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Coat of arms of the von Grumbach noble family, Scheiblersches Wappenbuch, 1450-1480
Wilhelm von Grumbach (June 1, 1503April 18, 1567) was a Germanmarker adventurer, chiefly known through his connection 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 the old Franconian noble family von Grumbach (a branch of the Wolfskeel Uradel family), he was born in Rimparmarker near Würzburgmarker, and having passed some time at the court of Margrave Casimir of Bayreuth, fought against the peasants during the rising in 1524 and 1525.

Grumbach-Zobel Affair

About 1540 Grumbach became associated with Casimir's son, the turbulent Margrave Albert Alcibiades of Bayreuth, whom he served both in peace and war. As a landholder, Grumbach was a vassal of the Würzburg Bishopsmarker and had held office at the court of Conrad von Bibra, who was Bishop from 1540 to 1544. When, however, Melchior Zobel von Giebelstadt 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 connection.

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 Zobel. Albert's career, however, was checked by his defeat at the Battle of Sievershausenmarker 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 Chamber Court (Reichskammergerichtmarker), but he was unable to carry this into effect. In 1558 Zobel was seized and killed by Grumbach’s henchman Christoph Kretzen who interestingly was married to Katherine Biber, Zobel's predecessor Conrad von Bibra's natural daughter. Grumbach declared he was innocent of this crime, but his story was not believed, and he fled to France.

Grumbachsche Händel

Returning to the Holy Roman Empire, he pleaded his cause in person before the Reichstag at Augsburgmarker in 1559, but without success. Meanwhile he had found a new patron in Duke John Frederick II of Saxony, whose father, John Frederick I had been obliged by the 1547 Capitulation of Wittenberg 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 of Denmark. Magical charms were employed against the dukes enemies, and communications from angels were invented which helped to stir up the zeal of the people.
Imperial ban by Emperor Maximilian II against Wilhelm von Grumbach, May 13, 1566
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 II refused to obey the order of the Emperor Maximilian II to withdraw his protection from him. Fortunately Maximilian adjourned the case to the next Reichstag to be held in 1566 at Augsburg. Meanwhile Grumbach sought to compass the assassination of the Saxon Elector Augustus; proclamations were issued calling for assistance; and alliances both without and within the Empire were concluded. John Frederick II made Grimmenstein Castle at Gothamarker his residence in 1565.

Nevertheless at the Augsburg diet in March 1566 even the Lutheran Imperial States of the former Schmalkaldic League as well as his younger brother John William let down John Frederick II. He was placed under the ban while the ban against Grumbach had been renewed and signed by Emperor Maximilian II on May 13. Elector Augustus, prime mover in the damnation of his cousin, marched against Gotha. Assistance was not forthcoming, and a mutiny instigated by Augustus led to the capitulation of the town. Grumbach and his confederates were delivered to their foes and had to face trial for their misdeeds. Grumbach, after being tortured, was executed by dismemberment at Gotha on April 18, 1567.

John Frederick II's resdidence was slighted, he was deposed by his brother John William and spent the rest of his life in prison at Dresdenmarker, Wiener Neustadtmarker and Lamberg Castle in Steyrmarker, where he died on May 19, 1595.


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

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