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The Teutonic Order

Starting Resource: 16
-- From Land: 13
-- From Trade: 3

Capital Territory: Teutonic Order
Nation Class: Small

Total Starting Military
Infantry: 8
Cavalry: 2
Knights: 4
Artillery: 0
Generals: 2
Merchantmen: 0
Frigates: 0
Ships of the Line: 0

Click on the map to view your nation's position and starting troops

The Order was formed in 1190 by German merchants in Palestine to give medical aid to pilgrims at the holy places. They received Papal orders for crusades to take and hold Jerusalem for Latin Christianity. They were based at Acre. When the mission of the Order in Palestine was nearing its end, the Teutonic Knights moved their headquarter to Venice and offered their services to Christian rulers confronted with hostile non-Christian neighbors. In 1211, Andrew II of Hungary accepted their services and granted them the district of Burzenland in Transylvania. Andrew had been involved in negotiations for the marriage of his daughter with the son of Hermann, the Landgrave of Thuringia, whose vassals included the family of Hermann of Salza, the new Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Led by a brother called Theoderich, the Order defended Hungary against the neighbouring Cumans. In 1224 they petitioned Pope Honorius III to be placed directly under the authority of the Papal See, rather than of the King of Hungary. King Andrew responded by expelling them in 1225.

In 1226 Konrad I, duke of Masovia in west-central Poland, appealed to the Knights to defend his borders and subdue the pagan Baltic Prussians. Konrad agreed to allow the Teutonic Knights the usage of Polish lands as a base for the duration of their campaign against the Old Prussians. The Teutonic Order waited until they received official imperial authorisation. With the Golden Bull of Rimini, Emperor Frederick II bestowed the Order a special imperial privilege for the possession of Prussia. Soon the Teutonic Knights assimilated the smaller Order of Dobrzy, which had been established earlier by Konrad. The conquest of Prussia was accomplished with great bloodshed over more than 50 years, during which native Prussians who remained unbaptised either fell in battle, were subjugated, enslaved, or forced into exile. Christianized Prussians received the same rights as the newcomer settlers from other parts of the Empire. The conversion to Christianity was largely nominal and usually did not entail more than baptism. The Teutonic Knights were sometimes unwilling to convert pagans, as non- Christians could be used for labor. The Order transferred its headquarters to the brick castle of Marienburg (Malbork) on the Nogat River south of Danzig in 1309.

The Order ruled Prussia under permits issued by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor as a sovereign monastic state, comparable to the arrangement of the Knights Hospitallers in Rhodes and later in Malta. Previous documents in 1224 had put the inhabitants of 'Terra Prussia' as Reichsfreie, or under authority of only the emperor and the empire. In order to make up for losses from plague and to replace the partially exterminated native population, the Order encouraged the immigration of thousands of colonists from the Holy Roman Empire (mostly Germans, Flemish, and Dutch) and from Masovia (Masovians, the later Masurians). The surviving Old Prussians were gradually assimilated through Germanization. The settlers founded numerous towns and cities atop former Prussian settlements. They also built a number of castles from which the Order could defeat uprisings of Old Prussians, as well as continue its attacks on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, with whom the Order was often at war during the 14th and 15th centuries. Because western Lithuania (most of modern Lithuania) remained non-Christian until the end of the 14th century, much later than the rest of eastern Europe, many knights from western European countries such as England and France journeyed to Prussia to participate in the seasonal campaigns against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Some of these knights and nobles campaigned against pagans to obtain remission for their sins, while others fought to gain military experience.

When the Livonian Order was absorbed into the Teutonic Order in 1237, its territorial rule extended over Prussia, Livonia, Semigalia, and Estonia. Their next aim was to convert Orthodox Russia to Roman Catholicism, but after the knights suffered a disastrous defeat in the Battle on Lake Peipus (1242) at the hands of Prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod, the idea had to be dropped. In 1337 Emperor Louis IV allegedly granted the Order the imperial privilege to conquer all Lithuania and Russia. King Albert of Sweden conceded Gotland to the Order as a pledge (similar to a fiefdom), with the understanding that they would eliminate the piratical Victual Brothers from their strategic island base. An invasion force under Grand Master Konrad von Jungingen conquered the island in 1398, destroyed Visby, and drove the Victual Brothers out of Gotland and the Baltic Sea.

In 1386 Jogaila, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, was baptised into Christianity and married Queen Jadwiga of Poland, thus becoming King of Poland. This initiated an alliance between the two countries and created a potentially formidable opponent for the Teutonic Knights. The Order managed to play Jogaila and his cousin Vytautas against each other, but this strategy failed as Vytautas began to suspect the Order was planning to annex parts of his territory.

In 1410 at the Battle of Grunwald (also known as the battle of Tannenberg), a united Polish-Lithuanian army decisively defeated the Order and broke its military power. The Grand Master, Ulrich von Jungingen, and most of the Order's higher dignitaries fell on the battlefield (50 out of 60). The Polish-Lithuanian army then besieged the capital of the Order, Marienburg (Malbork) castle, but was unable to take it. When peace was made, the Order managed to retain essentially all of its territories. The Order was forced to put in place high taxation to pay a high indemnity, but did not give the cities sufficient requested representation.

In 1454 the gentry and burghers of western Prussia rose up against the Order in the "War of the Cities" or Thirteen Years' War, at the end of which the Order recognized the Polish crown's rights over Prussia's western half (subsequently Royal Prussia) while retaining eastern Prussia under nominal Polish overlordship.

The Teutonic Order begins play as a small nation with a mere shadow of its former military might. However, it still retains a strong military and a large force of knights. It only borders Russia and Poland/Lithuania, so expansion will mean direct war with a large nation unless a complex series of alliances can be forged. Keeping a large defensive force on the Teutonic Order homeland will always insure a foe would require a mighty army to assault it.

Visit the 1483 Discussion Forums to chat about the Teutonic Order.

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