Official Languages: Swabian German
Established: 1495 AD/CE
Disestablished: 1803 AD/CE
The Duchy of Württemberg was formed when, at the Diet of Worms, 21 July 1495, Maximilian I, King of the Romans and Holy Roman Emperor, declared the Count of Württemberg (German: Graf von Württemberg), Eberhard V "the Bearded," Duke of Württemberg (German: Herzog von Württemberg). This would be the last elevation to Dukedom of the Medieval era. The House of Württemberg had reigned over the territory since the 11th century, and Duke Eberhard I himself ascended to the throne in 1450 at the age of 14, over a territory split in two states: the Württemberg ruled by the Württemberg-Stuttgart line, and the Württemberg of the Württemberg-Urach line. In 1482, he united the two parts of the future Duchy, fusing the governments of both counties into what would be the basis of the Duchy's central government.
After Eberhard's death in 1495, he was succeeded by his cousin, Eberhard II, and he would make little change to the government's structure. Despite having earlier been the Count from 1480 to 1482, he proved to be administratively incompetent, and his attempt to begin a war against Bavaria prompted the Estates to request Maximilian I to call a diet in March 1498 to remove Eberhard II. The Emperor then made the unprecedented decision to side with the Estates and thus deprived Duke Eberhard II of his principality in May 1498. While the Duke's advisers were arrested or fled, Eberhard II himself was banished to Lindenfels Castle and granted an annuity of 6000 florins until his death in 1504. The one accomplishment of Eberhard II's reign was the establishment of the Hofkapelle for the performance of religious music, and this system of music patronage would remain uninterrupted until the Thirty Years' War.
Ulrich, of the Urach line of the Württemberg family, succeeded Eberhard II in 1498, in his minority. His regency was controlled by four nobles: Counts Wolfgang von Fürstenberg and Andreas von Waldburg, Hans von Reischach (the senior bailiff of Mömpelgard), and Diepolt Spät (the senior bailiff of Tübingen). Two other men, the abbots of Zwiefalten and Bebenhausen, also held advisory positions in the regency. While the regency would hear the wishes of the people through the Estates, they became opposed to the wishes of the local burghers during the very unpopular Swabian War, to which the Estates voted more soldiers and money.
Maximilian I declared Ulrich I of age at 16, in the process violating the 1492 Treaty of Esslingen [de] that stipulated that he could only fully succeed at 20. Thus began one of the longest and most tumultuous periods in the history of the region. The young Duke at first made little change to the government, allowing his councilors to decide on policy while he made his greatest marks in the Duchy through the expansion of the realm, usually through war. With the aid of Duke Albert IV of Bavaria and Maximilian I, Ulrich invaded the Rhine Palatinate with an army of 20,000 soldiers, obtaining Maulbronn Abbey, the County of Löwenstein and the districts of Weinsberg, Neuenstadt am Kocher, and Möckmühl from the Palatinate as well as Heidenheim an der Brenz and the abbeys of Königsbronn, Anhausen, and Herbrechtingen. Ulrich's ability to rule, on the other hand, was less reliable. The first crisis he faced was financial: since the beginning of his reign to 1514, he had racked up a debt of more than 600,000 florins in addition to the debt of 300,000 florins he inherited, amounting to almost one million florins. Ulrich attempted to assuage this with a 6% wealth tax (1 pfennig on 1 gulden), which was met with fierce resistance by his subjects, particularly the Ehrbarkeit, who had the most to lose. Ulrich refused to call a diet to discuss this tax, but he did not press it and repealed it. Following this failure, Ulrich next tried an indirect tax (3 schilling heller on the Centner) on consumables such as meats, wine and grain. Again Ulrich refused to call a diet to discuss the tax, but successfully levied it through local and district officials. This particular tax was intensely unpopular, even more so than the first, as it was implemented by the officials who had dodged the first tax, drove the prices of their food up and, to the chagrin of the lower classes, Ulrich and his government sought to have Roman law officially accepted into Württemberg's legal system.
