Volume 31, No.2 - Summer 1985
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1985 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


William and Mary College

Monmouth College

In the fourteenth century crusaders came to Prussia from many parts of Christendom to make war on Lithuania. Their announced intent was to open the way for missionaries to circulate freely among the pagans and Russian Orthodox believers; this could be done, and the pagan raids on neighboring Christian states ended, they said, only after crusading armies forced the pagan leaders to acknowledge the superior might of western arms by accepting baptism and establishing churches in their domains. Since these crusaders were not seeking to capture holy cities or worship at ancient shrines, they cannot be understood as exact equivalents of their forebearers who went to the Holy Land between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Another major difference was that these crusaders were living in the age of chivalry. Chivalric values colored everything they did.1

One of the best descriptions of these chivalric values was written by an Austrian poet named Peter von Suchenwirt, who accompanied Duke Albrecht of Austria to crusade in Samogitia in the late summer of 1377.2 His poetry, written in the classic meter of the German courtly epic, expresses the spirit of adventure and idealism that brought crusaders from France, England, Scotland, and central Europe, and he further demonstrates the importance of play in noble society: war as a game conducted by formal rules, with little danger or discomfort to the noble participants.

If the military defeat of the pagans had been foremost in the minds of these crusaders, they would probably have come for a winter expedition, when the invading armies had significant advantages over the defenders: for a few weeks in winter the heavily armored knights could ride over the frozen swamps and use the rivers like highways; and it was more difficult for the native peoples to prepare ambushes. Indeed, in the late summer, when this expedition took place, weather and terrain worked to the disadvantage of the invading army.

It is easy to overstate the secular values of the chivalric era, and we should not lose sight of the religious motivations that were mixed into them. However, it would be a mistake to believe that these crusaders expressed their religious beliefs in the same ways that earlier generations had done.

The crusaders were traveling to Prussia in support of the Teutonic Knights, who had been conducting crusades against Baltic pagans and Russian Orthodox principalities for almost a century and a half. The Teutonic Knights were members of a monastic order dedicated to warfare on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. The grandmaster at this moment was Winrich von Kniprode, whose reputation for gallantry and chivalry was almost legendary among the knights of central and western Europe. With little question the Teutonic Knights were enjoying their proudest hours. Nobles came from many lands to join the ceremonies, participate in the pageantry, and, if young, be knighted on the battlefield by some prominent lord.

Duke Albrecht III (1348-1395) of Austria had vowed to take the cross specifically for the purpose of being knighted. He was already one of the great lords of Europe — he had ruled his lands since 1365 and had recently won Regensburg from the powerful lords of Schaunburg. He could have been dubbed at any time — no one would have disputed that the son-in-law of the emperor had won his spurs — but the values of the time urged him to win renown and fame in some unusual and spectacular manner. This crusade was that spectacular feat, and he was knighted on the battlefield by Count Hermann of Cilly during the first day of fighting in Samogitia.

Although his expedition was a large one involving almost two thousand horsemen (sixty-two knights, 100 mercenaries, volunteers from other lands, squires seeking knighthood and the men-at-arms), Albrecht's crusade attracted little more than a remark from contemporary chroniclers.3 His army came to Prussia in August, on September 4th made a short incursion into the border territories of Samogitia, and then went home to celebrate his triumph.

Albrecht's later career proves that this crusade was not a whim of the moment. He was always short of money because his military activities exceeded his incomes, but nevertheless he lavished treasure on the embellishment of St. Stephen's cathedral and founded a theological faculty at the University of Vienna; he sponsored grateful poets throughout his lifetime. He was a model of chivalry.

The Lithuanians were no mean opponents in 1377, although their empire was shaken badly by the death of Grand Duke Algirdas (Olgierd) in late May. The empire extended north, east, and south over recently acquired Russian lands. For three decades Kæstutis (Keijstut) had watched the northwestern frontiers, where the Teutonic Knights were pressing the Samogitians from Prussia and Livonia; and Algirdas had watched the Mongols, the Poles, and the independent Russians; both had relied upon brothers, sons, and nephews to rule the subdivisions of the empire and somehow satisfy both the desires of their boyars and the wishes of the grand dukes. Now this system of personal loyalty was put to the test, especially because armies of crusaders from Poland, Hungary, Livonia, and Prussia invaded the border territories. Kæstutis, the principal figure among the heirs, was most concerned about the Russian territories, where he saw not only the most dangerous enemies, but also the greatest opportunities for future expansion. With the Poles occupying Cholm in September and the Hungarians Belz, with his nephew Jogaila eager to exercise supreme power, Kæstutis had no resources to spare in defending Samogitia from the expedition led by Duke Albrecht. Moreover, he generally did not worry about crusaders from Prussia except on those occasions when they constructed fortresses that could be used as a base for raiding deep into the heartland of his country. Since the expedition of 1377, like most crusading incursions, was of short duration, with no effort made to establish a permanent presence, Kæstutis felt safe in leaving the Samogitians to their own devices.

