Pomerania, Brandenburg and the Hussites 2: Fall of the Margrave
While Queen Philippa reformed the currency of the Kalmar Union, King Eric journeyed south. The expedition would take Eric to Germany and Hungary to meet King Sigismund, and Poland where he would finally attend the wedding of his cousin Bogislaw to Princess Hedwig. It would also include a pilgrimage to the holy land, with Venice and Ragusa being stops along the way. While in Jerusalem, Eric became a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher – just like his great-grandfather Valdemar IV had been. Yet, the journey was not merely one of personal enjoyment, but a diplomatic one. Eric would be engaged in talks with King Sigismund about participation in the Hussite crusade, he would meet the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order to discuss the possibility of redeeming Estonia – no agreement was reached, but the possibility of Teutonic forces joining Nordic ones in a campaign to Bohemia was discussed. At the same time, details of what a joint Polish-Scandinavian attack on the Teutonic Order might entail was discussed with King Wladyslaw, truly Eric examined his every possibility.
There was an initial setback to the journey, however. Eric had planned to follow the river Oder at the start of his travels, but it ran straight through Frederick of Brandenburg’s domain. Still engaged in conflict with the Pomeranians, whom Eric supported, it quickly became clear that Frederick did not intend to grant the King free passage through his lands. Enraged, Eric re-routed his journey to initially follow the Elbe, but the insolence of the Margrave would not be forgotten.
From having been an ally of King Sigismund until his enfeoffment, Frederick had quickly become a chief opponent of his liege. Accusing the King of neglecting Germany in favor of his other domains, Hungary in particular, Frederick became a driving force in creating the league of Bingen in 1424. The idea was that the electors of the Holy Roman Empire would take it upon themselves to govern when Sigismund could not. It is hard to gage what Frederick and the electors who joined him believed that they were doing, it is fully possible that they truly saw their actions as being the best course of action for the Empire. Sigismund however saw only treason and a direct challenge to his authority as King, the league would have to be torn down. Luckily for Sigismund, it appeared that there was relatively little unity among the Electors. He convinced Frederick of Saxony to abandon the league in early 1425 and to instead support the King again. With this first sign of disunity, the Rhenish electors began to waver, until Frederick of Hohenzollern remained the only firm believer in the league.
It is likely that Frederick would have abandoned the league sooner or later, but by this time Sigismund’s trust in him had been entirely hollowed out. Frederick had failed to restore order in the Mark, or extending imperial authority to the Baltic, he had refused to support the King in his war against the Hussites, and lastly openly organized a league to undermine Sigismund’s authority. Frederick would have to go, and Sigismund conducted a plan with Eric about how this would be done. In 1425, Frederick tired of the constant feuding with not only the Pomeranians, but also his own nobility in Brandenburg. He retreated to Franconia and intended to transfer the regency of the Margravate to his son, John. This was the perfect excuse for Sigismund to take a note out of his father’s book. In 1371 Charles IV had retracted Otto ‘the Lazy’s right to Brandenburg on the basis of him neglecting it’s government, now Sigismund accused Frederick of the same. It was naturally assumed that Frederick would not simply accept this ruling, and that an invasion of Brandenburg would be necessary to force him out.
This is where Eric came in. Upon his return to the North, he gatherd an army and took part in an invasion of the Margravate from the north. This would in turn would open up a route to Bohemia for him to support Sigismund’s crusade against the Hussites. The army was partly Scandinavian, but in large part made up of the same Pomeranians and Mecklenburgers who had defended against Frederick for half a decade. There was also a contingent of Teutonic forces joining Eric’s invasion. They not only wanted to support the crusade in Bohemia, but Frederick had also antagonized them with his ambition to recover the Neumark which had been pawned to the order in 1402. Frederick’s son John oversaw the defense of Brandenburg, but he was a bookish young man who found little joy in picking up a sword. With an already unruly bunch of nobles to deal with, no effective resistance could be organized, and the Margraviate was quickly overran. After two years of trying and failing to mount a counterattack, Frederick had to accept that his time as Margrave was over. He relinquished Brandenburg officially in 1427, on the condition that the electoral dignity would remain his until his death, much like Otto ‘the Lazy’ had done half a century before him.
The question was of course then what was to be done with Brandenburg itself. Border territories were picked off by opportunistic Pomeranians and Mecklenburgers, while the Order entrenched itself in Neumark, but the core territory of the Mark still needed a ruler. Sigismund knew he could not simply take it for himself, given how overextended his domain already was. It would have to go to someone he could trust not to immediately begin opposing him like Frederick had, who would provide support for him in Bohemia, and who would not act as a roadblock between Sigismund and Eric. The choice fell upon John of Palatine-Neumarkt, who had played a key role in supporting the invasion of Brandenburg from the south. A skilled commander who had achieved some of the Empire's rare victories against the Hussites, John had also been married to Catherine of Pomerania - Sigismund’s cousin and Eric’s sister, although she had passed in 1426. Their son and heir Christopher was thus Sigismund’s first cousin once removed and Eric’s nephew. John was himself a nephew of Frederick of Hohenzollern.
Thus, with the defeat of Frederick of Hohenzollern, the house of Wittelsbach returned to Brandenburg fifty years after having lost it, although a completely different branch of the family. It is likely that Eric had been the one to suggest John as new Margrave, it might even have been a demand for him to go through with the invasion. In either case, both Eric and Sigismund hoped that this meant the road between Bohemia and Scandinavia would be open, as Eric prepared to take his forces to fight in the Hussite crusade.