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The Battle on the Marchfeld (i.e. Morava Field) at Dürnkrutmarker and Jedenspeigenmarker took place on August 26, 1278 and was a decisive event for the history of Central Europe for the following centuries. The opponents were the Bohemian (Czech) army led by king Ottokar II of Bohemia and the Imperial army led by Rudolph I of Habsburg in alliance with King Ladislaus IV of Hungary. The Hungarian army included heavy cavalry as well as Cuman horse archers.


Ottokar's lands in 1272
The deposition of emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen by Pope Innocent IV in 1245 created a grave crisis for the Holy Roman Empire, as in the following decades several nobles were elected as Rex Romanorum and Emperor-to-be, neither of which was able to gain an actual governmental power. On the occasion of this interregnum Ottokar II, son of king Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, in 1250 moved into the princeless Duchies of Austriamarker and Styria, where he was proclaimed Duke by the estates one year later.

In 1253 Ottokar II became Bohemian king after the death of his father; his gain in power was suspiciously eyed by King Béla IV of Hungary, who campaigned Styria and Austria but was finally defeated at the 1260 Battle of Kressenbrunn. In 1268 Ottokar signed a contract of inheritance with the last Carinthian duke from the House of Sponheim, Ulric III and also acquired Carinthia including the March of Carniola and the Windic March one year later. At the height of his power he aimed at the Imperial crown, nevertheless the Princes, distrustful of his steep rise, elected the "little count" Rudolph of Habsburg Rex Romanorum on September 29, 1273.


As the election had taken place in his absence, Ottokar did not acknowledge Rudolph as King. Rudolph himself had promised to regain the "alienated" territories which should be conferred by the Imperial power with consent of the Prince-electors. He claimed the Austrian and Carinthian territories for the Empire and summoned Ottokar to the 1275 Reichstag at Würzburgmarker. By not appearing before the Diet, Ottokar set events in motion for his imminent demise. He was placed under the imperial ban and had all his territorial rights revoked, including even his Bohemian heritage.

Meanwhile Rudolph was gathering allies and preparing for battle. He achieved two of these alliances through the classic Habsburgian style – marriage. First, he married his son Albert to Elisabeth of Gorizia-Tyrol. In return, her father Count Meinhard II of Gorizia-Tyrol received the Duchy of Carinthia as a fief. Second, he established an - unstable - alliance with Duke Henry I of Lower Bavaria by offering him his daughter Katharina as wife for his son Otto in addition to the region of present-day Upper Austria as a pledge for her dowry. He also achieved an alliance with King Ladislaus IV of Hungary, who intended to settle the old scores with Ottokar.

In 1276 Rudolph, in such a way strengthened, besieged Ottokar at Viennamarker. Ottokar was forced to renounce all his acquisitions and received Bohemia and Moravia only as a fief by King Rudolph. So heavily deprived, he attempted to regain his territories, contracted an alliance with the Margraves of Brandenburg and in 1278 campaigned Austria. Ottokar first laid siege to the towns of Drosendorfmarker and Laa an der Thayamarker, while Rudolph left Vienna to face him in an open pitched battle where the Cuman cavalry of King Ladislaus could easily join his forces.

The battle

Ottokar abandoned the siege and on August 26 Ottokar met the troops of Rudolph and Ladislaus near Dürnkrut. When he arrived his enemies had already taken the opportunity to explore the topography of the future battleground. In the morning the Bohemian troopers were embroiled in heavy attacks by the Cuman forces; nevertheless, as the battle went on, Ottokar's cavalry seemed to gain the upper hand, when even Rudolph's horse was killed under him and the 60-year-old narrowly saved his life.

After three hours of continued fighting Ottokar's knights in their heavy armours were exhausted. At noon Rudolph ordered a fresh Austrian and Hungarian heavy cavalry regiment he had hidden behind hills and woods at the field's rim to attack the flank of Ottokar's troops. Though a suchlike ambush was commonly regarded as dishonourable warfare, the attack from the rear prevailed in stampeding the Bohemian troops, resulting in a decisive victory of Rudolph and his allies. Ottokar's camp was plundered, he himself was found slain at the battlefield.


Monument erected in 1978 on the battlefield between the villages Dürnkrut and Jedenspeigen
Rudolph assured his possessions of the Duchies of Austria and Styria, the heartland and fundament of the rise of the House of Habsburg. In 1282 he installed his sons Albert and Rudolf II as Austrian dukes. However in Bohemia Rudolph acted cautiously and reached an agreement with the nobility and Ottokar's widow Kunigunda of Slavonia on the succession of her son Wenceslaus II to the throne. On the same occasion he reconciled with the Brandenburg margraves, ceding them the guardianship over the minor heir apparent. King Ladislaus IV exerted himself in the christianization of the Cuman warriors, he finally was assassinated in 1290.

The tragedy König Ottokars Glück und Ende written by Franz Grillparzer in 1823 is based on the rise and fall of king Ottokar II. This drama was originally inspired by the life of Napoleon, though Grillparzer, fearing Metternich's censorship, chose to write the play about Ottokar, in whose story he found many parallels. It nevertheless was immediately forbidden and could not be performed until 1825.

See also



  • Richard Schmidt: Rot-weiss-rote Schicksalstage Entscheidungen um Oesterreich, Wien 2004. ISBN 3-85326-354-2
  • Andreas Kusternig: 700 Jahre Schlacht bei Durnkruet und Jedenspeigen. Wien 1978.
  • Josef Žemlička, Století posledních Přemyslovců, Praha, 1986

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