The Samogitians were used to defending themselves. Their proverbial independence extended to their relationships with the grand dukes, too, and that was yet another reason for Kæstutis to worry less about them than his other territories. In fact, the conduct of the next generation of grand dukes leads us to believe that they welcomed minor crusader victories that might teach unruly pagan nobles to be more subservient to their natural lords. Jogaila and Vytautas separately gave Samogitia to the Teutonic Knights in return for military alliances that were useful in furthering their ambitions to occupy more Russian lands. In short, the grand dukes had relatively little use for their independent Samogitian subjects.

The Samogitians were not only slow to recognize the need for national leadership, they were backward in religious, social, and economic development, too. Living in the lowlands of western Lithuania, almost surrounded by crusader castles, they were conservative in their customs and agriculture. Some of this backwardness was due to religious reasons, some to economic conditions in a country that was largely swamp and forest, and some to the devastation caused by decades of warfare. The nobles were famous warriors who relied upon booty from raids to supplement the primitive agriculture and raising of livestock. They shared few of the chivalric manners of the crusaders and occasionally roasted prisoners over sacred fires. The crusaders considered them little above animals, but respected their courage and military skill.

We know less about the Samogitians than we wish. Since they were pre-literate and isolated from the larger world (even from the rest of Lithuania), our sources of information are archeology, stories and myths, and descriptions written by visitors. Unfortunately, Samogitians did not welcome even potentially friendly visitors. Peter von Suchenwirt's poem, brief as it is, is thus among the best accounts of Samogitia in the late fourteenth century. We can see both the actions and attitudes of the crusaders and some of the reactions of their Samogitian opponents. In understanding the chivalric crusades there is no better source than Peter of Suchenwirt:

                Duke Albrecht's Crusade

When one counts from Christ's birth
thirteen hundred years
and seventy more
in the seventh [year of that decade] it happened 
5 that there set out from Austria
the valiant Duke Albrecht,
courteous, honorable and gentle.
In his heart and his mind he desired
to become a knight. 
10 He knew that for him gold
was better than silver. And this was true.
With him there rode many noble squires
and many high born knights.
Fifty of his excellent and worthy vassals,
15 longing for glory,
also accompanied him on the journey to Prussia.
There also went a fine company of
five proud and noble spirited counts, 
20 who spared neither themselves nor their wealth
in the service of Cod, honor and chivalry.
Their hearts were generous and good.
One was from Magdeburg.
Count Hans is the one I mean. 
25 He was noble by age and by birth.
Count Hugo of Monfort,
who was never lacking in loyalty nor honor, also went,
as did three counts of Cilly,
all most honored men.
30 First there was Count Hermann
and a/so his son and his uncle.
None of them had ever been nor would ever be touched
by any mark of dishonor.
Their hearts were filled with virtue. 
35 The expedition set out from Vienna.
One first saw the assembled army at Laa
(the city lies on the River Thaya).
Many a proud warrior
grandly set out for battle. 
40 Display vied with display as
each in his own way
made himself ready for war
so that knights and noble ladies
might praise their courage. 
45 Many a mouth proclaimed
that never before had there been seen so many warriors
so well armed and so well mounted.
No expense was spared
on horses and fine clothes. 
50 The army set off from here without incident
in glory without blemish.
and traveled through city and countryside
to the city of Breslau.
There the count invited 
55 the sweet, lovely ladies up to the castle.
They blessed
6 the proud [knights]
with all manner of happiness
just as cool May
brings meadow and forest into bloom.
60 There was great joy
in joking, dancing and laughing
and the sweet ladies took pains to dispel
whatever cares might have burdened [those knights].
[All this], with proper decorum, 
65 they bestowed upon the guests and noble princes.
From here the noble band
went to Thorn,
a city in Prussia (it is still there today).
The fine and noble prince 
70 was courteously offered
the ladies' hospitality.
Their dainty mouths and cheeks
were a shining splendor and
they adorned themselves
75 for the joyous occasion
with pearls, waistbands and brooches,
with tiaras, chaplets and wreaths.
And the dances!
How many there were, all fine and decorous
80 From here they went on
to Marienburg.
The grandmaster had his seat there.
Winrich von Kniprode was his name.
This noble and virtuous lord 
85 most graciously received
the prince and his men,
showing them great honor.
They were most generously feted
with good drink and fine food. 
90 Through generosity one guards himself
against the blemish of dishonor
and here there was a double show!
Then they went to Koenigsberg
and here too the great lords
95 gave great display of generosity.
Each vied with the other
in emptying his purse.
None wished to lag behind
and so hastened [to outdo the other]. 
100 Without surcease
the guests were welcomed
and received and entertained
most courteously.
Yet prudence held generosity within bounds 
105 until it came to the turn of the prince.
That noble and virtuous duke
gave a banquet at the castle.
Trumpets and pipes played
between courses. 
110 The dining was lavish.
Each course was fourfold:
spiced, gilded and decorated,
baked and roasted.
The table was bedecked with wine 
115 from the South and wine from the East
and clear Rainfal. All were served
generously in fine vessels,
spotless and shining
precious, bejeweled [goblets] 
120 of gold and silver.
Before the banquet ended
the prince displayed his noble generosity:
silver and gold were brought forth
to be given as signs of honor. 
125 Two knights and a noble squire,
each renowned for their feats of arms
and acknowledged as the very best
of his land,
received the gift.
130 These men, never touched by dishonor, were
Heinrich von Bruchdorf
from Holstein and
Lord Berchthold von Buchenau
from Buchen.
135 They received the gold by knightly right.8
The third was a noble squire.
Siegfried Forster was his name.
His family was from Poland.
Herolds and minstrels 
140 rejoiced in the prince's generosity:
"Give it all away!" they shouted in rowdy exuberance.
"May God reward him. I've gotten my share
and its quite enough for me,
if truth be told." 
145 The lords, knights and squires
stayed here for ten days and
were courteously entertained.
Then in keeping with old traditions
the grandmaster gave banquet 
150 at Koenigsberg in the [chapter] hall.
The feast was lavish, you can be sure.
When places at the table of honor were assigned
Konrad of Krey was
seated at the head by unanimous acclaim.
155 He had earned this through his
feats of arms in many a land.
As a noble knight
he had often shed his blood
and undergone hardships 
160 in the service of chivalry.
When the crusade to Lithuania
was proclaimed
people came [to Koenigsberg] for that purpose
from distant lands.
165  The marshal and the experienced men
instructed everyone to procure
full provisions for three weeks'
travel by horse and by ship.
No one objected. 
170 The stewards hastened
to buy all manner of foods.
They bought twice the necessary amounts,
sparing neither gold nor silver.
The grandmaster joined in the crusade 
175 in honor of the lord of Austria
and of the chaste Virgin,
the Mother of God.
The army rode through Samland
and came to the River Suppen 
180 at Insterburg.
There were four bridges there,
where the water, as we saw,
was near spear-shaft deep.
On each bridge the press and noise [of the passing army] 
185 was such that scarcely a soul could sleep.
From here the army moved without incident
to the Memel.
That river was bow-shot wide.
Here the army embarked on ships 
190 and the sailors set to
eagerly and willingly,