The tax, combined with the statute passed by the Estates in 1514 that denied scales and weights, further hurting merchants and farmers, the lack of say commoners had in their own government, and the restriction of the use of the forests, rivers and meadows around them caused much unrest. To pour salt into the wound, the commoners came to dread the increase in lawyers and officials, who brought new legal methods. A list of grievances from the peasantry makes clear their dissatisfaction, and the final result of this dissatisfaction and taxation was the Poor Conrad revolt, which began in Kernen im Remstal in the Schorndorf district, 30 km (19 mi) from Stuttgart, a wine-growing region particularly affected by economic downturn caused by poor harvests in recent years and high taxation. Despite Ulrich's repealing of the excise on meat, discontent continued to grow, forcing Ulrich to finally call a diet. He held it in Tübingen on 26 June 1514 in a move that showed his paranoia of public opinion of him in the capital, and would be the first of three diets in Ulrich's reign, though representatives from 14 towns in the Duchy had met previously in Marbach am Neckar in order to effectively pacify the attending commoners.
The result of that pre-meeting was the list of 41 articles that became the Treaty of Tübingen, the most significant piece of legislation of Ulrich's reign, at the Diet on 8 July 1514. The Estates agreed to pay Ulrich 920,000 florins over the next decade to annul his debts in exchange for requiring the consent of the Estates prior to any declaration of war, the prosecution of criminals to be instigated only with a regular legal procedure, and the right all citizens of the Duchy at will, called the Freisitz, provided they met certain criteria. While the relationship between the Duke and the Estates seemed to be cemented, the Dukes did not always abide by the Treaty, and the knights and prelates, who appeared at no point or at one point in the creation of the Treaty respectively, had little no involvement in it. Ironically, the Treaty, which would not be fully implemented for the rest of the 16th century, appeared to be more of a victory for Duke Ulrich, as he sought just to appease the Estates and to obtain the funds required to continue his rule, both of which he had accomplished, obliging him to ignore the treaty.
Three events would come to be responsible for the demise of Duke Ulrich's first rule. The first of these would be the murder of his equerry, Hans Ritter von Hutten, in the forests of Böblingen in May 1515. Ulrich had taken a romantic interest in von Hutten's wife and, according to a later declaration the Imperial Diet of Augsburg on 19 August 1518, had become hostile towards him after Hans' marriage to Ursula von Hutten. Ursula was the daughter of Thumb von Neuburg, the marshal and one of the most influential men in the ducal court, and Hans von Hutten was the cousin of Ulrich von Hutten, a famous humanist and knight who was also a firebrand publicist, and son of Ludwig von Hutten, a Franconian knight who had also served in the ducal court and was of the von Huttens, one of the most powerful lower noble families in the entire Duchy. The political fallout of this murder resulted in the immediate resignation of 18 noblemen from Ulrich's court, demands from the von Huttens for financial compensation, and fiery, printed attacks by Ulrich von Hutten.
The second event was the flight of Ulrich's wife, Sabine of Bavaria, back to her family in November 1515 along with Dietrich Spät, one of Ulrich's advisers. Overnight she had unmade a match Emperor Maximilian I had arranged with her father, Duke Alphrecht. She had complained bitterly about the mistreatment she had experienced by Ulrich, of von Hutten's murder, and of Ulrich's refusal to pay off her debts. Her immediate family demanded immediate compensation and for Ulrich to be expelled, and to this end appealed to the Estates but were rebuked, despite Ulrich's now widespread unpopularity out of loyalty to him and a lack of influence in Württemberg on Sabine's part. The Bavarians resorted to attacking the Duchy, causing Maximilian I to intervene and call a diet in Stuttgart on 18 September 1515 to limit Ulrich's power and to create a balanced system of government. This resulted in the Treaty of Blaubeuren, which mandated that a seven-member regency would rule the Duchy for a period of six years consisting of the Landhofmeister, the Chancellor, a prelate, two nobles, and two burghers, with an eighth regent to be named by the Emperor. Ulrich himself was to be dependent on this regency for counsel, and he no longer had control of the Duchy, a proposition he was not in agreement with. Ulrich charged many leading members of the Ehrbarkeit, and of them killed brothers Conrad and Sebastion Breuning, Conrad Vaut, the bailiff of Cannstatt, and Hans Stickel, the Burgomaster of Stuttgart. After the executions of the Breuning brothers, Maximilian attempted to call another diet to enforce the Treaty of Blaubeuren, but it was here that he realized the fatal flaw of the treaty: it did not involve the Estates and, thanks in part to Maximilian's advanced age, they neither the will nor power to act against Ulrich.
