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A Nobleman Lives for War, Plunder, and Adventure – Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1562)

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God alone knows how it happened that, despite such trust and good faith, I fell, despite my innocence, into the League’s hands, as I have already reported sufficiently and well. And if I had followed my own desires, I would have revenged myself on all my enemies, even if in doing so I were ruined [ . . . ].

I knew that I was innocent in this affair, and since I should and would surrender myself, I came right away in a few days to My Gracious Lord, Count Jörg von Wertheim, who was my very good friend and gracious lord, and who valued me above his life, property, and land and people, just as I trusted him. I was also his vassal. [ . . . ]

My Gracious Lord, Count Jörg, sent someone to my quarters late, after we had dined together in the evening. He said that I should come to His Grace in the castle as early as possible the next morning. I did this and found His Grace waiting for me, as he had said, for he was punctilious in his affairs. He offered me his hand, welcomed me, and asked with good and loyal intention, how I would act, and whether I would present myself [to the Swabian League] at Augsburg. I replied, “Yes!” Then he advised me frankly, so I believed, and asked whether I would surrender myself. I replied, “I will surrender, even if I knew that they would throw me into the dungeon, for, as Your Princely Grace himself knows, I hold myself to have been innocent in the matter of the peasants’ rebellion, and I can honorably account for my actions. He added that, in good faith, he had to tell me that the estates of the Swabian League had been ordered to take me and throw me into the tower’s dungeon as soon as I dismounted at the inn. [ . . . ]

And it happened to me just as the good, honest count predicted, except that I was imprisoned for two years, but in the room above and not in the dungeon, and what I had to pay for my food made me sour indeed. Thereafter I was prisoner at Heilbronn for three-and-a-half years on account of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, and I had to pay for my food and more besides. That made five-and-a half years of imprisonment. Thereafter His Imperial Majesty took me into his protection and sent a letter announcing that he wanted me to serve him in Hungary. In the meantime I spent a total of sixteen years under house arrest and never came once beyond my own boundaries, and I never behaved other than as I was obliged to do, as God is my witness. [ . . . ]

And now that I have lived so long, for years many good-hearted, honest, trustworthy people (who have honored and wished me well, and still do; and who knew in part and perhaps remember how I have spent my life and survived many adventures and dangers from my foes) have asked and pleaded with me to describe my actions in writing. I did not want to refuse, for they hoped that this would bring more benefit than disadvantage to me and my heirs and descendants. Further, many people, high and low, would thereby be pleased, especially those who are unbiased. I don’t even ask after the others, my detractors, who out of hate and envy have unjustly and undeservedly schemed against me openly or covertly, attempting now and then to tarnish my name among honorable persons, none of which I have deserved.

I want to affirm of all these accounts, which I have told or will tell, that this is my final will and my account of the clear, correct reasons and truth, and that no paragraph or word is included which I know or remember to be other than absolutely true. And herewith I place my cause before God, Who shall be my witness both in this vale of tears and at the Last Judgment. My whole life through, whether as a boy or man, there is no honest man, whoever he might be, friend or foe, to whom I have said anything untruthful, whether much or little, great or small. I have never failed to keep my word and faith to such men; I have never in my life, whether during my imprisonment or otherwise, falsified a letter or a seal; I have never behaved except as an honest man of noble birth toward friend or foe. I can say this of myself before God and in truth. Although I was later warned by men of high or low estate not to surrender myself, despite my declaration that I would, I have always kept my sworn oath and obligation, just as I said. I include my enemies, of whom there were many in the Swabian League, princes and others, with whom I have conducted feud, and against whom I was forced to act. But, praise God, all has been settled, composed, and determined, and I placed myself, also my honor and obligations, in their hands, though I had no trust except in my own just cause. In such circumstances the Devil himself would have surrendered. Even some of the greatest members of the League told me that it was foolish of me to surrender to those people, to whom I done much harm, and who therefore hated me as an enemy.

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