIII's cousin, also of House Wittelsbach. In this way, the incumbent duke of Bavaria became the margrave of Istria - see Otto IV's charter here.
However, Duke Ludwig did not hold the Margraviate of Istria for long. Already at the imperial Diet of Augsburg in January of 1209, Wolfger, the patriarch of Aquileia, formally protested this investiture and asked the Margraviate of Istria for his Church, based on the old donation charter of King Henry IV promulgated in 1077 (see it edited here). King Otto IV conceded and granted the Margraviate of Istria to the Patriarchate of Aquileia - the 1209 charter will be published here in the near future; it was re-issued in 1210 (edited here).
Thus, in the context of Istrian history, the story arc that began with King Philip's murder ended with the official beginning of the age of Aquileian patriarchs as Istrian margraves (1209-1421), a crucial age in the historical development of Istria.
The digital facsimile of ms. hereby dubbed B (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4351) comes from the official webpages of Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum.
The editor has subsequently inserted two red lines simply to denote the exact part of the manuscript hereby edited.
The facsimile remains under the exclusive copyright of its respective institution.
The second image, a 14th-century depiction of King Philip's murder, stems from the illuminated manuscript of Sächsischen Weltchronik, (Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz, ms. germ., fol. 117v); the image is freely available online and licensed under Wikimedia Commons.