(Essentials of European Literature)

Heinrich, King of Bohemia, Duke of Carinthia, and Court of Tyrol, was an important person to three people—King John of Luxemburg, Albert of Austria, and Ludwig of Wittelsbach. Though most of the king’s hereditary territory had long been taken by others, the Tyrol and other lands he still owned were valuable. The three rival monarchs sought, by various means, to control them in order to extend their respective empires.

John of Luxemburg persuaded Heinrich to agree that his daughter, Princess Margarete, should marry John’s son, Prince Johann of Luxemburg, and that Princess Margarete should be declared Heinrich’s heir. It was not likely that Heinrich himself should have another heir, despite the fact that his wife, Princess Beatrix, was still young.

Princess Margarete and Prince Heinrich were married in childhood. At the wedding feast, Margarete took a fancy to the prince’s page, Chretien de Laferte, and insisted that he be made a knight. Johann refused, but Margarete had her way when the prince’s father agreed.

Margarete was undoubtedly one of the ugliest women ever born. To compensate for her lack of charm, she concentrated upon becoming a good ruler and achieving power. She always had to be vigilant against the encroachments of other nations, even against her own barons and nobles, who were despoiling the land. When her father died and John of Luxemburg was killed in battle, she and Johann were the joint heirs of their principalities, but it was Margarete who ruled, governing so cleverly that her fame spread throughout Europe.

She and Chretien had become close friends. When Heinrich’s mistress died, she left three daughters. One of these, Agnes von Flavon, appealed to Margarete and Heinrich to be permitted to retain the two fiefs which Heinrich had granted her mother. Johann was willing, but the princess declared that one of the estates should go to Chretien. When a group of barons, including her illegitimate brother, Albert, plotted to drive the Luxemburgers from the country, Margarete consented to the revolt and urged that Chretien be made leader of the rebels. Then Johann informed Margarete that Agnes was to marry Chretien. Margarete sent anonymous letters revealing the planned revolt, and the rebellion was put down. Chretien’s head was sent to her by Johann, who did not know that Margarete herself had revealed the conspiracy.

A Jew named Mendel Hirsch came to the castle to ask for permission to settle in the Tyrol. Margarete granted his petition, and the country prospered from the industry and crafts which the Jews brought to...

(The entire section is 1063 words.)