The final event that sealed the fate of Ulrich's first reign of the Duchy came eight days after Maximilian I's death on 12 January 1519, when Duke Ulrich stormed the Imperial City of Reutlingen on the pretense of avenging the recent murder of the commander of the town's fort and his wife. He made it a property of Württemberg property, with its allegiance owed to Ulrich rather than the Emperor. This entire event, the metaphorical last straw of Ulrich's reign, was in complete violation of the Treaty of Tübingen and angered the other Free Cities, most of whom were in the Swabian League, from which Württemberg had been expelled in February 1512 against the wishes of Maximilian I, who prepared for war while Ulrich coerced 80,000 florins from the Estates and received 10,000 crowns from Francis I of France in February 1519 to fund his war and repay a past debt. The man to lead the Swabian League army was the capable Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, and his campaign would last little over two weeks. It opened with Duke Wilhelm IV attacking Hellenstein Castle on 28 March 1519, followed then by attacks on Esslingen, Uhlbach, Obertürkheim, Hedelfingen, the nunnery of Weiler Filstand, Hunddskehle Castle, Teck Castle, and finally stormed Stuttgart in April and forced Ulrich to flee. His first reign had ended, and he would not return for 15 years.
The first order of business for the Swabian League occupation was to set Württemberg's government in order, and one of the most crucial tasks to achieve this was to settle the enormous 1.1 million gulden debt, and few wanted to help finance this mountainous deficit. The knights, who were at this time most able to assist, did not want to as they felt that they did not constitute an estate of the Duchy and were thus without obligation to the Duchy. Since the knights refused to pay and the Ehrbarkeit and lay citizenry had not the funds to pay, the League sold the Duchy to the new Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, on 6 February 1520 for a sum of 220,000 florins with the blessing of the Estates and on the conditions that they pay Ulrich's debts and that they defend the Duchy from any future attacks made by Ulrich. Charles V may have had some motives in the purchasing of the Duchy based on plans of Maximilian I's in 1518 of "Austrian centralization" in Swabia with "an integrated judicial system." Charles V did not, however, ever rule the Duchy himself, electing instead to proclaim the "freedom of the Estates of Württemberg" on 15 October 1520 and that it would pay him an annual levy of 22,000 florins, setting the tone of the Habsburgs' 14-year rule of Württemberg, one in which the nobility were to be empowered. This government in Charles V's absence was headed by a new position, the Statthalter, a nobleman who represented the Emperor in all matters, and the reinstated Gregor Lamparter, one of the Ehrbarkeit and Chancellor at the time Ulrich had arrested that had escaped death. Charles V turned the Duchy over to Archduke Ferdinand I on 31 March 1522, who first called a diet to publicly state his support of the Treaty of Tübingen, followed by the appointment of a new Statthalter, Maximilian van Zeverbergen from the Netherlands, and Chancellor, Heinrich Winckelhofer, who was aided in the issuing of the Statthalter's orders by the regents and other commissioners. Treasury officials were given much more control over the treasury than in Ulrich's reign so as to reestablish order, and the Estates would help organize it like its counterpart in Austria, which was separate from the Chancery and was called the Kammer and was operated by three treasurers. This control over the treasury and state expenditure would be the most important reform of the Habsburg occupation.