exerting themselves in their labors.
From noon to vespers
more than thirty thousand men 
195 were ferried over the wide river
on ships
which numbered
six hundred and ten in all.
The only casualties the army suffered
200  were three horses and one squire drowned. 
Those we left behind there. 
May God restore the loss. 
The army hastened eagerly toward the pagans: 
a thousand men making their way 
205 through the wilderness' dense undergrowth, 
skirting neither ravines nor clearings, 
nor deep streams nor bogs nor creeks. 
Not even in Hungary is travel 
over level terrain so difficult.
210 The marshes caused us much travail, 
yet the army traversed the wilderness, 
pushing right across it, 
horses jumping, slipping, forging on, 
the branches slashing painfully 
215 across our throats.
There were many large trees
felled by the wind
over which we had to force our way,
like it or not.
220 In the press many a man cried out,
"The Prussians are doing us in!"
Many of the horses and mules
carrying the food and drink
were injured,
225 their knees and forelegs sprained
from being so hard driven.
Jokes and laughter vanished.
The horses' [hooves] were so damaged that
many began to limp.
230 Day faded and
night came
and we made camp
but found little comfort there.
The horses had nothing but grass.
235 Thus we passed the night.
Early the next morning the army
joyfully rushed into the pagans' land
at full gallop.
The banner of Ragnit was at the head as was customary, 
240  followed by those of St. George
and of Steierland.
Then came the ornate banner of the grandmaster
along with that of Austria.
Many noble flags 
245  fluttered in the breeze.
Many of the proud heroes
who were in the service of love,
driven by their ardor and [hopes of] joy,
wore garlands and wreaths of ostrich feathers. 
250 As signs of favor they had been given
gold, silver, jewels,
pearls large and small,
wreaths and ornaments,
all of which they bore on their helmets, 
255  glittering in the sun.
And so many noble guests
came with the army into Samogithia.
They found a wedding in progress.
These uninvited guests
260  took up a dance with the pagans,
sixty of whom died as a result.
Then they set fire to the village
and flames rose high into the sky.
I would not have liked to have been the bridegroom 
265 there, on my oath.
The smoke and fire
would have easily driven me away from my bride.
Count Hermann of Cilly
drew his sword from its sheath 
270  and swung it high in the air
and said to Duke Albrecht,
"Better knight than squire",
and struck the blow of honor.
Sixty-four others were also knighted 
275 on that very day.
The prince, fearing no disgrace,
knighted with his own sword
whomever asked it of him.
He did this to the praise of Christendom 
280 and to the honor and glory
of Mary, Virgin most pure.
The army began to crisscross
the land
and God helped the Christians 
285 come unawares
upon the pagans and this cost the latter dearly.
We valiantly pursued them
Whomever we valiantely pursued, we caught.
we caught, stabbed and slashed. 
290 The country was rich and heavily populated
and so we had all we could desire.
The Christian's gain was the pagans' loss:
so tipped the scales of war.
A marvelous time and day!
295 The army camped on a field and
erected many fine tents
which shone splendidly in the sun.
One also saw many fine banners
of the lords and lands 
300 and thus recognized
those who had joined the crusade.
The pagans gave us no peace that night;
rather, in grim determination
they raided the army in force,
305  stabbing, slashing, throwing spears.
The Christians tired of this
and drove them off.
Still there was little rest that night
for screaming loudly 
310 like wild beasts the [pagans]
stabbed men, speared horses
and then fled back into the marsh.
They kept this up all night.
At daybreak 
315 the army broke camp and began burning,
the flames rising high into the sky.
But the army's marshal in Prussia,
Gotthort of Linden,
ordered the men to stay with the main force 
320 until each man, fully armed,
could gather at his own banner
and thus ride in the proper assembly.
By the time this was done
it was light enough so that 
325 each one could see and recognize his comrades.
Then the army set out across the land
just like the seven stars of the Pleiades.
The pagans screamed in the thickets.
They were hard pressed
330 and many were slain.
The women and children were taken prisoner.
What a jolly band of retainers!
We saw many women
with two children tied to their bodies, 
335 one in front, one behind,
riding their horses
barefoot and without spurs.
The pagans suffered greatly:
we captured many of them 
340  and immediately tied their hands together
and led them like
[braces of] hunting dogs.
Then the army made camp.
The Prussians, 
345 to their great distress, provided
an abundance of geese and chickens, sheep and cows,
horses, honey and other plunder.
Such was their festive day!
The marshal and the master 
350 in wise and thoughtful counsel
devised a good plan:
each night they had a strong stockade
erected around the army
and manned it well with sentries. 
355  This was done
and so we could sleep in peace
and the pagans no longer
attacked us at night. 
360 On the third day the army
joyfully entered the land
named Rossenia.
There we laid waste and burned,
slew and speared, charging 
365 boldly through thicket and meadow.
It was like chasing foxes and rabbits;
just so did they flee!
Konrad of Schweinbord
rode down the pagan chief
370 and struck him with his spear,
piercing him with the blade.
Thus did he slay him.
The Christians rejoiced
and the pagans tried to save themselves 
375  [by fleeing] into the forest, thickets and marshes.
Whenever a [pursuing] knight strayed from the path
his horse would sink into the bog up to the saddle.
"Down here!, down here!"
he would loudly cry. 
380  Then the pagans grimly
lay a knavish ambush,
waiting for the army to stray [into the bog].
But we were too clever for this ruse.
Instead the army immediately made camp.
385 The noble Count Hermann of Cilly
