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The Misfortunes Of Duke Ernst
by [?]

In the reign of Conrad II., Emperor of Germany, took place the event which we have now to tell, one of those interesting examples of romance which give vitality to history. On the death of Henry II., the last of the great house of the Othos, a vast assembly from all the states of the empire was called together to decide who their next emperor should be. From every side they came, dukes, margraves, counts and barons, attended by hosts of their vassals; archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other churchmen, with their proud retainers; Saxons, Swabians, Bavarians, Bohemians, and numerous other nationalities, great and small; all marching towards the great plain between Worms and Mayence, where they gathered on both sides of the Rhine, until its borders seemed covered by a countless multitude of armed men. The scene was a magnificent one, with its far-spreading display of rich tents, floating banners, showy armor, and everything that could give honor and splendor to the occasion.

We are not specially concerned with what took place. There were two competitors for the throne, both of them Conrad by name. By birth they were cousins, and descendants of the emperor Conrad I. The younger of these, but the son of the elder brother, and the most distinguished for ability, was elected, and took the throne as Conrad II. He was to prove one of the noblest sovereigns that ever held the sceptre of the German empire. The election decided, the great assembly dispersed, and back to their homes marched the host of warriors who had collected for once with peaceful purpose.

Two years afterwards, in 1026, Conrad crossed the Alps with an army, and marched through Italy, that land which had so perilous an attraction for German emperors, and so sadly disturbed the peace and progress of the Teutonic realm. Conrad was not permitted to remain there long. Troubles in Germany recalled him to his native soil. Swabia had broken out in hot troubles. Duke Ernst, step-son of Conrad, claimed Burgundy as his inheritance, in opposition to the emperor himself, who had the better claim. He not only claimed it, but attempted to seize it. With him were united two Swabian counts of ancient descent, Rudolf Welf, or Guelph, and Werner of Kyburg.

Swabia was in a blaze when Conrad returned. He convoked a great diet at Ulm, as the legal means of settling the dispute. Thither Ernst came, at the head of his Swabian men-at-arms, and still full of rebellious spirit, although his mother, Gisela, the empress, begged him to submit and to return to his allegiance.

The angry rebel, however, soon learned that his followers were not willing to take up arms against the emperor. They declared that their oath of allegiance to their duke did not release them from their higher obligations to the emperor and the state, that if their lord was at feud with the empire it was their duty to aid the latter, and that if their chiefs wished to quarrel with the state, they must fight for themselves.

This defection left the rebels powerless. Duke Ernst was arrested and imprisoned on a charge of high treason. Eudolf was exiled. Werner, who took refuge in his castle, was besieged there by the imperial troops, against whom he valiantly defended himself for several months. At length, however, finding that his stronghold was no longer tenable, he contrived to make his escape, leaving the nest to the imperialists empty of its bird.

Three years Ernst remained in prison. Then Conrad restored him to liberty, perhaps moved by the appeals of his mother Gisela, and promised to restore him to his dukedom of Swabia if he would betray the secret of the retreat of Werner, who was still at large despite all efforts to take him.

This request touched deeply the honor of the deposed duke. It was much to regain his ducal station; it was more to remain true to the fugitive who had trusted and aided him in his need.