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A Brave Woman Steals the Royal Crown – Helene Kottannerin (c. 1400-after 1458)

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During my stay at the castle, I had not had a single peaceful night because of the important task entrusted to me, and I had many bad dreams. One night in particular, I dreamed that a woman had penetrated through the wall into the vault and carried off the Holy Crown. I was terrified and got up right away and took a maid of honor, whose name is Dachpeck, with me to the vault. But there I found everything as I had left it. The Lady Dachpeck then said to me: “It is no wonder that you cannot sleep well; great things have been entrusted to you.” Thereupon we went back to our beds. And about all this I was thinking during the journey (3).

When we had reached the inn where we intended to eat, the good fellow took the pillow of which he was in charge, followed me carrying it to the place where we wanted to eat, and laid it down across from me, so that I could watch it while we were eating. After the meal, the good fellow took the pillow and put it on the sled again as before, and so we rode off and traveled until the darkness of night.

Then we reached the Danube, which was still covered with ice, but the ice had gotten thin in several places. When we were on the ice and had come as far as the middle of the Danube, the carriage of the ladies-in-waiting proved too heavy; the ice broke and the carriage toppled over, the ladies screamed, and there was much chaos and confusion. I was afraid and thought that we and the Holy Crown would all perish in the Danube together. Yet God came to our rescue. None of our people went under, but of the things that were on the carriage several fell into the water and disappeared underneath the ice. Then I took the duchess from Silezia and the highest-ranking ladies into my sled, and with the help of God we made it safely across the ice, and all the others did too.

When we arrived at the queen’s castle in Komorn, he who shared my anxiety took the pillow with the Holy Crown and carried it inside to a place where it would be safe. And when I arrived in the ladies’ quarters to see my gracious lady, I was received immediately by the noble queen who now knew well that with the help of God I had been a good messenger. But of the wondrous and truly miraculous assistance of God which had manifested itself there, her grace knows nothing, and she died before she had the opportunity to learn of it (4). It was never possible for me to be alone with her long enough to tell her the entire story from beginning to end, for we were not together much longer (5). And I also never had the opportunity to ask the one who shared my secret whether while working in the vault he had experienced the same miracle as I had witnessed, for he did not know much German and there was no one I could trust who could have translated for me.

[ . . . ]

(3) The passage is unclear; from the foregoing one would conclude that Kottanner spent just one night at the Plintenburg stronghold before returning to the queen with the Holy Crown.
(4) Queen Elizabeth died on 17 December 1442, only 4 days after a preliminary peace treaty with the Polish Wladislaus promised to end the civil war.
(5) Shortly after the coronation the members of the royal family went their separate ways for safety reasons; since Helene Kottanner was designated to take care of the little king, she had to take leave of the queen. They apparently never saw each other again.

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