invited the prince of Austria
and all the newly knighted men
to dine with him that evening
in honor of their great valor. 
390 The plans were made
and nothing was overlooked.
At the table sat
eighty-two men
who had won their knighthood 
395 through the precious gift of glory.
There were nine splendid courses
at that meal,
foods the noble lord
had brought along with him. 
400  The market place was far removed.
Let me tell you an amazing thing:
a stag
the knights ate at that meal
had been hunted down at another place 
405 a good thousand12 miles away!
A strange fate for that game.
They drank only good wines,
Wippacher, Rainfal
and Luterberger. 
410 I was witness to it all.
After the meal
many worthy knights
rode out to seek adventure.
They set the land afire 
415 and burned it
until the smoke was so thick
one could hardly see.
I tell the truth!
We stayed in that land 
420 for eight days.
Many men were knighted,
fully one hundred and eight.
Nor does this amaze me in the least 
425  since I saw it with my own eyes.
The army punished the pagans,
laying waste to three entire lands,
whose names were
Samogithia, Rossenia and Eragolja.
430  We were beset by terrible cold,
wind, rain and hail,
which ruined armor and provisions.
It poured down on us for three days and nights.
and both man and horse suffered greatly. 
435 The weather turned so cold
that many horses, having shivered all night,
could eat neither leaves nor grass.
The cold was dreadful!
And so we left that land,
440 crossing valley and ravine, marsh and beach,
hastening toward the Memel,
and when we came to that river
many a man looked toward heaven
and prayed, "Mary, Virgin pure, 
445 help me safely reach the other shore".
At the place the ships were there was
a deep and sandy marsh covered with thick reeds
and so some swam, others rode [out to the ships],
but finally the Cod of Heaven 
450 helped us cross over safely.
The ships the duke
and many of the other lords were on
were born by the wind to Koenigsberg.
But those who were following after them 
455 had scarcely sailed five miles
when a strong wind drove them
far out into the Kurish Haff.
Many thought his grave
was to be in the sea. 
460 Yet God showed His mercy.
Ulrich, Wulfinch and Friedrich
of Stubenberg
were in great distress.
They prayed to Christ in heaven 
460 Yet God showed His mercy.
Ulrich, Wulfinch and Friedrich
of Stubenberg
were in great distress.
They prayed to Christ in heaven 
465  who had suffered bitter death
to save their from their peril
and He who had redeemed Adam and Eve
came to the aid of these lords.
And so the army moved overland,
470  but, I venture to say, few of them galloped,
since the horses were all exhausted,
weak and sick with catarrah.
There was a wilderness there called the Gauden
and in all my journeys, to the west and to the south, 
475 I never rode a worse stretch.
I swear on my honor!
Whenever a horse stood up to the saddle
in marsh mud
with a wide creek before him 
480  one had to goad him with the spurs,
forcing him to cross over.
Otherwise death would have overtaken him.
We hurried on to Koenigsberg
where we found rest and comfort. 
485 The duke graciously cared for
and extended his hospitality to
Jeschko Schwab of Pechin and to the count of Has.
The third was the count of Kolbrad.
Also included were Heinrich List and Albrecht Meisner; 
490 a noble squire;
from Cologne a lord named Ruprecht Kraft,
a pious and well-known knight;
Lord Eckhard of Scotland;
William and Richard 
495  and a Frenchman
named Louis.
In noble fashion the duke,
led by his generosity, sent these men
golden cups and silver bowls 
500 filled with golden coins.
They received the silver and the noble gold
as rewards for valor.
Conrad of Krey was commander
and the army of Austria
505 was under his able leadership.
For this many a noble offspring is grateful yet today.
The master and the Order
praised the great glory of
the [duke] of Austria and thanked him 
510 for bringing with him
an army so well disciplined
that never once had a weapon been drawn
in anger or rashness.
For this he was praised and honored. 
515 Then it was loudly proclaimed
throughout all Koenigsberg
that whosoever were deserving of reward,
be it gold or silver,
should come straightaway to the court and there he
would be well paid. 
520 Sweet sounds of praise rang out.
Then the army set out
in honor unblemished.
At Riesenburg a messenger came
to the young and virtuous prince 
525 [with word] that his lovely wife had given birth
to a child, a male,
a fair and sweet little boy,
who was later to be named Albrecht.
His heart was freed of all cares 
530 for this was his first offspring.
Then they moved on to the Sweidnitz,
which pleased the duchess there.
Her heart rejoiced in the young prince,
for she had been born in Austria 
535 of the same family and lineage.
The noble and splendid princess
had many maids and lovely ladies,
noble by birth and also by nature,
540 who served as gracious hostesses.
For four days
there was courteous and high-spirited joy.
The princess graciously and nobly entertained
the guests and the prince 
545 and gave them all they required,
amply and generously.
Whatever one needed, she gave it to him twofold.
No one had to buy so much as an egg!
She gave thirteen 
550 horses and geldings
and sixteen golden cloths.
Her name stands in Lady Honor's book:
"Agnet, known for her kindness".
We did not stay there longer 
555 but rather set off for Austria
by way of Poland'
15 and Moravia.
In my poem
I have described in simple words
the course of this expedition. 
560 I now give noblemen this advice:
Whoever wishes to be a good knight
should take Lady Honor as his companion
and also St. George, truly!
"Better knight than squire." 
565 Let him bear these words in his heart
for as long as he shall live
[and serve them] with his thoughts, actions and good
In this way he will avoid all dishonor deeds.
and crown his name with glory. 
570 I Suchenwirt, respectfully urge
the noble to be worthy and brave.
Now follow my advice!


