History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Adolphus I of Nassau

During his lifetime Rudolph had tried to make the nobles choose and crown his son Albert as his successor. But he had tried in vain. For Albert was a gloomy, unlovable man, and the nobles feared him. Therefore, upon Rudolph's death, they rejected Albert and chose Adolphus, Count of Nassau, as King.

Adolphus was a poor Count, poorer even than Rudolph had been when he came to the throne, and he won the crown by the help of the clergy, chiefly by that of the Archbishop of Mainz. But he won it, too, by giving many and great promises to the Church—promises he never meant to keep.

But however Adolphus had won the crown, he showed himself to be a bold, stern king. He kept peace within the land, and even the dark-browed Albert bent the knee to him and acknowledged him as overlord.

Edward I of England was at war with France, so he made friends with Adolphus. And, to win his help against the King of France, Edward gave Adolphus a large sum of money. Adolphus took the money right willingly, but he never struck one blow in Edward's cause.

Instead of raising an army to fight for England he spent part of the money in buying Thuringia from Albert the Worthless. But Albert's sons, Frederick of the Bitten Cheek, and Diezmann, rebelled at being thus defrauded of their heritage. Then there was war between them and Adolphus.

Meanwhile the Archbishop of Mainz had been growing ever more and more angry because Adolphus had not kept his promises to make the Church more powerful. The King, whom he had hoped to find a mere tool in his hands, had grown self-willed. So the Archbishop began to urge the princes of the realm to depose Adolphus and make Albert, Duke of Austria, the son of Rudolph of Hapsburg, King instead.

Albert was very willing to be King. He had always hated Adolphus, and although he had done homage to him he had ever thwarted him, and done him all the mischief he could.

So King Adolphus was deposed and Albert chosen to succeed him. But Adolphus would not lightly give up his crown, and he gathered his army to fight for it.

Albert also gathered his army, and the foes met on the field of Gollheim near Worms. On both sides fluttered the same royal standard—the white cross on a red ground. Both kings wore the same golden armour, with the black eagle embroidered on their surcoats.

It was July. The heat was terrific, and many fell dead, struck down, not by their foes, but by the sun. Stifled by the heat the Duke's standard-bearer died in the saddle. But dead, he still sat upon his horse, his stiffened hand still clung to the standard, while the maddened steed galloped wildly up and down the ranks, a sight terrible to behold.

Hotly the battle raged, and fiercely the sun beat upon the struggling men. The King was thrown from his horse. Shaken and stunned he was led out of the press. But as soon as he recovered himself he leaped upon another horse. His head however was so hurt that he could not wear a helmet. Glad of the relief, unmindful of the danger, he dashed bareheaded once more into the fray. In the midst of the clash and clang of battle the rival kings met. They were clad alike, save that the head of Adolphus was bare.

"Here shall you yield me the Empire," cried Adolphus, as he dashed upon the foe.

"That lies in the hand of God," answered Albert, and his heavy sword descended upon the King's bare head. Quickly knights rushed between them. The King was surrounded, and fought with desperate courage, but at length he fell wounded to death.

As the news of Adolphus's death spread over the field fighting ceased. Albert was now undisputed King, and there was no more reason for fighting.