1 In English, the best recent monographs about these crusades are Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981) and William Urban, The Livonian Crusade (Washington: University Press of America', 1982); in German, Hartmut Boockman,, Der Deutsche Order), Zwoelf Capitel aus seiner Geschichte (Munich: Beck, 1981).
2 "Peter Suchenwirt," Scriptores rerum Prussicarum (ed. Ernst Strehlke. Leipzig, 1863; rpt. Frankfurt/Main: Minerva. 1965), II, 161-69; an earlier eloquent but very loose translation is found in Albert Cook, "A Knight There Was," Transactions of the American Philosophical Association, 38 (1907), pp. 89-107.
3 "Die Chronik Wigands von Marburg," in Scriptores, II, 584-86: "Eodem anno magister Wynricus validus paganorum supplantator, ad quem cum venisset dominus Albertus dux Austire cum 62 militibus et nobilibus in Prusziam pro fidei amplificacione, honorificeque, ut decet principes, est susceptus et tractatus, statuitque reysam, unde omnes dicti pergrini leti se preparant una cum magistro in arma contra paganos, compromittuntque in quendam nobilem Teutonum obedianciam tanquam in captaneum. Veniuntque in terram Kaltanenen; iussu magistri vexillum ordinis elevabatur; similiter dux Austrie cum suis in spiritu militari; in qua terra magister et dux steterunt diebus 2 et totam igni tradunt, viros, mulieres und pueros depulerunt, nec quisquam evasit manus eorum." The "Annalista Thorunensis" in Ibid., Ill, p. 106: "Eodem anno dux Austrie venit in Prussiam quasi cum Ilm equorum, nobilibus, comitibus, baronibus, etc., et dominus Winricus magister fecit unam reisam, devastando terras inferiores, videlicet Grogil, Pastow cum districtibus eorum, quas intravit pridie nonas Septembris manens ibi per VII dies."
4 These were young men who also wanted to be dubbed knights, not merely boys in training to be knights.
5 "Dienstman". This does not necessarily mean the same as "vassal" in England and France, but the difference is too subtle to worry about here.
6. "Zirten", literally to adorn. l.e., the ladies animated the knights just as May animates field and meadow.
In Hessen.
8 I.e., the squire got silver.
9 Ragnit was the headquarters of the regional defense; since the garrison was always assigned the duty of scouting ahead of the army, to clear the way and uncover ambushes, the unit's flag took precedence over all others. The next banners belonged to Conrad of Krey, the commander of the visiting crusaders, and the patron saint of the Teutonic Order, St. George, followed by those of the grandmaster and Albrecht.
10 I.e., ladies' champions.
11 "Gast". The word can mean either "foreigner" or "guest." Here Suchenwirt plays on the double meaning to achieve a cruel irony. For other examples of such heartless humor, see lines 332, 348.
12 Literally "two hundred miles," but one German mile equals five English miles.
13 See William Urban, "When Chaucer's Knight Went to 'Ruce'," Chaucer Review, 18 (1984), pp. 163-69, for a discussion of these territories.
14 The wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Charles IV of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperor; the son was Albrecht IV (1377-1404).
15 Actually Silesia. This region, which was usually subject to the king of Bohemia and part of the Holy Roman Empire, was recognized as a Polish land. German dukes, who did not have nineteenth century ideas about national boundaries, had good prospects of becoming king of Poland through marrying one of the daughters of the current ruler, Louis of Hungary.